Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Santo Antão

I spent Christmas in Porto Novo, Santo Antão with Alissa, Dove and Josh (at their house) and a couple of other volunteers. Christmas Eve we ate Pasta Figioli (not sure if the name is right, a pasta and bean dish with lots of extra sause) which we ate with this amazing fried pizza dough. Iºm not a huge fan of beans but the beans werenºt overwhelming and it was just so so so good. After dinner we watched Sex and the City, the movie and than went to bed.

Christmas morning Dove made banana and peach muffins and than we sat around and opened some presents. Alissa had already given me everything so we didnºt have anything to open, but Megan gave us both loufas which was really sweet and wrapped them in a Time Magazine. We than had some leftover pasta and headed to the beach. After the beach we ate hummus and pita (both homemade and delicious). We than watch Love Actually which is a Christmas story, kind of and hung around until we were ready to have another feast. Dinner was bbq chicken, fish, stuffing, squash deliciousness, corn bread, garlic kale, mashed potatoes and for dessert a copious amount of cookies. It was all really good and I was stuffed by the end.

After dinner my parents called so Alissa and I got to talk to them which was nice and than we just hung out and played some cards until we all passed out from being so full.

Anyway, hope everyone else had a wonderful christmas too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

§ Merry Christmas §

Merry Christmas!! Well almost. I figured I am probably not going to have a chance to get to a computer tomorrow but I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas. And of course also Happy Birthday Courtney!
On Monday at the SOS we had a Christmas Party where a ton of kids and family members came (I think over a hundred) and we had a big lunch (Rice with everything in it..), than there was some dancing (over an hour of a bit much for my liking but it was still enjoyable) and a short play by the boys who live here and than we handed out presents...

The handing out of presents was about the craziest thing I have ever seen. We had picked out clothes for most of the kids who come here and they were all labled and ready to go, so that was good. What happend though is the room that we had stored all of these presents was mobbed by the group of kids (see picture), so while they were outside the door it was complete and total chaos. Just picture all these kids (a lot of whom were not SOS kids but some how found out
about the event and snagged some lunch and were trying to get a present). It was confusing to say the least and Alissa and I were trying to help out (by the way my sister Alissa is here which is sooo exciting and we have been having a great time together), but it was just hard and I wasnºt sure if I was in the way or being helpful. So we finally kind of managed to give out the presents to all the SOS kids but than there were still all these kids (and some of there parents) asking for gifts. It was kind of hard because everyone was getting stressed out (it was already 5pm) and there were all these kids asking for thing (´´i want a car´´, ´´i want a doll´´, bla bla bla), it was nuts. In the end we ended up making our way through the mob and we took the remaining presents and put them in the office. I felt bad and it was hard when the kids are asking for things and you canºt give them something, but really the party was for the kids who come here, because they are (at least ideally) giving back to the SOS too, they arenºt just taking free handouts, they have to help out (as do their parents) in order to continue to be a beneficiary or the organization. While the end of the day was completly crazy to say the least, overall the day was quite good and it was nice to have a party for the kids and get everyone in the Christmas spirit.

While it is certainly hard and differernt to not be home for Christmas this year, I am so thankful to be here in Cape Verde and to be working at an organization that I really feel makes a difference in the lives of many children. Although there are definatly times when at work Iºm not sure if I am being useful, there are also times when I feel really good about it too and feel that while yes my kreolu isnºt great and it makes it hard to have a real conversation, when I have a kid come up to me a give me a hug, or when they see me and smile and say ´´hey how are you Cathryn´´, it just really makes me smile. So this Christmas I thank my family and friends for being so supportive, because this is definatly a journey that would be difficult to do without being in their prayers. And for the new year I hope that I can improve my language skills so that I can hopefully get to do more in my community and at the SOS. Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas preparations and a parade in Mindelo

