The Poor European

The Belgian boy looked up from his iPhone just as a woman wearing flip flops on her feet walked past. Balanced on her head was a cane basket filled with fruit and vegetables. She was walking miles to the next village to trade her wares.

The boy shook his head.

“So sad to see such poor people. They have nothing and yet they still smile.”

The guide laughed.

“When she is hungry, she has fresh fruit and vegetables to eat,” he nodded at the phone. “Will that fill your stomach when you feel hunger? Tell me, who is the richer person on this path?”

The Security Queue

Queues normally bore me. Not the one waiting to go through security at Sal airport.

I involuntary laugh out loud at the sign showing the items you’re not allowed to have in your hand luggage.

Included are a machine gun, a grenade and a stick of dynamite. I want to photograph it, but guess I’ll be whisked from the queue pronto if I try.

Then there’s the woman in two places in front of me. She’s Amazonian in stature and wearing the shortest dress in the known universe. It’s more like a tee shirt, a short tight tee shirt at that. Body paint couldn’t be a snugger fit.

The guards tell her to remove her shoes before she walks through the security scanner. In an instant she changes from towering above me, to being quite a bit shorter. Her dress is short, her heels are skyscraper high.

Directly in front of me is a seriously sharp dressed dude. He walks with a swagger. He’s travelling light; no bag – nothing.

I lose count of the number of attempts it takes him to get through the scanner. First he’s sent back to take off his shoes. Then it’s his belt. Then an earring… sunglasses… watch… gold chain… a bracelet on his right wrist. He makes another attempt. The scanner beeps. He’s still got a chain on his left wrist. The guard is bored by this point and waves him through anyway.

I follow. There’s no beep. The guard asks me what the bulge is in my pocket. I think it’s a bit of a personal question (it’s a travel pack of tissues).

We’re immediately herded straight onto the bus. One person isn’t ready. Mr travellin’ light. He’s still putting his jewellery back on.

The bus leaves for the plane without him.

As I settle into my seat, I notice the bus goes back for him. He doesn’t look quite so cool now.

As soon as he boards, the stewardesses prepare the plane for take off.

Our flight leaves Sal 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.

I wonder if this is what they meant when they said flights were unreliable.

The Buffer Zone of Sal

There’s a not very loud ‘beep’ followed almost immediately by a question “Taxi?”

Within a couple of hours I’ve come to know this as the soundtrack of the streets in Santa Maria on Sal, one of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa.

I say streets, but the main tourist town seems little more than a colourful and quasi-colonial main avenue with a few dusty side streets.

This is tourist hell according to some Cape Verdeans.

I think as ‘over developed’ tourist towns go it’s actually quite palatable. I like its easy manner and relaxed, smiley residents.

“Hey,” one shouts. “You promised to come see my market stall.”

I haven’t set eyes on him before.

“Maybe next time,” I wave dismissively.

He laughs. It’s no hassle. No problem.

No stress, like it says on the t-shirts around the town.

The walk to the end of the road involves stepping over a few dogs sleeping in the middle of the cobbled street and shaking my head a couple of times at ‘beep’… “Taxi?”

A beach bar on the sand beckons. Actually a cold beer in a beach bar on pristine golden sand lapped by what could be ‘touched up’ brochure waters beckons.

I want to take a photo of the perfect tropical scene. Between me and the sea is a snoozing sunbather. I can’t tell if it’s an overweight man or an overweight, topless woman with small breasts.

Whatever he/she is, it spoils the scene.

The waiter brings my beer. The air is warm, the beer is icy. Perfect.

Beer in Beach Bar, Santa Maria, Sal, Cape Verde

I’ve a few hours to spend before it’s time to jump on a plane and hop to another island where tourism comes way down the line from real life.

This is the buffer zone.