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