Tag Archives: Africa

And Then it All Changed

Two islands, both arid and brown just like everyone told us they would be.

The third, Santo Antao, looked like more of the same until we passed a small forest with a confused personality; pine, jacaranda, mimosa, cypress. Trees you wouldn’t normally find sharing the same hillside.

More greenery crept in in the form of tended fields in a large caldera. It was a typical farming landscape in every way, except for the fact it was in a volcanic crater; a hidden valley surrounded by sharp, ragged walls.

Our path climbed to a saddle, a spot which wasn’t so intimidating to get to as most parts of the wall.

And then it all changed.

Walking through Ribeira do Paul Valley, Santa Antao, Cape Verde

The Ugly Expat

Seafront, Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde

So many smiling people. Everybody smiles. Everybody is friendly. Everybody except one.

A scowling man exhibits all the traits of an expat. He knows the bar staff, he orders his drinks confidently; a man who knows the local ropes. His gaunt face is deeply tanned, the shade of someone who has spent a lot of time under the African sun but who isn’t African.

I only notice him because a man in ragged clothes walks over to his table and mimes he’s hungry.

I notice him because instead of just saying no and turning away, he stands up and puts his angry face right into the beggar’s before mimicking the beggar by pointing his fingers to his own mouth and then laughing. It’s disrespectful.

It annoys me.

The beggar puts out a hand. The ugly expat swats it away as if it were an annoying fly.

Maybe the beggar should have walked away. But the expat is treating him like he’s excrement on his shoe.

His actions have all the hallmarks of someone who thinks the beggar is a lesser being. This was a colonial town. The thought enters my head that there might be at least one person who thinks it still is.

I want to go across and ask the expat why he thinks it’s okay to behave in this manner to another human being. Truth is I want to punch him right in his smug face.

It’s not my town. It’s not my battle.

I do a very British thing instead; I glare furiously.

That’ll hurt him.

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 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.