Nate Who?!

Bem Vindo!!!

Welcome!

The news of my life overseas. A bit by bit recap of my life here. The writing could be better, but my editors are working on that.

My picture site is also improving slowly.

CHECK THAT OUT HERE!!


Friday, October 9, 2009

... Third year, new job, new island, new city, new home, new housemate, new friends, new everything and that’s just the way I like it. I can’t imagine my life running any other course, and I am sure some of you couldn’t agree more. This is the way its supposed to be isn’t it? A ever changing life with new challenges and a change of scenery every once in a while. It’s the way my life has been since I can remember, and hopefully will continue to be so… But maybe just maybe I will find a spot and a life I love, and I can see it sometimes… a place where I will stop and call home, like the real home I mean. Because I still have never been able to answer that question that all of us, especially the travelers usually hear “Where are you FROM?”. Hell if I know!

So I just got back from my 1 month, kinda mandatory, vacation in the states before my third year in PC. Vacation was good, real good.

I am now living on the island of São Vicente in the main city of Mindelo, or more specifically in the area of Monte Sossego. Mindelo has about 62,970 people and is the second largest city in Cape Verde. The island has an area of 227km2 .The largest hands-down is the capital Praia on the island of Santiago with around 90,000 people. In a country with a population near 499,796 those are pretty sizable cities. Also coming from São Nicolau which had 13,310 people TOTAL with an area of 357km2. Monte Sossego is a district of Mindelo that has some nice houses and apartments, and seems to be a neighborhood with residents that do pretty well, have jobs and are starting families, for the most part. We have our own post office, banks, phone company stores, shops, some schools, and all that so it is pretty homey or comfy. I dig that, and for the most part safe. I have found some nice running routes, and have been out pretty often. I also joined a small GYM, but its pricey and hope to find a simpler and cheaper one.

However I did just read that there was a gang war broken up by the Police which was between two rival groups. One was a mixture from my area and cova (no idea where that is but guessing it is adjacent to my hood) and the other group was from Ribeira Craquinha, and one of the leaders was killed in the fight. According to this article which was about the 2008 crime statistics from the police for my island had to deal with about 4,125 incidents in the year, but most were nothing serious. (São Vicente: Polícia Nacional apresenta números da “Operação Verão 2009”, INFORPRESS October 6, 2009 I think from Sapo)

So that sounds pretty rough, but on a whole the country is doing pretty well, recently ranking in 2nd of 52 african countries by the Arfican Government for 2009, some of the ratings based on security and rights, participation and human rights, opportunity, economy, and sustainability. WAY TO GO CAPE VERDE!

My job for the next year is with what used to be called ISECMAR, which was the Technical University here in Cape Verde, but is now Instituto Superior Técnico and has combined with UNiCV or the main Cape Verdean University. From what I can tell they used to be a sea navigation university, but have moved on more towards engineering and science. You can check them out online just google UniCV and select the technical school when you are on the site.

(PICTURE)

Classes are supposed to start here on October 12, but I am not sure if that will happen. The school has been constructing a new building, which seems to be complete and approved to be moved into (not sure if there are those rules about occupation and etc here). The school is still moving everything into the new building. You know, desks, lab equipment, boards, and maybe some AC??? I hope so. The building has a bunch of south facing windows without a good shade or hangover, and the rooms can get a bit warm for this!!

