Skip to main content

The first aspect of the island I noticed was the water.


When I arrived in Praia, I was immediately amazed by the landscape. I tried to come into this experience with excitement and no expectations, so that the project, people, places, and culture could fully shape my outlook without comparisons to preconceived ideas. With this being my first international experience and having limited travel experience within the United States, I was enthralled by the landscape. There are beaches unlike any I have seen before. The water is clear and blue and forms mounds of airy foam as it crashes into the large, dark rocks along the shoreline. We sat outside of a local lighthouse and gazed over the water, and it was the first time in this new place where I felt calm. As the other program participants and I sat along the lighthouse borders, anxiety began to drip away. It was the first moment we were able to breathe in the island together and feel beauty in the unknown.


I also appreciated the juxtaposition of dust and dryness on the mountain tops and lush greens down within the valleys. There has been an ongoing drought on the islands for 3 years, leaving much of the mountainous island landscape beige and dry. It feels ironic to be surrounded by water and still be in need of more, but that’s the reality. To my surprise, as we ventured down into the Rubiera Grande, or large valley of the island of Santiago, there were vibrant greens and bright colors as water is able to fall into the depths of the valley. As we skeptically walked down the rocky side steps, we were engulfed by this new life and colorfulness.


The role of the water is not limited to its physicality within the landscape. I notice aspects of the water in the culture and fluidity of the Cabo Verdeans and their light-hearted happiness of our presence here. I see the liveliness of the land within the valley reflected in the local people, who graciously offer us tastes of fresh fruits and friendly smiles. I have seen countless magnets for sale on tables of local markets that read “No stress Cabo Verde.” A couple local university students explained to me that the guidelines of time and punctuality aren’t as strict in Cabo Verde as they are in the United States. They laughed as they commented that they had a portfolio due that day for a class, but it will get finished when it’s finished.


As we meet with partner organizations and prepare for the busy upcoming weeks, I adapt to the ebb and flow of the perspective and needs of the Cabo Verdean people and the partner organizations. Plans and initial thoughts I assumed would come to fruition changed in the best interest of those involved, often with little notice. I often wake up to messages saying “I was just told we need to meet with so and so” or “actually today we need to…”


So, we adjust and move with the tide.


I feel the island waters run deep within the people of Cabo Verde, as they encompass its constant fluidity and flow. Nothing feels stagnant or set in stone here for too long. As I continue to experience the local people and culture, I am reminded of my moment looking into the water at the lighthouse and the beauty found in the unknown. Sometimes just being there for others with positivity and a willingness to roll with the punches can have the greatest impact.

After arriving to Cabo Verde, we walked to a local lighthouse.