Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Here are some things that I definitely miss:
- All Cape Verdean and expat friends
- The absolutely splendid weather (at least 9 months out of 12)
- Outdoor concerts with great Cape Verdean artists such as Lura
- Sunset drinks in Cidade Velha
- The splendid greenery in Santiago after the rainy season (around december-january)
- Mountain walks in and Ribeira Grande and Rui Vaz
- Cachupa refugada (but not the fresh cachupa, Cape Verde’s “national dish”)
- Tennis at the US embassy compound
- Unforgetable visits to Fogo, Boavista and Mindelo
- Magnificent mountain hikes in Santo Antao
- Chilling out at our home-made and unique wooden roof terrace, overlooking the sea
- The pizzas and the somewhat strange (but interesting) atmosphere at restaurant “Kapa”
- Swimming in Tarrafal
- The lively grocery market on the Plateau
- The view (but hardly the food) from restaurant “A Poeta”
- The beautiful Grey-headed Kingfisher http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey-headed_Kingfisher, abundant in Praia
Here are some things that I definitely DON’T miss:
- Small and very aggressive Praia mosquitoes
- The unbearably hot, humid and rainy period (approx. September-November)
- The isolation (small islands, so far far away from each other – and from mainland)
- Customer service (or rather the lack of it) in general
- The waiting lines - to banks and to CV Telecom, in particular
- Cape Verdean food in general (except Cachupa Refugado and the delicious freshly grilled tuna)
- CV Telecom (not that Belgacom is any better…)
- Expensive and generally low quality groceries
- Repeated electricity cuts
- The need for night guards
- The dust (everywhere, all the time!)
- The constant water scarcity
- Booking, paying and flying with TACV (Cabo Verde Airlines) and TAP (the portuguese flight company) – always a major hassle
- Prejudices towards stay-at-home daddies (although of course not unique for Cape Verde)
- The “grogue” (Cape Verde’s most popular alcoholic drink, at least among men; locally produced from sugar cane)
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
One of the few annoyances you are likely to experience is hordes of would-be car-cleaners, eager to wipe your vehicle free from dust and “protect” it while parked in return for a modest donation (regardless whether your car is clean or not, and that it is not clear at all why it would need protection in the first place).
Apart from that, the only thing to be really concerned about is probably safety – as in all parts of the world when it comes to car traffic. But even on this aspect, my guess is that
Compared to the miserable state of car fleets I have seen in some other major African cities, such as
I am actually quite puzzled over the great number of flashy 4WD:s to be seen here, knowing that the average
Whatever the explanation, there is no doubt that the number of cars on the streets of
As it happens, I was actually fined for careless parking in the Plateau, while doing some grocery shopping at the main market place. At first, I was of course quite unenthusiastic about receiving the ticket. I had not really expected to get a parking fine in
But more cars on the streets of
Besides from the absence of traffic jams and very old and worn down cars, the relative ease with which you will find a parking lot, and the number of tutoring cars and aggressive car-cleaners, there are also a few other ways in which Praia distinguishes itself from behind the wheel.
One is the complete absence of red lights. I have only seen two sets of traffic-lights in the whole of
Another typical feature in
Overall, driving around in
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
This is a follow-up to my previous blog on being an atheist in Catholic Cape Verde, to address some of the comments I have heard.
Some have suggested that atheists can be just as dogmatic as religious believers. I profoundly disagree. Here's why.
First of all, one must learn to see the difference between passion and dogmatism. An atheist may be passionate - but cannot, as I see it, be dogmatic.
To me, it is really a lot about tolerance and openness - the opposite being dogmatism. The only thing I really can't tolerate, is intolerance. One could also say that I am not dogmatically against anything - except dogmatism itself (in all it's forms - religion, nationalism, racism...). It may sound just like a twist of words, or even contradictive. But if you think twice about it, it should hopefully make some sense.
So, an atheist may be passionately convinced that there is no god, and he/she may passionately try to convince others. Even to a point when it might become annoying. At times, I get pretty agitated myself about this subject, and I am sure that one or two of my friends have found my efforts rather tiresome. BUT – and this is crucial – an atheist would never (unless he is mentally insane) use violence or even kill to convince others. He would use words and arguments and reason, not force or weapons or explosives tied to himself. Moreover, if you presented new real evidence, for, lets say gods existence, or a true religious miracle such as a virgin giving birth or so, an atheist would have to listen and consider, and eventually challenge his own conviction. With (relative) ease.
