From selling water from a truck to earning an impressive living as an interpreter is quite a journey. But then that’s true of Ivanildo Xavier’s life as a whole – an adventure that saw him travel to Bolivia, working in bars and living on the wild side, before finally returning home to settle down and build his career.
Ivanildo grew up on Cape Verde, the volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic, 600-800 km off the West coast of Senegal. So remote are the ten islands in fact that they appears to have been entirely uninhabited before the 15th century, when they were first discovered and then colonised by the Portuguese, who saw them as ideally stopovers in the Atlantic slave trade. Economically prosperous in the 16th and 17th centuries, the islands went into decline following the abolition of slavery, but their strategic location and tourist potential played in their favour in the 20th century. Nevertheless, lacking natural resources, and dependent on tourism and services, the islands remain impoverished – a situation not helped by the pandemic. With a population of 550,000 (but a sizeable diaspora overseas), nearly every family has members living abroad, and remittances form a key part of household income.
On graduating from school, Ivanildo helped his late father with the water trade, but kept an eye out, like most of his friends, for opportunities abroad, preferably outside Europe. So when he heard a man claim one day that it was possible to live well in Bolivia on a shoestring, he was intrigued, and took off without much of a clue about the country. Once there, he began working in a bar, doing some unofficial interpreting on the side, and spent half his time explaining to people that he wasn’t from Brazil.
Ivanildo was still a young man, and by his own admission, he was more interested in partying than career-building, At times he strayed from the path, even ending up almost homeless for a while, and occasionally spending days without eating. Four years after landing in Bolivia, his wise parents decided it was time to bring their son home and set him back on the strait and narrow.
Still, the experience proved valuable, and of course equipped Ivanildo with a new language to add to his collection. On returning home, he spent 6 years working at various hotels, and renting a place in the capital Praia. At the same time he studied English – a course which offered teaching, communication, translation/interpretation tracks.
Along the way he also gained some interpreting experience with visiting religious ministers – and began to see how this offered a possible escape route from the hotel trade, where the salary was around $250 a month (compared to $500 in teaching), while monthly rent was around $60. So when more interpreting training opportunities came along, he jumped at the chance. By 2018 he decided that this could in fact be an alternative career. He’d already worked for agencies on a contract, but when his friends mentioned ProZ and he did some research, he found out that rates he’d previously been paid were criminally low. On further investigation he came across Boostlingo, and then ProZ.com, where he met Enrique and Florencia. Remote interpreting service became an ever greater part of his portfolio and ultimately enabled him to turn fully freelance.
These days Ivanildo spends up to 8 hours a day in front of his screen, waiting for calls to pop up, and working for various agencies. In a good month, his earnings can skyrocket to $1,500 – money that enables him to feel proud of his work, help his family and harbour dreams of giving back to the community through volunteering with local associations.
His future plans also include further study, investing in himself and helping other friends turn freelance, taking advantage of their fluency in Portuguese, Creole and English. Not one to sit back, he wants to give others the same opportunities he has enjoyed. And one day, who knows, he might start his own agency.
When we began this conversation, Ivanildo was worried that his life seemed less interesting than the previous interviewee, Osman (in the Kenyan refugee camp). By the time we’d finished, I for one was convinced that this was no ordinary life…
Ivanildo's ProZ profile: https://www.proz.com/profile/2934875
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Global Voices is a series featuring interpreters around the world. To feature, contact Andrew at email@example.com