I had applied for a third year as a Technical English Teacher at ISECMAR, this university, and I got iT! So that is my primary job assignment, but I also want to make some contacts with the national energy company ELECTRA, who I have contacted in the past about renewable energy projects, and seems really dedicated to raising the national renewable energy production to 25% or so of the total output. I am interested in this, and they are also working on a “Poupa Energia” or Conserve Energy program, giving suggestions and really pushing for people to use more energy efficient appliances and also to be more conscientious of their usage! Important steps if they don’t want to keep building more and more diesel power generators every month. This way they can think about renewable sources also. I read something on microgrids recently from CERTS a Microgrid Project, aptly named. They are looking at how these small turbines and residential PV setups which take advantage of the diverse distribution of energy resources can then be combined into a utility-scale grid! Or I was also reading about how a lot of areas in Africa have given up completely on these utility grids, because they are just impossible so many vast distances to cross with power lines or remote areas to reach. Companies are looking more towards more off-grid systems(maybe tie back to microgrid idea). Supposedly this has been foreseen by the World Bank which has put 12mil bucks into a budget to fund products and services of these off grid electrical projects. (a lot of this is taken from the Sept.Oct 2009 issue of Technology Review, check it out!!) For providing power in small areas or amounts, and that combining to become the grid instead of one central plant providing power over huge distances is an interesting alt and also works well with combining local energy sources (sometime very diverse dependent on resources) to provide power for many people. OR think about CapeVerde where some (STATISTIC FROM SHELL AND ENECOL) gallons of diesel are imported every year. Type that into a calculator online to seeCO2 and toxin production and COST!! Which will only rise. I am getting carried away here but check this out online you can go to BP and see or better yet download the STASTISTICAL REVIEW OF WORLD ENERGY 2009 (with all data since 1965!) Full Report, even in EXCEL format and see the proven oil reserves etc… Interesting stuff!!

This year I was also hoping to stay in touch with the Protected Areas Project, which I worked with the last two years in São Nicolau at Monte Gordo Natural Park. They are in the stages of opening a new park here in São Vicente at Monte Verde, and also an area or two on the next island over Santo Antão. If I can help with anything tourism or English language training related I would love to.

Back to the topic. The university seems to have English teachers for all their students needs, and hopes to have me working with professors on their English skills. I have to meet with the teachers interested to see what level and technical aspects of English they need/want before I know exactly what I am up to but I am down for this! It is also a consensus that my Portuguese language skills are not up to par to teach any advanced courses, so I am on hold until next semester… if only krioulu was the teaching language… I am also going to be mentoring or overseeing some students who are finishing their final project or Capstone before graduating. Right now students have about 3 years of classes and then they go to an internship, and then have to find a final research/design project to do. I have been asked to take the students doing energy and renewable energy oriented projects. The first student who has sent in a proposal is doing a feasibility and design project of outfitting one of the islands’ (will not say which island) airports with renewable energy! THAT’S AWESOME AND RIGHT UP MY DANG ALLEY! So I am excited about that. I told my boss that I don’t have a lot of experience or education in all this, but I have studied and have a large amount of interest and can make up for it in this. I feel really prepared and stoked!

So that’s work.

I have a NICE house with a roomie. The apartment is unbelievable and a real step up from the last 2 years. I am most excited about a solid bed, a water heater above my shower which has “HOT BOY” printed on it, and so many rooms and balconies! Maybe I will throw a picture up! Or you can check them on my picture site.

A bunch of my old coworkers were in town when I got here so I got to meet up with them. One of my old guides had twins with his girlfriend so I got to see them and hang out for a bit!!! AWESOME! 2 boys!

I do miss the simplicity of my old small town, friends, my dog and stomping grounds in Cachaço, São Nicolau right now, and have been keeping up with my old friends and family there. SODADE!!! In addition to all of them I also miss my cheap little Chinese made stove. Let me tell you that it was really well made, and I never had any problems. The one we ended up with here LOOKS a lot nicer, but the metal racks above the gas burners are a little too wide which make putting any coffee maker or small pan on them quite precarious, and for some reason the oven will not light, and running the gas for a while and dropping a match in to see if any gas is running is kinda freaking me out. At lease the old one you could hear the gas running and had an idea of when to drop the match in before it went BOOM! Not what you thought you would hear a PC Volunteer complaining about huh?

The Kioulu here is really similar a few different expressions and pronounciations and more of a mixture from all the islands. It’s a city though and not a small town so there is less interacation and meeting on the street like I am used to.

