Since I arrived in Cape Verde, the experience has turned out to be more than what I ever imagined. It began in 2008, December 15th to the 20th.
On that first week all my class schedule was rearranged by the university’s administration, so I could teach 10 hours to each of the three classes.
Plans out the window, I did my best to keep the same amount of energy through each day and each class. It was not as easy as I thought it would be. In the meantime I built a blog from scratch and a wiki to keep in touch with the students.
Quick as this week was, I was back home to spend Christmas and new year with my family.
So you can imagine that I did not have time to visit much of the city. Even though I only had classes in the morning and late afternoon, in between I focused on preparing classes, preparing a few bits and pieces of my masters degree and overall keeping my spirits up.
It’s hard to work and study at the same time. I know that and I tried my best to make sure the students where aware and that the class was motivating enough.
My perspective tells me it was a good week and I believe the students agree. If they don’t, I would be more than happy to know why so I can work harder! (Yes, I know some of you are reading the blog…).
But like I said, it was a fast week. Since returning on the 6th of January, the whole experience changed. Probably because I had more time to assimilate what is going on.
I have been here for two full weeks now, and I felt lost during the first half. And the interesting thing is that I did not know how lost I was until I found focus again.
Take a moment to think about your daily routines: going to work, reading emails, talking on the phone. Now add going shopping, making dinner, doing laundry and everything else that you do without thinking how to.
Now Imagine you did not know how to do any of those things. That’s how I felt.
I have been living in a hotel, and during the first few days I had to eat at restaurants because I did not know where to find groceries or even pre-cooked food. Roaming charges are high so it wasn’t easy to call home to ease the lingering pain of homesickness (“Saudade” the Portuguese will say). The same goes for internet access.
There are a few cibercafés and in the city square you can find free wifi. But I don’t feel comfortable carrying my laptop everywhere. One of the things I noticed several ads in bus stations telling me I could acquire wireless access to the web over the 3G network. What the ads did not tell me was that I would also have to pay 500 Euros for 500 Mb.
It was only when I met Carla, a friend of a friend, that I began to see Cape Verde and learn my way around. And through her I met several other Portuguese who are in Cape Verde to give their contribution in building the country and the infrastructures it needs.
In the time I have been here I have learned to appreciate little things that in the end make all the difference.
- Trust and how hard it is to build it;
- Relationships as part of the added value one can bring to an organisation;
- Cultural differences and how sharing the same language does not equal sharing parallel Cultures;
If you ever find yourself in a country where you will spend a few weeks or months, take my advice and find a guide. Someone who knows your culture and can help you overcome the small obstacles of day to day life. I just hope you find someone like Carla.