Sal Island, Cape Verde: A Homosexual Brushing.

It’s a random afternoon.

I’m walking around Santa Maria. I’m going somewhere.

I’m walking by Ocean Cafe – a really cool bar/restaurant/lodging space in front of the small city square, close to the beach.

Someone calls out to me.

I turn around to look at him.

Ah. It’s this guy.

It’s this guy – some Spanish speaking guy. He looks like he’s in his late fifties- or maybe he’s older, I’m not quite sure.

Every now and then we come across each other, and he’s always trying to start up a conversation somehow.

He’s from the Canary Islands I think. He speaks Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish. I’ve been learning a little Portuguese-esque here and there, from my interactions with Cape Verdean natives in their Creole version of the language.

I’ve realized Spanish and Portuguese are actually very similar. Normally I would expect to still understand this Canarias guy somewhat, but his unfamiliar accent adds a-whole-nother dimension to his speech.

It feels like he’s talking very quickly, and so I never understand a word of anything he’s saying.

There was this day he invited me to join him at a table where I think he was having a drink. He looked very frustrated.

“Tralsjo su jasnxihsbal ciuhnxah fawusknfbahb kxaiusn,abx hkjknfxalwjk xbk aiskgjxfla!”

He ranted, waving his arms about in the air.

In my head I was like Okay, from the look of things there’s an issue. Okay.

I just sat there and tried to be empathetic.


Now I’ve come across him again.

One of his knees is in a brace. And he walks with a limp. I’ve always known him like that.

He also looks frustrated again today. He walks up to me and begins to utter some more utterly unintelligible sounds.

At some point he offers for me to come along with him. Says I look very untidy. Says I should come spend some time at his apartment.

I can make out that much from what he’s saying.

I say okay.

The past number of months have been me seriously thinking about my life. I’m currently on a gap year from college with practically no money. My intention is to utilize the ample time and space I have right now, to figure out my life direction.

My problem right now isn’t money – not really.

If I put in some effort I could probably get a job working hospitality somewhere on the island. Job in a hotel or something. I speak English, and that’s valuable here because you’ve got a good number of English-speaking tourists in a country that speaks primarily Portuguese (Creole).

But that’s not my issue. Working a job in hospitality somewhere and having enough financial resources to procure access to the usual living amenities – “Condição” as Cape Verdeans would call it – That has absolutely no effect on the higher-order ambiguity of overarching life direction that constitutes the existential quagmire I’m currently embroiled in.

What I need right now is time. Time time time time time.

Hygiene hasn’t exactly been on top of my priority list for a while.

So yeah. I probably look very untidy. He most likely has a point.

I go along with him. The Canarias guy.


We’re at the building where he stays.

It’s actually right behind the defunct hotel where I live.

The building where I live used to be a hotel owned by an airline. “Aeroflot” or something. Their air crew and flight passengers used to lodge there during stopovers, from what I heard. At some point the airline ran into some sort of a disagreement with the Cape Verdean government, and they were dispossessed of the hotel – something like that.

The building is fine – the location is actually great, it’s like 10 – 15 metres from the beach.

The studio apartment where I stay, has a super cool beachfront view.

The only issue is amenities. The building isn’t actively maintained by the government, and so that means there’s no electricity, running water, etc.

Over the past year I’ve really begun to deconstruct all of the different components that constitute living spaces. Usually when you rent out a living space, it’s really just this black-box that you procure access to, with money. It’s not exactly clear how all of the different components of the living experience, relate in a nuanced way to the money you just paid.

At Hotel Aeroflot I’ve got shelter, and I’ve got privacy. I’ve also got a super-cool view. I’ve got no security though. Those pesky Cape Verdean neighbours keep burgling the apartment every now and then – it’s so frustrating.

Electricity and money are the things that make it necessary for me to leave the apartment on a frequent basis.


We’re at the building where the Canarias guy stays.

We walk by the security guard. He’s a tall, muscular and very-dark-skinned Senegalese guy. I know him. Well, kind of. We have lunch together every now and then at Nongo’s place.

Nongo is a Senegalese artist who works from a studio apartment at Hotel Aeroflot. He makes interesting artwork of dancers I think, and silhouettes of people with wide straw hats paddling on canoes against the backdrop of idyllic sunsets.

We’re on the same hotel floor.

He’s got a group of like six people who work with him on the art. They make the pieces with paint, brushes and sand somehow. They use a good amount of sand.

In addition to working on the art, I believe Nongo manages the relationships with his retailers and stuff, who eventually sell the artwork to tourists on the island.

We met for the first time, on some random day. I was extremely hungry. I had absolutely nothing to eat. I was sitting down in front of the apartment where I stay, staring listlessly at the beach ahead. I was probably on the verge of dropping dead or something. Spending my last moments as a sentient instance of the Homo Sapiens species, staring at the glistening crystal-blue beach ahead of me – Praia Antonio Souza.

Wonderful. Because I can eat the beach.

Nongo was walking by. He could probably tell I was hungry somehow.

At some point he invited me to come join him and his artisans for lunch.

“Come come! Comé! Comida! Mangé mangé!”

He made gestures with his hand – moving his hand towards his mouth.

I gladly obliged. With the final quotient of energy left in my body, I lifted myself up to my feet.

They were having Chebujeri – it’s a Senegalese dish of rice cooked in spicy tomato sauce. They had seasoned cabbage and fish and all sorts of good stuff. Apparently there are a number of Senegalese spots in Santa Maria that make traditional Senegalese food for the community here.

Chebujeri is similar to Jollof rice – a dish found in a number of West African countries. Like Nigeria.

That was a wonderful afternoon. That was an immensely wonderful afternoon. Nongo is such a great guy.


We’re at the building where the Canarias guy stays.

We just walked by the tall muscular Senegalese security guard.

He also works security at Odjo D’Agua hotel. Odjo D’Agua is a beachfront four-star hotel about five minutes away from here.

There was this day he saw me at Odjo D’Agua. Having something to eat and using the internet. I was with my computer. It’s a 15″ MacBook Pro I bought in San Francisco.

I imagine it was an astounding sight. There I was, sitting at a four-star hotel with a computer that was worth like a few thousand dollars (or something), but I was frequently in situations where I had no food to eat.

I was eating food at this really-nice hotel not because I had ample money, but because I needed a reason to spend as much as time as I could using their wonderful Wifi network.

That Odjo D’Agua wifi is something else.

I imagine it was extremely confusing for him. The Senegalese security guy. I imagine it was.

Honestly it’s confusing for me too. I myself don’t understand my life.

The next time I was at Nongo’s place for lunch, I could hear a conversation erupt between the security guy and everyone else the moment I left.

He was about to regale them with tales of me and my expensive computer.

As I walked away, I could hear him yell “Original!” amidst some other things he said in Wolof.


We’re at the Canarias guy’s apartment.

It’s an interesting space. It’s on the topmost floor of like a four-storey building. With an interesting view of the beach.

I would probably have found the apartment much more awe-inspiring if I didn’t live in the building right in front. With an even closer view of the beach.

We talk for a bit. He says he used to be a journalist. He’s retired now.

He shows me a couple of newspapers and stuff.

