The thing I wished to happen in Peace Corps happened, but not in the way I expected. Some people go their whole lives not knowing what they are doing or what their purpose is. And that was me until one November day when my world would turn upside down. I will always have Cape Verde to thank for that because it changed me....for the better. Perhaps I would still be "lost" today searching for those things that had already been there....my family, my home, and my friends. The Spanish speaking world is magical to me and I've always felt at home traveling to these magnificent places. In a sense I never truly experienced culture shock like I did until living on the islands of Cape Verde. And all of this had to pass outside of my comfort zone. Today I end my memoirs from this interesting country.
Dated October 15, 2000. "My roommate Sydney writes back home to her friends that she is trapped on this God forsaken island! I laugh outloud. I love her humor and wit. She's wonderful to have for a roommate and friend. I just feel terrible for being a Downer Debbie all the time. Lately my energy has not been there. I feel tired all the time and it's physically difficult to get out of the bed. I want to sleep all day long! We purchased paint for our house and I'll begin soon. The other day, while I was teaching, a student by the name of Malika touched my butt. I ignored it thinking it was a mistake, but then it happened again. I had a chat with her about appropriate behavior. Several nights later, I hear voices by our house early in the morning. Apparently, there is a boat operator that takes Cape Verdeans to the other islands.....I open my shades and find Malika staring back at me!!!! Creepy! I wonder how my other friends are doing on the other islands. And I wonder if they are having the same kinds of experiences."
Dated 10/18/2000 "I can't do anything today because I am sad....and angry. I wish I could be back home for Tommy and Evie(our family friends who were our neighbors and like part of our family since childhood.) But I can't. He's dead and I'm here. I want to be there for Evie. Oh goodness....I don't know what has gotten into me. You think things will always remain the same but they don't. I'm the one who does all the crazy stuff but everyone else is supposed to stay stationary and wait for me to grow up. How selfish is that? My thoughts are with you all back home."
Dated 10/22/2000. "Today was a good day. I went biking to Buracona....a pool that is created by waves crashing against the shoreline rocks. It was rather beautiful....and a bit scary as well. We went to see a Brazilian film. One of the 30 year old teachers brought his 13 year old student. They were dating. I don't know what to say about any of this. People justify this by saying, "It's the culture." But it makes me sick to my stomache. To make matters worse, I saw the Principal escorting another woman who wasn't his wife! All of the volunteers witness this in some form. Women are just objects that need to obey the man. Swimsuit competitions happened on the islands. Old men judged 7th grade girls in swim gear on several of them. I don't know if I'll ever understand any of this. I left the concert series disgusted but came upon a ritual in the streets that held me captivated. Imagine dark cobblestone streets. Women dressed in black wailing in a songlike manner as they carry a casket down the street. A polio outbreak has happened on our island and it claimed a man's life. I went back to my garden...my sanity and headed towards the roof...the best place in the world. My feline friend came back to visit. I warmed some milk up and fed her. She thanked me with her eyes and instead of running off, she stayed with me for a time." It was here that things started changing for me. I began to miss Tucson. Miss my family......and I began to feel the power of "nesting" or settling down somewhere to call home. You may wonder, where did Tucson come from? Like something buried in the back of my mind, the memories of living there came back to haunt my final days in Cape Verde. I had lived in the Bay Area, Mexico, Wisconsin, and Tucson.....and it was Tucson that screamed loudly in my head that night. I had always felt that there was something better than Tucson, but kept comparing the Old Pueblo to all the places I had been....and nothing could compete with the majesty of the Sonoran desert. Not even the tropical rain forests. I loved the desert....just not the dunes I was living on! It was here that I discovered that not all deserts were the same:)
Dated October 23rd, 2000. "Our roof cat and her friends are doing a great job capturing the cockroaches. We don't have them as an issue anymore. BUT we did have a moment in the house. I heard screaming coming from my roommate in her room. Apparently a spider the size of China escaped the banana boats and entered her room. The thing was HUGE!! and fast! Spiders give me the heebie jeebies but we finally caught the sucker after it sped all over her pepto pink walls:) Nasty! The lesson? Never leave clothes or papers piled on the floor. The other day, I made the same mistake and found a lizard on my floor hissing at me. It was one of the endemic ones found only on this island. I carefully released him outside. Yikes!"
Dated October 28, 2000. "You hear the theme to the Pink Panther in the background. All is calm in the house and Sydney walks across the hall to whisper something to me....and suddenly a furry little head appears from the doorway. But it's coming from the guest bedroom!!! Apparently rooftop kitty has entered our house! She waits for her food and meows if we don't feed her. By 9 AM, we put out a bit of milk for our new family member. I am still very sick and haven't been able to work. Something is wrong with me....and my roommate. Last night, in a moment of panic, I ran to the bathroom to throw up, use the facilities, and pass out all at the same time. I have lost a lot of weight. We are being med evac'd back to the main island for a possible infection of giardia. Syd's friend Mary came 2 nights ago to say goodbye. We sat under the lights of the night sky by the ocean and it was sad. I couldn't eat anything because I wasn't hungry. We came back from the trip and I found a huge poisonous centipede on our floor. I screamed bloody mary and tried killing it but it wouldn't die....so I took the broom and swept it out of the door.....and at that same time, I found a huge cockroach from hell in the room....I sprayed all over the house....Sydney says that I am trying to kill her....but this house will be BUG FREE....and proud to be:) If you've ever had a cockroach crawl over your face while you're trying to sleep, you'd understand:)"
Date November 8th, 2000. Syd and I were both flown back to Praia for health reasons....blood, urine, and "other" not so pleasant tests were given.....and this is what we discovered...Syd lost 26 pounds and I lost 20! When everyone saw us, they were shocked by the weight difference. Syd is still suffering from the headaches, but at least we are on the mend again. To end on a funny note. I don't think I will ever forget the day I was teaching to my class and watched as a woman was hanging up her clothes to dry. There are monkeys on the island of Santiago and one of them was held as a "pet". The monkey got free and grabbed the broom from her and attacked. That was awesome. Note to self. Monkeys were never meant to be pets:)"
Dated November 12, 2000. "Today we went to Santa Maria...Syd and I....and we went swimming...and it was absolutely gorgeous. However, the waves are powerful! I got caught in a current and thrown on my head. Ouch! The garden is growing wonderfully and looking great!"
The days continued on until the "snap". I was painting in my room. The wall was blue. I had painted so many times before over and over again....but it was this time painting that clarity happened. Pure. Simple. Clarity. I was tired of painting walls that weren't my own. I was tired of traveling around the world not having a home. Wasn't it supposed to take 2 years for me to figure things out? Apparently not. I had had it with everything. And so for the first time in my existence, I realized that my life couldn't be placed on hold anymore. Settling down and maybe getting into a relationship was important. Owning a home was important. I tried running away from Tucson, but the further I went, the harder it became. Simply put....I missed this city immensely. Why? The University of Arizona operated on these islands to reforest them after the Cape Verdeans destroyed most of their vegetation. Today you will find a lot of mesquite trees growing in the landscape.
I would not last more than 6 months in this country and it was the best decision I had ever made for myself. A strong goal seeded itself within me to return to Tucson. For the first time in my life, I ended something before completing it....and it was liberating. I've never quit anything before! And for the first time in my life, I grew up and the selfish college kid died. I returned home to Tucson, bought a house, painted my own walls, and got into a relationship.....I guess all the things people do when they reach "the age". Before Cape Verde, I lived all over the Americas. Today I have Cape Verde to thank for enriching that which is most important.....home and knowing who I am. And I am so thankful everyday I wake up that I had this experience.