.06% of Americans serve in the Peace Corps. I’m not sure if I should be proud or scared of this fact. Time will tell. I am officially here (!) my home for the next two years, Cape Verde (pronounced Ver-d or Vur-d). After a brief orientation in Boston, followed by a 7-hour plane ride to Cape Verde, we were greeted by a crowd of veteran Peace Corps volunteers and staff members with cameras, signs and reassuring smiles. The first few days have been a blur of safety precautions, icebreakers, medical kits, interviews, language classes, more documents to sign, and oodles of acronyms. We are staying in the Madre Teresa dormitory in Praia, all 24 of us on one hall, sharing one bathroom — I feel like I’ve reverted back to college. The bonding has begun: taking cold showers with little water pressure, sweating 24-7 with no air condition to escape the tropical heat, brushing our teeth with bottled water, eating rice and beans at least twice a day, learning how to effectively treat water, and attending informational sessions solely about diarrhea.
I wish I had time to tell you about everything; however, time is limited and Internet is slow so I will skip to my favorite day thus far. On Sunday night, we met the U.S. ambassador of Cape Verde and the Millennium Center director. This was followed by a night of traditional dancing (fanana in particular), food and much mingling, where we tried out our new Kriolu language skills. Dancing is by far the most effective icebreaker, forming bonds that immediately break language and culture barriers. At the end of the day, we are all people, whether we were born in Cape Verde or born in Texas. We all know how to move our bodies and most of us even like it, even if it’s only in front of a mirror in our underwear.
As for up and coming news — on Wednesday, I move to Assomada and meet my host family! This is where I will live until mid-September. Multiple Kriolu cram sessions are in order so that I will be able to say at least a few words to my family when I arrive. Although Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde, on a daily basis, everyone speaks Kriolu. Portuguese is only spoken, or written in formal settings and publications, such as the newspaper. In addition, only a small percentage of the population (~.05%) can write in Kriolu – they only know how to speak it. More to come on that end, very interesting nonetheless. I also found out that my role in Cape Verde is defined as “teacher trainer,” consisting of teaching classes at the university, evaluating new teachers, and supervising educational research. I will most likely be teaching in Praia (the capital) at the local university. This morning I went for a jog (not alone might I add) and watched the sun rise over the water, listening to the waves crash against the shore. I think I could get used to living in this city.
Entirely new world — new culture, new place, new food, new people, new weather, new language. Living on $4 a day. Cape to the Verde, here I come.