Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnaval in Cape Verde

One of the events that is celebrated in many countries of the world is Carnaval or Carnival.

In this respect, Cape Verde is no exception. Each of the islands, from Sal to São Vicente, celebrates the festival of Carnaval. While the historical details of Carnaval may vary by location all over the world, in general, it was either derived from African slaves celebrating their freedom from slavery, or in other contexts, it was the last fling preceding the stringent religious observances of the 40 days of Lent. These are the general themes of the history of Carnaval.

Whatever the specifics of the history in any particular locale might be, the fact remains that today, residents and visitors, young and old alike can participate in the activities by either officially joining a group of costumed revelers or simply jumping into the non-costumed groups of party-goers dancing in the street.

Participating in the celebrations is perfectly safe and a ton of fun. And as for those who prefer to stand at the sidelines while others have all the fun ... it's an interesting study in the humanity that connects us all. Either way, it is certainly an enjoyable lesson in Cape Verde's history and culture.

Here is a brief clip of school-children participating in the history and culture of their nation.

So, plan to visit any of the islands of Cape Verde for Carnaval and let your hair down just a little.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cape Verde's First International Beauty Queen

Ivanilda Reis (with permission of MWA Int.)
While there are beautiful people the world over, Cape Verde is reputed to have more than its fair share. As the old adage goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." But Cape Verde may put that adage to the test as there are more than a few Cape Verdeans who are undeniably beautiful by any measure. One such example is Ivanilda Reis.

On December 18, 2011, Ms. Reis, or "Vanny" as she prefers to be called, became Cape Verde's very first international beauty queen when she was crowned winner of the Miss West Africa International 2011 contest held in Banjul, Gambia. The contest included talented young women from 24 countries in West Africa. Vanny dedicated her win to the late Césaria Évora, Cape Verde's world reknown "Barefoot Diva", who passed away the day before Vanny's historic win.

Vanny, 26 years old, is a professional model with experience in Cape Verde and Brazil. She has an active and ambitious agenda. She is also a fitness instructor with a passion for health issues and healthy living. She had been the editor of the fashion magazine, Kriola, and is preparing to launch her own online fashion mag as well as her own branded line of clothes for women and men. She is now in the process of launching Cape Verde's first school for fashion models. Her goal is not simply to teach students how to become successful models but to educate these youth in business subjects so that they can be successful business-women and men who are able to make there way in the world when they are no longer on the fashion stage.

Furthermore, Vanny is a youth leader in Cape Verde who is actively involved in charitable causes. Her charity in Cape Verde is called WeDoCare and its mission is to assist seniors in Cape Verde. According to Vanny, "the issues of aging are well known in America, Europe and Asia. But Africa is a very young continent. So its seniors have become an invisible population whose issues have been lost among the issues of youth." With her win in Gambia, Vanny plans to raise the profile of the challenges faced by seniors, such as loneliness, immobility and health issues. She also hopes to raise donations through her cause, WeDoCare.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brava - Cape Verde's Magical Island

Nova Sintra
Brava is perhaps the most beautiful of Cape Verde's ten islands. Cape Verdeans call Brava, "the island of flowers." But this entirely misses the point of Brava's beauty.

It is a magical place. Before the arrival of the Cabo Verde Fast Ferry which now provides daily service to the island, Brava and its 6,000 residents were virtually cut off from the rest of Cape Verde, and by extension, the rest of the world. It is no surprise then that going to Brava is like a journey back in time to a period when life was simpler, to a place where you walk along narrow, country lanes lined with beautiful flowers. You won't find airports, shopping malls or large hotels here.

When you arrive at the small port town of Furna on the ferry, your first thought is whether anyone actually lives here. That's because the principal town of Nova Sintra is a 10 km climb from the port up into the mountains where Nova Sintra is nestled. Make sure you catch one of the Hiaces (mini-vans) which will transport you up the steep, winding road to Nova Sintra. Its not a journey you'll want to do on foot.

