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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Working with the Peace Corps in Cape Verde - Page 2

Written by Callie Flood
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Weeks later, I find that there is still a heaviness in the air. Change always brings a period of adjustment, and loss even more so. In her book, For the Time Being, Annie Dillard points out that we, the living, are outnumbered by the dead almost 14:1. She quotes Stalin in saying “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” How sadly true. Though one cannot know a million people, never mind be personally connected to all, each one of that million is a tragedy to some.

The same is true here, I feel the loss of these women, but for those that did not know these women they are another number. Life is already continuing on with other joys and tragedies waiting ahead. Our fleeting existence will soon be erased and forgotten too. To feel loss as a tragedy is a gift. It is our responsibility to use that gift, to love, to live, and to lose.



Fifteen months after my Peace Corps service began, I find myself pretty much at home.  Whichever places I have briefly called home for whatever reason seem as far away and dreamlike as my future home in Cape Verde once did. The familiarity of beaten paths off the cobblestone road is jarred by the brief flash of sidewalks and driveways. Lack of anonymity has grown into a fondness of never being alone or unknown. I like knowing all my neighbors and greeting them each time I leave the house. I like knowing the woman that grows and sells me my vegetables. I like the overenthusiastic shouts of my 7th grade students and breaking through the “too cool” attitude of my 8th graders. I like the simplicity, transparency and hospitality that permeate all aspects of life.


This is not to say there aren’t things that I don’t like. Like a late-stage game of Jenga, the infrastructure of government, health care, transportation and education were built high and hastily on a foundation ridden with faults and gaps. This becomes evident when simple tasks are run through each hole and around each corner, taking six times longer than conceivably possible and somehow coming out on the other side not quite the way intended. There are general, little frustrations that arise from this lack of infrastructure, unexpected delays, expected delays and the general dismissal of tasks.

Though this too can be frustrating, there are some things that become almost routine in their lack of efficiency, like transportation. I vaguely remember being frustrated that the subway in Boston stopped running at the ungodly hour of 12:30am and that the train sometimes took upwards of 15 minutes to arrive. I look back on these absurd frustrations with a fondness that only a non-native island resident can truly comprehend. Here, transportation is entirely in the hands of the few that have a 15 passenger van or covered truck. I have regularly walked upwards of 7K just waiting for a car to pass. I have sat in the oppressive heat of São Filipe waiting for an hour for the driver of the one lonely car to decide that it was time to drive around the city for 40 minutes to collect passengers from the sleepy streets. What could have been a 20 minute ride more often takes upwards of two hours. I have been crammed into a seat, six across plus two children on laps, purchases and travel gear in tow, next to an old woman routinely emptying the contents of her sick stomach into a leaky plastic bag.

I have endured showers of partially chewed peanuts and other assorted refreshments with an accompaniment of vulgar comments and narrative that only a half-deaf, toothless, senile old man would be able to muster. I have prayed for my life and the lives of those around me to the gospel of blaring island beats as the crazed driver whipped around corners of vertigo inducing cliffs. Mostly though, I have waited… and waited


On the way to the city, these two women join the overcrowded car with a rooster and two chickens

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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