Ohhh… I am a small town boy and I miss the small town…

Thursday, June 26, 2008

1 year in Cape Verde

So ONE YEAR has just about passed by here in Cape Verde(actually the 28th is the reunion). But I went ahead and celebrated with a mid service medical trip back to Santiago. The trip to Santiago was supposed to be a quick 1 week trip flying here in 1 day on TACV, visiting the sister park Serra Malagueta, visiting my host family outside of Assomada, three days of medical appointments, and a flight back...
First-off the term "Reservation" for TACV can only be translated loosely into Reservation in English, and more accurately "a piece of paper which lists 3 things: 1. your name 2. The Expected Date of the Flight 3. The expected Time of the flight"
But the actual officialness or usefulness of this paper varies.
In the Past you could fly directly between Santiago and Sao Nicolau within an hour. The simpleness of this option must have angered someone at the company and so they got rid of this and began a new, more exciting option. This consists of a flight from Sao Nicolau to Sal. In Sal you have to disembark the plane, ride a lap on the airport shuttle, re-enter the SAME PLANE, and fly to the island of Sao Vicent. So now after you fly back over the island that you just came from to Sao Vicent (with nice views of the uninhabited islands of Razo, Santo Luzia and Branco) you land at the Sao Vicent airport, where you once again disembark the plane, this time having to go through the airport and wait, after which you re-enter the SAME PLANE for a flight to Santiago. So after 3 flights you are on the main island... I still cant believe how many times I had to say hello and goodbye to the same flight crew...
Now this time...
I boarded the flight in Sao Nicolau Monday morning, thinking I would fly to the island of Sal and then catch the next flight(a new option) 15 minutes later to the island of Santiago. Well landing in Sal and trying to board the plane did not happen, because despite my printed receipt and reservation on the plane which I provided them with, they said that they did not have me on the list. After being sent back and forth between the check in and the gate security it was decided that the plane was now full and I could not go on this flight, and I had to way 7 hours for the next flight to Santiago, which really blew my plans for the whole day. Oh well I headed to Santa Maria and had some great food in one of the most tourist developed areas in the islands. Now there are no open seats for the flights back and I have to take a boat. TACV...
I spent two days in Assomada visiting the Park of Serra Malagueta, harmonizing our efforts in the ecotourism department and just seeing what all they are up to. It is a really beautiful park and I should have spent more time there hiking, and it is on my list of things to do.
Monte Gordo and Serra are both working on trail rehabilitation right now, putting together maps, and erecting signage in the park. All of these efforts are slow going but things are starting to happen now.
I got a chance to catch up with my host family, and it was amazing at the change in a year of how much the two youngest kids had grown. It was also awesome to go back after a year and have a whole new level of conversation ability with them. To have a conversation and joke and catch up was great. They are also excited about having a new trainee in a couple of weeks living with them! They are a wonderful family and anyone will be lucky to have the chance to share sometime with them.
So then comes my Terrifying trip to Praia comes.
I was riding in the Park Van with the driver to Praia, and boy sprinted across the road in front of us, and he saw us and everything but didn't stop, just ran right in front of us.
we had to stop the car so damn fast just about catching him, I thought "this kid is nuts, what is he doing?" but we didn't hit him and he and his friends told us we have to help them.
They were screaming and yelling and there were people running frantically into a house on the side of the road.
at first I could not understand what happened, just that a boy was hurt.
but then they carried out what pretty much was the limp body of this 18-20 yr kid. it was completely limp, and I hear them say that he hung himself.
and they are just screaming lets go go go go! They tell us where the next clinic is, and so we run back to the car.
so they all jump in the car with the boy and we fly down the road, and I am freaked. Now not just about the boy but at the chance that the car makes it there without hurting us all also...
so I am yelling at them" is he breathing is he breathing?"
I wanted to give him rescue breathing or CPR but I didn't know if he had a heart rate or was breathing or what from the front seat, and the franticness around.
and they were banging on his chest, and blowing in his mouth, because they were really freaked and didn't know what to do at all
and then there was the fact that the car was going so fast and the roads and other cars here are already quite threatening.
shit...
luckily the driver was the park driver and somewhat experienced


