Tuesday, April 03, 2007

In Huambo...

Well, made it to Huambo. Had to get to the airport in Luanda at 4am, which was painful experience in and of itself. The domestic airport is located down a dirt road…I though the driver had gotten lost because I couldn’t possibly believe this was the way to the capital city’s main domestic airport, but alas, I was wrong. The airport itself consists of one main room with various signs that people change manually indicating which flights are leaving and which are being checked-in. I got there very early so I had lots of time to watch as other flights loaded, and to figure out how it “works”. My favorite part was watching guys duct-tape peoples bags for a small fee—the Angolan version of getting your bag wrapped in Saran wrap.

After check-in we were shuffled through an immigration check point and then to a freezing cold waiting room…for 2 hours! Eventually, a door opened to the outside and there were busses waiting to take us to the plane. I flew on Sonair, which is owned by the nation’s oil companies and a conglomeration of various generals. I was told it is by far the safest airline for internal travel. The plane held about 50 people and looked like it was from 1980, but it was aerodynamic and I arrived in Huambo an hour and a half later in one piece.

The “airport” in Huambo is nothing more than a small one-story concrete building. You walk straight off the airplane, on the tarmac, to the “gate”. Once inside, I had to go through another immigration check-point and then to “baggage pick-up” where guys just handed me my luggage. (I put all of these words in “” because they are actually labeled that way, though I think it’s a bit of an exaggeration at times).

Huambo suffered very badly during the years of civil war from 1975-2002 and was the hold-out for Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA. In the 1990s, when it was thought peace might finally come to Angola, Savimbi backed out of the process and Huambo was held at siege for years—the city was essentially starved to death and within the city limits I’m told it was a pogrom, intellectuals and other who were suspected of ties to the government in Luanda were killed, others imprisioned. In essence, Huambo has been to hell and back.

My first impression of this place was how calm it is compared to Luanda. The climate is much cooler and the quality of air is much better. Under the Portuguese Huambo was known as Nova Lisboa, and the Portuguese government had intended to move the nation’s capital here. It was always known for being a very beautiful city. Some of that feeling has remained. The streets are very wide, the houses are large and the trees still bloom with bright orange and red flowers. There’s a lot of development in town—rebuilding houses etc—and shops have started to reopen.

I’m staying in the guest house of an NGO here called Development Workshop. Right after the war, when NGOs rushed in to help with the resettling of refugees that had fled the years of civil war. Huambo became one of the main posts for NGOs outside of Luanda. Today, most NGOs have left, deeming Angola to no longer be in need of their services (despite the fact that much of the nation still lies in ruins). DW and a handful of organization remain. But the presence of DW in Huambo is, I would venture to guess, the largest. It’s been in Huambo since the late 1980s and has a long term commitment to the area with its hands in virtually every sector from building and education to micro-finance and "re-education" for former soldiers. The guest house is simple but clean and very friendly.

So far, much of my time has been spent recovering from the trip and waiting around for my contacts to meet with me. I’m afraid today will also be spent doing work in my room. This week is basically a holiday week, so it’s hard to organize much to do. BUT tomorrow, which is national Peace Day, I will go with IECA, the Congregational church, to a meeting and “prayer” session with their youth groups. Then on Thursday…who knows. This weekend I’m supposed to finally visit Dondi mission station and then on Monday I go with IECA to a remote mission station called Bunjei and stay there for 3 nights. Then back to Huambo for couple of days before I return to Luanda and then Lisbon. Doing research here is, I’m afraid, a test of my patients…but what’s a girl to do?! Not much I’ve learned…

Sunday, April 01, 2007

off to huambo

so...I'm off tomorrow to huambo for 2 weeks...i'll write when able. not sure of internet connection there...wish me luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

cross-blog post

This is from Lara Pawson's blog that I mentioned in another post. Follow this link to read more of her commentary on Angola which seems to be spot-on. I thought this was particularly poetic...

All those bodies that fell into the sea from vast vessels designed to transport slaves - they are the reason Angola has so much oil. That's what I have been told. Over the centuries the preserved remains of these women, men and children have come to form oil. The wars that followed slavery contributed to the petroleum supplies: people shovelled bodies into the splash at the end of each day's fighting. And then independence came and more bodies were thrown into the sea. And the oil kept coming. That's why Angola has so much petroleum. That's what I was told.