The week before Christmas at the SOS was a bit crazy. We got a good bit of donated clothes and present and I helped them sort, fold and wrap the presents. I must note how awesome it is that they handpicked clothes for over a 100 kids, literally went through the clothes and said ´´hm do you think that so and so would fit in this?´´. I thought it was really cool how much time and thought they all put into these gift (although the handing out of the gifts didnºt go as well as planned, and not every kid will get their gift before Christmas, it is the thought that counts after all). So the week was pretty busy, which was really nice and refreshing. It was really nice hanging out with the other people who work at the SOS and chatting and feeling like I was actually helping out. For a moment I almost felt like I was in the ´´in´´ crowd, they even invited me for coffee (a funny secretive thing they do, where they say to whoever isnºt in the kitchen that they are needed immediatly!! but really when you get in there is just coffee and food), so that was pretty sweet and I am starting to feel like I am fitting in a bit despite me still having some difficulty with the language, slowly but surely I feel like it will all work out.
While we were putting gifts together the kids helped decorate a float which included a 10 or more foot christmas tree made out of cardboard and decorated with recyled bottles (which was freaking awesome). The whole float came together so nicely (unfortunatly itºs raining today--which i am a bit confused about-- so itºs not looking so good).

On Saturday we had the parade. I showed up at the park where we were starting (about a 3 minute walk from my house) at 9:30 as told. I waited about 20 minutes before I started to realize that I would be there for a while. At 10:30 on Saturdays I teach an English class at a local organization that helps local boys whose families canºt provide for them (kind of similar to the SOS), so I decided that since I was waiting I should walk over there (like a 15minute walk) just to let them know that I probably wasnºt going to be able to make it that day to do the class. When I got there they were decorating for Christmas and were pretty understanding as to why I would not be able to make it, and it was nice to get to wish them all a Merry Christmas since I wonºt be seeing them again until after Christmas.
Well, than i headed back to the park, to shockingly (not really, lateness is slowly but surely growing on me and it doesnºt shock me when people are late, 2 hours in this case!) There was a small group of kids who had made it there with a sos mother and I hung out with them and we played some games and it allowed the time to pass a bit.
A good while later some of the people who work at the SOS showed up (asked and lauged about how long I had been there) and we walked around to get Santa hats (I opted out, as I feel I stick out enough and donºt really need a Santa hat to help me with that any more). On our way back (around 11:45) the float arrived and behind it a truck with about a hundred kids (definatly not something you could ever get away with in the states but not a bad method to herd children. All the kids got out and than the parade began... well sort of. The had a woman who was on the float, along with the boys who live here (12 of them) and some sort of dance but not really dance group that was following the float and than the mob of children and parents. Well the float started going pretty fast... Iºm not quite sure what the driver was thinking, but it was funny to watch as these dancers are trying to catch up and dance and other people were yelling at the driver to slow down. Finally the driver figured it out and the parade really started. We walked all around the city, handing out fliers to people walking that gave some more information about the SOS, I believe so that people will give donations and stuff which would be nice. Of course there were a few mishaps including driving into CV telecomºs wires, but one of the boys saved the day by pushing up the wire as they drove under it with a banner, and the speakers at the end failed and we ended up hanging out in one of the praças for a good hour and a half (Iºm not totally sure if the stop itself was on purpose). After waiting around for a good while, the truck returned and all the kids made their way on (no ladder, some good old boosting and jumping up (the pictures will explain this a lot better ).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Caça aos Tesouros e Pintura Creativa a Mão

Today at the SOS one of the social workers Judite (and of course with the help of everyone else here) created a treasure hunt (Caça aos Tesouros) and invited SOS children and their families to participate. About 50 children and their caretakers participated and it was a hit. We had kids and adults running all around the area to find pencils and bags etc that were hidden on the premisis. It was so funny to watch them all running around and having a great time. My hat (Treasure Hunt!)
(Finger painting and a group of kids who participated, can you find me?)
really goes off to the people who work here who created the activity because I really think that it is great for the kids to have some sort of organized activity every once in a while, instead of just doing homework everyday and than playing amougst themselves (The kids did have to do their homework before the activity of course!). Part of the idea behind the SOS and what makes it sustainable as a nonprofit organization is that the families who are being helped participate and give back to the SOS community (so instead of having to hire labor the families give back to the SOS by giving their time), so having activities such as today allow for them to do such and things and also have a good time. After all of the items were found we than all went into the cafeteria\other activity room and finger painted (Pintura Creativa a Mão). It was so awesome to see both parents and kids participating and also having a blast at the same time. There is something about finger painting that no matter how old your are it is a fun thing to do and just brings you back to your childhood.