I say Hm interesting, interesting stuff.

At some point he suggests I should go take a shower.

I oblige. I could definitely use a warm shower right now. There’s no hot water at Hotel Aeroflot.


I’m in the shower. Covered in lather.

At some point the Canarias guy walks in.

I’m not sure what he’s doing.

Like dude I’m naked, can’t you wait till I’m done.

I’m not too bothered by it though. I spent about four and half of my six years of high school in Nigeria, in boarding school. In the male hostel I frequently had to take baths in an open space with tens of other flailing, naked, lather-covered boys.

And so I’m not entirely uncomfortable being naked around guys. Not really.

I keep washing my body.

At some point I feel a hand trying to slither through my legs.

HAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHAT IS THATTTT?????

I open my eyes.

MISTER CANARIAS!!!!!

CANARIAS GUYYYY!!!!

AHHHH SO THIS IS WHY YOU WERE PERSISTENTLY INVITING ME OVER TO YOUR APARTMENT!!!!

AAHHHHH!!!

OHHH SO YOUR PLAN ALL THIS WHILE HAS BEEN TO GET ME NAKED IN YOUR BATHROOM!!!!!

Ahhhhh, now I get it. Now I get it!

I express to him that I’m not homosexual, and that I’m not up for any of this.

He tries to persist.

I express to him some more that I’m not interested.

I’m careful not to physically touch him.

He’s this very frail-looking guy limping about in his knee brace.

I can touch him ever so slightly, and he’ll end up falling on the floor and hitting his head on something.

I’m not interested in being the guy who killed a Spanish tourist in Cape Verde. I’m still debating with Cape Verdean law enforcement on the validity of my visa-free stay in this place.

I don’t want problems please.

I verbally express some more that I’m not interested in his current intentions.

I finish up my bath and quickly head out of Mister Canarias‘ bathroom.


Image: In the bathroom mirror of the Hotel Aeroflot studio apartment.

“Red Wine in Straw”. 1.

I am at a local bar in Espargos.

I’m having some “Super Bock” beer.

The beer bottles in Cape Verde are weird. First they’re small. Like, the regular beer comes in this very small bottle. It’s like a mini-beer. The first time I was served one at a bar, I was very surprised by it.

Hm, why is it so small?

Second, the caps are weird.

Usually glass bottles have these metal caps that you take off with like a bottle opener and stuff. But these ones have this miniature can-tab type mechanism on their metal bottle caps.

So like, imagine opening a soda can. Now imagine doing that on the tiny metal cap of a glass bottle. Exactly.

Like, What?

What?


I’m not quite sure how this evening will go.

I’m with my backpack, which has my essential belongings. All my belongings really. I don’t have so much stuff. Oh and then there’s the small propane cylinder. The smallest-sized type. I use that to cook. It’s the only thing I have, which doesn’t fit into the backpack.

I decided to move from the space where I stay at Santa Maria. I heard Mohammed recently got a comfy space in Espargos. I don’t exactly know how comfy, but I heard and was curious. And so I figured I might as well also give Espargos a shot. Plus, it’s exhilarating just packing your things and heading out, not sure how things are going to end up. I think it’s really more that, than anything else.

I had to return Toure’s white keg.

Toure is my next-door neighbour. Toure and Camara. They are both from Guinea Conakry. Camara has a smallish stature, and a relatively high-pitched voice. I think he works security somewhere, but I’m not entirely sure. Probably at one of the hotels. Practically everyone in Santa Maria works at the hotels. Or at least they work in hospitality somehow.

Camara doesn’t speak so much English. He’s primarily proficient in French. French is Guinea Conakry’s lingua franca, being one of the countries in French West Africa.

Due to the language barrier, Camara and I don’t exchange too many actual words. We interact every now and then, and there’s a lot of sign and body language.

He says a lot of “Cool ahn?”

Which is like, “That’s cool right?”

He pronounces the “Cool” like “Kul”. The “K” is very pronounced, and the “u” is very short. I think it’s amusing.

Toure is considerably taller than Camara. He has a somewhat muscular build. He speaks more English. We talk.

Haha, Toure is a cool guy.

He sells souvenirs to the tourists at Santa Maria.

We talk about travel, and our different countries of origin. We talk about Europe. He has dreams of immigrating to Europe. They all do. Everybody here. Every one of my neighbours. A lot of them see their time in Cape Verde as hopefully being a stopover between Africa and Europe.

For some reason, my own thinking is the other way around. I spent the second half of the previous year in Berlin as a student. I spent the year before that in the USA. And now I’m here in Cape Verde. By choice. To some extent at least.

I have a Nigerian passport, and so travel is very constrained by visas amongst other things. My USA student visa will expire soon. I don’t know if I’ll be resuming studies after this gap year. I don’t think so. I’m anxious about my future and the uncertainty it’s shrouded in, but for some reason I don’t see immigration to the West as the solution to my problems. For some reason.

My French West African neighbours find me odd. Very odd. I speak English. Considerably well. Left to them, I should be a tour guide. I could be making a lot of money from the tourists. I must be immensely stupid for not capitalising on such an opportunity. Practically none of the tourists in Cape Verde speak French as a first language. And so this makes communication strained for the guys who primarily speak French.

They honestly find my stupidity inestimable. Left to them, I should go find a sixty year old German woman who’ll be impressed with how hard I can fuck her, and hope and pray to Allah that she decides to take me back to Germany with her. That is exactly what I would do if I was smart.

If I wasn’t in such an uncertain situation, I would’ve found that suggestion unthinkably hilarious. However given the anxieties of my position, I just find it infuriating. And a little scary.


A while back Toure was telling me about his girlfriend. She was from Nigeria. She worked in a shop somewhere in Santa Maria. She had just brought him some homemade lunch that afternoon.

Mayowa you see, this girl, she like me so much.

In his deep voice, and with his smiling face.

Every time always calling me. Always say Toure Toure, how are you, why you no come see me since, she like me so much.

And then he told me about his girlfriend before that. Also from Nigeria.

You see, I just get the luck with the Nigerian women you know.

Hahahahaha. Toure Toure!


I had to return Toure’s white plastic keg. He gave it to me when I needed a container to store drinking water. Every now and then I would go get it filled with water for about a hundred escudos at the funtunario.

The funtunario is really just a bunch of taps with running water, adjacent to the clothing market. I don’t know why people refer to it by such a fancy-sounding name.


I am still at the local bar in Espargos. Drinking Strela mini-beer.

There’s this swing-set thing outside. Like a mini playground. I spent some time hanging out there.

I am now in conversation with someone. Some guy. A Cape Verdean. We’re discussing. At some point we talk about what I’m doing in Espargos. I mention that I’m on a journey from Santa Maria. And that I’ve got my belongings in my backpack. We talk some more. At some point he offers to host me for the night.

Don’t worry. Don’t worry. You can stay in my house. You come to my house to sleep. Don’t worry.

He’s very kind. He’s a very cheerful guy, laughing and exchanging banter with the waitress and the other people at the bar.

I’m touched by his offer.

I feel like Cape Verdeans can be very very generous. Like, very very. And gradually I’ve been getting accustomed to their initially surprising generosity and welcoming nature.

