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Third Goal Newsletter Article

I was asked to write an article for the Peace Corps Cape Verde newsletter about my experiences speaking in the USA over Christmas break.

The Petes and I at our swearing in ceremony with our language instructor Tereza. Short Pete and I are rocking our quasi-traditional Cape Verdean dress shirts (the same one I wore to all of my presentations in Merka).

Bring it Home to America

“I hope you got some rest on the plane,” my Dad told me as we trudged through a half foot of Indianapolis snow, “because you are speaking to our youth group in a couple hours.”  Dressed in the dark blue long-sleeve African dress shirt a tailor in Assomada made for swearing in, shorts and flip-flops, my only concern was getting to the warmth of the waiting car.   I had not slept in the past 36 hours, but I did manage to finish a simple PowerPoint presentation during my overnight layover in Boston.

A few weeks before returning home, I e-mailed friends, posted on Facebook and asked my family to see if any of the local community groups they were involved in if they would like to hear me speak about The Peace Corps, life in Cape Verde or anything else related to my service.   I vaguely remembered hearing of an incentive for carrying out the Third Goal: speaking about the Peace Corps translates into reimbursed vacation days.   The Third Goal of the Peace Corps is to help Americans understand the people and cultures of other countries.   This greater understanding of the world will thereby foster the spirit of world peace, friendship and civic mindedness.

The first group I presented to asked that I talk about water conservation in Cape Verde.  They were in the midst of a funding drive to pay for the building of water filtration systems in Africa.   I stumbled through the presentation, jet-lagged and still freezing.  After I finished, the first question came as a bit of a surprise, “What exactly is The Peace Corps?”   I guess I left that part out.  I am easily the best Peace Corps Volunteer ever.

Despite my glaring omission, a few kids in the youth group and the leader approached me afterwards and expressed their desire to give a donation.  Yet another contingency I hadn’t planned for.  My presentation included websites, my blog address and email for further information, but did not include a request for donations or any information on how to help.  I mumbled something about the Cape Verde country fund, but then remembered Lynette’s idea to set up a clothing drive for kids at the Centro de Juvenile in Picos.   The youth group resolved to start a clothing drive to send me back to Picos with a suitcase of clothes.

The remaining three presentations were far better than the first.   I received a variety of unsolicited donations ranging from clothes to promises to fund projects to a very tightly packed box of 100 toys from the dollar store.   A few newspapers heard about the presentations and contacted me for an interview.  The publicity from the newspaper articles led to an explosion of blog hits and even more promises to help fund projects.

The refund of vacation days was easy.   I sent an e-mail to my APCD with an accounting of Third Goal hours and my days were refunded.  Up to three days of vacation can be earned back.   Each eight hours spent engaging in third goal activities (including reasonable travel time, preparation time, presentation time, etc.) is worth one reimbursed vacation day.  More information on finding interested community groups, preparing and giving Third Goal presentations and a Third Goal activity kit is available on the Peace Corps website.

Sending me Mail

Do you want to send me a postcard, letter, package or donation for Cape Verdeans or other Peace Corps volunteers?

An excellent package from my Aunt Vena and Uncle Steve. Sunflower seeds, jolly ranchers, chocolate chip cookies...I devoured this package far too quickly.

I love mail!  Send anything you like to the following address:

 

Matthew Kubal

Achada Igreja

Picos, S. Salvador do Mundo

Santiago, Cape Verde, West Africa

 

Via Portugal/Route through Boston

Numbero: 238-971-3381

 

Include all of the above including my phone number and the via Portugal/route through Boston part.

 

Putting crosses and God Bless are good ways to encourage quick  and successful delivery.

 

If it’s important, my insurance policy covers certain shipments: mail sent by Government Insured Parcel Post, Insured Registered Mail, Insured Commercial Delivery Service, A.P.O., F.P.O. or Government Diplomatic Pouch.

 

Keep in mind it is likely going to take anywhere up to a month or a more for your mail to arrive.    Sending fresh fruit or sushi is probably a bad idea (though I would likely laugh…a lot…if such a thing were arrive).

 

My first package from my parents. Hooray!

 

Packing List

This post is directed towards other Peace Corps Volunteers coming to Cape Verde or other similar Peace Corps destinations.   The rest of you might find this interesting too (if you’re really bored).

A Cape Verdean traveling next to me in the van across my island freaked out and demanded he be let out when the goat under his seat started kicking him.

I made a packing list before I arrived and found it very useful to see lists made by other PCVs.  The lists below include everything I am glad I brought, wish I would have brought and should have left at home.