so the hospital turned out to be only 5 minutes or so down the road and at one point the kid spat or coughed up a huge a huge amount of something onto the window, which was a damn good sign, and then he got rushed into the clinic/hospital and i waited outside. the driver went in and said that he thinks the kid was now breathing so we left and continued on the drive to Praia...
damn, I looked back and just thought I was looking at a lifeless kid and I could do nothing to help... all the training in CPR and First aid... nothing. Its a sad situation. I have heard of a number of suicides here in the islands since I have arrived, and it is really saddening.
I have heard many hypothesis about these suicides including that the island of Fogo and its volcanic activity effects the inhabitants there, and I have heard many other stories about the closeness in the family tree effecting people mentally. Sometimes I think its the smallness of the islands and the maybe the lack of something here that people think they need to be happy but can never see themselves attaining here in Cape Verde, I really don't know but it is sad for sure.
So now I am in Praia for medical visits 3 days before I get on the long boat ride home.
the memories from, the last boat are sea sickness, endless music and singing, sleeping on the floor blocking a doorway between two pop machines, and clogged toilets spilling all over the floor in the choppy seas, the smell of vomit... 8 or more hours of this, hmmm.
For a country with a huge maritime history, they never quite figured out how to run a good ferry service, man.
OK I will put some pictures up, but I cant write anymore.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


SO I guess its time for my quarterly blog entry. More importantly i have posted another alblum on my photos site. I think their is a link on this site somewhere.
The pics are all about the work I have been up to here in Cape Verde.
I posted some work on the steps I designed and helped install in the park, and also the tables benches and trash bins.
There are also pics from the lagoons in Juncalinha with friends.
Well go check it out!!

I am doing great. I have been very busy, working on my Portuguese skills, teaching english, working at the Parque Natural Monte Gordo, and living life in Sao Nicolau.

The picture above is from Carnival in Sao Nicolau, a wild time and completely unexpected. You should all visit for this wild flurry of colors, music, dancing, and fun sometime!

I am planning on writing that quarterly blog entry sometime! haha this is just the preview!

-Chris, thanks for the shoutout on the blog, just saw it.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Some new pictures!!

http://picasaweb.google.com/NathanCoenenLee/MorePeaceCorps

Below this entry is another new blog entry

So yes, I have dropped the ball one more time. I cannot promise it was the last time, but below is an interesting account of a saturday here in Cachaco. I have also posted some more of my pictures on my picasa site.
(http://picasaweb.google.com/nathancoenenlee )
Thanks for all the emails and the packages/mail.

Mike the Glacier National Park Cap is my new favorite thing, and Evan, I dont want to talk about what you sent me, but it made me laugh hard, and I will hang on to it for sure!!

I have a new spice rack from my parents, and am putting a new touch to my cooking here.

I have aq uired a grill, a few kilos of charcoal, and some beef so I am ready to have some cookouts with all my friends here.

I am working hard with english classes and guide training at the Park. I have also been helping with efforts to improve some of the trail network within the park. This effort goes along with all the ecotourism work my office has right now, helping the local community to benefit from the presence of the park. I am learning a great deal about this area of work, and I am enjoying it so much.

On the technical side (still a geek) I have been researching fuel efficient wood burning stoves for use here because the 3 stone cooking method is a huge demand on wood resources and labor time. I have been researching fog catchment systems, the sister park Serra Malagueta has succesfully built a system that catches a great deal of the moisture in the clouds passing through, and we would like to introduce this here for a possible campsite. I am looking into wind turbines for use with the campsite and to provide electricity to the guard's house in the park. I am RE RE- learning Autocad.
Thats a boring list of things I am researching,

Running here has been difficult due to the steepness in all the roads. I miss swimming and am terrified of seeing a shark if I swim to much in the open water, but I have enjoyed hearing about all the marathons and half marathons, and boot camps everyone is getting into.

