Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Bang for Your Buck!

Happy Fall Y'all,

As of today, it's official -- I have a new blog! I hope you will continue to read, listen, question and encourage. Thank you for joining me in this journey thus far. I couldn't do it without you.

Now hop on over and take a PEEK!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


In Cape Verde, personal space is nonexistent, unheard of -- it’s outright rude. I never thought I would say this, but they are on to something. Without untouchable territories, intimacy is nurtured, along with an immediate sense of belonging that transcends language, culture, even generational barriers. Yesterday, as I visited with my student’s family, I was immediately introduced to aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, neighbors, and even the family goat. I was given more food than I could eat, a chair to rest my feet, and an open invitation to txiga (visit; stay; eat). I was taken into their home, immediately mixed-up in their lives. My hands were held, my cheeks were kissed, my hair was brushed, and my lap was sat on. I was swept up in a new world before I had time to hesitate.

This intimacy is something you can’t hide from, or hide behind. It’s guided by intuition, rather than schedules, appointments and time. Relationships, people take precedence -- no multitasking, no buzzing electronics, no clock ticking the minutes away. Yes, it can be frustrating when you're waiting for two hours while the waitress chats with a customer; yes it can be uncomfortable, and scary at times when your neighbors sit and watch you pick the bones out of your fish; however, a relationship is established that prevails over differences. A relationship that reminds us we are all people -- individuals attempting to find our place, to be loved, to be nourished. It’s a feeling that warms your insides, forces a smile on your face, and makes you feel a part of something bigger -- something greater than yourself, your world, your personal space. And all of this is accomplished in a thirty-minute visit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday to You...

To my sister, best friend and the person I look up to most --

Happy Birthday, Tyler:


Friday, October 29, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore

As I stood at the front of the class attempting to remember the Kriolu word for duck and filter my way through the chaos, I hear "quack, quack, quack" coming from the front row. For the remainder of the period, the room sounded like a petting zoo -- filled with meowing, ribbiting, and barking. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

There's something raw, genuine and pure about chaos. Everything is turbulent here -- not rushed, frenzied disorder, rather a general lack of direction and no one to lead. For instance, during the second week of university classes, it is still unsure who will teach certain subjects, where certain classes will be held, or who will even show up to these classes.

I've come to appreciate this infancy, even when it blows up in my face. As I watched fifty kids attempt to tell me the Kriolu word for ant, I smiled -- attempting to absorb the moment in its entirety. The room was bursting with excitement, an energy that is lost with order and formality. The students were ecstatic that they could teach me something new, that they had something to share with me. Everyone wanted a voice, everyone had something to say.

However, sometimes my optimistic outlook gets the best of me. After class, a 12-year-old going on thirty came up to me and said, "You know, you can just slap them when they won't be quiet." I laughed and said, "Really? In America that is unacceptable." With her hand on her hip and without skipping a beat she said, "Miss Krista, you're not in America anymore. This is Cape Verde." Truer words have never been spoken. I guess it is time to pull in the reins.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Receiving End

I always thought life was about giving -- about contribution, about an unselfish commitment to others. If you asked me six months ago, I would have said that I believed in giving, wholeheartedly. Now, I'm not so sure that giving is the ultimate puzzle piece. My experience here, my integration into a new culture, is overwhelmingly defined by reception. My family, my neighbors, even strangers constantly want to feed me, teach me, and open up their world to me.

I was reminded of this fact just yesterday. Like a good Peace Corps volunteer, I volunteered to teach 5th and 6th graders at a nearby elementary school, twice a week. I began my first day on the job with a sense of authority - this was about me positively representing a faraway land -- teaching a foreign language, culture and people. Yet, I was thrown for a loop. It isn't about how many n's are in banana or about the difference between good and well. It is about listening and adapting, through the act of receiving. I am certain that nothing can be accomplished, or established, without an initial feeling of humble reception.