 

 

Glad I brought:

  • Four pairs of great shoes.  I bought two pairs of Keens with the Peace Corps discount (one open toed and the other closed toed), one pair of vibram five finger shoes and one pair of flip flops.    They have all served me well.  You almost certainly will go through several pairs of flip flops.   Cape Verdeans have a very strong distaste towards walking around anywhere outside the beach without shoes.  Most Cape Verdeans  and volunteers wear flip flops more than any other type of shoe.   I walk so much over rocky paths and cobblestone roads that, even with good shoes, my feet ache by the time I lay down to bed every night.
  • A great timbuk2 backpack.  I bought one with lots of cargo space, but it’s not so big that it’s perfect for weekend trips.   I take lots of weekend trips with other volunteers and people in my community and my pack has served me very well.     Make sure you get the Peace Corps discount.
  • Nalgene.  I almost didn’t bring one, but my roommate in the US let me have his and it has been absolutely indispensable (not to mention  indestructible).  I am particularly talented at losing mine nearly everywhere I go.  It always magically makes its way back to me.
  • My e-reader.    I filled it with more books than I could probably read in 5 years and it has been a welcome friend to alleviate boredom during the days and loneliness during long sleepless nights.
  • Rechargeable batteries and charger.  You can buy batteries here, but they are of poor quality.
  • A few sticks of my favorite deodorant.   I don’t like the deodorant here very much and, while I can buy my favorite, it’s almost $9 a stick.
  • Lots of good pens.
  • My MP3 player and an external hard drive filled with movies, books, games and other entertainment.   My village starts watching soap operas at 9pm.  That’s not my cup of tea  and I generally retire to my house to watch an episode of Lost, The Wire or a movie.   You will encounter lots of other Peace Corps volunteers
  • A very nice pair of headphones.  I almost didn’t bring them as they are bulky and expensive, but I am so happy I did.  Don’t be afraid to bring a few things you feel a little silly about bringing.    Also, if you are smart and buy the Peace Corps Insurance from Clements, you will be covered if anything happens.
  • Solar camp shower and a loofa.  I am living at one of the few sites on the island without any sort of shower facilities and  the cheap $9 Coleman Solar Camp Shower my parents picked me up from Wal-Mart has been fantastic.   I get a hot shower everyday.  This is a far better option than a bucket bath.  The loofa is nice for scrubbing the layers of dirt from my paws after tromping around the mountain all day.
  • Bandanas/Handkerchiefs These have been handy for wiping sweat, cleaning dusty chairs, cleaning dusty shoes, covering my face when the clouds of dust fly up in it as cars pass, wiping the dust from my face, etc. dust etc.
  • Good Ziplock bags.   Like Duct tape, these are useful in so many ways.   They sell tupperware here, otherwise that would be on the list as well.
  • Photos of my family, friends and home with sleeves to put up on my walls.  You can buy a cheap photo album from cvs and rip the sleeves out to protect the pictures over the years.   Photos from calendars, a few brochures, maps and a poster with my favorite poem all adorn my walls and do wonders for making my house feel homey.
  • Flash drives and software to protect my computer from flash drives.   I like panda usb vaccine and clamwin antivirus portable.   The former disables autorun on your computer and disables the autorun file on flash drives inserted in your computer and the latter is an antivirus program that can be installed to your flash drive, updated at internet cafes and then returned to your computer so that you can run updated antivirus scans.   I have yet to encounter a cape verdean computer or flash drive that didn’t have at least one virus on it, so come prepared for that.
  • Quick Dry Towel:  the hitchhiker’s guide was right.
  • Contacts.  Peace Corps officially recommends you leave your contacts at home and bring two pairs of glasses.  I wasted money buying a backup pair of glasses.  I only wear my contacts and do so without any issues at all.

 

Wish I would have brought:

  • A hoodie or more lighter long sleeve shirts for cool nights and days (it really does get cool enough inland that you will want it)
  • Nicer clothes.  Cape Verdeans put lots of time into their appearance (getting their hair braided, making their shoes look absolutely spotless, ironing shirts and pants and hand scrubbing out every last spot from pants and shirts).
  • A better camera.  I actually brought two and neither of them work right.
  • A good headlamp.   At night in Cape Verde, there is inadequate lighting.
  • Jeans…For some reason, I thought
  • Little stickers and small cheap toys for kids.  These will go quick, but they’re nice gifts for kids in your host family and community.
  • Cigars; I enjoy the occasional cigar in the privacy of my home (I like my squeaky clean community reputation the way it is).
  • Hot sauce and more of my favorite seasonings.  I find Cape Verdean food delicious, but I don’t like the Cape Verdean Piri Piri  (hot sauce).  Plain rice and beans can be improved immensely with a little garlic salt and Hot Shot.  One of the goodies I brought back from Senegal was a jar of Safia Forte, a very hot Senegalese sauce.

