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.
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.