Dogmatic religious believers, on the other hand, whether Jews, Christians or Muslims, will not stop at anything to have their way. They will use oppression, force, violence, even death, even suicide for Christ’s sake (excuse the expression) to make others believe in their particular god. And why? Just because someone brainwashed them with a bunch of strange stories when they were kids, and because those same stories are scribbled down in an old book. Without a shred of real evidence. Moreover, dogmatic believers will never, ever, change their mind on their beliefs, regardless any evidence, regardless reason, regardless any argument. In fact, they even consider this rigidity a good thing – it’s called “true faith”.
And that's a HUGE difference.
Some have challenged this by pointing out that Hitler and Stalin were atheists. At a first glance, this might appear convincing. I don’t think it is convincing in any way. First of all, it is actually questionable if Hitler really was an atheist, some evidence actually suggest that he hade firm Catholic beliefs. But even if he was an atheist, it is actually irrelevant. Because the fact of the matter is that he did not do what he did to impose atheism! He did not try to force people to abandon their Christian beliefs. He did not kill people with the objective to convince them that there is no god. On the contrary! He actually USED the old religious conflict between Christians and Jews to help his political cause – which was to exterminate the Jewish people (for ever and ever doomed for “killing Jesus Christ”) for whatever OTHER twisted reasons he had. Without religion fueling the fire and the hatred, he would never have been so “successful” as he was in this regard.
Some also wonder if I don't miss spirituality in my life, assuming that
Some also wonder if I don't miss spirituality in my life, assuming thatreligion and spirituality is the same thing. Well, in my mind, it's not.
I actually consider myself a spiritual atheist in some sense (which does not mean that I think that there is such a thing as an eternal “soul” or the like). There is a genius modern philosopher called Ken Wilber, who I have learned a lot from when it comes to spiritualism. His book “A brief history of everything” is nothing but mind-blowing. For those of you who are interested, check out his website: http://www.kenwilber.com/home/landing/index.html.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The choice to pay tribute to the Pope is not by chance, of course. According to statistics, a clear majority (some 90%) of Cape Verdeans are catholic Christians – no doubt a heritage from the colonial days the archipelago was under catholic Portuguese rule (in fact, when you think about it, isn’t it strange that Cape Verdeans did not want to oust the colonial religion along with the oppressors at the time of liberation?). There is also a protestant Christian community, as well as smaller communities of Baha’i and muslims.
My impression is that religion has a prominent, however not exceedingly dominating, role in the
Nevertheless, I have yet to meet a fellow atheist in
In contrast to
My own path to atheism began early on. Even in secular Sweden, and brought up in a non-religious family, I was however somewhat indoctrinated by Sunday school and other influences, and I do recall praying to god from time to time when I went to bed (“Please dear God, let my math teacher be sick tomorrow so that I won’t have to take the test”). I also remember vividly a bus filled with some strange people, parked at the school yard for a whole week, using munchies, guitar music and convincing smiles to lure innocent children inside during breaks to “learn about the word of God”. In fact, I believe that I spent quite significant time in that bus, and it might be just pure luck that I escaped from that experience without being sucked in to some Christian sect (I still can’t believe that that bus was actually allowed to park in the school yard).
While by no means actively religious in my early years, I first came to seriously doubt the existence of god when preparing for my communion at 13 years of age. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that nobody, including the priest himself, was nowhere near of adequately addressing even my most sensible and basic questions about Christianity, such as “who or what created god?”, “if god created everything, why did he create the Devil?”, “what will happen to all of those that never hear of the Christian god, will they burn in hell?”, “what sense does it make that Jesus suffered and died in the most horrible way to cleanse other people’s sins?” etc. As a consequence, I discontinued my bible studies halfway, to the surprise of my (secular) parents and to the dismay of my (Christian) grandparents. Even if it meant that I therefore didn’t get any precious communion gift (typically a moped), as did most of my classmates.
I have always been fascinated by life philosophy, religion and the possible existence of a god, and I still am. (If you are interested in my specific view of the “meaning of life”, have a look at my previous blog on this subject ). For a long time I used to call myself an agnostic, simply because I didn’t think that I knew enough to conclude for certain that god did not exist – regardless the fact that I actually found it exceedingly unlikely. As a student of natural science at secondary school and university, I chose biology as my main subject and became familiar with
With all this new knowledge, my conviction that there are other and much more plausible theories to enlighten us on the classic existential “inexplicables”, such as the origin of life, what happens after death, the meaning of life etc, than some kind of simplistic “higher presence” (or however people want to describe god). Thanks to Richard Dawkins’ books “The Selfish Gene” and the “The Blind Watchmaker”, my certainty grew even stronger, and when I finally read his latest book “The god Delusion”, I realized with much clarity, and indeed inspiration, my true nature as an atheist, previously concealed under the inaccurate label of agnosticism.