I was sad to read a report about the 2 avalanche victims in Whitefish MT, I miss you guys and I hope you are doing well after the accident. Mike, Andy, Fetty, jonesy, shaun the pizza crew and my skies, which are floating around Wyoming right now with WEs.

Its a saturday here and I am going to head down to Carnival in Villa for a while tonight!

The carnival is supposed to be the most unique of all the islands here. I had to get sized for an outfit for my Copa Cabana team, and when we go to try it on we must be blindfolded so we only see the costume the first night!! all the floats are hidden until the first night also! I am excited to experience all this!

This was a random blog entry and I am sad that my writing ability is so poor right now, but its hard to put it all into words, I need to practice!!

Miss yall, come visit!

Saturday in Cachaco

My dreams were abruptly ended as I opened my eyes to my dark room. Pulling the sheets back up to hold back the chilly early morning Cachaco air, I heard a noise which can not be given justice in writing, something similar to a deep woooooo, whoooooooo, wha wha wha whoooo, which I quickly realized was the reason I had woken at this early morning hour. In my drowsy state, the sound was identical to what, I imagine, a disc like spaceship hovering outside my window with its tractor beam searching for me would sound like. The noise was getting louder and louder and I was getting more and more terrified. So I peaked out the window to find the source of the sound with no luck, but this movement had restored some sort of sense to me. Not that spaceships and aliens are impossible, but I am pretty sure, and decided at that point, that they are unlikely to find me here in Cachaco. And so I laid back down and huddled under my covers to enjoy my last bit of sleep before the real threat, my alarm clock, found me. I kept thinking about the noise and trying to figure out what could have made such an odd sound.

Waking up again with a start to the annoying ring of my cell phone alarm I swung my arm blindly out in search of it, with hopes of hitting the snooze button so I could steal a few more minutes in my warm bed. But there again the sound started up, and so I got up after 1 or 2 snoozes in search of the source of the sound in my house. I found nothing and started getting dressed completely perplexed…

Today I had been invited to help Frank my neighbor go and work a field not too far from Cachaco. He had said we would go a little after 6am and that his daughter would come a little later with breakfast and coffee, and so I quickly ate a bit of bread to hold me over. It was a Saturday and I was very excited to have the chance to experience work in the fields with a friend. While eating the bread I relized one reason I was so resistant to getting out of bed. I had gotten 2 kilos of pork and someone had lent me a grill the day before and my little grill-out had turned into a few shots of grog and a couple of beers with my neighbors who hung out playing cards until late. A good time, but left me tired and wanting more sleep in the morning.

I headed outside to meet Frank, who was surprised to see me. He had decided I probably would not get up that early(because I had laughed about the 6am start time when he invited me) and figured I would just come along with his daughter when she came with breakfast. But there I was, and luckily he reminded me to grab a knife. As we walked down the road with the sun rising providing light to the beautiful backdrop of Monte Gordo, I heard a loud “My Mother!” (similar to our use of “My god!”) which was Frank’s wife showing her amazement that I was up so early and actually going to the field. This exclamation was followed with rolling laughter as she no doubt imagined what this experience would be like for me.

So we strolled down the hill to work. We stopped to talk to a bunch of our neighbors, explaining why I was tagging along.

Frank is an interesting character. He works, as many others, for people who own fields and need people to work them for them. He cleans, prepares, and harvests fields. This has left him a very hardened man, who has no need for shoes or sandals, ever, could probably run a knife across his own hand and never cut it. An old man that will never tire, can work 12 hour days and still have a smile on his face. In town when not working he normally has a small homemade cigar hanging from his lip, which muffles his already fast and hard to understand Krioulu.

So during our chat along the way to the field I decided to ask Frank if he had heard the sound that had perplexed me in the early hours of the morning. To Franks amazement I started asking him if he had been worken up by a sound similar to a whoo wha whoo wha. Something similar to that of “people coming from another world” outside…. This no doubt provided a chuckle from Frank, who was probably questioning his decision to bring the crazy American along to the field at this point…. Wow.