I say okay. I take my time to express appreciation.

We keep talking and chilling.

Hm. It seems like a roof over my head for the night is sorted out at this point.


Image: Somewhere on the streets of Santa Maria. A bunch of people betting money on the outcome of dice rolls.


This post is one in a series. The other pieces in the series can be accessed here.

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute [Part 1.5]

This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.


We’re walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria.

He’s sashaying beside me, in his black lipstick and dark-auburn gown.

We’re definitely getting stares.

We come across Anso.

“Heeeyyyyy Ansoooo!!!!”

“Heyyyyyyy Mayowaaaaa!!! Begeeeee!!!”

We exchange pleasantries, amidst excited laughter.

Anso is one of my Senegalese neighbours.

He is also a member of the Baye Fall- an Islamic sect whose meetings I regularly frequent for the free food.

I usually understand nothing that is said at the meetings. Usually they’re just chanting strange things in Wolof.

But food.

Food.

That is a language we all have in common.

Bege” is this word the Senegalese guys use when they’re greeting each other. It’s some sort of an expression of regard for the other person.

I don’t know if it’s a Senegalese thing, or a Baye Fall thing. I don’t know.

Anso has his dreadlocks wrapped up in a swollen rastacap which sports the usual Jamaica-colour stripes.

After Anso and I are done exchanging pleasantries, I continue heading down the street with the sashaying trans-woman beside me.

“Hm, you’re very popular.”

It’s the transgender guy.

Hm.

Well I certainly don’t see things that way. Although to be fair we have come across a good number of people with whom I’ve stopped to exchange excited greetings.

Hm.

I don’t know. I still don’t see myself as a popular person. I think today is just a good day.


We’re walking by a roadside grocery store. A Mini Mercado.

The Mini Mercado is owned by a Cape Verdean couple. It is situated on the ground floor of their 1-storey home.

The woman is usually seated at the counter- processing purchases with a smile, and counting money with a very remarkable air of satisfaction with life.

Her husband on the other hand, is an extremely annoying guy- I don’t like him. I don’t like him one bit.

He’s this pesky stocky guy that walks about by piercing the air in front of him with his big round stomach. In actual fact there is nothing so annoying about his physical appearance- I’ve just grown very inclined to perceive it negatively because of the pointless hurt and frustration he has made me experience.

Every once in a while I’ll be somewhere in the store- maybe selecting eggs or picking onions. This guy- this despicable edifice of annoyance, just appears from nowhere and begins to accost me. He tries to budge me about with his stocky frame, with a bewilderingly unfounded frown on his face.

And he doesn’t speak English!

So I never understand what exactly his problem is. In spite of the fact that I can speak enough Cape Verdean Creole to get by, his mutterings usually don’t feel sensible enough to make any real meaning to me.

Like, what the fuck is this guy saying please

And then I myself get upset to the point that my limited Creole becomes inadequate as an avenue for verbal expression.

So I switch to English:

What the fuck is your problem, What exactly is the issue, Why in the name of God are you bothering my life, etc etc.

But of course he never understands anything I’m saying.

And so to him I’m just uttering this jumble of unintelligible sounds.

And worst of all, he mimics me.

He pouts his lips and sticks his tongue out in my face and goes “Tfe tfe tfe tfe tfe“, making fun of my English fricatives.


One day at dawn, I was walking by his house. To my pained dismay I looked up and saw him standing at his balcony, gripping the railings with his stocky arms and frowning down at me.

In my head I thought:

“Jesus Christ, this guy again.

The day has barely started for God’s sake.

I’m barely awake.

I’m still navigating the realm of inspiration that exists between sleeping and waking.

What is all of this nonsense?”

I saw Anso hanging out by the road with a number of his Senegalese friends.

I drew his attention to the glaring gargoyle on the balcony.

“Anso, what is this guy’s problem?! He’s always staring at me and trying to make my life miserable for no good reason. What the fuck is his problem?”

“Hahaha! You’re not the only one who experiences that! He does it to everyone! His wife never lets him have sex and so he’s always walking about in a horrible mood.”

Now I had absolutely no idea if what Anso said was true, but it made perfect sense. And it felt good. It was a very enjoyable explanation for the pesky guy’s inexplicable irritability. So I chose to believe it.

I raised my eyes up to the stocky frowning being on the balcony- seeing him then in a very different light. I pointed my finger at him and began to laugh out of spite.

Haha motherfucker.

Haha.

Your wife is completely satisfied by the fulfilment of managing a successful grocery store. The grocery store gives her all of the stimulation and excitement and catharsis she needs in life, and she has no need for sex.

You’re probably bound both by your marriage vows and by the possible societal disapproval of marital infidelity by a man your age, and so that leaves you stuck in a sexless marriage.

Plus, having sex elsewhere will cause problems with your primary source of income- which is the grocery store you both manage.

She probably just turned away your sexual advances. That’s why you’re out here fuming on the balcony at 6 o’ clock in the morning.

Hahaha motherfucker.

Hahaha.


We’re still walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria- The trans-woman and I.

He’s still sashaying beside me, in his black lipstick and dark-auburn gown.

Something I think I’ll always find strange about seeing a biological man in a gown, are the narrow hips. The gown just goes straight down from the waist. Like it tapers from the shoulders down to the waist, and then poom– just sharply straight down from there. I actually think it’s a bit funny.


We’re still walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria.

We’re still getting stares.


Image: Bunch of people gambling somewhere on the streets of Santa Maria.

Of Wifi Struggles and Free Beer.

We’re sipping on beer, the two of us.

Out on the patio of an interesting bistro at Santa Maria.

I’m sipping on beer he bought for me.


“Unlike you, I have a wife and a daughter in Germany.”

“You, you’re free. You’re free to do whatever you want. With whoever you want.”

“Me, I’m not.”


I do not quite agree with him.

I mean, he has a point- he definitely does. But I don’t feel free.

I don’t.

I’m not. Free.

I’m not free.


I’ve spent the past few months reeling in the frustratingly-boundless anguish of heartbreak.

It’s been a whirlwind of emotions.

Anger. Frustration. Hate. Sadness. Hurt.

Desire.

Anger. Frustration.

I don’t have a wife and a daughter in Germany, but I’m not free. I’m not. Free.

I’m not free.


We’re talking about immigrants. Immigrants in Germany.

I recently read a news article about a batch of new African immigrants, who were setting off a flurry of sexual harassment cases somewhere in Germany- I think it was Berlin.

Those immigrants seemed like pretty problematic people to me.

He has a different take on immigrants.

He says the country needs them.

He’s a landscaper.

He says he doesn’t have enough workers at his company. He needs the ample labour that these immigrants have to offer, but the government has been slow in providing them with work permits. He says it’s very bad for his business.

Hmmm.

We keep sipping on beer.


It’s been difficult getting internet.

I don’t have a steady income from which I can purchase mobile internet plans on a periodic basis. So I use restaurant Wifi networks.

I initially visit the restaurant as a legitimate guest.

I buy stuff. And then I obtain the password.

My subsequent visits are usually less legitimate.

