Thursday, January 11. Part 1. We landed in Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde early, about 1:00 in the morning. I had found out after I left that I would need to get a visa—now they tell me!—and that I could do that when I got off the plane at the airport but if I wasn’t close to the front of the line it could take me 45 minutes to get through. I was smack dab in the middle of the plane. As I stood in the line a while waiting to get off, somebody told me to turn around. The other half of passengers had gotten out a back door. So I was nearly the last one off the plane. But I walked fast to get into the visa line about in the middle of the pack. Then, all the people behind me went to a new agent who had opened a new line, so suddenly I was at the end again. Took me an hour or more to get out of there.
Then the fun really began. Damian had told me the hotel was a stone’s throw from the airport and I would need to take a taxi but it was only a couple of streets over. I walked out of the airport into sketchy land. A dude came up to me very friendly and asked if I needed a taxi. I said yes, told him where I was going, that it was just a couple of streets away. He couldn’t speak any English but we finally figured out he was saying it would cost three euros. I said okay. As were walking down the sketchy street, it suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea whether he’s a taxicab driver or not. What do I know? I have no instructions except the address of the hotel and “take a taxi.” Suddenly another guy appears, unhappy with the first guy. Neither of them speak any English; probably they were speaking Criolo, the native tongue of Cape Verde. They also speak Portuguese, but that doesn’t help me. Anyway, the first guy finally manages to communicate that the second guy won’t let me go with him because there is a taxicab queue and it is proper to take the first taxi. So I find myself in another guy’s taxi, whom I hadn’t explained what I had told to the first guy, and we are driving, driving, driving and I’m starting to get nervous. If this is a stone’s throw from the airport the guy must have a throwing arm 100,000 times greater than George Washington. Finally, we arrive. He charges me €10. The guy from the hotel comes out. He speaks no English either, but I think he said that €10 is what it costs. So I don’t know whether I was taken or whether I was saved, but now it was time to try to communicate with the guy at the hotel and I have never in my life had a more difficult communication experience. We could hardly find more than three words we could both understand. He takes me to my room, and it’s kind of a hole, but at this point at about 2:30 AM beggars can’t be choosers. And, I have to get up at 4:00 AM to catch my plane at the airport again, my final leg to Sal Islsand. I had gotten a new alarm clock, and I hadn’t used it yet, and I was praying it would get me up in time. Unfortunately, I was wired by the time I went to sleep, so if I was lucky I got in one hour.
Never have I been more both happy and miserable to hear the alarm ring. I felt in a total fog. When I went to check out the hotel the same guy was there, but he went and got reinforcements because he was confused, and unfortunately the reinforcement didn’t speak any English either and was just as confused. I assumed Damian had paid for the hotel but I didn’t really know, and they were insisting. And the currency they use here is really scary if you don’t know what the exchange rate is. So my bill came out to be $5526, which I had to put that on my credit card. Scary moment. Found out later that equals around $55 US. Phew. They also put a new charge on my bill for a taxi to the airport, and I was just glad one showed up. He didn’t speak English either. Luckily at check-in people did speak some English.
One funny thing happened. A striking woman walked into the airport with two guitars. I could tell she had just rushed into the airport, wiping sweat off her brow. I was struck by her energy and the fact that she was a musician, as my son is a professional musician. For some reason I had a feeling I would talk with her. Then it seemed like she got into a different queue for a different plane, and I thought, okay, so much for that. So I get on the plane, and this woman walks in as the last passenger and sits right next to me. Weird or what? Anyway, we had a great conversation. She and her husband are natives of the island of Santiago here, she is in fact a musician, plays a combination of bossa nova, jazz and blues, and she was playing at a club on Sal Island. I thought maybe we could check it out. She gave me the name of the club, asked me what I did, and then she wanted to come to my training. I told her it was fine with me but I would have to ask Damian. I told her to come to find me and Damian after she got her bags and guitars all set so I could tell her where the place was and if she could come. I went talk to Damian for a few minutes, waiting for her. Then she disappeared. Everybody had to come out the same door. She had to walk right by us. But she was gone. I went back in to look for her. Gone. The thought occurred to me that in my stupor I may have made her up.
