Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tarrafal, Santiago island, Cape Verde ... or going back ...

The village of Tarrafal once referred to because of its "Campo da morte lenta" (slow death camp) located just about three kilometres away (closed and re-opened several times in the course of the Portuguese history), is nowadays  known almost exclusively as being a nice holiday resort, because of its bay with a string of small coves surrounded by mountains ... a white sandy beach with an "impressive" cobalt like sea and an ongoing small boat fishing activity ... (the camp having been turned into a Museum).

I was curious as to what might have changed since I first visited it in 2001, having camped for a week close to one of those coves. Not much had changed, apart from the fact that I might not risk camping on my own nowadays, having been made aware of the increasing number of foreign victims of theft, something unheard of then.

The Church square, in whose side streets I used to buy my daily meals cooked out in the open, seemed significantly less active than back then, but the imposing little church was still there and I couldn't help photographing it.

I have to confess a certain nostalgic feeling took over me when it was time to catch the "aluguer" (local transportation vehicle driving around the main streets and calling out for people to board) ... all I could think of was the "Hora di bai" poem  by Eugénio Tavares reminding me that having to turn my back  and leave was painful.

I didn't realise I would be so attached to this little village nine years later and certainly not the way such long gone memories of friendship and solidarity of  the past  would impact me.

I have been too busy working every time I  have flown to Cape Verde to even consider driving to Tarrafal, but I do hope to be able to go back  there next October.

A recent "godmother" and other issues related to Calheta ...

A recent "godmother" (Natividade) has joined the group of supporters of the children of Calheta in need. She will be responsible for the school fees and school material of Ana Bina Borges.

Ana Borges (left) and Natividade (right)

I have  today confirmed that the money to pay for the 54 girls and boys' school fees has ben received and Sibylle, who lives locally will ensure whatever may be necessary, as well as in due course (sometime by the beginning of September) send me the photos of the "protected" children with the school material provided for with that money.

Children who haven't yet got "godparents" will be provided for in the same way, thanks to Casanova's and my own contribution. I'll be in charge of ensuring their birthday and Christmas presents together with the reading books they will be sent during the whole year.

Right now there is a small group of  12 and 13 year old teenagers (Sonia, Lu, Ineida, Ineida Patricia, Cyntia and Liliana Rosy) who are still in need of feeling the protection of "godparents" they don't yet have. I hope someone will  hopefully get "interested" in helping them. 


Sonia (left) and Lu (right)

Ineida (left) and Ineida Patricia (right)

Liliane Rosy (left) and Cynthia (right)

I must sound "repetitive" ... but it does not take much to make these children happy...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Calheta de São Miguel, Santiago island, Cape Verde ... or unconditional love ...

According to one travel guide " (...) there is no particular reason for stopping the night at Calheta de São Miguel" and irrespective of the fact that at least it is referred to, whilst most travel guides on Cape Verde don't even mention it, it is in no way a "positive" and encouraging remark regarding this Municipality located along the Northeastern coast of Santiago island.

There may not be much to see, as the city spreads irregularly to both sides of a cobblestone road, with the Church, standing out as the centre ... a permanent reminder of the catholic values over any others.

Calhetona bay is not an ideal place to bathe, though most weekends its dark and sometimes unclean sandy beach is crowded.

If you walk up  from it towards your left you'll get to the fairly recent white and mustard colour building - Escola Velhinho Rodrigues, where children study through to secondary school.

Around it you can see lifeless buildings barely standing on their feet, loose animals running around or being fed by local children ... people washing their clothes and having them put out to dry ... children playing with their self-made vehicles ...  vehicles of all sizes (as in accordance with the size of their "dreams") ...

As you walk down towards the fishing harbour you come across quite a few street vendors selling their "goods", which are as varied as raw meat, vegetables of all sorts (grown in the small vegetable gardens of the local inhabitants, though most are sold door to door) and even corn and other local" specialities" cooked out in the street and sold by the piece ...

The fishing harbour looks nicer from a distance and though it may be understandable that because of the multiple activities going around it it may not always be possible to keep the area clean, the reality is that it is often too dirty to be appreciated the way it could be otherwise ...

By late afternoon it is common to see the farmers and shepperds heading back "home" and amidst a feeling of joy at the sight of all the "movement" I once more realise with a certain degree of sadness and even apprehension that life around here is very hard particularly on the children, who either have to work side by side with the adults from an early age or look after the younger siblings ... out in the streets all day ...

My unconditional love for Calheta is intimately connected to its young population ... I owe it to the children of this community who have made me feel for it ... in as much as I have the strong feeling I'll be coming back year after year to play with them ... to allow them to develop their creativity when they use the colouring pencils and all the different materials I bring with me for them to "express" themselves with ... to read them the story books they have never heard of nor seen ...  and above all to let them be "children" in their own right ...

Street markets ...

I feel a somewhat bewitching fascination about street markets ... I haven't yet been able to identify ...

Could it be the exuberance of the colourful woven fabrics?... 

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico 2010; Chichicastenango, Guatemala in 2008 (right)

The intense and often dizying smells filling in the air?...

