Each year, the U.S. Peace Corps sends approximately 30 new Peace Corps trainees to Cape Verde. Within the first 6 months, about 25 percent return to the USA for reasons from 'love' to general 'unhappiness.' Those of us who survive the 27 month service period are extremely resilient in many ways.
After 2 months of training, all trainees visited their future 'sites' for one week (August 2001) to make contacts and see if they would survive. Struck with immense awe for its beauty, I called my site 'Jurassic Park.'
During the site visit, Peace Corps paid for trainees to stay at hotels in the cities or towns where they would start living in a month. I stayed in Calheta, this beach town, and commuted out to my rural village 30 minutes away. This shows Barry, Angie, Sally (former 3rd grade teacher), Kevin (UVA grad), Dawn (30 year old professional), and me. Barry and Angie, the married volunteer couple standing to the very left, were finishing their 27 month service the month we arrived.
Barry and his wife, formerly from Hawaii, know a great about spear fishing. Barry took out a visiting volunteer from Maritania (Dave) to see what they could catch for dinner, and they came home 2 hours later with enough to feed a family of 10.
During the 3 month trainig period, many trainees celebrated their birthdays, of which this is one that took place in August 2001.
Dawn, a 30 year old fellow volunteer (back in 2001), became my best friend and fellow adventurer. After many harrowing health problems, she left for the USA in February 2002, and is currently happily married in the Bay Area. She and her husband bought their first house a few months after marraige, and have a beautiful 6 month old baby boy (as of January 2004).
This is Praia, the capital city of Cape Verde, located on Santiago Island. The 3 month training has taken place here for years until Peace Corps moved it out to a small town to improve safety.
These are typical houses in Praia that reflect the growing income disparity between the few rich and many poor. This neighborhood does not have running water, and only some have electricity. People add on and paint their houses as they save money.
After three months of intensive technical and language training, we were sworn in as official 'volunteers' in September 2001. Host families attended, bidding farewell to their American 'daugthers' and 'sons' who embarked the next day on journeys to their actual permanent 'sites' for another 2 years.
Sally was Dawn's roommate in Calheta, the beach town pictured above. She has a 'Girls Group' comprised of at-risk teenagers that is a secondary project she 'acquired' from a former volunteer. They meet each week for a few hours to do educational and fun activities. On this particular day, we had all gone to a famous beach 30 minutes away by bus to catch some rays. This is definitely what I would call a 'Kodak moment' or 'Peace Corps photo' where you can't believe you are a real 'volunteer' doing what you envisioned you'd do before you actually applied months (or years) earlier.
This is most of our volunteer group from 2001 mixed with the newest volunteers from 2002 at their "Swearing-In Ceremony" last October 2002 when they made the shift from 'trainee' status to 'volunteer.'