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!!