Saturday, December 8, 2007

coffee, coats and cape verde

I’ve hit coffeehouses with a vengeance this week, with an average of 1-2 visits every day, mostly because they’re convenient places for meeting up with my DC friends rather than because I’ve been dying for coffee. Last night was my third or fourth Starbucks visit, all of which have been bittersweet (sounds like I’m describing Arabian Mocha Java or something, doesn’t it? :-) ) because they remind me that I’m just an alumnus of that family now, not a real member anymore.

After I paid for my grande peppermint hot chocolate, the guy behind me in line complimented my coat. For reasons that deserve a whole other story, compliments on my coat are particularly sweet to receive. I explained to him that I’d just returned from four months in Africa, so I’d just purchased the coat.

“Oh, where in Africa were you?” he asked.

I listed the countries. He was excited and envious. He’s never been there yet, but his parents are from Cape Verde. Honestly, I didn’t really know until this trip that that’s a country, an island country off the coast of West Africa. I think coat-complimenter guy said they speak Portuguese there. He’s always wanted to go visit West Africa. (To learn more about Cape Verde, click

He asked what I was there for. I explained I was a writer and had done work for some non-profit organizations. Then tell people, he said, that Africa is more than poor people, that it’s beautiful, that there’s more to the story. I told him that was already in my plan.

He walked off, and on the eve of the real end of this trip I felt like I’d been given a mandate.

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