As soon as I walk through the gate each day, students bombard me with good afternoons, while taking my bag to lighten my load and repeating every English phrase they've ever heard. The secretary greets me with a kiss and insists that I sit with her, resting before the sea of students appear. Before I begin teaching my last class of the day, the lunch lady is insistent that my belly is full. It does not matter that I've already eaten lunch or that it's so hot outside the last thing I want to put in my mouth is a steaming bowl of soup.

When I turned around and saw my new students following me home, I knew it was not because they loved the lesson. I did not understand everything they attempted to tell me and I did not keep the class engaged for the entire hour. I did, however, listen. I took.

Over and over again, I am confronted with the boldness and capacity of reception. People receiving purpose, responsibility and ownership through the act of giving -- preparing a meal, providing a bed, teaching a local dance. I must be able to receive experiences, receive instruction, receive nourishment before I can begin to formulate any form of giving. I must first hear, listen and take without interruption. Receiving conveys investment, and in the end, maybe a little giving of my own.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Only in Cape Verde...

[Just a few of my favorite Cape Verdean quirks]

1. Can you buy one hamburger bun

2. Can you wear jellies and look cool

3. The customer is never right

4. Can you arrive two hours late and be on time

5. Can you carry an umbrella when it’s sunny

6. Can you be labeled “ingratu” if you don’t visit, and eat, with everyone

7. Toilet paper is more important than your wallet, when traveling here to there

8. Can you page someone to call you because you don’t want to waste your cell phone minutes (txoma-m)

9. Can you enter a checkout line that is dedicated to the purchase of rice, and only rice

10. Can you squeeze 23 people into a van (squatting room only) and still recruit more passengers

11. Can you buy a concert ticket for an artist who has never heard of Cape Verde and who has no plans to perform in Cape Verde

12. Rain is an excuse not to go to work

13. Can you compete to see who can hang up the phone first

14. Can you have a five-minute conversation using various synonyms of “I’m good”

15. Can you sweat while taking a cold shower

16. Can you fry dinner for breakfast and call it by a different name

17. Can you eat eggs, yogurt and milk that have never seen the inside of a fridge

18. Can you play Cydni Lauper’s Time After Time on repeat and think people are enjoying it

19. Can you find an item in the grocery store one day and never see it again

20. Can you learn how to effectively sit on a three-legged chair

21. Can you wear the same shirt all week because you're a constant ball of sweat, whether you wear clean or dirty clothes; and every time you think about hand-washing and ironing all those articles of clothing, you calculate the growing height of that laundry pile

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hark the Sound

Imagine you are applying to a Cape Verdean university --

You begin the process with an entrance exam. If you fail the exam, you are still admitted to the university. This does not mean you are ready or prepared for the workload; it merely means that the university is desperate for students and money. You hear through the grapevine that classes are starting around October 4. You arrive at school and discover that professors are still on vacation. You travel back and forth to the university, even if you live on the other side of the island, because it is imperative to know when classes are actually beginning. You find out, two days ahead of time, that class schedules are posted in the university lobby. No information is posted online and informational emails are nonexistent. When you arrive to see your schedule, you discover that although classes were supposed to start October 18, they are actually beginning tomorrow. You were also told that you had classes in the morning and now all your classes are in the afternoon. You must ask your boss to revise your work schedule, again. After all, if you attend the university you are not supposed to have an outside job -- only full-time students are admitted. You talk to your professors and they are still unsure of what they will be teaching, even though classes begin tomorrow. No one knows exactly where your classes will take place because construction is still in progress on many of the classrooms and faculty offices. And, some classes that you registered for have no professor. You show up on the first day of class, hoping someone knows something…

Although this is a hypothetical situation, many prospective students confront these challenges daily. When I think back to my freshman year of college, I am greeted with images of orientation, friendly faces to help along the way, as well as numerous papers and informational emails– a stark contrast to the Cape Verdean university experience.