By Cadet Tyler Rickenbach
ROTC Cadets spent part of their summer in Cape Verde with the Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency (CULP) program, where they were asked by the host country to help elements of the Cape Verde military learn to speak better English. In this way the host country will be able to better perform when on NATO and humanitarian or rescue missions.
Cape Verde is in Western Africa and is made up of group of ten islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, south of the Canary Islands. The country is a former Portuguese colony that is known locally as Cabo Verde, or the “Green Cape.”
In addition to Cadets, our party included several cadre. But their selection for this mission was through a different process then ours.
While Senior Chief Warrant Officer Malley (CW3) was working in his office, an e-mail popped up in his inbox, asking if he would like to be a part of the CULP program. At first Malley ignored the e-mail and carried on with his work. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that he decided to accept the CULP mission that was headed to Cape Verde, Africa. While talking with Malley about the trip, he said, “The most rewarding thing is seeing that the little things in life are what matter most.” He said the people of Cape Verde are not put down or upset about their humble circumstances, rather they rejoice in the little that they do have.
Simplicity is life’s key to success and happiness in such a small community, but is most certainly applicable all over the world. This is one lesson that Malley and his cadets are sure to take home, along with the other life lessons and souvenirs.
Not Limited By Circumstances
Half-way through the trip, CULP team six was visited by two professors from the University of North Georgia. The UNG works with the CULP program to provide language instructors and wanted to gain a greater understanding of how this experience is affecting the lives of the Cadets, cadre, as well as Cape Verdian Military soldiers. While all of 11 cadets were seated around the dinner table, the two professors took notes as they recorded our responses to a variety of questions.
When asked about the our thoughts about the Cape Verde CULP experience, Cadet Alex Wright, a senior ROTC Cadet at Brigham Young University said, “The Cape Verdians don’t let their circumstances determine their happiness.” He added that happiness shouldn’t be determined by materialistic objects because in reality, they will never make one happy.
The Cape Verdian culture as well as other third-world countries can teach passing travelers the importance of enjoying the simple things in life. Due to the limited resources and surrounding area, there is not a lot of entertainment like we would find in a big city. However, spending time with family, working out, and drinking at the local bar are some of the things for which the Cape Verde people look forward. Happiness is a state of being —it’s a concept we learned and hope to take home.
As part of the CULP mission, every morning and afternoon, ROTC Cadets met with Cape Veridan soldiers to help teach them English by conversing and tailoring specific lessons to meet their needs. With only some guidance given to us, we were able to think outside the box and teach each group differently. Cadet Arthur Ancheta said,” it allowed us to work with different people and different styles of teaching.”
Before coming to Cape Verde each cadet was emailed lessons that could be used to teach a particular subject like using nouns or adverbs. Upon arrival to Cape Verde, we were put into groups of two or three, giving us the opportunity to collaborate with one another as Ancheta said.
The soldiers that each group taught were eager to continue learning more English. They sacrificed time out of their busy schedules to learn English and create long lasting friendship with us. Over the course of a couple months, the Cape Verdian soldiers practiced and studied between 70-80 hours of English with all of the CULP teams that visited Sao Vicente.
Cadet Emily Lott, a Junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville said, learning basic communication was frustrating.
“At first it was super hard and frustrating, but with time, I knew what to say and how to say it. The communication barrier was the biggest problem that I faced. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience because I was able to see and hear our students speak better and more fluently,” she explained.
Matt Kisthardt, from John Carroll University said, “These soldiers have a hunger to learn English. It is cool to see them implement what we have taught them.”
The experience we had was priceless in the fact that it opened up our eyes to a world outside the United States. It allowed us to see the importance of developing friendships with foreign countries and the role that we (ROTC Cadets) played in terms of geographical politics Our presence in Cape Verde will leave a long-lasting impression not only the students we taught but also on us.
Since my arrival back to the United States just a few short weeks ago, I have often times reflected the life lessons that I learned from Cape Verde. What called to my attention the most on this trip was the simplicity of life that the islanders have. Happiness is not dependent, nor is supplied, by what we have but rather by spending time with one another and developing long, lasting relationships. Having the ability to impact our circumstances and not have them impact us (our character) is a unique gift that the Cape Verdians possess.
By understanding this concept, I learned it brings joy the soul and motivates one to keep pressing forward. William George Jordan once said, talking about the personal commitment one has each day to live up to their potential, “And Happiness would come to them, in its highest and best form, not because they would seek to absorb it, but, – because they seek to radiate it.”
As a future officer I will be commissioned to serve my country and lead to the best of my ability, but I will also take it upon myself to make sure to do what the Cape Verdians did daily—radiate happiness. Optimism and happiness inspires everyone around you to work hard and accomplish the mission. One would be amazed at the affect a positive and motivated soldier can have in a unit. However, the question that is yet to be answered is, What can you do to radiate the change you want to see happen? What will you do?
Excerpt From: William George Jordan. “The Majesty of Calmness; individual problems and possibilities.”