Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Alas, I am still stuck at the Turimar Hotel in Lobito. This place is decent, but I am getting really anxious and am ready to move into my apartment. A coworker and I stopped by Friday afternoon (9/1) to check on it- it’s looking much better, with new floor and wall tiles, and the new washing machine, stove, and hot water heater are there too. Not installed *just* yet, but in the apartment. Exciting! However, the bathroom was in a real mess and didn’t look like it would be ready soon. Hopefully I can move in by next weekend, since it looks like I will be going out to the field next week.

Yes, I already have work to do, which is nice. I will be conducting a train-the-trainer session for a group of community leaders. These leaders will be running a grain mill business, something new to these communities. Because of the 30 yr civil war, most businesses were destroyed (along with homes, etc) and there's no real business culture here. This is where I come in- I’ll be giving a training on basic accounting and creating a business plan. I’m happy to: (a) feel useful; and (b) be doing something related to microenterprises even though that is not one of the specific projects that we run in Angola.

Yesterday (Saturday 9/2) was great day: I walked up and down Restinga. As you go down to the end, you can see the more fashionable, fancier houses. Some of them are brand new, a sign that investment is coming back to Lobito. On the way back to the hotel, I ran into Mark, an American coworker. He invited me back to his house to hang out for the afternoon. It was incredibly nice to just be able to relax at a home, even if it wasn’t my own home! His Angolan girlfriend, Domingas, made calulu and funge for lunch. Calulu is a stew made with dendem (red palm oil; dendĂȘ in Brazil), okra, and other veggies. Funge is harder to explain; it’s made of finely ground up corn, water and salt, and then pounded into a paste. Try to imagine a cream of wheat that’s really dry, and you get the idea. It has no flavor, but it absorbs what ever it’s eaten with and is quite filling. Domingas says it tastes better when it’s eaten with your hands.

That night was the big Lobito Day celebration. The presidential visit rumors proved false, but it was still quite fun. There was a stage set up for live music and tons of vendors selling beer, barbequed chicken and meat, and popcorn. The music ranged from the ridiculous- a woman with a horrible voice that was effectively booed off the stage; to music sung in Bundu, one of the local traditional languages; and to kizombo, the most popular Angolan music. The most thrilling moment of the night was a fireworks display. This truly sent a shock through the crowd; Domingas said they only do fireworks on New Year’s so this was a big deal. Compared to displays in the States, it was average, but for Angola it was AMAZING. I loved seeing how excited everyone got- hearing the squeals and laughter was as exciting to me as the fireworks were to them.

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