The ferry gets in at night so you may not have time to explore the port town of Furna. It's actually more lively that the capital, so if you get here on a weekend, perhaps you can check out the local tavern before heading up to Nova Sintra. I stayed at the quaint inn, Pensão Castelo (Eugenia 238-982-5786) in Nova Sintra. The room was spartan but clean and inviting. I've also stayed at the Dja Braba Hotel (Marcos 238-979-4934) which is the largest and most modern hotel facility on the island, and also has the best restaurant. Either place is a good base from which to explore Nova Sintra and the rest of the island, like the picturesque fishing village of Fajã d'Agua.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Charity in Paradise … Schoolbooks for Kids

Nilton Gomes is a man with a big heart, an even bigger smile and the biggest desire to make a difference in the lives of children. He was born 24 years ago in the interior of the island of Santiago surrounded by rolling green hills. He grew up poor. He remembers his school-days as happy days. But he also remembers that his parents were too poor to buy the textbooks he needed for school. Each of these books cost about €3 or US$4. His parents had to choose between feeding their kids and buying the text books. It’s a very tough choice for any parent. His school, Escola de Salina, did not have the resources to supply him with free schoolbooks.

Despite those early challenges, Nilton eventually went on to success: he serving in Cape Verde’s military, obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and is now assistant manager of operations at Cabo Verde Fast Ferry in the capital, Praia. But he never forgot where he came from. He decided that he would give back to his community, the community that raised and nurtured him, by helping the students who are sitting in the same desks and classrooms that he sat in almost 20 years ago.

Nilton enlisted the help of his former teacher – Manuel Barreto – who coincidentally, also works at Cape Verde Fast Ferry. Today they are headed back from Praia through those beautiful rolling hills into the interior of Santiago to visit three schools in Salina, Santa Cruz and Achada Ponta; with 400 text books that Nilton purchased on his own account; to distribute them to the students whose parents cannot afford to purchase them; accompanied by the proud CEO of his company.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The influence of Cape Verde’s cultural heritage on its Diaspora

Maritsa Barros is a young woman on a mission. Her goal is to make the world a better place for women.

But Maritsa is no ordinary young woman. While she’s interested in fashion like many women her age, her interest lies in starting a business in this arena in order to mentor young women and serve as a role model.

Maritsa has already started on her career path. She is an instructor at Barbizon, a top American agency for modeling, acting and self-development. Maritsa teaches all three disciplines to women from 14 through 19 years old. Maritsa wants to be a positive influence to enlighten young women to be confident, have self-respect and self-esteem, which are important characteristics for future success. She instills in her students a sense of purpose yet shows them that they can also be compassionate.

Maritsa was born in America to Cape Verdean immigrant parents who raised her as one of twelve kids in the strict tradition of Cape Verdean parenting. The first language she learned was Kriolu. She formally learned English as a student in school. At such a young age, Maritsa experienced a bit of a cultural identity crisis, as you could well imagine, given the cross-cultural blend of American and Cape Verdean values. She was unsure which culture to adopt. Yet, this was a very important part of who Maritsa has become today – as she matured, she took the best lessons of each culture and found a very happy medium between both cultures in her day-to-day life and her values.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is the Safe in your hotel room ... Safe?

Take a look at this YouTube video.

Shocked? Did you know that there was a default unlock combination for your hotel Safe? I never thought about it till I watched this video! But I guess it makes sense that there should be one ... what if you forgot the code you used to lock it?

I'll tell you why this happens. It's because some hotel managers are just too lazy! The default combination for these safes can be changed by the hotel management. But of course in a hotel with hundreds of rooms, there are hundreds of Safes and it would be quite a lot of work to reset the default unlock code for each one. So hotel management takes the easy way out - they just leave the default code at the original factory setting! What the hotel management SHOULD do, is to develop a protocol for the combination for the Safes in the rooms. The default should not be left at the factory setting because it means anyone can get into your safe. You never know who to trust. Separate codes should be set for the Safe in every room! And only the hotel manager should have access to the list of default unlock codes by room.

So how do you protect yourself? I would suggest the following steps:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The most beautiful woman in the world!

The title of Miss Universe 2011 was won on Tuesday, September 12th, by Leila Lopes of Benguela, Angola, who became the first Angolan ever to win the title.

The stunning 25-year old beauty queen is a business major in London (now the luckiest city on the planet!) This modest lady believes that her smile is her best weapon.

In answer to one question that was asked of her, she said this: "Thank God I'm very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn't change a thing," Lopes said. "I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life."

And one of those wonderful principles is helping those less fortunate than herself.  She works with poor kids in Angola and wants to focus on the fight against HIV around the globe.

So what does any of this have to do with Cape Verde? Well, Leila was born in Angola to parents from Cape Verde! So her heritage is Cape Verdean. In fact, Angola, is a popular destination for Cape Verdean immigrants because of its proximity and because they fit right in with the Angolans who also speak Portuguese and have a similar culture based on their common blend of African and European roots.