Almolonga, Guatemala in 2008 (left); Merida, Mexico 2010 (right)

The criative and almost "artistic" ways in which the variety of products are being displayed?...

Assomada, Cape Verde in 2009 (Left); San Francisco el Alto, Guatemala in 2008 (right)

The expressions ... and the echoing pitch voice cries of the vendors?...

The exquisite products being sold?...

Assomada, Cape Verde 2009 (left); Sucupira, Praia-Cape Verde 2010 (right)

I simply can't resist that "intriguing" bustle ... and the more markets I visit (with the typical enthusiasm of a collector) the more I like them ... whether they are just down the road from my home or thousands of kilometres away ...

Monday, 25 July 2011

A personalized approach ... the children of Calheta ... the "godparents" ...

The fact that I start packing two months in advance whenever I fly to Cape Verde does seem to surprise and even puzzle many of those who don't know me. The weight limit does account for part of that planning ahead, though it is not the only reason.  Having  54 children "to care for" in terms of school fees and school material, as well as birthday and Christmas presents may seem an easy task, but if one takes into account the personality characteristics of each of these children and has the clothes and books chosen accordingly, without making too many differences when it comes to what is spent with each of these children ... it is not that easy. 

The advantages are (or at least I believe they are) the children feel they are cared for as individuals with their own distinct personality traits and not simply like children who are given clothes or school material others (namely western associations) don't need any more and thus shift to Africa, even if some of those are quite convenient at times.

Erica in December 2010 (left) and in June 2011 (right)

Lola in September 2010 (left) and in March 2011 (right)

Eduardo in February 2010 (left) and in March 2011 (right)

Artemisa in October 2010 (left) and in March 2011 (right)

Ivanilde Elena in December 2010 (left) and in June 2011

I will soon be sending a postal package with presents for four children (Diana, Diva, Ivanilde Elena and Elcy), whose birthdays are in August and September, whilst the ones whose birthdays are in October will be personally taken by me in three months time.

Diva's birthday presents (left) and Ivanilde Elena's  (right). 

Elcy's birthday present (left) and Diana's (right)

I have last Friday made a bank transference to cover the 2012 school fees, school books and any other material for 29 children (23 of them have "godparents"), which is to be added to the money for 19 children previously paid for last March (all of whom have "godparents"). 

The children we are currently helping are (Cynthia Tavares, Claudina Veiga, Erica Pereira (Lola), Daniela Lopes, Carla Barbosa, Cláudia Tavares (Rosana), Nélida Fernandes, Delmízia Semedo, Melissa Carvalho (Patrícia), Bernardethe landim (Lou), Verónica Landim, Neuza Silva, Simone Miranda, Erica Gomes, Artemisa Lopes, Leinira Landim, Josefina Ehison, Maria de Jesus Lopes, Tarine Gomes, Joceline Tavares, Marline Sanches (Diva), Eunice Dias, Nolita Furtado, Eunice de Jesus Veiga, Juliza Correia, Jussara Paz, Liliane Rosy Silva, Ineida Fernandes, Patrícia de Fátima Varela (Sónia), Maria Filomena Santos (Mana), Elcy Dias, Ineida Patrícia Correia, Marlene Miranda (Nídia), Carline Borges (Rívia), Ivanilde Elena Matheus, Lavínia Fonseca, Justina Correia, Filomena Miranda, Jessica, Ivanilde, Eveline Santos, Ana Galina de Barros, Ana Borges, Joaquim Semedo (Kevin), Eduardo Vieira, Veinilson, Elias Landim, Ismael, plus 6 younger children - Nessinha, Odete, Aniza, Leidina, Lin and Fábio Júnior (Marquinho).

The "godparents", apart from myself,  are: Gabriela, Maria João, Carla Oliveira, Carla Carreira, Isabel, Sandra Sousa, Fátima, Paula, Surama and Sérgio (since 2009), Lurdes Pinto, Carla Brígida, Cristina Marques, Rosário Vidal, Cecília, Carlos Bicho, Lurdes Baptista, Maria Felicidade,  Marie Hélène and  Noëlle (2010), Charlotte, Francisco Lisboa, Carlos Saboga, Marco and Micá Tavares, Isabel Mègre, Cristina, Mafalda, Júlia, Dora,  Sílvia, Catarina and Natividade (2011).

My thankfulness goes out to the following people as well.

Supporters since 2009: Christian, Mia Farr, Ana Correia, Luisa Tavares.
Contributors: Mr. Breitenstein, Casanova.
Second-hand material and toys handed in 2010/2011 by: Cristina Igreja and Elsa (respectively).
Second-hand clothes handed over Christmas 2010/11 : Anabela, Maria João, Isabel, Sílvia, Carla Carreira, Gabriela, Carla Brigida and Paula.
Some games and material bought for the  2011 project: Marie Hélène.
Some second-hand books: Ana Correia, Helena and Elsa.

Calheta de São Miguel

This may sound like a little drop in the ocean ..., which it is but at least we (the people involved in the project) have every reason to feel proud with the small progress the children we are helping have made so far ... and ultimately the different perspective of the community regarding education and self-esteem.