As I’m waiting to get on board on the flight that takes me back from Cabo Verde, I look back on my first impressions upon arriving here. Even if I arrived in the evening, as I stepped down the plane, I could feel the warmth, which was not overwhelming due to the breeze that came at the right time.
I could feel the “taking it easy” attitude. When I went out with my luggage, I almost didn’t notice that one of the agents wanted to see my documents. He mumbled something in such a soft voice that I barely heard him. His whole attitude seemed to say “Can you show me your passport? I mean, if you wanna, it’s totally up to you, lol, jk.”
When I went to exchange some money, I asked for directions to the taxis and, based on previous experiences, I felt like I should ask ” Is it safe?” Her smile disappeared and said surprised “Yes!” I could also see the disappointment on her face for the fact that I felt like I needed to ask that. I wanted to say “I get you, it happens to me all the time.”
After I arrived at the hotel, I went out to have dinner. As I usually do when I go out at night, I didn’t take any bag with me, nor my phone, credit card, passport or a large sum of money. Sometimes I even leave the key at the reception. This makes it easy to not be afraid of being robbed. After I finished eating, I went to pay, only to find out that they don’t accept payment in coins if I want to pay in euro. I tried to explain that my consumption was of only 2,5 euro and there are only coins of that value. The server couldn’t speak good English, so she looked for help from a local that had just entered the restaurant. Upon hearing the issue, he offered to pay without hesitation. I wanted to pay him back, but he said “Consider it as a souvenir from us.” No ulterior motive, he didn’t use this as a pretext to flirt with me. Just genuine kindness.
Throughout my trip there had not been one moment when I didn’t feel safe. And it was clear for everyone around me that I’m not a local. In fact, I felt like I was getting the “royal treatment”. And I know it wasn’t only because of my smile. I carry that with me all the time, yet sometimes I get the opposite reaction when I don’t look like a local.
What money can´t buy
Every day I would be met by friendly faces. People were curious about where I came from. They would give me symbolic gifts to remember them by. I got carefully selected seashells from an ecologyst that went every day to clean the beach. “Is this your job?” I asked. “No, I do this for my peace of mind”he answered. I got handmade bracelets from a very talented craftsman, homemade samosas from a very skilled lady, cake from the owners of the appartment I was renting. No money was involved, they refused to take it, no expectations, just sharing their craft with me.
There is hope
Someone shared with me what seemed to be one of his last candies. Throughout several interactions, I could tell that he was doing daily odd jobs to make ends meet. On my last day I saw him across the street, washing a car. He waved and shouted “Nicoleta!”; his face lit when he saw me. He had never asked me for anything, not even hinted it, but I knew he liked milk and cookies, so I went to the shop and bought them for him. My gesture involved so little effort, yet he appreciated it so much. I should have said “Consider it a souvenir from Romania.”