So if it runs out, it will be a good thing. It will show that life has improved, that people are no longer killed and dropped in the ocean.

just in case you needed more proof...

...of my nerdy-ness....

Worldcat (the BEST search engine for looking up books, articles etc all over the US) now has a public site! If you need a book via inter-library loan this mega-search engine will show you where it is housed. It also looks of archival collections, dissertations etc. It's really useful! Technically, it's supposed to be "world" friendly, and I have found listings for things in UK and SA libraries, but mostly it's for the US.

I'll put a link with my general links below but here it is: www.worldcat.org

Saturday, March 24, 2007

and...more pics!

Then there is the OTHER side of Luanda that is decidedly more chic. The first two pictures are of a bar/restaurant called Bahia...the two ladies are woman I have befriend here. Both Portuguese but living in Mozambique for work. The woman on the right is Gabi, she's actually moving to Luanda and having a hell of a time trying to find a house for her family (she's married and has two young kids).

The next pic is of a place called Cais do Quatro and is out on the bay. It's where I ate last weekend before going dancing. Luanda prices: lunch for 3 (one dish and one drink each) 100 bucks--and that's US buck! Crazy!

And the above pic is from the restaurant of some of the boats moored nearby...there's definitely cash here.

More pics...

Ok, so this is outside the archive...there's a sort of "justice of the peace" down the street so there are a lot of weddings. These ladies must have been coming from there...also people seem to get married on Fridays and the parties go all weekend.

The last picture is of the, shall we say, "local watering hole". It's no wonder there's a cholera epidemic here (though when you got to the slums you really see where the cholera is coming from--follow this link to see my old post with a pic of the slums). Mostly people seem to wash themselves in this hole, but also the guys who clean the cars all day (you park your car on the street and pay them 5 bucks to wash you car) or the ladies who sell fruit (they use it to keep the fruit fresh in all the heat) use this spot...there seems to be a water-main break that keeps it full all the time. A mosquito paradise!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More pics...

Ok, more pics! Haven't had the opportunity to take very many but here are some highlights (clockwise from left):

1. Guys hanging out on the street selling stuff.

2. Another example of a TOTALLY destroyed document.

3. This little girl is the grand-daughter of a woman that works at Soleme. She was my BF for the day.

4. Men fishing at the beach...this one's for Matt.

NY Times Article on Angola's Oil

Interesting article about Angola's oil in today's NY Times with some good commentary about the corruption here. I particularly liked the final line:

“Angola has no interest in transparency and there is no source of external leverage on the government right now,” said Monica Enfield, an analyst at PFC Energy, a consulting firm in Washington. “With all their oil revenue, they don’t need the I.M.F. or the World Bank. They can play the Chinese off the Americans.”

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dancing in Luanda

Just back from a night on the town...I just have to write this down before I forget it:

This is the scene:

Luanda--land of poverty and trash, but also great wealth and people who know how to have a good time.

A club outside on a dock on water that is, essentially, a cesspool.  Visually, we could be anywhere...Miami...the French Rivera...Brasil...LOTS of people dancing of all different races and nationalities dressed in all different layers of garb (some not much at all).

BUT what makes this Luanda is two things: 1. MUSIC...from brasilian, to regaton, to elvis, to the beach boys, to buddy holly, to madonna, to you name it... 2. The surrounding scene...passing on a row-boat are about 6 street kids checking out the scene...watching the way the other half lives...

All very surreal.  But Luandans definitely know how to have a good time in spite of, or perhaps because of, what's going on in the "real" world.

Boa noite!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

my neighbors...

Sometimes sound is the best way to understand a place. Let's see if this works...unfortunately, my neighbors the parrots decided to act up as I started to record, but you do get the sounds of the street with them, which is truly an accurate account of the sounds here.

dirt and paper...

This is how my days are spent...sitting in a HOT archive (no air conditioning)
sifting through boxes of documents that are covered in dirt (literally) and are totally eaten by bugs. For those of us who spend hours in libraries, you'll no doubt be familiar with the threatening signs about how food attracts bugs which will destroy documents and books. Well folks, they ain't lyin'!

Some pics...not as pretty as the beach, but just how it is!

They are pretty self-explanatory, but notice the big bite taken out of the document...crazy!