You should visit the Cape Verde islands because of the people who live there.
For someone who isn’t the biggest beach holiday fan (I’d more often than not pick a city to explore rather than lounging for hours on end), I was slightly worried to see desert, surrounded by sand dunes, surrounded by beaches, when the plane descended into Boa Vista.
Initially thinking that there wasn’t much to discover, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
If anyone has recommended Cape Verde to you, it has probably been because of the beautiful, largely unspoilt coastline – turquoise clear waters meeting white sandy beaches, and sand dunes etched into the landscape making for the artiest of Instagram posts. So, of course a setting that looks like the front cover of a holiday brochure is definitely a selling point. As is the food. Honey grilled plantain, (basically banana- just trust me on how good that one is!) and seafood so fresh the fish may as well jump out of the ocean and just find their way onto your plate (still appealing right?)
But, the main thing that I liked was the mentality of the local people – their unassuming nature. The ability of people living on an island that I didn’t even know existed a year or two ago to put everything into perspective.
For one day of my trip I helped out at a kindergarten in the capital Sal Rei. One little boy was carrying around a plastic toy phone taking ‘selfies’ with most of the class, and he could not have been happier. While the day before I’d been moaning about how my iPhone had sent me a ‘storage running low’ reminder for the 10th time that week.
Another day, I got chatting to the young owner of a souvenir shop about the misspelling on his beaded letter bracelet ‘happyness’. After explaining the actual spelling of ‘happiness’, I told him that I liked his original bracelets as they reminded me of the Will Smith film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ (which is well worth a watch, if you haven’t seen it already), and I realised that it was the principle of his products and shop’s motto: ‘happyness, no stress’, that really mattered. He insisted on giving me the bracelets as gifts.
I think this is our problem. We tend to moan about what we have, wanting something more, or better, instead of just being grateful. And, maybe it is slightly embarrassing that my latest reminders of this were a toddler playing with a plastic phone, and some beaded bracelets from a souvenir shop. But the point is, we should find the positives in things, and sometimes do something for someone else without needing something in return.
So, if this hasn’t convinced you to hop on a plane and visit Cape Verde, venture outside of a resort and meet the people who live there for yourself. Because you never really get to know a place until you’ve met the people who live there. Then spread a little bit of happiness wherever you are (whether that’s with a ‘y’ or an ‘i’).
Because although we all know that these great changes in mind-set don’t often last a lifetime, it’s just nice to be nice.
Oh, and a quick heads up to anyone thinking of volunteering in another country with a different language – learn some basic vocabulary before you go. Never have I felt so unhelpful to a four-year old child enthusiastically waving a colouring pencil in my face repeatedly speaking Portuguese-Creole, while I hurriedly drew the whole transport system, half of a zoo, and superhero sketches that could only be described as near-masterpieces, until we reached whatever (I think) it was that they’d hoped for.