The first week in Cabo Verde

Almost a week has passed and I’ve gotten my hands dirty with work. My first day wasn’t really a workday, but allowed me some orientation for the project. As I’m writing this, I’m heading into the weekend and already I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to work.

When I first started working, my instructions were basically: ‘The greenhouse is your project. Take care of it.’…With only introductions to key people, I was left to figure out the rest. I took some time in the beginning to give myself a tour figuring that the builders knew what they were doing (which was half true) but also to give myself a feel for the place. My area is the greenhouse which is under construction but I gave a visit to Flor de Lakakan as well, the initial seed of the project:

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Most of the time I’m at the greenhouse construction site however, where I give guidance to the foreman so he can instruct the workers.

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Here’s a panorama of the construction site:

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Oh, and welcome to my office:

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My other workspace is at the actual office at the entrance which is a bit of an uphill walk from the construction site.

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Sitting across from me is Jorge who is my peer and Flor de Lakakan’s accountant.

I have a bit of a rhythm now with work, thinking of my time in a similiar way as back when I was a young student in Thailand, having scheduled break and lunch times for myself but now with more of a focus on one project. The climate here is similiar as it is also on the same latitude as Thailand. The constant wind in Cape Verde cools the place down to a pleasant 23-27°C and you can pretty much guarantee sun all year round. Water is scarce, although there might be some interesting permaculture solutions for that as well…

I enjoy eating the same kind of food I had in Thailand, but with more of an appreciation for it now than I had back then. Sometimes I don’t feel like making lunch for myself so I’ll eat a whole papaya.

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…which is incredibly satisfying. I think I’ve missed tropical fruits a lot. The quantities of bananas I eat per day have also tripled compared to what I eat in Holland.

Even though it all seems great, there were some times when I felt like I needed a hand and had my doubts about everything… but people are very supportive around here and I quickly felt that everything’s going to be alright.

I’ve managed to get somewhat of an overview of the project and helped the foreman prioritise the work to be done. I’ve also helped figure out the deal with missing pieces, subtle construction changes in the manuals and entire areas missing in the manuals. Its like figuring out how to make a LEGO construction with pages missing and different parts given than what is shown in the booklet. I’ve always loved LEGOs though, and problem solving is kind of my thing, so I think the job is fitting me pretty well. Its even almost bringing me back to my childhood.

There’s a lot of freedom for me to do my own thing during work, within the confines of the terrain anyway. I get plenty of sun, fresh air, and exercise, often walking between the office and the greenhouse construction which is separated by quite a hill. I try to think 3 steps ahead of construction and spam the Dutch team with pictures, questions and more questions via email to clarify what exactly we’re supposed to be doing on the ground. It seems to be working so far.

Communication on the ground tends to be an issue sometimes. I speak English for most of it, but there are limits to my Cape Verdian co-workers’ comprehension of the language. I do my best to explain what I mean in different ways, and try to anticipate and interpret the other’s intention the best I can. My Portuguese is nowhere near as good as their English anyway, though I’m kind of looking for a school other than my Duolingo application.

Heading into the weekend, the last thing that is on my mind is how we’re going to put the plastic film on to create the roof. The recommended weather conditions are sunny, dry and windless…

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…and that last part is not happening anytime soon. Cape Verde is kind of known for its steady winds, which makes it great for windsurfing and sailing, but not so great for putting plastic film on greenhouse structures.

I think we’re going to do a trial run on monday anyway. Nobody in the ground team has any experience with putting these roofs on so that should be an interesting one.

The job is kind of like another childhood dream of mine of being an astronaut. Though Cape Verde is not as completely as harsh an environment as space, there is a lot of communication with ‘ground control’ to direct the limited resources we have here towards our goal… and I’m sort of the alien around here with barely any English speakers around.

Strangely enough, I feel very comfortable in my current setting. Perhaps because this is not a new situation for me, having been in such a state before, namely when me and my family moved to Thailand… and even though the digital love I get from people on other parts of the planet isn’t tangible, it comforts me to know that people really are just a message away.

This weekend I might head to Tarrafal with my English teacher friend but we shall see… there’s lots going on in the city as well so it should be great 🙂 looking forward to sinking my teeth into the place. That’s it for now. Ciao!

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2 Responses to The first week in Cabo Verde

  1. joukep says:

    Love the story and love your office 🙂

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