He had not heard anything like this noise this morning…

So Frank, another worker, and I took to the field, and picked the corn. The landscape of Sao Nicolau does not allow for vast flat farms like the US. The tiered hills of farmland would never allow a combine or vehicle of anytime to work the rows. It is all done by hand with knifes and “enchadas” (hoes). So we split up one person per tier plucking corn and throwing it in different piles as we walked along. After the corn has been plucked from each stalk, the stalk is broken or cut down, so that the areas that have been harvested are more easily identified. I quickly remembered how different the corn here in cape verde is from what I had grown accustomed to in the US. The corn is rarely the big yellow ears which we find in the supermarket. It is usually an ear less than 5 inches, multicolored(like the kind we use for decoration in the us) hardly filled completey in with kernels, and being eaten by a fat caterpillar. The corn is left for a long time to dry on the stocks, allowing the sun to do the work before it is put in large homemade barrels for storage.

So after a few hours we had covered the entire field and had small piles of corn throughout the field. At this point the woman who owned the field arrived, and the daughter of my neighbor arrived with breakfast or “lanchy” as they refer to a snack here. I was glad to pound down some coffee. My neighbor had sent along some plain black coffee which she knows I enjoy drinking more than the typical sweet and milky coffee the majority of Cape Verdeans drink. My taste in coffee usually shocks most hosts and requires many assurances that this is the way I take my coffee, and that no I do not take sugar, really…

So we took a quick break to snack. The corn was then stuffed into old rice sacks and carried to a central location. Then the husking started. The maybe 5 percent of the corn that was considered large, was tossed to the side and the rest of it was husked by hand.

The couple of hours that this lasted were exhausting on my hands.

By the end of the whole day my feet and hands had been cut to pieces and my shoulders and face were sunburned.

We rode back in style in a truck to Cachaco, thankfully not having to carry the heavy sacks on our heads all the way up the hill.

I grabbed a shower and walked across the street to my other neighbors house to help with the finishing of their roof. To my amazement almost the entire town had turned up to what could be approximated to a old US barn raising. The machines for concrete making don’t really exist here, and people cant afford to pay everyone, so there is a wonderful snese of community as everyone shows up to help. The amount of energy on the roof top was amazing. Piles of concrete were being mixed and moved to the be set on the new roof, rocks sand and water were being carried quickly up the stairs, water was being thrown, shovelers were throwing the concrete around, food and grog and punch were being handed out, and within what seemed like no time the 50 or so people involved had covered the entire new roof with the concrete, and the owners brought up our reward, more drinks and food! I was exhausted after this...chilling and eating with everyone, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to come and help build a wall later that night. I thought he must be joking, who would want to build a wall in the middle of the night?!?!

So I said ya why not, and strolled home to relax a bit.

The word I mistook for wall actually means little party or cookout. So My night ended with a little cookout of pork and beans and potatoes on a street up the hill with some friends.

What a day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Restarting the whole attempt a few weeks late


Waking up this morning I remained in bed for a while longer than usual listening to the forceful gusts of wind sliding past my house. The winds which are a normal occurance for this season in Cachaço are on their way south towards Monte Gordo carrying a solid chill and mist that intices me to stay in the bed which I have warmed . While this is not unusual in any way for me, an avid snooze button hitter, but this morning instead of trying to guess when the alarm would go off again and again, listening to my shutters slam back and forth in an effort to escape the winds, I was thinking about a phone conversation from a very good friend back in the US. As normal the talk was quick and unorganized in an effort to fit as much about our lives as possible in a quick few minutes which has become the norm with the few people I speak on the phone with from the US. All this is due to the cost of calling across the Atlantic, but I still greatly appreciate these quick truncated interactions for the sake of hearing familiar voices speaking unedited about what they are up to and how they are doing and wanting me to do the same. Truthfully one of the hardest parts is finding an ear that is as unassuming and un___ as family and good friends from the states.

