Thursday, 26 January 2012

Welcome to Angola

Yipee! We are finally here!  I can hardly believe it.  After months of planning and packing, a rather bungled exodus, and we have arrived in Luanda Sul, our home for the next three years. Well, I hope three years, but after three moves in less than three years, in locations that were all meant to be three years, anything is possible...

The Arrival
We left on New Years Eve, flying out of Milan via Dubai with two legs - one 8 hours the other 10.  We were exhasted from the move, everyone was run-down with the cold - so we opted to up-grade to business.  This was a huge Christmas gift to ourselves, as we had missed any sort of real Christmas holiday.  I have done buisness class twice before, but on Air Canada, nothing really special, just a wee bit more room. And alcohol.  We went via Emerites, and I can honestly say that air travel will forever be a disappointment.  I'll let the pics speak for themselves.

We arrived the next day on New Years and it was wonderful, hot day with a cool breeze and a deep azure sky.  Marcus, having lived here for 5 months already, had the house organised and tidy.  He had his own homemade spagetti sauce and stock frozen in the fridge, as well as cold Cider awaiting me.  Contrast this with our arrival in Libya!

Over the next few days we got to explore our new world.  We live on a compound in Luanda Sul, the 'burbs.  Here we are sheltered from the realities of real life.  There is a shocking amount of urban poverty here in Luanda.  The first thing I noticed was how the city shimmered in the sunlight while the plane was descending due to the glint off the sheet metal roofs of the slums (musseques).  Compare this to large opulent oil company buildings.  The city is bursting with development and every direction you look you can see a spindly neck of a working crane.   Some roads look fairly organised, busy with people sweeping the sand and rubbish into bins, there are working traffic lights, sidewalks and signage, but then you turn down another street and its just sheet metal houses with boulders holding the roofs down.  People are throwing their waste water into the street, and wild dogs and chickens sifting through it.  I have driven past a stream of water that runs next to a road and watched mothers wash their kids in it.  I have no idea where it comes from but it is a mere trickle of brown water.  On the other hand, the compound is neet and tidy,  two little playgrounds, a decent sized swimming pool and a little gym.  The giant generator works 24/7 to provide our little compound electricity.  We have drinkable (aka: boil first), running water which is trucked in.  A giant ancient Bao Bob is at the entrance of the compund and I wonder, what with all its ancient knowledge, all the changes she has seen over her life of nearly a thousand years... it must be odd to have started on a wild track of land and end up surrounded by brick houses, pavement, and razor wire.

Ordinary Life

The currency is the Kwanza named after the large Kwanza river, just south of Luanda.  When you leave the country, you must go through a check to insure that you are not carrying any out of the country.  If you have any on you, apparently it is confiscated.  I can't say that I have ever heard of this in any other country, I should look it up.  It seems an odd rule to have in place, and I can't fathom why it would be enforced.  I guess its a good way to scrape more money off people.  Too bad they can't put it into the infrastructure of their country.   As of today 1 US Dollor = 95.1 Kwanza.  There is no coinage, just bills - the smallest being the 5 Kwanza, worth .05 cents US.  I have a stack of them - they seem impossible to get rid of once you get one.  The cost of living and the price of things will be another post.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Malaria remains the number one cause of death in Angola.  Its one of the Malaria areas that also has a resistance to the main cure and treatment in the rest of the world, chloroquine.  We are not taking any prophylactic medicine, but we try and use other preventive measures such as a fly repellant, wear long trousers or sleeves near evening, get indoors and close the shutters by six, sleep under treated bed nets, have screens installed on bedroom windows, keep the AC down at night.  We live next to an SOS clinic, so when someone gets a temperature, we get it checked out right away.  Marcus has gone twice now.  No doubt Malaria is a concern but with a bit of common sense and preventive measures, we should be fine.  Hopefully no one will get it, but it does happen.  I am attending a Malaria preparedness training session tomorrow, and I think this will be good for re-enforcing vigilance with the girls.

Bugs Bugs Bugs
Emma said it was important to include this in our post, and indeed, not a day goes by when we are not investigating some large insect or lizard.  Our first was a cockroach.  I know they are everywhere in the world, but they always seem bigger in Africa.  Our first morning we caught one as long as my middle finger, not including the antennae.  I bought a beautiful entomology text book beftore we arrived, and this has been a source of constant excitement.  I only wish I had a magnifying glass!  Next trip out I will be sure to get one.  As well as some latex coated pins so we can mount our bugs.  Below is a Carpenter Bee that we see quite a lot of in the Bao Bob here.  The male hasn't a stinger, so it is harmless, just makes a horrendous noise.  When I was putting  him in the bottle I was aware of the blood pounding in my ears.  Emma said, "be brave mom, what would Bear Grylls say?".  I think that every time I put a bug in a jar now.  Today it was a 2 inch long Wolf Spider, and I conjured my best Bear Grylls spirit to do it.  Yuck.
Day Trips

Benfica Market

Last Sunday we had a small day trip out to the Kwanza river and stopped at the Benfica Market as we headed out of the city.   We didn't buy anything, but it did have everything I might need for gifts, so I am happy to say I have next Christmas organised.

Ivory.  Legal to sell here, but I can imagine you would have troubles getting it into any country.   Val, I thought of your poor chipped up ivories on your piano.  These guys could get you sorted.  Your conscience however, is another story.

A great addition to any home.
Emma said she would buy one and set it free.

Miradouro da Luna

Impressive views about 45 south of Luanda at Miradouro da Luna.  Marcus, our geologist in residence, enjoyed this one and if I remember correctly, this landscape was carved by wind and rain.  The soft clay erodes to give these impressive ravines and gullies, not unlike the surface of the moon.  Marcus, leave a comment if I have gotten this wrong.

Taking time out to read.  Notice collapsed tarmack behind.  

Kwanza River

Our destination this outing was the Kwanza River.  We stopped at the Kwanza River Lodge which has a number of bungalows you can rent for over night trips.  They even had a large fishing boat, which I guess you could go out on an try your hand at fishing.  Its meant to be a pretty good place for sea and river fishing - plus crocs and manatees.  Next time perhaps.  Our trip was cut a bit short this time due to certain persons suffering from the usual stomach aliments that accompany a transfer to Sub-Saharan Africa.  That could be another post too.  There is no shortage of wild and wonderful things you can pick up here, as our doctor re-assured us as he wrote out a perscription to have the entire family de-wormed.

Surprisingly heavy.  Makes you realize why there is no contest if you get caught in a famous Death Roll.

Anyhow, I keep saying this, but I am going to make sure I post every week.  We are off on another adventure this weekend, so will try and upload some pics Sunday nite.