My trip to the Cape Verde Islands
by Duane Ausherman
In October of 2016, I was invited by Rich Smith, N6KT, to go to these islands off the coast of Africa. The purpose of the trip was for CW World Wide SSB, a Ham Radio contest, our mutual hobby.
While there, I wrote 5 reports. I also have hundreds of photos of people and places.
This article will be mostly about the people and places, and not so much about Ham Radio. I plan to copy and paste what I think is interesting. It may change over time, so feel free to visit again. I expect to get questions that I will answer by editing this article. This article is not in chronological order.
Cape Verde is a group of 10 islands off the coast of Senegal. You may learn more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Verde. The description is wrong in one important respect. Wiki claims that 90% of the food is imported. That is wrong, as everywhere we went, we saw farms. Imported food couldn’t possibly supply us with perfectly fresh fruits every single day.
When we arrived, we didn’t know what we were doing, and we stayed at a rather expensive hotel called Hotel Perola in Praia, the capital and on the island of Santiago. The hotel staff was just wonderful and helped us find much less costly accommodation nearby. They invited us to return if we needed something. Now that we moved out, they insisted that we stop by every day to talk and use the Internet, etc.
The overpriced hotel had serious issues, with poor to no Internet, the shower leaking all over the floor, curtains not working, few power outlets, and dangerous stairs.
The young woman on the left is Jericia, and the one on the right is Sarah, the hotel front desk manager from Portugal. The people of Cape Verde enjoy a joke and are laughing most of the time. Jericia is such a sweetheart that I asked her to marry me. She didn’t say no. Of course, it is all a joke and the whole hotel staff is playing along with it. I assured her that I am a very poor catch and that she can do much better. Rich agreed with me that she could do better. I emailed her a photo of me as “Diane” in my Halloween costume as a hooker. She took one look, smiled, and proclaimed, “My husband.” I hope that Jericia will visit California.
A lot of fruit is grown locally and we enjoyed fresh food picked daily.
This is a wonderful buffet with a charming server.
This photo is typical of our daily diet. I was in heaven. Oh, yes, the food was very cheap too.
The B stands for Brava, the island. That is the whole store, and it goes back maybe 75 feet. This is just one of the examples of humor that everyone here has.
The inhabitants are open, friendly, and affectionate. We met this young woman, NaLinda, on one of the Fast Ferry boats while crossing to another island. Fast Ferry is the name of the ferry firm. There are so few white people around that we draw interest. People want to learn about us and ask questions openly.
Flat places are rare, and most of the land area is more or less vertical. Most of the farming is done on these hillsides by terracing.
This photo shows only a small part of a park with creative artwork sidewalks.
This young woman is about 16 and a mom. She wasn’t mature enough to take care of her baby, so he is being taken care of by her family. She lived in the Boston area for some time but is now back home. She volunteered to be my tour guide while in her city. She took me all over the island. We walked everywhere. She knows everyone just about everywhere and is very social. She took me to one home where the woman had a son living in the USA. The woman asked me if I would marry her. I explained how she could do much better than me.
This woman is typical in that she carries things on her head. She has 7 layers of eggs that she balances. I watched her walking for a bit, and she is so good at this balancing act that she pays little attention to her eggs. She was so happy that I wanted a photo.
I should mention that the women were universally different than anything that we see in most of the world. They expected to be appreciated for their curves and were happy about it. Once they saw my glance, many would stop and pose in an almost suggestive way. It wasn’t actually suggesting anything, and it was just the cultural norm. It would seem that the concept of sexual harassment doesn’t exist.
One amazing thing that I had never seen before, or heard about was the spiders. We saw this in a few places, and so I got photos of the best example. For about 20 meters alongside a major road is one huge spider web with thousands of spiders.
I hope that you can see the small black dots, which are spiders.
Here is a close up of one of the larger spiders. It is 3 inches long. They are harmless, and we were the only ones who even looked at this massive spider web.
During one of our drives to look for a good Ham radio location, we were on a primitive road, better described as a cow trail. I did most of the driving. It was rock littered, and so we had to move rocks out of the way often. I moved to the right to avoid a large rock, and the car brushed up against a small bush. The bush was hiding a low rock wall. The car slipped against the rock wall and damaged the wheel and side of the car.
