Of all the women I had met during my first months in Tarrafal, there was one that caught my interest far more than the others: she was a tall strong lady that seemed to be in her late twenties and that even from far shone with irresistible charm. She had firm dark brown skin that glimmed like silk in the sun and where her right eyebrow was supposed to be, her skin seemed thinner and caramel coloured. I don`t remember exactly when I saw her for the first time, but it must have been some time in February when in Cape Verde it was summer as it always is. I certainly do know where we happened to meet for there was only one place where that could have been:

Nilda spent her weekends under the big old tree that marked the last stop before reaching Tarrafals`s biggest beach. Unless you made a big detour to the other side, passing all the boats and fishermen, it was the only way to access it and that meant in turn facing the “menins di coco”, the beautiful yet insistent coocnut girls. They always came in groups of 4 to 8, Saturday and Sundays from 10 to 5 pm, their plastic bowls filled with coconuts and straws. Their objective was obvious and everyday the same: to sell all of the nuts as fast as they could in order to quickly go back home to their families.

Objectively speaking, of all of these ladies, Nilda always had the least attractive coconuts. Nevertheless and most magically she was most often among those who were sold out first and there were two evident reasons for this:

Nilda had the kind of undeniable charm that you could hardly escape and whose victim I was too, undoubtedly. But Nilda also had a knife called “Machine”, long as her entire under arm and as sharp as to open a coconut at one stroke. She knew quite well how to use this power: while you lay innocent & vacation mood on day dreaming in the sand, the sun kissing your skin and in the back of your ears you could hear the gentle rush of the sea, a big shadow would suddenly built up in front of you and cover your body with a cool black shade. Machine´s blade already on the coconut, Nilda would move it up and down rhythmically, in a movement that suggested that she might cut your head off if you had the nerves to deny to buy from her. “Kumpram koko”, “Buy me a coconut” she´d say, sometimes slightly grinning, sometimes seriously. Professional as she was she kept her penetrating eyes constantly focused on your helpless tourist face. They would repeat with their gaze whatNilda wanted you to do: BUY THIS DAMN COCONUT FROM ME! they`d scream.

When I think about Nilda I think about her smile, her laughter, her charisma, her delightful charm. And I think about one of her most outstanding attitudes too: for inside her wonderful funny body and soul lay hidden one of the laziest women I`ve known during my time in Cape Verde.

Probably this is why we still get along so well to this day.


Nilda approaching you while you`re trying to relax on the beach.
Kumpram koko!
Buy a coconut from me!

Already started to like Nilda as much as I do?
Join me next week to find out how our friendship grew
thanks to an ever present magical essence that I used to keep at home.

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