What I took from this conversation, and was mulling over this chilly morning was the fact that I am not keeping up with my blog, this blog, which was to be my discussion with friends and family in the states about this experience. More or less my friend said I was doing a crappy job. These were not the exact words, spoken considerately, but I know worse words would have described the job I was doing and are deserved. So sorry I apologize for the, I quote myself here, “SHITTY JOB” I have done with this blog. I never thought I would have a blog going on the internet, if anything, I had thought about it as I had a cell phone a couple years back, as a needless annoyance and craze. Those of you who know me though are quite aware of the addiction I have NPR, and more specifically the shows I have grown up with. I have taken on of my creeds from Garrison Keelor’s “Be good, do good work, and keep in touch.” I work hard to follow this statement, as cheesy as it sounds and I sound following it, but it works for me. I have fallen extremely short of understanding and accomplishing the third and final part of these directions over the past few years. For this reason I have a blog and for this reason I also forget this blog many times. But for all these reasons and the friend who reminded me of my lack of effort I am now vowing to keep up on this blog in an attempt to stay in touch with y’all.

There we go. Now onto the much delayed description of my current life. Oh one more thing, one of my disgusts with this whole blog thing is the one sidedness of the whole thing. “I this, me that” I am not one to who likes to talk at people or control a one sided converstation. I am more a fan of emails and letters for the ability to converse. So please please please don’t keep in touch with me at times, post some comments and emails if you get a chance.

Alright.

I am living on Sao Nicolau, the pistol shaped island, which is part of the Cape Verdean archipelago “off the west coast of Africa”.

I am volunteering with the Parque Natural Monte Gordo, which is a part of the Protected areas program in Cape Verde. The town of Cachaço at about 750 m above sea level, is home to the park offices and myself! I live with another volunteer who also works at the park. The protected areas program is an effort to have an “integrated participatory ecosystem management.” This amounts to a great deal of work requiring community participation and awareness to help preserve ecosystems which are home to many endemic plants and animals, threatened by many invasive species, and historically used by the proud communities and people surrounding them.

Endemic?? You ask? This means that the species cannot be found in any other part of the world!!! So for example we have many species which are found only in Cape Verde, such as Tortolho, a large strongly branched shrub, or Lingua-de-Vaca(Tongue of Cow, so called because of the rough feeling of the leaves! haha) There are also species such as the beautiful Macela-de-Gordo which is endemic to Sao Nicolau, and Monte Gordo specifically, which means you can only find it here within the small area ( appx. 950 ha) of Monte Gordo.

A little more in depth about Endemic plants… Species that were able to reach the islands (which were uninhabited until the Portuguese began using them) without human intervention are called INDIGENOUS species. Many of these indigenous species evolved over time from the specific conditions they were subjected to here in Cape Verde. Today they are so different from their ancestors that they have been classified as a different species or genus(BIOGLOGY!). So these have become what are the endemic species of Cape Verde, found no where else in the world. In turn, we also have some of indigenous plants also which became established here before human intervention, and still remain here and other places in the world.

So there are endemic species of plants, trees, birds, lizards, and toads(and probably insects and others I don’t know)

The park is an integrated effort to protect and preserve these unique species. It is also an effort to better the lives of many of the community members, with jobs within the park, reducing erosion, helping to slow the loss of rainwater to the ocean, and building of community friendly tourism.

So our offices have 3 main departments. There is the Ecology team which has been given the major effort of identifying and cataloging the different species in the park. They also are responsible for the fight against invasive or introduced species and promotion of endemic and indigenous species. There are two main invasive species(they take over quickly and force other species out) which were introduced for erosion control and beautification projects by the Portuguese back in the day. These are Carapato and Lantana. Carapato is widely used for many purposes within the community, but spreads rediculusly fast. Lantana also has become well established because of its rapid growth and ability to spread fast moving in on other plants’ territories. There are also bird species and their habitats which must be preserved. I have become obsessed with an owl found in the park, which I may have to try and see in person one day, awesome looking in pictures I have seen.