This is the lower right side just behind the front wheel. You can see that the running board and door are both damaged.
This is the damaged wheel. As we were wondering what to do, a truck of communication workers came up behind us. Our damaged car was in their way. They didn’t hesitate and jumped out to help us get out of the jam. Soon we were able to drive back to the car rental place. This was another example of the friendly culture that we experienced every day.
We drove the car back to the rental place. In the US, the damage would have been at least $2000. The rental place sent us to meet a person who was working at some other type of job. He came out, took a look, and gave us a price to fix it. The price was far less than I expected. He did this work in his spare time, and it was all under the table money for him. The car agency didn’t need to do this as we had purchased insurance. Officially we should have paid the deductible of $900 and be done with it. His price was well under $900. The rental agency had no reason to do us this favor. This was another example of really nice people taking exceptional care of a customer.
Here are excerpts of my reports that I sent out to the world.
We are surrounded by the elite leaders of Africa that are here for some conference. They are all from poor countries (Africa) and are living high on the hog here. I am reminded of the famous quote by Ronald Reagan, “Government is not a solution to our problems, Government is the problem.” They claim to be meeting to solve the issues that are in Africa. Their citizens pay the travel expenses to this resort. This is just another form of corruption.
Yesterday we walked around to find all of the various buildings that house agencies that we need to get a radio license, site location, and more. Now we hope to finalize all of this today. The whole system is in turmoil due to the conference.
I need to start carrying my camera and getting photos of a large number of interesting costumes and more.
This is the wife of one of the African leaders. One day, I saw this woman three times, and each time she was wearing a different ethnic costume. I finally got the nerve to ask for a photo. She is from Senegal, and you can see the flag behind me. It is the green, red and yellow one. She spoke perfect English and was pleased that I appreciated her costume.
The staff working in all of these offices are women. They bend over backward to take care of us. We are always surprised by the great attention to our needs. However, they haven’t been trained in western ways and lack some abilities. After all, it is a third world country.
Like the rest of the world, these office women are beautiful, while the average woman on the street is just average in appearance. Beautiful women are rewarded everywhere and by getting a “good job” in this generally poverty-stricken place.
Last night, we ate at the Freedom restaurant, and we noticed this young woman server was smiling more than most. I had to get a photo of this visit.
This is Flavia, and she doesn’t speak any English, so we know little about her.
We took a few minutes to visit a local FM radio station. It has 2 kW output at 90.9 Mhz. Nobody knew the call sign, the owner, general manager, tech person, marketing person, or anybody. Maybe they don’t have call signs for radio and TV stations.
That is Bob, and Rich, on the cistern roof. Bob does a great job and knows his wireless stuff. He took a four-year course in high school in electronics. He could work for any of the wireless firms in the USA. I have never heard of any high school in the USA that trains people to a high level of electronics. Even the upper-level schools at home that advertise this major do the job poorly. Imagine my surprise at finding this quality of education in a third world country.
After Bob’s great help, we took him to our hotel for dinner. L. to R, yours truly, Bob and Rich. We were fed a fish called groupa. It is a whole fish, and one flakes off bits to eat. They are filled with bones, and every bite has bones. I accidentally swallowed one. Bob showed great concern and showed me which vegetable to eat and carry it down. The fish had no taste at all, as it was bland. I am done with that type of fish.
The people of Brava are quite different from Santiago Island, our first island. Their skin is lighter, and I haven’t yet seen a single dark person. They are just as friendly. More of them are smokers, as we saw very few smokers on Santiago Is. I saw a lot more pregnant women here. Virtually every person over 15 is a parent and not living with the other parent. It seems to work out OK.
The bottom line, Cape Verde, is one of the nicest places that I have ever visited. Just about everyone is happy and productive, but poor. Even out in the poorest places that we visited, people were happy to stop and help us. In some places, the children had few, if any, toys. We saw them playing with sticks and stones, but always smiling. They were all proud of what they had and how they lived.
If I could speak the language, and they had a Kaiser medical facility, I would spend the rest of my days enjoying these friendly, fun, and loving people.
Here is a summary report that I made for a special forum, and it is in chronological order.
Updated 16 Nov. 2019