Festa Bedju!

25 years old – a quarter of a century!  To celebrate the big 25 and my last couple of months in Cape Verde, I decided to throw a festa.  After all, I can’t live in Cape Verde for two years, the nation of festas, and not throw my very own festa.  It just wouldn’t be right.

The kitchen…where it all happens

So how do you have a festa in Cape Verde, you may ask?  Every festa in Cape Verde consists of huge pots of food, lots of drinks, and of course music.   And the most important part?  Women.  They run the country, they run the festas.  They get a group of friends together and cook for an army.  But it doesn’t end with cooking — they refill all the dishes on the table, and they clean in between guests.  They really are superheros.  I don’t know how they do it.

Everyone dancing

The day before my birthday festa, I went shopping in the local market with my Cape Verdean mother.  We bought a bag full of potatoes, manioc, tomatoes, peppers, onions, rice, fish…you get the picture.  My family gave me a goat for my birthday so most of the meat was covered by their heartfelt gift.  Then, the night before the festa, my family killed the goat and began marinating the meat.  Early the next morning, we were ready to go with pots cooking and potatoes chopped.

Singing Happy Birthday in two languages

With the people most important to me, we festa’ed…

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Nha terra tambe

On many maps, you will not find Cape Verde.  Even by neighboring countries, it’s often forgotten – unsure if its identity lies with Africa, Europe, or somewhere in between.

When I received my Peace Corps invitation, and opened it in a hurry, hoping to scream with delight about the destination that awaited me, I was left with mere confusion.  I had the same question so many people ask, “Wait, where is Cape Verde?”  I didn’t know if I should be excited, or scared, about my new home.

Some of my Cape Verdean family

And now, after two years, I call Cape Verde nha terra, my land.  Now I have two homes.  Two places filled with memories, laughter, and yes, sometimes tears.  Cape Verde houses my friends and family too.   It celebrates birthdays and grieves at funerals; it gives us corn and beans for cachupa; it provides us with an abundance of sunshine and only a few drops of rain.

Many friends from home ask me, “Won’t you be so excited to return home again?” and my reply is always, “But what is home?”  Returning to America means leaving friends and family behind – it means missing graduations, newborn babies, and birthdays.  It means a part of my heart, a piece of me, will stay here forever.

This isn’t a place that is forgotten about when I return to America.  It’s not finished after two years.  It is a part of me now.  It’s my life intertwined with so many others.  It’s not goodbye, rather it’s see you later.  It’s I’ll be back as soon as I can.

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Go with all your heart

I can’t believe it.  I don’t want to admit it to myself, or anyone else for that matter.  It makes me nauseous to think about it.  Here it goes…I only have three more months in Cape Verde.  Three months that I plan to chock full of overdue visits to friends, mentors and family; three months of cachupa, fresh fish, and doce di papaya; three months of somehow trying to make sense of leaving this place that has crept into my being and stolen my heart.

Here’s to making one ending just another beginning —

Papa Pool visits CV
Parti di nha familia di Cabo Verde e Merka

Climbing the volcano on the island of Fogo
Subi di vulkon na Fogo

Not one but TWO successful Carnavals!
Brinka na rua pa Carnaval

Sharing in the celebration of newborn babies, baptisms, weddings and all that’s in between.
Nha novu sobrinhu, Lucas e fofu di mas

Cachupa and lasagna — exchanging American and Cape Verdean cultures
A partilia di cultural di Merka e Cabo Verde

Showing off our recycled wallets at the summer camp
Cartera di resikladu

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When there is no fix

Electricity — In America, it’s something you never think about.  When you turn on a light, it’s on, and it stays on.   This weekend, we had a citywide blackout for fifteen hours.  The electric company gave no reason, notice, or apology for this blackout.

The lights go out almost every day, without a moment’s notice, and they return in the same manner, spontaneous and illogical.  There is no schedule, no notices, no planning ahead.  Prior blackouts have left me in the middle of printing an exam, with half sentences and a blank page.  It has left me in the shower, surrounded by darkness.

Another day without electricity -- taken by Brendan Fitzgibbons, a fellow PCV

Over and over again I become frustrated because there is nothing I can do about it.  When the city runs out of water, there is nothing I can do but wait.  When the city has a blackout, there is nothing I can do but wait.  Instance after instance I find myself with no control, only a feeling of helplessness and frustration.

It’s something every Peace Corps Volunteer learns to deal with.  The idea that there is nothing you can do, no matter how frustrated you become, no matter how much you scream or cry, there is still nothing you can do.  You must make the best of it.  In the past, when I had a problem I could get it fixed, or fix it myself immediately.  You call the right person, and it’s fixed within hours.