Riding in Boats with Navy Boys

So the other night I was walking to meet a friend for dinner and on my way I saw this whole hoard of guys walking around. I didnºt think too much of it until they started speaking American English (which is one of the most refeshing sounds to hear when you havenºt heard it in so long). Anyway so we chatted for a bit and I found out that they are here with the Navy heading around Africa and doing some work and giving out gifts. They offered to give me a tour of the boat the next day, needless to say I took them up on the offer. So yesterday Lindsay and I walked over to the boat, I sweetalked my way past security (in Kreolu I might add which I am proud of) and walked the insanely long walk on the pier to the U.S.S. Bradley. When we got on the boat we just explained to them that we wanted a tour and they gladly grabbed an unsuspecting sailor, Morgan, who took us on a really awesome tour of the boat. We pretty much got to see everything from the big guns (which he tried to explain their names and what they do but it really didnºt mean too much haha), the kitchen and where they eat, and even where they sleep. I didnºt think it was possible to ever have a bed smaller than the one that I had in college, but man those were small little beds, stacked 3 high... I would not want to be in one of those in a bad storm (I found out later that on their way here they hit 60ft waves...eek).
One of the absolute highlights of the tour was the dinning hall where I saw soy sause and mentioned that you canºt get any here and (Telemax: I kid you not that is his first name)Morgan talked to a few people gave a slightly sob story about us being Peace Corps volunteers and than another guy appeared with two bottles of really good soy sause... which means I will make rice (something that I have done I think only twice since living with my hostfamily). I never thought that you could be so excited about such a little thing but really little things make such a big difference. When we were out with some sailors later they told us that we sound have gotten some heinz ketcup... dam!!! Ooo well it was still awesome.
Some other random highlights of the trip on the boat: seeing a sailor in his boxers, going into the high security places of the boat with cameras and all sorts of crazy things, walking up and down the stairs which are at a rediculous angel (to save space), seeing the SMALL thing that stears the ship (they donºt have a big whatever it is called to stear), walking past guys with VERY BIG guns, and hearing Americanºs speak.
As we were walking off the boat and thanking them for the awesomoe tour and dreading the long hot walk back, first I ran into the guys that I had met the night before and a whole bunch of them were wearing Cape Verde gear which was pretty rediculous and when I commented they said ´´hey we are just trying to fit in´´, haha. And than this guy Rank who I have been teaching English to (a rich guy who works for the gas company and who will hopefully help fund some projects I want to do) pulls up right next to us and drives us back home. Rank is a very funny man, it is mostly because of his English which isnºt too bad but when he says things they always just sound funnier than they are. And I run into him a good bit, other than just at class, like on random roads that I am walking on he will randomly pull up, anyway so he is a random guy but it is nice to get rides some places.

(Lindsay and the creeper older sailor) (Me and some of the boys) (This guy who bought a Cabo Verde belt which I thought was great)
Later last night we went out to this bar that is on the beach for a couple of drinks with the boys that I had met the day before. I couldnºt exactly remember what they looked like and ended up walking up to other Americans and talking to them like I knew them, they were confused and boardline rude so than we sat somewhere else until the right boys came up to us. It was a good night and very nice to talk to them and see what they are doing on their 6month tour, sharing stories about eating crappy food and hearing about their lives.

Today I am heading to Praia (the capital) to hang out for a couple of days and pick up my sister Alissa at the airport. Although we had been talking about her coming here for a while it never really felt real, I donºt think it will until I see her walk out the gate. For the first 3 months we havenºt been able to leave the island of Sao Vicente and I understand the concept of the rule, but it will be so refreshing and I think good for me to get off and come back here more refreshed and with my sis!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a nice thanksgiving. I worked in the morning and hung out with a few other volunteers who were around and we went to the beach during the afternoon. As I was making some sutffing I got a call from my family. It is always great to hera from them. I gave them a small list of things that I wanted from home (my sister is coming in December which is really exciting and so soon!) and talked about the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NY and a rediculous turkey hat that my sister found and my dad wore around and had Japanese tourist asking him for a picture and telling him he looks great. (I really wish I could have been there for that, though I am sure I would have been completly mortified).
We cooked chicken, stuffing (which wasn't as good as my mom's but might have come in second place), baked some fresh rolls, and garlic mashed potatoes. And to drink we had tropical orange caparinha's (rum-grougue here, with sprite sugar and usually lime), which were delicious. It was really nice to be able to spend some time with them and get to have a really good thanksgiving away from home. Although it is obviously hard to be away from home for the holidays, I'm very thankful to be able to have met and hang around with some really great people who without coming here I would have never met.