In my opinion, “The God Delusion” is actually one of the most important philosophical contributions to mankind ever made on the subject of science, religion, evolution and rational thought. The argumentation put forward by Dawkins against god’s existence is so convincing, and at the same time so clear and simple, that it is hard to see how anyone, even the most rigid religious believer, could disagree with its main message (then again, dogmatic believers would of course never read it to start with). For me, the book is a real landmark when it comes to finding genuine comfort with the idea that god’s existence is decidedly implausible, as well as (generally speaking) malevolent for mankind.
As Dawkins rightly points out, we are all atheist in some sense – we have all come to denounce ancient gods like the Nordic “Thunder god” Thor, the Greek “Sea God” Poseidon, the Mayan “Winged God” Quatzequatel, and the Egyptian “Sun God” Ra. I personally hope that we one day we will see this trend completed: we would then have world rid of divine misconceptions.
Imagine that – a world based on rational argument, reason and evidence, instead of being guided by a groundless “faith” deriving from some books written by old men some thousand years ago, arbitrarily interpreted to fit our modern society (just as one small example, there is a fierce debate among religious scholars in Denmark on whether the church should denounce the idea of “hell”, which some consider has been completely “made up” in the middle ages). What would such a world look like? Well, to start with there would be no religious terrorism or suicide bombers, no depressing experience of “holy sins”, no religious child indoctrination, no women completely covered by black cloth, no doctors killed because they perform abortion, no disapproval of well established scientific knowledge (such as evolution, or the age of earth) that does not “fit” with the holy books, no banning of life-saving appliances such as contraceptives. And so forth – the list would go on and on and on.
While science can’t explain everything (yet, that is), it surely can explain a lot more, and by far more convincingly, than any religion can ever do. And, more importantly, science will never in itself make people fanatic enough to kill or harm another just because of their beliefs, as religion truly does (the actual use of scientific progress to promote violence, by for instance religious fanatics as well as others who wish to do harm, is a different matter). There is a reason that it is virtually impossible to picture a devoted scientist becoming a crusader, a militant Islamist or a suicide bomber.
On a final note, I recently had the most interesting discussion with a
Friday, January 25, 2008
Cape Verde is known for long white beaches, some great music, and surfing. Few are aware of the fact that
The ecology of
Tourism is clearly a strong engine for economic growth in
Nevertheless, I have a strong feeling that tourism development in
To my great surprise, I have learned that there is no government national plan or strategy for tourism development in place - no firm political direction is given to this important process. Instead, a laisez faire approach is applied, giving the investment agency Cabo Verde Investimentos free hands to sell land to whomever is keen to buy, on an ad hoc and top-down basis. The mass tourism already experienced in Sal seem to serve as a general model for development on the other islands. Boa
But is it really sensible to promote mass-tourism in a small and vulnerable archipelago like
Equally important, there is an obvious risk that mass tourism projects eventually undermine the very reason that make tourists come to
Here is my vision for tourism in
Investments in all of these islands should be directed towards low intensive tourism, attracting a smaller number of environmentally conscious and wealthier tourist, all seeking to avoid all-inclusive hotel complexes and overcrowded pool areas, and willing to pay more to experience genuine culture, nature adventure, peaceful mountain hikes, and romantic getaways. Investors should be required to minimize resource and water use, invest in renewable energy, and put in place their own systems for waste regeneration and disposal.
In this way, tourism would benefit both the economy and environment, and it would continue to attract wealthy tourists also 20 years from now.
A Semana (www.asemana.cv)
Information from the from the General Directorate for Tourism and the National Institute on Statistics
Related topic: “Opposites Attract?”
During the last decade, the Cape Verde Government has shown strong commitment and made encouraging efforts to strengthen the legislative and institutional setup to protect the environment, including nature and biodiversity conservation. In 2004, a second National Environmental Action Plan (PANA II) was adopted. The plan has a comprehensive and ambitious approach, and includes an important component of environmental decentralization to the country’s municipalities. Moreover,
However, there is still a lack of information, technical expertise and financial resources, especially at the local level and within civil society, regarding environmental management and nature conservation. Therefore, there is a strong need to increase awareness and build capacity for sustainable resource management and environmental protection at all levels, in particular as regards protecting marine and coastal biodiversity.
Today, the remaining habitats and their flora and fauna are continuously under pressure from human activities and introduced species, resulting in overgrazing, over-fishing, improper land use, and the destruction of the few remaining woodlands. Environmental degradation is also escalating due to poor land use planning combined with rapid economic development (in particular tourism and urban sprawl), poverty and poor environmental management. Sand mining, sewage, pesticide run off, and over-exploitation of several marine species, birds and reptiles (including their eggs) for consumption and local medicines all threaten the delicate ecology of
Below follows short status reports for some of the main species groups.