When I miss my family, I must find a way to deal with it.  When I am craving cheesy breadsticks, I deal with it.  When I see stray dog after stray dog, I deal with it.  When I see children on the streets, I deal with it.  It’s the first time in my life when there isn’t a quick fix, if there’s any fix at all.

Sometimes all you can do is all you can do.  The difficult part is realizing, and accepting, this fact.

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Fashionably Unfashionable

Before coming to Cape Verde, I was anxious about leaving all my stuff behind, all the comforts of life.  It may sound silly, but it’s true.  I wondered if I could survive without a washing machine, a microwave, a refrigerator, running water…you get the picture.

And I’ve found, after two years, I actually enjoy being self-reliant.  There’s nothing quite like it.   It’s nice to know that I can wash clothes by hand; I don’t have to have a washing machine (although if someone offered me one today, I would gladly accept it).  I can cook my own food, without a recipe or boxed ingredients.  I can take a shower with a bucket of water and come out just as clean as a long, hot shower.

I own no high heels.  I’ve worn the same clothes for two years straight.  My make-up consists of a tube of mascara.  I do not own a hair straightener, curling iron, or hair dryer.  I can pack a bag for a week in a book bag and have clothes to spare.  I have two pairs of shoes I wear on a regular basis.  I wash my hair once a week.  I can take a shower in 3 minutes and be ready in 5 minutes.

I’m afraid that when I return to America, all this will change.  I will pack half my closet to go on vacation for a week.  I don’t want to rely on things for comfort or happiness.  I like knowing that I don’t need a lot of things to be happy.  I like knowing I don’t need a washing machine, rather I need a bar of soap and a little bit of water.  I like not owning a television and visiting with friends instead.  I like that I know how to flush a toilet with a bucket of water.

I am not worried about up-and-coming fashions, or new gadgets…I don’t even know what they are, and I wouldn’t know how to use them.   But most of all, I like that I’ve replaced these things, these material goods, with an abundance of people, memories and experiences that never go out of style.

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Don’t Hate…Appreciate

About a week ago, I learned the Kriolu word for hate (odio).  For more than a year and a half, I had no need for this strong, extreme word.  It’s probably a good thing I never knew this word because once uttered, it can’t be taken back; it lingers to be felt forever.

I learned the word for hate because one of my students translated the quote, “Inhale love.  Exhale hate.”  And now that I think about, it’s a perfect example of why I have fallen in love with these ten islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Cape Verdeans don’t hate.  Maybe they don’t like something, but they don’t hate anything.

Sao Filipe Elementary School

No stress, the motto of Cape Verde.  I hear it all the time, even when it’s the last thing I want to hear.  No stress and no hate.  I see it in the people around me every day.  They practice, and live in tranquility — not likely to succumb to extreme feelings such as anger and hate.

It makes me ask myself, why do we like to hate so much?  Even as children, we hate broccoli, or we hate cleaning our room.  When pitching a temper tantrum, we might find ourselves shouting at our mom or dad, “I hate you.”

Yet, is hate really necessary?

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Back to Basics

Fruit Salad

One week of eating real foods is complete; now, three more weeks to go!  So far, so good…I feel better, and surprisingly, I’m enjoying spending more time in the kitchen and browsing for ingredients.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad (with an addition of cabbage and onions)

I started off the week making sure I had lots of snacks, and fresh foods available.  I’m a snacker.  Having pre-made salads available helped keep me happy and satisfied.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

You’ll see some of my meals below.  If you would like the recipe, just click on the picture. In some cases, I had to modify the recipe but all is well that ends well.

Pumpkin Oatmeal, with a dash of cinnamon and honey

Spinach Quiche, made with local eggs and goat cheese

Refried beans with a sprinkle of goat cheese

I love refried beans!  They are great mixed with rice and an egg, or between two slices of bread for lunch.

Stuffed Quinoa Tomatoes

You can add anything to these tomatoes; next time, I’m thinking more vegetables.  You can also use peppers instead of tomatoes.

Pumpkin Spaghetti with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Pasta, as long as it’s wheat pasta, is great on those nights when you are tired, or do not have a lot of time to cook.  The possibilities are endless, and it will be ready in a jiffy!  Sweet potatoes are also a great option, if you have time but no energy.  Just pop them in the oven and you’ve got a tasty meal that satisfies any sweet tooth.

Bon appetit! Happy International Women’s Day!

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