It’s not always sunny in Cape Verde…
Even though we had only spent a few hours in the town of Santa Maria on the island of Sal and therefore this was only going to be a limited picture to forge a real opinion of it, the place felt very odd to us even the following day.
The main reason I like to travel and I think this is the same reason for Tom; is to see and experience a way of life, taste new food and meet new people. To find yourself transported and often out of place.
And at first, glance Santa Maria seemed to offer none of it. Sure the food had been great so far but it lacked authenticity, just as the town lacked Cape Verdean people. We came across many tourists and a lot of Sub-Saharan expats mostly from Senegal who all seemed to own souvenir shops.
Everything is catered to suit foreigners that are looking for a bijou kind of holiday and who are not necessarily interested in discovering what Cape Verde is truly all about. But I guess to each their own.
On Sunday morning, we woke up with the intent of checking out the beach, and time permitting to explore the town a little. Our flight from Sal to Saõ Vicente was scheduled for 5 pm. It was nearly 9:30 am when we finished packing and tidying the room, ready to hand back the keys and pay for our stay at the reception.
Since no one had arrived at the reception desk we headed out for a small breakfast.
When we returned we were received by a young lady who seemed a little out of touch with what she needed to do. (She quickly confess to me she wasn’t feeling too well)
The price that was given to us didn’t seem correct and the lady seemed confused with what we were trying to explain to her. Tom wanted to check his email so he could verify the price that had been agreed upon booking and since the hotel had no internet service we had to go into town. In the end, she didn’t make any fuss nor did she seemed worried as to whether we would return or not. So off we went.
The impression I got while walking in the streets was that interracial dating is not very common in Cape Verde. Everyone would stare at us, which made me extremely uncomfortable and shy to speak. And since I speak several languages I was often the one who needed to make contact with the local when they didn’t speak English.
I am usually very outspoken and enthusiastic to talk to strangers but it was very difficult to come out of the shell I was building little by little, each time someone stared us down.
I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable because of my relationship, nor was I embarrassed, but at the time, I was feeling rejected. I was struggling with the feelings of being seen by the locals as a foreigner and the need to feel at home because this was, after all, my homeland origins.
Funnily enough, we were approached by a Senegalese man, going by the name of Mamadou, who after sharing his appreciation for interracial dating and complimenting us, help us find a place to use free WIFI.
I don’t know if it is down to the fact that Tom has traveled a lot in comparison to myself, but he could always guess when people were doing a thing with altering motives. After helping us Mamadou wanted us to visit his shop which, unfortunately, being on a tight schedule -already going astray- we weren’t able to do so.
In the end, we managed to check our emails and thanks to the gorgeous Cape Verdean girl who served us (I totally had a girl crush on her) I managed to brush off the weird sentiments that were creeping up on me that day.
By this point, all we wanted to do is go for a swim.The water is so clear in Sal that snorkeling was really fun. Tom even spotted a sea snake at the bottom!
At 12 o’clock, we headed back to look for a place to eat. We bumped into Mamadou again who now had presents for us and wanted us to make a promise to visit his shop during our stay on our return journey in two weeks time. I was also given a bracelet from another Senegalese vendor, who already knew my name.
We chose to eat at a restaurant facing the beach and while I placed the orders Tom went back to return the keys and collect our backpacks.
So far the highlight of our trip had been the food! We tried new things even when they were funny looking. So far it hadn’t been real traditional food and consisted essentially of fresh fish and seafood, but it was always extremely tasty.
Once again the kindness of people allowed us to strip from our backpacks and keep them safe at the restaurant while we headed back to the beach until it was time to head for the airport.
Obviously, Tom spent all his time in the water,
while I sat and read, growing increasingly hooked on my cheesy book.
Excuse my uncreative Instagram faux-selfie ^_^
We arrived at the airport around 4:30 pm and our flight were due to leave at around 5 pm or so…I’m not entirely sure now but we landed at Cesária Évora airport in Saõ Vicente Island in the early hours of the evening.
We managed to share a cab with a German couple and were dropped off at the police station, where we were set to meet up with Freddy whom we had been in touch via Airbnb to collect the keys for our apartment in Mindelo.
Freddy’s number or Tom’s phone weren’t working and I was getting stressed and worried by the minute. Tom reassured me that everything would work out when a light rain began to fall. Here we were, wet and tired with our big rucksack strapped onto us, standing on the steps of a police station. Great!
Ten minutes had gone by when a man walked on the porch and asked what we were doing here. He quickly interjected that he did not speak English when Thomas began to speak, and despite my growing discomfort to be forthcoming due to the constant stares, I began to explain our situation in a mix of Creole and Portuguese.
The man who I later on learned was a police sergeant, invited me into his office and offered me to use the computer to email Freddy. While chatting with the Sergeant I learned that we shared the same family name and that our respective grandparents were from the same island, Praia, and region, Santiago. He really put me at ease and from that moment on I think I was able to let go of my fears and bare in mind that while people stared at us it might not be out of spite or with bad intentions.
20 min later, Freddy turned up in a red minivan. Tom was bundled up at the back with our bags and Freddy while I sat next to the driver. The house we were staying in was literally one street before the police station.
The flat was pleasant and had the minimum comfort for our 3 nights stay, despite lacking a cooker and no running hot water. We weren’t to fuss about it since we were planning to eat out for the most part and with temperature approximating 26/30°C in November a cold shower would not hurt.
After a quick fresh up and change of clothing, we went out for dinner at Café Mindelo, on the taxi driver’s recommendation. The mains we ordered were exquisite but the desert was a huge let down.
The picture doesn’t do it justice, but I can assure you it was tasty lol!
We walked home hand in hand with a full belly and goofy smiles, but a heavy heart for me also.
Since our arrival to Cape Verde, my emotions had been rather shaken. I was feeling a bit lost and out of place, almost confused with my own identity. At that point, Tom was the only thing I felt close to and he brought me a certain sense of home. Each time people started, I had this slight panic that he would let go of my hand for whatever reasons. It never happened. Home never shattered and in a way it gave me the courage and the reassurance that if I was to be rejected if I was to be a foreigner in the land of my own fathers, in him I will always find a home.
Tomorrow would be another day and a new adventure. I wasn’t going to let these feelings stop me from discovering my roots.
Now I realize something I had forgotten and could not see at the time, but few days before I left I had written this and I cannot stress it enough now but truly there is something to be found in being lost!