I usually just hang around the place, nibbling on the fringes of their Wifi for free.


There’s this hotel at the major Santa Maria roundabout. Very close to the Pirata club.

Some guy at the reception gave me the Wifi password earlier in the year.

I spend at least an hour everyday at the open-air mini- street gym right across the road.

And no, I haven’t been trying to beef up my calf muscles.

I usually just laze around the equipment while I use their wifi on my phone.

Check emails, check social media, send out professional applications, go through disheartening rejection emails, adjust to the sour new reality of dashed hopes, all the while pretending to use the swinging leg-exercise thing.


We’re still sipping on beer.

Me and the German landscaper.

This restaurant was set up by this cool guy from somewhere in the UK. He and his wife. They both moved to Cape Verde from the UK. Moved to Sal and set up the restaurant. They recently had a baby.

I was asking him a few questions the other day. I asked him how different life was, with a baby. He said his energy level had increased for some reason. That he just felt a lot more energetic all of a sudden.

Hmm.

I initially got the password on a legitimate visit to the restaurant. Used it on a number of subsequent less-legit visits. And then at some point the password stopped working.

On another legitimate visit, I realised it had been changed.

I confidently asked for the new password over some Spaghetti Bolognese.

The next time the password was changed, I was more equipped to adapt to the situation: I had figured out a valuable pattern in the UK guy’s choice of passwords.

It was usually the name of the restaurant, and then three digits.

I was like Great, easy.

I wrote a Python script to generate a list of three digit numbers from 000 to 999. I appended these numbers to the name of the restaurant and then employed a command line Wifi password cracking tool to figure out what the new password combination was.

I think the tool was Aircrack-ng or something. Used to be part of the Kali Linux package and stuff. There was a way to set it up on the MacOS terminal.

Like, UK guy I understand you need to limit your restaurant’s internet usage- but I’m a severely impecunious student on a gap year from college and I need to check my emails.

Please bear with me.

Plus, it’s not like I don’t visit as a legitimate guest every now and then. 🙂


There’s this other country-wide wifi. Cabocom Wifi.

One very auspicious night I attempted to log into the network, and for some strange reason it didn’t request a password from me.

It just logged me in.

I took a few minutes to give profuse thanks to the Persian god of good fortune, before I then proceeded to rapaciously download a number of TV shows I had been looking forward to.

And it wasn’t just a one-time thing. It usually just works.

I don’t complain.

I don’t complain at all.

Praise be to the Persian god of good fortune.


Image: Somewhere in Santa Maria.

Cinquenta Mil. 00.

I am at Espargos.

I am on the ground floor of this interesting white apartment complex.

I saw this wooden reclining chair under the shade of some overhanging staircase structure. Facing the courtyard with the garden and the playground.

I was talking with the receptionist earlier. Asking her about the cost of renting one of the apartments.

She was occupied with something throughout. I think she was doing something with her nails. Or her phone, one of them.

She muttered something in Cape Verdean Creole. I wasn’t at all sure what she said.

I probed a bit more.

She muttered some more incomprehensible Creole in-between her doing whatever-it-was she was doing with her nails or her phone.

This time I caught something: Cinco mil or something like that.

Five thousand.

Five thousand for rent.

Now I just don’t know what currency she’s talking about.

Five thousand Euros?

Five thousand Cape Verdean Escudos?

Both are accepted as legal tender in this country.

The US dollar is not. Even the Euro cents are not. I recently had to wish my collection of Dollar and Euro cents goodbye. I stacked them on the ledge of a grocery store window and sadly walked away.

There was just no point in keeping the brown metal discs which were nothing but an illusion of money.

The official at the bank said unlike foreign currency notes, coins posed too much of a logistical complication. They could exchange tourists’ dollar notes for local currency- They would simply have to ship the bag of collected Dollar notes to their HQ on another island.

Things weren’t so easy with coins because of the weight. Shipping bags of coins? Coins worth how much exactly?

She had a point. It was still sad to abandon the coins though. I could have really used the extra change.


I had no idea what the absent-minded receptionist was saying exactly.

And she did not look like she was in the mood for more questions.

I’ve got like fifty euros in a Cape Verdean bank account I recently opened.

I had this monthly financial agreement with an NGO in Nigeria which I had to rejuvenate upon the commencement of this gap year from college in the USA.

Right now I get about Fifty euros per month as a stipend for sending in monthly updates on an AI project I’ve been working on for a while.

Fifty euros, more or less. The Naira-to-Euro exchange rate usually fluctuates across months.

A new instalment came in a few days ago.


I head to the ATM to withdraw Fifty euros.

Fifty euros is equivalent to about Five thousand Cape Verdean Escudos.

The occupied receptionist said rent was five thousand.

It couldn’t have been five thousand Cape Verdean escudos could it?

Fifty euros? For those freshly constructed multi-storey apartments?

But wait- It also couldn’t have been five thousand Euros. For rent. For a month.

Or did she mean a year?

I’m somewhat confused.

But right now I’m not putting too much effort in understanding what is going on. I withdraw a bunch of notes from the ATM- Pieces of paper with numbers and portraits printed on them- the usual.

I head back to the receptionist and pass her the bunch of notes.

If she gives me the key to an apartment right now, I won’t even complain.

She looks at me with a strange sneer on her face, muttering some more incomprehensible Creole.

I don’t understand her own Creole. I’ve been on this island for over six months now, and I feel like I know enough Creole to at least get by.

But this receptionist- This strange woman that’s always attending to me from one small corner of her eye- I don’t understand what language she’s speaking.

Somewhere amidst the befuddling spray of unintelligible sounds coming from her, I discern yet again another number:

Cinquenta mil.

The rent is ten times higher than I thought it was. It’s not fifty euros, it’s five hundred. Fifty thousand Cape Verdean Escudos.

I have no idea where the miscommunication was from. Her inattention, her incomprehensible Creole, or the deceptive intricacies of currency exchange rates. I have absolutely no idea.

I was just thinking:

She mentioned a number.

I got some notes.

If I’m given an apartment key, I won’t even ask questions. I’ll collect it with gratitude and bask in appreciation of the strokes of good fortune in life which are beyond one’s comprehension.


I am at the Police station.

The wooden reclining chair I was lying on, was for the security guard.

He didn’t even communicate with me directly, like Hey you that’s my chair– he just called the Police.

Oh God.

I am seated in a room.

Opposite me is Carlos- the Commander of Police on the island.

We met earlier in the year- about two weeks after I arrived Cape Verde for the gap year.

I had just gotten arrested on the beach at the southernmost end of the island.

At some point I realized I was arrested just for walking along the beach at night.

A number of disturbing incidents had happened in the past where some inimical natives had robbed, injured, and in one case, killed a tourist.

These malevolent natives were usually walking along the beach at night, from where they intercepted unsuspecting tourists strolling around the beachfront hotels where they were lodged.

I- completely unaware of all that, was sauntering through the wet sand that night, thinking about how to navigate the mathematical nuances of building a custom neural network library from scratch using the Python programming language.

I had my computer and other accessories on the porch of an interesting empty-looking cabin I came across.