(This is a terrible picture of me- iºm not really that red!-, but the two before are of the food and caparinhaºs)

(Caley and Lindsay very full and happy, Daren and Emily also very full)~

I also have some exciting news, two of my good friends from home Jennifer Flynn and Jill Sullivan are engaged to John Paul and Dan O'Connor (respectively). So anyway I just wanted to congratulate them and wish them the best. Love you and miss you both!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jogos Globais da Paz

Last weekend the SOS had their Jogos Globais da Paz. The event took place at a campo in Mindelo and involved about 10 teams playing soccer. It was a pretty cool day, actually hot, but I think that overall it went really well. There were a good bit of highschoolers who (they have school in the afternoon, that is the way school works here because there are so many children, that you either have school in the morning or in the afternoon), were cheering on the players. The whole point of the day was to show how important soccer is to children all across the world. Not only does it give kids a fun activity to partake in but it also keep kids from doing other things, such as drugs or getting involved with the wrong crowd. The event which is either sponsered by or at least the idea of FIFA, hopes to show that soccer can be a peacemaker.

After the events there were two groups, one who did capoeira (is an Afro-Brazilian art form that ritualizes movement from martial arts, games, and dance... look it up on wikipedia it has an interesting history) and the other were playing music. It was really cool. I had seen a group in the Praca doing capoeira on Sundays (Sunday is a realyl big night out, why I have no idea, but itºs nice that you can always go to the Praca and either pacia around or listen to music).
So overall I thought that the day was really cool and it really brought a lot of kids together to do something cool and show how great soccer is as a game. I threw the idea past my boss of possibly having a girls soccer team, maybe affiliated with the SOS, she didnºt seem like incredibly enthusiastic but I think that she thought it was an interesting idea and I would really like to see how feasible of an idea it is.

Anyway hope that everyone is enjoying the week, I will try to post something again soon!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Sucker is Born Everyday

So yesterday @ work I saw that some kids had this card that had different peopleºs names on it, but when they tried to explain it to me I didnºt really understand. From what I did get, if they got people to sign it they would win something. I thought they would win 10\20$oo escudos, because it had a price on the top. I didnºt think much of it and since they didnºt ask me to sign it I didnºt ask more about it. Today when I came into work though, two girls came up to me and asked me to sign it. They gave a half ass explanation again (I think it was more lack of explanation than it was me not understanding) and asked me to sign it. I figured what the heck and I saw a couple of other names of people from the SOS who signed it too so I signed theirs. Next thing I know they are asking for the money (the number that was on top of the page). This really nice woman Solange who works here than explained to me that I had to pay for signing… so I totally got sucked into it. I didnºt have enough money today to pay for it so I am indebted to two 12year olds… haha I am hoping that they didnºt tell any of the other kids that I signed it, other wise every kid is going to expect me to pay. I guess you live and learn and donºt sign anything if you donºt understand it! My overall understanding of this thing is that once they have their whole sheet filled out with signatures they win something, but Iºm not sure what. Do they keep the money that I give them, do they give it to someone at school? Oooo well, so I am now 30$00 escudos broker, but I may have made two best friends. I will certainly not be signing any more cards until I really figure out what they deal is.

