Four weeks ago and we’d just landed in Boa Vista. Where’s that time gone? Answer – life admin. The whole process of relocating has been a pendulum swinging between cathartic and stressful. We set about the task as only novices would – one excel spreadsheet and one bottle of wine. 223 rows later and well through our second bottle of particularly good Portuguese Vinho Verde (you can buy it here) we had a plan. Or at least a rather long to-do list.
Most of the stuff was mundane and obvious - from sorting the house, finances, packing etc. But the process certainly focused the mind. Whilst Ed and I consider ourselves relatively organised, it was clear that we’d omitted some pretty key housekeeping from our personal life inventories. We spent several weeks putting things right. Stuff which you don’t really want to think about but should, especially when you’ve got two kids and aren’t married. Ed still didn’t take the hint, so we settled on powers of attorney, updating our insurances and writing wills (if you’ve never looked forward to a funeral Ed’s sounds like it might be fun – especially if you’ve not been to San Sebastian). If all else fails, we may have a business creating a concierge service for other crazy like-minded souls seeking to relocate – Compare The Market meets trailfinders.com.
One would be forgiven for not describing life admin in Cape Verde as cathartic or straightforward. It falls somewhere between bureaucratic and outright confusing. Our first couple of weeks was spent trying to navigate how to make ourselves official. Key to this is the affectionate-sounding “NIF” – Numero de Identificacao Fiscal – National Insurance Number. You can’t do much without one including opening a bank account. Banking in Cape Verde is a relatively straightforward affair with various financial institutions to choose from. The decision typically comes down to which has the shortest queue - as the charges for withdrawing money, maintaining an account and interest rates are broadly similar. We settled on Banco BAI (an Angolan outfit with the newest building, no queues and great air conditioning to boot).
Passport and Creole for Beginners in hand, Ed set off one weekday morning determined to return with a bank account but was thwarted at the first attempt by needing a Cape Verdean mobile – schoolboy error. The choice here it transpires is much simpler as there are only two telecommunications providers - CV Movel and Unitel. The latter has a particularly striking shade of orange as its branding and so secured our business without hesitation. The selection of tariffs was refreshingly simple – one at 1000 escudos (£10) with 5MB or data and 300 minutes, or a slightly more expensive one for a bit more data and a few more minutes.
Mobile number now secure, Ed returned to Banco BAI the next day, boyishly confident. However, after a few minutes he emerged muttering under his breath about the need to obtain a “NIF”. We headed to the Camara Municipal (Town Hall) down the street and queued up with other mask-clad locals in the 40-degree heat. We were ushered to a seat carefully positioned two metres away from the counter behind which sat a very pleasant equally mask-clad official. A combination of face coverings which have been obligatory in public spaces since March (well done Cape Verde), perspex and a distinct lack of Creole made for a challenging 30 minutes - the highlight of which was being reassigned our nationality. When said official entered our United Kingdom (Reino Unido) passports on their fancy computer system, Ed expected England (Inglaterra), Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to flash up. Instead we were confronted with the Pitcairn Islands or the Marshall Islands. Explaining that we had no direct lineage or South Pacific heritage the official reluctantly keyed in Inglaterra. Here the choice was simpler – St Helena and Ascension.
Both Ed and I looked at each other slightly bemused but equally excited at the prospect of originating from a British Overseas Territory – who wouldn’t?
After deliberating the merits of executing a digital transformation project in a foreign language versus obtaining the much desired NIF without delay, we concluded that being born on some remote islands in the mid-Atlantic would be a reasonable compromise. We emerged some 30 minutes later proud citizens of St Helena and Tristan da Cunha brandishing our cherished NIFs. Interestingly both boys also became re-naturalised citizens and were issued with their own NIFs – we are currently seeking work opportunities for both.
Upon return to the bank for the third day now equipped with our newly acquired NIFs – Ed was unexpectedly ejected after an error in his surname was spotted. He was given a high tech post-it and told to book an appointment at the ‘Ministerio das Financas’ to execute the necessary name correction. They too were unable to help with nationality and we remain proud St Helenan’s. Finally, on the fourth day, with multiple pieces of paper signed in Portuguese (none of which was understood) – we opened our bank account and felt ‘official’ for the first time. Ed is now on first name terms with the bank security guard and we are already investigating boats to St Helena to familiarise with our new homeland. Over the course of the next several days we ticked off various pieces of life admin from utilities to schools.
Suffice to say we are relishing the challenge of opening a new business, obtaining our ‘Residencia’ and purchasing a property. That said if we can rotate nationality each time it may have its perks – Katherine’s particularly keen on the Pitcairn’s.