I was strolling along the coastline, absorbing some serious inspiration as the periodic crashing of the ocean waves massaged my ears and enveloped me in their riotous, transcendent rhythm.

I was wearing a hoodie.

And the hood was up, covering my face.

Prime suspect. I was definitely planning to kill someone. Like, without a doubt.

The ferocity with which I was bundled and thrown into the Police van though.

Oh God.


Samuel.

I don’t understand.

You can’t just keep roaming about like this.

You need a job. You need a place to stay.

You need ehh,

He gesticulates-

Condicão.

It is Carlos- the Commander of Police.

Samuel is the first name in my international passport.

I’m just sitting in this chair and feeling very irresponsible.

I’m here again.

Oh man.

I attempt to give some sort of an explanation. Give information on some of my professional-esque involvements with a Spanish Biodiversity NGO on the island.

At some point Carlos goes:

Hm, you’re very good with words.

In my head I’m probably thinking:

This guy likes me. I should stop disappointing him by getting arrested all the time.

He asks me some questions. Asks me what I think of him.

I say I think he’s a cool guy. That he has a particularly difficult and stressful job but he still manages to mantain a very jovial demeanor.

He’s excited by my perspective.

He says, Yes yes- Smile- Smile is good! Smile is good!! You smile, you know? You smile!!!

At some point the Police let me go.

Somewhere at the back of my mind I thought maybe they would give me a place to stay- You know, maybe one of those five hundred million euros apartment with the receptionist who is always engrossed in her nails.

You know, for some condicão.

I don’t know, I was just thinking.


I am at a bar.

I’m drinking some Cape Verdean beer.

…..


Image: Earlier that year.


This post is one in a Series. The other pieces in the series can be accessed here.

Buying Cocaine with Rob.

I am in conversation with Rob and Tom.

We are in Manu’s living quarters. Manu, the very dark and muscular Cape Verdean. Manu with the very irascible bulldog that seems to just hate me for some reason. Manu with the young son. Manu the thief.

A Slovenian tattoo artist is a temporary resident at Manu’s quarters. He found himself stranded after being robbed by some island locals. According to him, one of them jumped out from nowhere and snatched one of his devices. While he was trying to lay a hand on that one, some others came along and snatched his bag and the rest of his possessions. His camera, mobile phone, all gone. Now he’s stranded here, bereft of all of his things, strapped for cash and not quite sure what to do next. He says he has a friend in Stuttgart who he’ll reach out to, to help with some money so he can leave the island. I hope things work out fine.

Manu has been stealing the very few things left of the tattoo artist’s possessions. Perfumes, etc. I wonder why you would still steal from someone in that position. While he’s sharing your living quarters as he tries to come up with a plan to move forward. I don’t know- I guess all of those perfumes and stuff, are a very very big deal to Manu the muscular Cape Verdean thief.


I am in conversation with Tom and Rob.

We are talking about cocaine.

I met them both on this day where I provided some unsolicited help with an open bottle of wine they left at a defunct bar in front of the building in which I live.

I had downed a considerable amount of the wine when two guys came to accost me. I was very hungry that day.

We began to talk. They had both spent some time in the USA. I never actually asked, but I suspected they were deported on drug-related charges- that was just what I felt.

Rob is a cocaine addict.

I’m asking questions, and he’s giving an exposition on what life as a cocaine addict is like.

Don’t ever take it man, it’ll ruin your life. You’ll never be able to do anything sensible with money. Whatever money you get will be spent on it. You’ll always be thinking of how to get money, just because you need another hit.

But it makes me feel very energetic though. Whenever I take it, I’m hyper. I can clean the entire house in minutes. It gives me a lot of energy.

At some point, someone asks me if I’d like to try some. Some cocaine.

I take some time to think about it. Rob has just made me very aware of the severely pernicious consequence of cocaine use, but at the same time I am also cognizant of the fact that such a deleterious outcome is a function of probability- and that it’s not entirely certain that my life will become irrevocable ruined, just because I tried it once.

I’m thinking about what to do.

The prospect seems exciting. Taking cocaine for the first time on some random island off of the coast of West Africa with some guys I recently met. I’m weighing that against the possible life-decimating consequences.

While I make up my mind, Tom says he’s not going to let me do it.

Tom is like Rob’s big brother. He takes care of him.

I mean, Rob is his own guy with his own place, and with this sexually attractive but somewhat repressed Cape Verdean woman living there with him- and whose exact function in his life I can only imagine, given that I never see them outside together.

Tom takes care of Rob with regard to life direction and life decisions. Rob can get very irrational- partly as a personality thing, and maybe also as a consequence of his drug addiction. Tom seems to be relatively sober. He has this daughter he’s always going to pick up from school and stuff. He seems to provide Rob with some sort of general life guidance.

I actually like hanging out with them- the dynamic between the two of them is interesting- Rob always being funny and loud and energetic and whimsical, and Tom always trying to be the more reasonable half of their duo.


At some point Rob wants to go get some cocaine. Says he wants me to come with. I think he feels the dealer will think more highly of him if I come along with him. I’m not quite sure why.

Him and his friends seem to find me very well-spoken and intelligent and educated, but I’m not really sure how to feel about all of that. I’m not very happy with the current state of my life, and I’ve realized that being happy with your life is more important than being described/complimented as being intelligent or well-spoken.

Rob first takes me to his place for a shower. I haven’t taken a bath in days. Maybe weeks. I’ve been paying very little attention to my physical appearance/impression because I’ve been entirely overwhelmed with life problems.

In my head I’ve been like:

My life is in complete and utter disarray. My future is drenched in panic-inducing uncertainty. I don’t care about looking presentable for the next twenty four hours, just to look unkempt again and be in need of another cleaning/grooming session. I’d rather just look very rough and maybe a little insane, while I focus on fixing the real and fundamental problems in my life.


We are at the apartment of the cocaine dealer. He’s from Nigeria. For some reason all of the cocaine dealers I know on the island, are from Nigeria. I am yet to come to an understanding of the factors underpinning that correlation.

We are in discussion with the dealer. He finds it hard to believe that I deliberately decided to put a pause to college studies in the USA.

I am not surprised. Pretty much everyone from Nigeria who once lived in North America but now lives here, did not choose to make that change. It was forced on them. By like deportation or an expiration of status or something of the sort. And so they usually find my story completely impossible to believe. At this point, my F1 US visa is actually even still valid. Haha.

The dealer says he used to live in Canada. Says he had a Canadian girlfriend. Says he tried very hard to impregnate her, so he could get some sort of a residence permit in Canada.

I’m not too surprised. These guys are usually like that. I don’t quite understand this obsessive hunger people have for North American citizenships. Honestly I don’t get it. Above all, I don’t get the debasement they put themselves through all in a bid to acquire those citizenships/residence permits.

A prevalent dream of a number of African-origin guys on this island, is to become romantically involved with female European tourists so they can relocate to Europe with them. I mean, I’m not really one to judge, but you should see the women some of them get involved with. People who could be their mothers. Or at least their mothers’ younger sister.

Back to cocaine.

Rob has made the purchase. The dealer is done expressing suspecting disbelief at my story. Now we are heading out of his apartment.