Halloween in Mindelo

For halloween people in Cape Verde dress up in all black. There were a couple of people in costumes but not very many, and Chinese lojas are trying to bring our influence by having masks and wigs and such, but it hasnºt really caught on. I bought a mask but didnºt end up wearing it, mostly because it was so incredibly hot to wear. Since nights out here start very late we left our apartment around 11ish and walked down to the praça where everyone was walking around. Someone explained to me that people walking around the praçaa is a big part of the culture here that hasnºt died out over time, which is really awesome and cool (People just literally walk around the praça for hours- itºs been said that you can have the best conversations there). So it was pretty cool to see all these people wearing black walking around. For some reason I was the only one who caught a glimpse of a guy in a mask walking around with a torch (but I swear I really saw it!)
After getting an idea of what was going on we went down to the beach and went to a club. It was an interesting experience with lots of American music and people dancing away. As an interesting comparison, I found it very interesting that it seems like not all that many people were drinking (or at least not heavily, probably because the drinks were crazy expensive but also just because unlike in America where I feel like it usually takes a couple of drinks to get on the dance floor, people in Cape Verde genuinely love to dance and donºt need a drink in them to do it). So overall it was a pretty good time, it was a good experience to find out what a dance club really was all about, defiantly not my kind of scene (it had strobe lights and all), but it was something I feel like you just need to do at least once. We didnºt get back home until 530, which was really quite late (Iºm not sure if I will ever get used to the really late nights here) and really shot the whole next day, but it was a good Halloween despite not getting to see peopleºs creative costumes and maybe next year the Chinese lojas will have more luck with selling costumes similar to ours in the states.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Presents

You canºt really see it, but itºs a card from my parents, which I thought was cute (and yes mom you are right, it is lame, but I loved it!), and my dadºs yearbook picture, which on the back says ´I thought I should include something scary´ (i got a huge kick out of it)

In a very small envelope with my absentee ballot (which I am so grateful to my dad for sending over), he literally stuffed as many paper halloween decorations. The woman at the post office got a huge kick out of it and they are now hanging up all around the apartment, so we are all decorated for the holiday.

My other fun package was from Courtney Peanut Butter Raum, who sent me a whole ton of goodies, including a trashy novel (which was great and I finished in a couple of hours), peeps (which I LOVE) and other fun goodies to keep me going.
So needless to say it was a super fun trip to the post office, even if on my walk back home I got tons of crazy looks, because I had a huge smile on my face :)
Although Iºve been pretty lucky with having decent access to email, there is nothing like a letter, so keep em coming. Hope everything has a great halloween! Iºm not sure what Iºm doing for the day. They do celebrate halloween here but they dress up in black, thatºs about all i know, so I dont think that I am going to go as a desperate housewife as I was thinking (maybe just around the apartment). Anyway, have a great weekend!

Baté(ing) Roupa

Doing laundry is not the simple task that it is at home. First you ´fiti-fiti´ (totally spelled wrong) where you rub together arm pits on shirts, etc. Next you use the wash board (as seen above) to basically beat the crap out of your clothes.Then you rinse out the clothes in a seperate bucket. I still havenºt really figured out how to get all the soap out of the clothes, I think that it is just impossible. That is the one pro to it really never raining, because if I got caught in a storm I would definatly suds up. Then you have the fun task of ringing out all the water... also something I havenºt mastered yet. We have a tile balcony and each time I have managed to basically flood it (mostly during the ringing out step), which makes it extremely dangerous (but humorous if watching) to walk around and try to hang up the clothes.
The washboard that we have at the apartment is made of wood, they make them with metal and also like a stone, which we had at the homestay family, and definatly beat the hell out of my clothes (way more than now, and also because I donºt have my host mom standing over me making sure that I beat them sufficently). If you have a shirt with buttons on it and your not carefully, you can literally hear the buttons coming loose, the sound just makes you cringe (espeically because you know that you will be sewing them back on later). Jeans, towels and sheets are the absolute worst to clean. not only is it difficult to clean it on the washboard, but ringing it out... Ooo man, itºs the hardest. Iºve figured out that if you put water item you need to ring between your legs you can get most of it out, but alot of times it will end up back in the bucket (and you are also getting soaked) so itºs just a crazy task.
Despite the rediculousness of the situation, I oddly enjoy baté(ing) my roupa, itºs kind of relaxing listening to some music and humorous (sometimes a neighbor from a rooftop will look on, I know she is judging my ability and also amazed that a foreigner can do her own laundry, even if itºs not well).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bom Dia

