Thursday, December 07, 2006

Love in Luanda

I'm in Luanda right now. As many of you may already know, Luanda is not my favorite place- lots of traffic, lots of people, lots of confusão (confusion) as Angolans would put it. We were supposed to leave Lobito yesterday at 3, which meant that we left for the airport at 12:30. Around 3:30, we got curious because no airplane had arrived. (The Benguela airport is a one-airplane type of airport. You know if your plane is there or not.) Our driver Joel went to ask at the AIR26 desk and the lady nonchalantly said, "Oh, the flight has been canceled." Why, thank you for telling us! Upon further investigation, Joel discovered that we would be leaving the next morning at 7 am, meaning that I got to wake up at 5 am this morning. So I'm a little crankier than usual.

Air 26 is a ew airline, touted by many in Angola because the flight attendants are nice. Actually, this does set them apart. The airplanes are used but spruced up a bit. Only a bit. There were still three rows of seats missing and the air conditioner dripped cold water on me all during the flight. But hey- they had air conditioning! Again, different from other Angolan airlines.

The flight left not at 7 as planned but at 9:30. I'd say we hit Luanda at rush hour, but every hour in Luanda is rush hour. Our offices are only 15 miles or so from the airport, yet it takes us 2 hours to get there from the national airport. Today the delay was the result of a very large funeral procession. About 50 cars were in a caravan, complete with casket, traveling at a speed of 20 m.p.h. Each car's dashboard displayed the picture of a young man. "How sad," I thought. "Cancer? AIDS? Malaria?" Gilberto, the driver then said, "That guy killed his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend in a fit of jealous passion." (Whoops! Still sad, though not for the reasons I originally thought it was sad.) The three young people lived in Gilberto's neighborhood. He said that the jealous ex-boyfriend had to be buried on a different day because the ex-girlfriend's family threatened to kill everyone from the killer's funeral if they saw them there the same day.

I'm not sure I understand why people were displaying the killer's face everywhere. People were even wearing t-shirts with his picture on it. It just seemed like a slap in the faces of the families of the people he killed. I asked Gilberto about this, and he just sort of shook his head. He didn't understand it either.

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