High School on a Ship
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Cape Verde Christmas

By Idun Strømgren | Feb 19, 2018 | Field Studies, Students, Uncategorized

After we had said our goodbyes to our dear ones in Tenerife, we sat the sails and headed for the African island, Cabo Verde. On the 16th we arrived the capital, Praia. We could easily tell that this was a less developed society once we sailed into harbor, and the first day ashore confirmed our idea of poverty making people willing to act unlike humans. From this we learned a lot about the world outside our safe and secure homes and learned even more how close the last months had made us - I promise you that there are so many supportive souls under these sails! (yes, that rhymed) Due to this rough start, we managed to make the rest of our stay another cool and memorable one! An accomplishment not that hard to achieve when you have some very different and cool field studies coming up and don’t forget this one….


Not only was it a Christmas Eve filled with friendship and love, because thinking back at it, I feel like those values were what this whole stay was about.

Especially in these streets we watched each other as carefully as if we all were bars of Norwegian chocolate, something we still do.

Two specific days that were all about friendship and social responsibility were our field studies at a local school and a community centre. We visited both places and got in contact with many local kids and youths - who we in spite of our language barriers communicated really well with. At least we understood one another’s name, and even this brought lots of laughter to the conversation. At the school we sang Christmas songs together, played chess, braided each others’ hair and ended the day with two great football matches. I would be happy if you ignored this, but the results were mm… Now when that’s said and understood, let’s all forget that one.

The other day we drove to a community centre and were happy to play with the kids. They made us smile and laugh so much. We used another day to colorfully paint the house of this community centre and two local houses nearby. Of course we shall help, that is not big of a deal - their general gratitude on the other hand, that one is incredible.

Not that I didn’t expect them to be grateful, but they obviously live a tough life which has consequences. The majority of these kids have parents earning under 3 dollars each day, which leads to a certain limit of freedom. That’s at least what I would assert before meeting these kids, but I want you to know this for sure: These adorable kids had smiles bigger and more honest than probably any gathering of children I have been a part of before. They danced to the music as if no concerns existed, kicked the football as if they scored a goal in La Liga each time and they received the Christmas presents we brought as if the real Santa Claus had just slid down their chimney. The poverty makes their lives complicated and difficult, but it does also seem like it gives them an enormous gratitude when the smallest things are given. Oh, how the kids expressed happiness!

The love for dancing didn’t grow apart from them throughout their childhood; In the “white festival,” which takes place in Praia once a year, almost EVERYBODY was smiling and low-key moving their hips! Well, not even low-key. I could barely spot a single person who didn’t walk in the rhythm of the drums somebody else was playing.

I need to disappoint you if you thought I was done mentioning African dancing. I am not done mentioning African dancing. More of these fascinating moves were coming up the next days. On another field study, which included a bus tour bringing us out of the city and through the countryside of Cabo Verde, which has a variety of beautiful landscapes, we ended up in the old town. Here the guide showed us an old church and ruins from many ages back in time and taught us the history of Cabo Verde. And then… now it’s coming…

About twenty women showed off a traditional dance for us.

They danced and played drums as if it were the only thing they had been doing their whole life. And just to clarify; “their whole life,” might include seventy-five years or more. My life has taught me the tactic of saving myself from many clumsy explanations by being careful at guessing the age of a woman, but in this case it’s worth guessing: she must have been at least seventy-five! No matter how old, her body was way more able to shake it than my own! If I danced next to that woman, who theoretically could have been my grandmother, nobody would be able to even see my attempt of moving my body comparing me to her. Dear old, but extremely healthy and cool woman who can shake it really well, you are my main sprit animal!

There is so much to say about our 12 days here, but let’s jump to the 23th:

It was time for Christmas. Christmas on a tall ship.

On our day before Christmas Eve, we went out on anchorage pretty close to the island in order to celebrate all alone as a huge family. Let me take you with me into a great description of what my eyes saw at around 2 o’clock that afternoon, Christmas afternoon:

I sat in the MOB-boat where I in the front had the view of a green African island that we were heading for to pick up some of our guests and crew members at the beach, while if I turned 180 degrees around I had the sight of a crew member wake-boarding after the MOB-boat with all my sail mates jumping off the bowsprit of a beautiful tall ship in the background. A tall ship that in some miraculous way is our home now. And dear mom, I am sorry for jelling at you when 1I thought1 I realized that Santa Claus didn’t exist, because when we drove back to the ship… I saw him, I saw him! I saw Santa Claus appear in the swing rope!

Later on that Christmas Eve, we dressed up and got ready for our three course meal and I’m dedicating this one to our beloved cook: oh, that buffet was delicious. I am not going to describe it more detailed, that would be cruel of me. You would get so jealous.

I’m pretty sure that I’m talking on all of my sail mates’ 1soulmates1 behalves when I tell you that our families were heavily missed and that kind thoughts were dedicated to them. But don’t worry, you were there in the presence of the Norwegian chocolate Benjamin brought to all of us, which means we watched plenty of movies together. Thank you for a very cozy, a bit lazy but extremely cool Christmas, Sørlandet!

How to sum up this port? Those 12 days were some good ones. It started out a bit rough, but ended peacefully with the memories of smiling children and a dancing old woman in our minds while we ate the last piece of our Norwegian chocolate. I’m actually done mentioning Norwegian chocolate and African dancing now.

A late Merry Christmas from Idun and the rest of us, we had a different but great celebration and hope you had too!

*PSST* Remember to google “Cabo Verdian dancing” and bring a bar of Norwegian chocolate to Miami. See you soon!