This morning I went for a walk\run to the beach and there was this rainbow over Santa Antão which was incredible. I think it had just rained in Santa Antão because we got rain as I was leaving, hence the rainbow. I did not have my camera which is unfortunate but it was so beautiful and really made my day.
I also met this really nice girl on the beach and we ran together, she taught me some Kreolu and we are going to try to meet everyday (at 630). Thatºs all Iºve got for now...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pingu-pingu and the stolen cat

So my host family had a cat named pingu-pingu (meaning polka dots *I named it myself*) and one day this skinny little cats appears with a baby kitten (who we later named pingu-pingu dodu *crazy*). I had found out a couple days earlier that Leah’s host family’s neighbor’s cat had kittens on their roof and that Kevi (her host brother) had dropped to kittens off in ribiera, I believe a couple of weeks after being born. Needless to say before I heard about these abandoned kittens I was skeptical that pingu-pingu had a litter of one. I’ve never heard of such a thing, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong or if you’ve ever heard of such a thing. I explained to my host family about my skepticism, but they were convinced that pingu-pingu would never do such a thing and that it had litters of one in the past (hmm suspicious- a serial kitten robber). So despite my skepticism I tried to drop it. But pingu-pingu and pingu-pingu dodu weren’t interacting like mother and child. Pingu-pingu for one couldn’t carry pingu-pingu dodu by the neck and every time it tried it dropped it. Since I’m pretty sure that pingu-pingu wasn’t producing any milk (I never was fully able to determine this but I am pretty confident), pingu-pingu dodu wasn’t eating except for the small portions of rice that I would sneak it. I’m not sure if pingu-pingu dodu was a little off because pingu-pingu wasn’t its’ mom and therefore wasn’t getting any nutrients from milk or what, but it certainly wasn’t the smartest kitten in Ribiera Manuel. It would walk into my room and hiss at me, or hiss as things it knocked over, roll off of books it was climbing on and just cry. When I spoke to my host family last they said that pingu-pingu dodu was still alive and well but they also still continue to refuse to admit that their other cat stole it.

Kumida na Cabo Verde

Some exciting food finds include Philadelphia cream cheese (which although was expensive was worth every penny) and mozzarella cheese (which I made a calzone with mushrooms, onions, peppers and olives). I also made a pizza last night with musrooms and put a few malageta pepers (veryOne day this fresh fruit market with the nicest ladies had Hass avocados, which was close to the best things I’ve found here yet. Although they do have some avocados here, they are different and kind of watery, so therefore don’t have as great of a flavor as the avocados you find in the states. So anyway that is why it was so exciting to find Hass avocados which made an awesome guacamole. I still need to perfect my tortilla making skills so hopefully I will be able to find some more good avocados. Random tidbit about avocados here: Cape Verdeans put sugar on them, and not just a little bit of sugar but so much sugar that you can’t even taste the avocado. While living with my host family I can happily report that I convinced my host father to try avocado with salt, and he now loves it and doesn’t eat it any other way.

Katxupa: traditional Cape Verdean stew made with ground corn, beans and meat.

The process of making katxupa is a big task. Each member of my host family took a role in the making of it. I decided after failed attempts of helping that I would be official photographer for the day. The process begins with putting dried corn in a container and smashing it. This takes out a part of the corn that is white and hard and I’m not sure if inedible but regardless is regarded as a necessary step. To the left you can see my host brothers (Sondri and Kinu) doing such. This is a hard task, because not only do you ne

ed to be strong but you also have to be precise with your aim because you don’t want to corn to fly everywhere when you are trying to break it down. I lacked both grace and strength in this task and after losing most of the corn in the container I decided that it was best to opt out. After you smash the corn you need to get the part of the corn that you donºt want (sorry that I canºt currently recall any of the names of this process), so you put it in a basket and do this crazy thing where you can get all the white part out. This was another task that I was completly incapable of doing, but it was amazing to watch my host mom do this with such ease, as you can see above. I missed the making of the katxupa after this step but below is a picture of the final product and my host father who actually made the katxupa (they are a very modern family with the boys cooking and doing laundry)