There is also a community development team which attempts to educate and involve the community in the parks efforts. This includes educating students in the schools, through field trips, presentations, clubs, and informational leaflets. It also provides seminars on local handicraft skills, community participation, and much more. They are currently underway with an effort to identify the land rights of different areas within the park and the effort to catalog the actual boudries of the park. This is another part of the integrated participatory management, because the park contains the farming fields of many of the surrounding community. So there must be cooperation and understanding in promoting the park’s ideas for the future. My housemate has been slated to work with this area.

The third department is the ecotourism department. This team is slated with the effort to bring tourism to the area which will benefit the local communities as well as educate visitors from the world. This is the area I have been working in. There are many aspects to this. Currently we are working inside the park to improve signage and trails making hiking more inviting to all visitors. In the future we will be working on a camping area within the park. I have been training an amazing group of young guides and park monitors. Training consists of both English language skills and guiding skills right now. This is probably one of the coolest parts of the job. Hiking around the park, having them teach me, asking questions about the culture the history the species and learning so so much from them. We are also working on integrating the community into this whole scheme so that they can benefit from the tourism also. This includes sale of handicrafts, foods, and goods. Also the creation of bed and breakfasts in the communities around the park, and restaurants. This will involve a great deal of work with the community helping them to understand what visitors will want in these services and how we can accomplish this. We are also responsible of relaying all the information of the park to tourists, so that they understand the great effort being made by the Cape Verean people, and the wonderful things they can find in the park making it such a valuable thing to protect.

Ok so how about my life?

I live in a decent size house here in the “mountain” town of Cachaço. The house has one finished floor with 2 bedrooms a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a wonderfully large area that is completely unusable and unnamable… the front entrance, hallway, storage area has three wideopen huge screened artistic windows. These let the fog and rain in during the rainy season, which at times made it difficult to see the short distance from the front door to the kitchen. Now these huge openings let the cold wind through. I am currently sitting in pants, a hooded sweatshirt, and a knit hat(contemplating putting on socks) and it only gets colder at night. Anyways windows are to be built for these huge openings. There are a bunch of windows in the house which do close and allow for a lot of natural light. The island of Sao Nicolau is quite advanced, and having only 13,000 or so inhabitants yes only 13,000 people on this island of 343km2, it is able to provide a decent amount of water, electricity and communication options to its inhabitants. So right now we have electricity in our house, a phone line, and I have a cell phone which barely gets service up here at times. The park offices pay for us to have a water truck bring water and refill our water tanks which currently reside in the second floor which has a lot of potential(anyone know a good interior decorator?). These allow us to have running water, providing a refreshing but damn cold shower. Also frees us from carrying water to and from the pumping station which is the task of many women living around us everymorning.

I have befriended many of our neighbors and community members. Its nice to have friends and be able to practice and learn more and more everyday language and culture wise. The new soccer field was just finished Saturday, and is the first ever in town. There was needless to say a big festival for this. Officials came to dedicate it, soccer games were played, and a bunch of food and booze! It was a nice feeling to go and be able to communicate with a lot of friends. The Cachaço team, however was sadly smashed by the visiting team in the first ever debut of the stadium.

The town is on the main road which runs between the two main cities of the island. These are Villa and Tarafal. Both are great for their own reasons. Tarafal is always warm and Villa is always beautiful…

I go in to work 5 days a week to the offices, and on the weekends I try to get out and explore the rest of the island. It is possible to hike to just about everywhere on the island from my little town within I would guess 2 days. I can see the entire island from the park on a clear day. I can also see many of the surrounding islands which are both inhabited and uninhabited now.

I have been cooking and baking a great deal in the evenings and the weekends. So any visitors will get a culinary treat from yours truly.

Well I am sick of typing this morning. But please stay tuned as this is a renewed effort to stay in touch.