Saturday, April 26, 2014

Things Fall Apart

A seminal novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe; also, what happens to even moderately UNsedentary, youngish middle-aged Americans, when they decide to take a hiking vacation in a tropical mountain range.

Here is my list of woes:

My right ankle is sore and no longer bending in all the ways an ankle should bend, which, for our last two days here, is seriously limiting the hikes we can do, which in turn is causing me emotional distress.

I am no longer so nimble as I used to be anyway, and my super awesome camera has been not only an amazing tool for capturing a sense of this place, but also a millstone around my neck. I've been carrying an extra several pounds of delicate equipment, care for which has cut my already depleted nimbleness, and whose weight, I'm sure, has contributed to my ankle problems.

I also have some healing blisters, and interesting calluses on the soles of my feet.

I have a warty growth on many of my fingers; a condition inherited from Ian which flares up in hotter climates. At least he has this, too.

I have a sunburn on my lips, or an allergic reaction to my sunscreen lip balm, or some combination of the two, which is painful and also unattractive.

AND, we only have two days left before we begin the multi-day journey home. This last complaint is a bit like the old saw about airplane food--it's bad, and there's not enough of it--but it's true. At home waits doctors, and jobs, and responsibilities, and living in a city with a human population the size of all of Cabo Verde--but none of the goats, which is a sad lack.

I don't think there's anywhere in the world that we have felt so safe, including at home. We can leave our windows open, passports and lots of cash out in our rooms, or carried--anywhere at any time--at no risk to ourselves or our belongings. People are helpful if you ask (leaving what they're doing to show you what they mean), and leave you alone if you don't. Ian was welcomed into a local bar to watch a football match the other night, with warmth and comradeship.

There is not a lot here, and most of it is hard come-by, and all of it is not just generously shared, but often proudly and delightedly so. Cabo Verdeans love that we love it here.

But it's a hard life here--miles and miles of cobblestone roads are built and repaired by hand, in dusty, and steep, and often blazing hot conditions. The rainy season is torrential and two months long, washing out roads, causing major rock slides, and isolating many villages reached by traveling up the normally dry riverbeds (the ribeiras). Food is grown on steep, narrow terraces, with carefully administered water (because there is no rain during the other ten months), using no technology more advanced than donkeys; or caught in the ocean using biblical methods--nets and lines, and 16-foot open, handmade boats. The people here are tough; some of the toughest on earth.

But the compensations are your family, and your friends, and your community, and your surroundings. Evenings in the squares, festas, camaraderie, trust, companionship, and a palpable regard for the equality and sanctity of human life.

My dream, until I can return and bask (strenuously) in this place again, is to figure out a way to share some of Cabo Verde with the rest of my world.

one-fingered on my phone

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