We are at a club. It’s a cool club. I’m having fun. Dancing and enjoying myself. Rob isn’t dancing. He’s more interested in spending some money he recently got, and being praised for his generosity.

I don’t quite understand his behavior. It seems like he’s experiencing some sort of deep-seated inadequacy, and somehow derives some temporary reprieve for that whenever the people around hail him and chant his name for spending another few euros on drinks for them.

I don’t know why keeps doing that. If he doesn’t know what to do with money, he should designate me as being responsible for making the most judicious use of his money. I really need some money, and I have some very important things to use money for. He’s just throwing everything away on people who’ll most likely begin to make fun of him the moment he leaves the club.


We’ve left the club.

I’m heading back to the studio apartment where I stay. I’m walking by the white bakery I like to buy bread and baguettes from. Their stuff tastes very nice.

There’s this baker-cum attendant they have there: Light skinned Cape Verdean woman. Usually she’s nice. Recently she has been getting more unfriendly though. Without reason.

Sometimes it almost feels like she’s angry at me about something. But she cannot possibly be angry at me at anything, because she doesn’t even know me. Her pregnancy has been getting progressively heavier though. I wonder if her change in disposition has something to do with that.

I wonder if there’s any scientific treatise on the irrationality of pregnant women. I wonder what all of those staunch feminist women will have to say about that.

As I walk past the white building of the bakery, I find myself suddenly hit by the apathetic pangs of heartbreak.

Immediately my mood turns sour and I begin to berate myself bitterly, in pain.

In my personal experience, heartbreak is weird. With the passage of time, you begin to feel like you’re past the severely disorienting trauma of being separated from someone you love. Sometimes you have an almost-complete good day. Everything is fine and everything is alright. And then all of a sudden you’re hit by this fiendish sonuvabitch of an emotional hurricane and you find yourself right back where you started.

I head back to my living space, talking and swearing at myself and at my absent partner and at life and then I swear some more at no one in particular- angry and bitter and indignant.


Image: At a nightclub in Nigeria.

Some names have been changed.

Cachupa is Very Filling.

I am walking down the street.

There is a problem- there is an immensely disconcerting problem on my mind.

I am visibly grappling with this problem. I am talking to myself. My arms are moving about as I walk.

My hair is extremely rough. The red dye is beginning to fade. It’s probably due for some retouching.

There is a problem.

It is a foundational conundrum which I believe to have very far-reaching implications on the general domain of Statistical Learning :

It is an issue involving statistical learning models and what I believe to be an unfounded presupposition of input variable completeness.

I look extremely unkempt.

I look like I just emerged from weeks of living alone in the desert with wild animals.

And that is actually true. All except the wild animals part. I really did recently emerge from living alone in the desert.

For some reason there are like no animals in the wild on this island- at least I haven’t come across any. For some strange reason.

Someone is laughing at me. He’s in the grocery store by the left.

It’s Meky. I can tell from his voice.

I’m angry at him for mocking me.

Of course I’m not entirely sure, but I believe I’m the one he’s laughing at. I feel sad about being laughed at, but at the same time I somewhat understand. If I was in his shoes I’d probably laugh at myself too.

Walking about the island like an insane person, with no definite purpose. Wonder why he won’t just get a job. Always having sand in his hair. Talking aloud to himself. Fighting against problems nobody can see. Getting arrested every once in a while. He has a computer that is probably worth a few thousand dollars, but he has neither money nor food to eat. Strange guy. Very very strange guy.

Yeah, I’d most likely laugh at myself too.

Meky is cool though. We met in a restaurant at Espargos earlier in the year. I was there for some breakfast. I still had some money left from the hundred dollars I landed in the country with. That morning he introduced me to Cachupa- Cape Verde’s flagship meal.

It’s very filling.

Hmm.

It was indeed pretty filling.

I like Meky. He’s very tall. Tall and burly. He is like a wall. Like a smiling, brown-skinned wall. I like him.

But he’s pissing me off this afternoon- Why is he laughing at me?

I don’t have time for him and his painful derision right now- I have an illegitimate statistical learning presupposition to worry about.

I need to pay him back his money soon. I’ll feel comfortable enough to really dish him a piece of my mind then.

It’s difficult to properly express annoyance at someone when you’re owing them money. You can’t really say the things you want to say, how you want to say them.

Don’t worry Mister Meky. Wait till I pay you back your fifty euros. Then you’ll know what’s going on.

I needed some money that day. I needed to open a Cape Verdean bank account, and a deposit was required by the bank.

I had recently reconnected with an NGO in Nigeria, and we had just vivified a monthly financial agreement which was hibernated by my travel to the USA for studies a few years earlier.

My Bank of America account was unusable because my balance there was a very negative number.

I had a Nigerian bank account. In fact, I had some money in it. It was to my inestimable dismay however, that I learnt the Central Bank of Nigeria had banned the use of debit cards outside the country- in a bid to somehow prevent a further devaluation of their currency.

And so the little money in that account had been transformed into a sequence of meaningless numbers which could not rescue me from the hunger and general pecuniary anguish I was experiencing.

Oh God, these Nigerian people have struck again. They want me to die in this place.


Meky owns a grocery store.

A grocery store is like heaven when you’re hungry to the core, and you’re like friends with the owner.

He helped me with some direly needed food. He wrote me a cheque for fifty euros after holding on to my GoPro and tripod and other recording gear as collateral.

This is not a GoPro.

He looked at me, with a smirk on his face.

Ah, Meky. GoPro. Chinese GoPro clone. Whatever. Just sign this cheque you this wonderfully benevolent being so I can move forward with my life and not die of frustration in this strange land pls

Thanks to him, it was possible to open the account. The new account still was not usable for the NGO connection though. There was another infuriating complication with international transfers that precluded it’s use for that purpose.

This life and problems.


Meky’s voice is sounding more distant now.

I keep walking, and grappling with this very important problem that no one can see.

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute. [Part 2]

This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.


He passes me the computer he has been typing on. He’s working on a CV. Says I should go through it. Point out modifications which could be made.

I think I might be influencing him somehow.

A few hours ago when we met, he explained that he used to study Informatico (what I think is the Cape Verdean/Portuguese term for general Computer/Information sciences. He was a student at a pretty prominent university on a different island- the capital. Now he’s entirely dependent on his boyfriend for upkeep. Well not entirely dependent; he side-hustles as a prostitute.

That was a few hours ago. And he seemed pretty fine with the state of things.

Now he’s telling me to help with his Curriculum Vitae.

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this though:

I myself am not particularly positively disposed towards CVs. Towards tertiary institutions of education, and resumes and CVs and all that stuff. The idea that textually presenting this pretty formulaic depiction of yourself with the intention of only plugging into already-existing value-creating structures, is the non-negotiably singular way to find some sort of a place for yourself in life.

And that anyone who isn’t doing that, doesn’t quite know what they’re doing with their life.

It gets me so annoyed- that way of thinking.

This existential disagreement is one of the reasons I’m on a gap year from college in the US in the first place. And I’m seriously considering not going back.

I go through the CV. It’s in Portuguese, but I try to give some helpful perspective regardless. He seems grateful.

