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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Working with the Peace Corps in Cape Verde - Page 3

Written by Callie Flood
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Recently, while waiting for a car after my daily battle of molding young minds, I was blessed in a strange way. As I sat on the wall (an extremely common activity here) the woman who has been cooking for the primary school students longer than I have been alive graced me with her company. This being the first time we met, we exchanged the typical formalities; name, number of children, if I have arranged a husband here, where in the states I am from, how many family members she has in the states, etc. As the conversation moved in the direction of America, I feared the typical “America é sabi! La ten tudu koizas!” (America is cool! It has everything!) This is generally followed by me explaining that not everything is great in America, that there is poverty equal to the poverty here, that there are also a lot of things that Cape Verde has that America does not; that even though there is everything in America, it requires a lot of money and a lot of work, etc. I was pleasantly surprised when this wise and beautiful woman made a more convincing argument against the poorly informed blanket comments about the greatness of America than I could ever hope to.

She spoke quietly of a good friend who had lived in both Cape Verde and America. Though he was initially pleased with the opportunity to live and do his work in the US, this pleasure waned as he spent time there. After passing a few years in the US, he gratefully returned to Cape Verde completely disenchanted with America. During his service there he found himself disappointed in the way people treated and dealt with one another. In the second-hand words of this wise woman, “Na ‘Merka, tempo é só dinheiro. Alguen ka ten tempo pa outro alguen.” (In America, time is just money. People don’t have time for one another.) Though she may not know this first hand, the impressions of the pastor had certainly influenced her. This is not an entirely uncommon response when speaking with someone who has some knowledge or experience in regards to lifestyle in the states. The wisdom of this woman shone through her reported commentary when she spoke “Nos é só passageiros.” (We are all just passengers.) This may not be the most enlightening comment ever spoken, but at the moment, in the context, I was humbled and a little amused.

As we spoke, we acknowledged the fact that there is a certain amount of ambiguity and distance involved in being a passenger. When was the last time you greeted or made conversation with the strangers that shared the bus or train with you? In America it is more common to simply remain comfortably in our personal existence. There is a certain amount of respect and acknowledgment shown as we get up to allow the elderly, sick or pregnant person to sit, but the inquiries “how are you?... how is life treating you?... how is your family?” very rarely make an appearance.

JourneyIn Cape Verde, you can’t get away without at least a simple greeting. There is not the rush to get to the next destination. There is not the desire to wallow in a private world, cut off from your surroundings by electronic devices, ear buds and indifference. Instead, it is the company on the voyage and the combined experience that matters. Though it may take longer to get to the desired destination, the overall journey becomes infinitely more warm and enjoyable. Besides, during our short time here, shouldn’t it at least be a pleasant trip?

©Callie Flood



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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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