I should have left at home:

  • Kitchen supplies and appliances: spatula, mixing spoon, etc. can be bought here.
  • Mortar for muddling caipirinhas (I figured with the brazil tie they would be big here…they’re not)
  • My dress suit, formal dress shoes and suit jacket.   Thus far, absolutely not needed.
  • Khakis.  I brought lots of khakis thinking I would have to dress business formal all the time.  It turn s out, I almost never have to or do.   Khakis are impossible to keep clean with all the dust and dirt everywhere.    At least one pair will come in handy for visits to funerals, churches and such, but I brought almost exclusively khakis (no jeans).   Jeans or darker colored dress pants are a much better choice.
  • Lots of dress shirts.   I wish I would have brought less.   I brought 7 and I need maybe 4 at the most.
  • Sunglasses.  I brought several pairs and rarely wear any of them.   This might just be a personal preference.  I never wore sunglasses in the USA either unless driving and I’m not allowed to drive here.   I guess the moral here is to be careful bringing things you don’t use in the USA (for example, hats if you’re not a hat guy).

 

Finally, I want to make a recommendation I think nearly every Peace Corps volunteer should take:  buy the Peace Corps Property and Travel insurance from Clements and schedule anything you are bringing worth over $200 (laptops, e-readers, cameras, mp3 players maybe).   Any scheduled item that is lost or damaged is covered for nearly all losses including theft, accident breakage and even simply losing it.   The insurance company will give you the replacement value in cash without you having to pay a deductible (only for scheduled items).    I accidentally dropped my e-reader and Clements sent me a $240 check for a new one.   I paid no deductible and there was no hassle at all.

Finally, in case you missed it before, check out some of the discounts offered to Peace Corps Volunteers at the Peace Corps Wiki.

Sengal, IST and More Press

I returned a few days ago from  the West African Invitational Softball Tournament in Dakar, Senegal and am now in Praia for our in-service training (IST) until the end of the week.  Senegal was amazing and all of the volunteers I met from Senegal, Mali, Niger and The Gambia were absolutely fantastic.   The volunteers in Senegal (especially Chris in Dakar and Julia in St. Louis…Thank you!) took such spectacular care of us despite our absolute lack of fluency in any local languages.   I hope I can repay the favor to other PCV’s when they visit Cape Verde.  I will post more on Senegal, the differences between Senegal and Cape Verde and some differences between Peace Corps Cape Verde and Peace Corps Senegal in the near future.

While I was out of the country, an article was published in an Indiana newspaper about my service in The Peace Corps.    The article, in the Northwest Indiana Times, is available here.

OIG Report for Cape Verde

The Office of the Inspector General (and here for the PCorps version) is an independent entity within The Peace Corps that regularly reviews all programs and operations of Peace Corps.  These reviews include regular audits and evaluations of Peace Corps Country Post.  Audits review the administrative side of each post including financial management,  property management and compliance with various Peace Corps regulations regarding post administration.  The program evaluations analyze the management and program operations of the Peace Corps.   The evaluators apply best practices to suggest program improvements.

Cape Verde was recently audited.  The final audit report is available here.

I was unable to find any program reports for Peace Corps Cape Verde.  If you stumble across one, let me know in the comment section below.  I did find this report that showed Cape Verde as one of only three Peace Countries in 2009 to have 0 early terminations.

Cape Verde was also mentioned in the Semi Annual Report to Congress issued by the OIG.  A photo of Cape Verde volunteer Brian Newhouse with some Cape Verdean children was also included in the report here.

It is worth perusing through the reports on the Peace Corps OIG website and those at the SCRIBD Peace Corps FOIA request   For example, I found the neato graphic below from the Final Program Evaluation Report: Follow-up Evaluation of the Volunteer Delivery System.   The report discusses the process used by Peace Corps from application to placement.   The program notes that in response to the call to service issued by President Obama the Peace Corps is under pressure to increase the number of volunteers, but is having trouble finding volunteers with the technical experience meeting the needs requested by host countries.  As a result, posts were encouraged to request lower-skilled volunteers.  Ultimately, the evaluators were unable to to conclusively determine whether the agency is maintaining Volunteer quality while increasing the number of Volunteers in the field because the agency neither has a formalized definition of volunteer quality nor does it systematically track Volunteer quality.

The neato graphic for how volunteers are chosen from the OIG report referenced above.

Finally, for anyone still reading, here is a link to the 1992 Cape Verde Constitution translated into English. More exciting law related posts to come.  I hope to do an international human rights law review of Cape Verde as well as delve into the Cape Verdean legal system starting with a review of the Constitution.