No problem, no problem.


We are at the place of a trans-woman friend of the initial trans-woman I’ve been interacting with for the past few hours. I keep hanging out in their living room, just looking around and trying to make sense of the bewildering number of toothbrushes I saw in the bathroom.

At some point he signals to me that it’s time to leave. I respond to his signal and get up from the chair. I’m not sure what he’s going to end up doing with the CV.


We’re outside the apartment. He says he’d like to go back to the restaurant. Some European tourists were eyeing him while we were there.

I nod in understanding. I know what he means. The European guys at the restaurant want him to fuck their ass.

Hmm.

I mention that I’d be heading elsewhere. He asks if I have some money to spare for another drink. I make him aware that that is not exactly the case.

We exchange pleasantries and part ways.


Part 2.


Image Credits: (Person in image is completely uninvolved with the story) https://nohat.cc/f/person-wearing-purple-lipstick/e09e1b7f84294cbba7ce-201907080307.html

A Carnivorous Beach/Meeting Aurelio.

For accompanying (interesting Cape Verdean) music, click play 🙂

Badia, by Mayra Andrade.

I am drifting through the desert of Terra Boa, on Ilha do Sal- one of the islands comprising the archipelago of Cape Verde.

At this current time, I do not know the name of this desert region. I do not know it is called Terra Boa- not yet. In about ten months, my apartment at Santa Maria will get burgled, and I will be forced to relocate.

I will move into a remote house located in the middle of the desert- in the middle of this desert. My neighbour’s name will be Timothy. He will pronounce it something like: “Timurtiu”. Probably something to do with the Portuguese accent- I will find it amusing.

About half of Timurtiu‘s right index finger will be missing. I will wonder how that happened. I will not live at the remote house in Terra Boa long enough to get to ask him how he lost half of a finger.


I am drifting through the desert of Terra Boa.

I’ve been having some strange thoughts flowing into my head recently. A while back, I was at a store. There was this bicycle for sale outside. At some point I found myself thinking:

Hmm, what if I spend the last few euros I have in my account on purchasing this bike, and then ride out far into the desert?

There’s this mountain visible in the distance. I could ride out to the base of the mountain and just like chill there for a while.

Hm, how do you get food out in the desert? Water? Shelter?

I don’t know, I don’t care. Let’s just buy the bicycle and get the hell out and into the extremely inviting desert.

I didn’t buy the bicycle. I later thought against that plan.

I stop to sit under a tree.

Except it’s not really a tree- its this very sparse shrub-like piece of vegetation that looks like it would be more like a tree if it wasn’t out here in the desert.

As I sit here on the floor, I soak in the view of the city. From the outside.

As I sit here and watch, a new awareness dawns on me very heavily:

I realize, experientially rather than just cognitively, that buildings are a human construct.

Initially there was just land in this place. Just land. Desert land.

And then at some point some human beings began to move about. They erected buildings with concrete blocks for shelter. They built roads, they set up electricity– They generally put together the structures and amenities that have now come to be perceived as an intrinsic foundation for, and a non-negotiable shaper of, human existence.

But I’m here right now, sitting under a tree in the desert, looking at the distant colony of humans up ahead.

I am not dead. I am alive. And I believe I am alright- I am okay. I am generally healthy, and not in any immediate danger.

Hm, so it is actually possible to exist outside all of these human-introduced conceptual and physical structures, and still be like alright? Hmmm!!

I take some more time to soak in this realization.


I am drifting through the desert of Terra Boa.

At some point I come upon a shelter. There is a man in the garden, tending to some plants. I call out to him, and we begin to talk.

His name is Aurelio. He is a considerably friendly guy. He has a farm of corn and beans at the back. Corn is used to make Cachupa- Cape Verde’s flagship meal. Beans is called Feijão. Feijão pedra.

Hmmmm. Feijão. Feijão pedra.

We keep talking. He talks about São Vicente- a different island in the Cape Verdean archipelago. Says parties are thrown there all the time. Party is Festa. I’m listening and learning with excitement.

Sao Vicente. Festa. Alright. Alright, I see what you’re saying.

We keep talking. We talk about me. I tell him about my studies in the US. He mentions his son who he sent to the US for studies. He talks about his son with pride.

We keep talking.

He asks me where I’m headed. I hint vaguely in the direction of the general desert area beyond us.

I mention to him the mountains I’ve climbed so far. He mentions that he also repeatedly climbed a number of mountains. When he was younger. I’ll spend some more time thinking about that clause. I’ll spend more time thinking about age. About age, and aging- and what that does to people.

He talks to me about Fiura. Fiura is the deserted shingle beach at the northernmost end of the island of Sal. Aurelio says people die there every year. Drown. People drown there every year. He says it’s almost like a part of the calendar.

People die at Fiura every year. People will die this year- it is expected.


In a few months, I will find myself at Fiura. I will head out of Espargos for a walk, and find myself at the very end of the island.

The beach there will be dull and misty and desolate and full of lonely black pebbles and pieces of string and net and wood, washed ashore from the fishermen’s boats. There will be a number of crumbling wooden shelters at the shore, under which fishermen probably sat during fishing breaks, for shelter from the sun.

There will be a rectangular hole in the ground which looks like a grave. I will lie in there- inside the hole, curious what life feels like from that perspective.

Standing ankle deep in the notably rough waters of Fiura, I will realize I never had the time to properly grieve a painful event involving a sibling Nigeria, until that very moment. Life in the past year was a whirlwind of classes and assignments and internship tasks and discount flights. The autonomous expression of grief was repressed and delayed by all of that.

The belligerent waves will astonish me. The waves at Fiura will be notably more rambunctious than any I have seen on the island. I will wonder what exactly it is that kills people at Fiura.

Is it the waves? The menacingly unruly waves? Or the pebbles? The black, suspiciously mute pebbles? Are they devilishly slippery? How much danger am I in?

Or is it something else? Something I’m not seeing? Something I am not thinking about? Something I do not know?

I met a man from Poland camping in a tent one morning at Calheta Funda. He said he arrived Cape Verde by boat. Did he come through Fiura? Was this where he came through?

Palmeira is Sal’s shipping port. Palmeira is at the western end of Sal. I will not know that at the time. I will not have visited Palmeira then.

I will spend a considerable amount of time at Fiura.

At some point I will realize I have to head back. Nightfall will be approaching. I will turn away from the ocean and begin to trek the desert miles ahead, on my way back to the man-made colony of humans.


I keep talking with Aurelio.

At some point he shows me a dining room at the backyard. The extended family has dinners here every once in a while. I think maybe I’ll come along some time.

He works at Palmeira. He is the manager of the Oil terminal there. The gasoline and diesel and oil and brought in by the arriving ships, are stored at the terminal, prior to distribution around the island.

He says it’s a considerably demanding job.


In a few months I’ll be at Palmeira. I’ll remember a man I met at Terra Boa who said he worked at the oil terminal. I’ll visit the facility. The security guard will be unwilling to pay me serious attention. His disposition will change at the mention of Aurelio’s name.

At some point I’ll be let in.

Aurelio will be very happy to see me, and he’ll show me around his workplace.