Reptiles: Five different species of Sea Turtles can be found in
Fish and corals: Large pelagic fish, including sharks and tuna, are abundant, and coral communities can be found in almost all
Plants: Some 92 species of plants are endemic to these islands, of which at least one is endangered – an understory tree known as Marmulan (Sideroxylon mermulana). The endangered Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena draco) can also be found in the Archipelago. It is estimated that more than 50% of the Capeverdean flora has been introduced.
The World Wide Fund for Nature
Thursday, December 27, 2007
When I and my family came back to Cape Verde recently from a long break in our home country Sweden, one of the first thing we did was, naturally, to get acquainted with our new house guards. While I find it a bit disappointing that we need guards at all, it is something I have learned to live with. Crime is on the rise, especially in and around
For various reasons, we decided to change guard company while we were away, and I thought it be a good idea to talk to the crew in order to get to know each other a little and to gain mutual respect. I was both surprised and disappointed of what I learned during our conversations.
First of all, there is no “crew” as such. Actually, there are only two guys, covering a 24 hour guard duty. My first reaction was that this would not be possible, that I must have misunderstood something. That would mean that the have no day off at all; they would have to work 7 days a week, 12 hours per day. But it was no misunderstanding.
Secondly, they told me that they were not entitled to any vacation.
Third, I was told that the company dos not provide any “seguros” – the national health insurance in
For this job, they receive a salary of only 18000
To me, this could almost be called paid slavery – something I thought was banned or at least regulated by law in
As a matter of fact, it is. At least in principle. I have learned that there is indeed a law on labor standards, which covers issues such as minimum wage, maximum number of hours per week and month, vacation and health care. According to this law, I am informed, the guards should normally be entitled to at least one day off per week, and they should have the right to vacation and Seguros.
It appears, however, that the law on labor standards covers only those with
(The situation reminds me remotely of another case from Sweden: A few years ago a Swedish company contracted Lithuanian builders for a construction site in Sweden, and refused to accept the Swedish workers union’s so called collective agreement, stipulating work hours, wages etc for Swedish workers. As a result, the Swedish union, in order to protect the rights that they had gained in
If what I have learned is correct, it is hard for me to understand why the Cape Verdean Government would exempt foreign workers from their labor standards. It appears to be both unethical and economically unwise. Is it really a good idea to attract emigrants to jobs in this way, when
So what is my dilemma anyway? I have 24 hour guard duty, so why am I not happy?
Well, on the one hand I don’t think that the guard company’s employment policy is acceptable. It is inhumane to force workers to 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, without any vacation and without supporting any form of heath care, and I believe that it is highly inappropriate that the company does not to meet Cape Verdean labor standards (even if they, as it appears, are not obliged to by law). I don’t want to be part of that!
My gut feeling is therefore to terminate the contract with the current guard company and hire another one which – as a minimum – follows
On the other hand, I don’t want to put the two guards on the street, making their life even more difficult than it currently is. Like many other migrant workers round the world, they have been forced to leave their home country and their family and friends to try to make a better living in another country. It is quite possible that they will loose their job if we discontinue our contract with the guard company. Maybe they prefer to accept the harsh terms offered by the company, knowing that the option – to be unemployed and/or having to go back to Guinea Bissau – is much worse.
I also have to acknowledge that I am myself a culprit in this whole story, even if I was unaware of the guard’s poor working conditions until recently. One of the reasons that we chose to opt for another guard company in the first place was, naturally, that it was cheaper. Obviously it was cheaper for a reason – and the guards are paying, through inadequate labor rights.
After reflecting further, I realize that it cannot be justified to take advantage of this situation, and (provided that the information I have is correct; I hope not) consequently the contract should be discontinued. Even if it means that it might create difficulties for the two guards in case they will not be relocated to different guard duty within the company. Also – and this is important – I need to let everybody involved know why the guard service is terminated. Hopefully we could thereby contribute to improving immigrant worker’s rights in
The issue at hand is in some ways similar to the debate on child labor. Most people would agree, I think, that we need to boycott child labor products and services, even if it would mean that some children are put on the street under even worse conditions. The long term negative effects of encouraging an unjust system are worse than short term consequences.
Issues like labor rights and child labor are not easy to deal with. In both cases, however, I believe that the best thing to do is to stop supporting an unfair system, and let as many as possible know about the injustice. Regarding our guard service, I will take action to that end.