Thursday, January 11. Part II.
Damian met me and he and his taxi driver took me to my hotel. Not the greatest room in the world, but acceptable. As soon as Damian left to go back to his place, I found out there was no Internet. Unacceptable! That was one of my requirements, as I must have email at my disposal because it’s the lifeblood of my work. I was supposed to take a much needed nap, and Damian was supposed to pick me up in a few hours. So I never got the name of the place he was staying. I picked up my phone to text him. No phone connection—not even good enough to send a text. I didn’t know where he was, I couldn’t get in touch with him or anybody else, I needed to send a few emails out and I couldn’t, and I was stranded. At that point I was not a happy camper. But, oh well…, it was a sign that I needed to get some sleep. I woke up three hours later to a ding on my phone. While I was asleep the phone service had suddenly kicked in, and Damian just got my message and got back to me. He came over and we tried by various means to get me an Internet connection. We thought we had something, but it was to no avail.
I’m seeing something about my thinking during adventures like this when things just don’t work out like they are supposed to. First my thinking gets very grumbly as it all tries to sort itself out, but then when even the worst happens (not that the very worst ever did, knock on wood, I just resign myself and say, “Oh well…” And not just on adventures like this. I think this is my habit.
Thursday, January 11, Part III.
After a much needed three-hour nap, Damian and I walked down to meet the other attendees who had come in. This group and this place just kind of fell into Damian’s lap. He has an uncanny ability to just have faith that things are going to work out, and generally they do. So, while logistics is not his strong suit, making things come together in a way that works, is. Not only is this a really nice group of very sharp people, but his local contact through this process, Dani, proved to be a very special person. He took us on a hike to and up a very small mountain on the coast so we could be on top in time for the sunset. Most of us drove in the back of an open-ended pickup truck, and I only had worn a T-shirt and it was cold.
I talked with Dani as we walked along, learning much about the sometimes sordid history of Cape Verse. When the Portuguese found this set of islands in about the 1400s, they were uninhabited. Then they became the major slave trading port, the most convenient stopover point between Africa and America. Also in the 1800s they discovered this island‘s vast salt resources, so Portuguese and others moved in to gather the salt (hence the name, Sal Island) and mixed with the slaves and their descendants, and Cape Verde because most racially intermixed country in the world. It only gained its independence 42 years ago, so it is still a very fledgling, with all the difficulties of a newly developing Third World country. Many Senegalese and people from other African countries have since moved in. Unlike the other Cape Verdean islands, Sal Island is mostly very flat island with a few little mountains, but what it does have is more sun than any of the other Cape Verde islands, perhaps more sun than anywhere else in the world except for a desert, and really nice beaches (with great surfing), which is why people come here. Almost the entire industry is based on tourism. Yet many of the native residents who serve the tourists seem rather annoyed with us, but Dani says I have that wrong. The feeling I get, from such a limited experience so far, is that this entire set of islands could use one big Native American cleansing ceremony. I may have that wrong, too.
On this hike, much of the land seem to combination of sand and lava rock, some of it very unstable. It wasn’t that easy to walk, but Dani did the entire thing in flip-flops. He said he wouldn’t hike any other way. At one point about in the middle of our hour-long walk to get to the mountain, I stepped up onto a mini-cliff of unstable part of ground, which broke under my weight, and I bit the dust. Fell pretty hard. I landed on my hands and my right knee, trying to protect my camera. People were concerned about me as I came up bleeding a bit and bruised, but I was fine and kept walking. Once up on the mountain the views overlooking the ocean were really nice. Great little trek, very nice afternoon with really nice people. Then we had dinner together and I left everyone to get to sleep. The training starts tomorrow.