It will be an interesting day at Palmeira.


Image: Another beach, another country.

January 2 2017. Nelson Mandela International Airport, Santiago Island, Cape Verde. [2]

It is daybreak. It is my first morning in Cape Verde.

Rolph has left for Maio.

I feel sad. There’s this poignant, albeit relatively brief, sense of aloneness I experience whenever I’m separated from a travel companion. I felt it when the Mozambican left to catch his flight in Lisbon. Now I feel it again.

The airport here feels small. I felt like I spent almost an entire day exploring the airport in Lisbon. The airport here at Praia looks like it’ll take about fifteen to twenty minutes. Skateboarding is not even a possibility. Relative to airports in major European cities, this place feels squeezed.

It is warm. The air is warm- possibly as a function of the climate here, but at the same time I can also feel the warmth of the bodies moving around in the room.

The floor tiles look like they cost less. Everywhere looks less new and less glossy. It takes a while to appreciate this relative absence of glossiness.

The bathroom reminds me of Nigeria. Not in any negative way, no. The sanitary wares just look like the types used in Nigeria.

The morning air smells of leaves and transpiration and the uncertainty of the future.

I’ve had this piece of paper with me since Lisbon. I’ve been writing poems on it. Poems about heartbreak and nostalgia and anxiety. I wrote one about airports. The title is “An airport is multiple places”.

There are some small planes outside for inter-island flights. This is my first time seeing a plane with actual propellers- so far I have only physically seen planes with jet engines. The blades are black, with one like a fan on each wing.

There was an issue at check-in. I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane with my skateboard. I didn’t understand.



What? Why?

The immigration officer talking with me, engages in some additional consultation with a woman who appears to be his boss in the airport employee hierarchy.

He says they’re trying to prevent a situation where the skateboard is used as a weapon to harm the people on the plane.

I am very shocked. I have never heard that before.

Whattt???

Eventually we agree to transport it as baggage. And I don’t have to pay for it. The officer promises to have it transported safely. I think we exchange a knowing look— He himself is surprised by the sudden policy on skateboards. I think his boss is just being irrational this morning.



I am in the plane. It is a small plane, even smaller than the Wow airlines discount flight I used with an Indian classmate a number of months before.

The plane is sparsely occupied. I think I am the only one on my row, which has about four seats.

There is a brightly colored picture of a laughing Cape Verdean woman dressed in very interesting attire. The picture is up in a number of places in the plane. I’ll later see the same picture on the packaging of some traditional Cape Verdean coffee.

There is a guy a number of rows ahead of me. I have heard him chattering excitedly in Creole since I got in. It is most likely his first time flying. He keeps laughing and chatting euphorically and bouncing on his seat and peering through the window.

The environment in this country feels very different from Germany, where I lived for a number of months. Amongst other things, I am still trying to get used to being around so many black bodies.

The plane takes off.


We are flying over Sal. I stare down at the bright brown undulating desert sand, mesmerized.

We touchdown at Aeroporto Internacional Amilcar Cabral, somewhere in the middle of the island.

As I exit the plane, I am welcomed with the warm, relatively-humid air of Sal.

Like Praia, we exit the plane by walking down the stairway at the side. In my previous travel experiences, there was usually this channel that led from the airplane door to the airport- travelers never actually used the stairway thing.

The airport is sparse. There is an excited couple getting their bags. I think the woman is pretty.

At some point I’m the only one in the entrance hall and there’s no other traveler in sight.

It is so bright and sunny here. It is the polar opposite of cold grey Berlin. I will later find myself in situations (mostly in Nigeria) where people do not understand why I sometimes just lie out in the sun.

The dull grey cold of winter in Berlin gave me a deep-seated appreciation for sunlight and atmospheric warmth. People who have spent (usually) all of their lives in tropical climates generally see spending extended amounts of time out in the sun, as punishment and as something to be avoided.

And so it’s exceptionally strange for such people to see me lying out in the sun and “punishing myself”. Although it definitely has to be said that the intensity of the sunlight in Nigeria can sometimes be highly unconducive to leisurely naps.

My skateboard landed safely, as promised.

In about four months I’ll give this skateboard as a gift to a neighbor- the younger brother of the Cape Verdean guy with an estranged European family. I bought it at a skate shop along Market street in San Francisco. It has a picture of rotting fruits on the underside. I liked the picture because at the time I bought it, I felt like I needed some sour stimulus- something to jar my reality.

Skateboarding will not be as much of a priority in a few months. I’ll be spending tons of time, energy and concentration figuring out my plans for the future and for my life. There won’t be much spare energy to channel into skateboarding.

I leave my bags at the airport entrance, and go skateboard in the car park. I do this for about two minutes before airport security stops me.

In my perspective, one major difference between the urban experience in relatively developed countries and developing ones, is the presence of stricter security around buildings (and generally locations) of attraction in developing countries.

In relatively developed countries, pretty much everywhere looks nice. In developing countries the relatively nice looking places highly contrast with the less aesthetically pleasing areas (this is also usually the case with regard to relative socioeconomic advancement) and usually require stricter security to prevent such locations from devolving into the less admirable conditions prevalent in the immediate environment.

A consequence of this, is that people living in developing countries acquire this learned inhibition around these locations. Coming from the West however, these locations didn’t seem overwhelmingly awesome to me — They were nice, yeah- just not to the point where I would feel any inhibition around them. And so I would be skating around a relatively nice looking building- like:

Yeah I used to skate around the buildings in Berlin like this.

To the residents however, my behavior was strange, somewhat disrespectful, and (especially to security) unacceptable. After overcoming the stupefaction they experienced regarding how I was able to move about so freely and carefreely in such a “NIICEEE” environment, they would stop me and generally try to influence me in the direction of a more inhibited and self-conscious disposition.

It always pissed me off.

I pick up my bags and get a taxi to Espargos.

The next time I’ll be inside this airport, I’ll be coming out of a police van after spending the night in a cell at Espargos.

I’ll meet Carlos- the Commander of Police on the island. I’ll perceive him to be a pretty interesting guy- very admirable biceps. Conscientious and determined, yet open enough to smile and be friendly.

We’ll sort out the misunderstanding which led to my arrest. We’ll have an interesting conversation and at some point he’ll attempt to introduce one of the very attractive Cape Verdean women working in the airport, to me as a potential girlfriend. She’ll look even more appealing given that I spent the night before languishing in a dark and unfriendly cell at the station. I’ll be too self-conscious after such an experience, to give much thought to his proposition.

We’ll talk some more- he’ll talk briefly about his childhood, and the determination which drove him to acquire a foreign education. He’ll talk to me about some issues he’s facing on the job. Regarding unwanted immigrants and difficulties with politely returning them to their countries of origin.

I’ll wonder why the Commander of Police is talking to me about these things. I’ll wonder what about me makes him afford me such regard. I’ll wonder why he thinks I could possibly have something helpful to say.

I mean, if I take some time to think I’ll probably come up with something- but I wonder what gives him that impression about me. Me who was brought here in a police van, freshly released from handcuffs and a night in the cell at the Espargos police station.

———

Image: Walking along the major expressway in Sal.


This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.