I didn’t learn the secret of cardinal directions until sixth grade. Sometimes teachers said I lived in the east and sometimes teachers said I lived in the west, thus I remained a puzzled child. Finally, my sixth grade social studies teacher (thank you, Mr. P!) straightened out my confusion. He explained that west and east must always spell “we.” He also clarified that we lived in the eastern part of the US, but the western part of North Carolina. My sense of direction isn’t much better today, even at the ripe age of 23.
Living in Cape Verde has only contributed to this weakness of mine. After visiting the phone company to inquire about installation, I discovered that my official address is “the blue apartment building near Hotel Roterdao” – no numbers, no street names, no perpendicular systems of organization. All directions begin with “near” and end with some type of landmark. I’m still not sure what happens if you’ve never heard of Hotel Roterdao or what course of action one should take upon arrival at the blue apartment building – we are not the only residents after all.
After scrubbing, mopping and adding a needed feminine touch, I can proudly call the blue apartment building home. This new independence is a strange feeling – no one insisting I eat at least five times a day, no one preparing my snack for school, no one heating up my bath water, no one translating my broken Kriolu. In a day’s time, I went from child to adult, from village to city, from training to reality.