Monday, December 11, 2006

Some of you might know that my father’s side of the family is quite large. Grandma Aline, bless her heart, had 10 children; my dad is 2 of 10. In US, this greatly impresses people since few people have that many children any more. In Honduras, this impresses people, although not as much since there are families that large. In Angola, I tell people my grandmother had 10 children and I get an unimpressed, “Oh.”

Yesterday I was talking with Adi, our receptionist here in Luanda. She was telling me what her family does for the holidays, and started rattling off how many brothers and sisters would be coming to Luanda for Christmas. After about 8 names, I asked how many brothers and sisters she had. “Alive?” she asked. “Twelve. But my mother gave birth to TWENTY THREE (23) children.” Wow. That explains why, according to a 2001 UNICEF study, 67% of Angola’s population is under 20 and 97% of the population is under 50. The same study also mentioned that Angola’s percentage of children that reach the age of 5 is one of the three lowest in the world, keeping stellar company with Niger and Afghanistan. So, sadly, it’s not uncommon to lose ten of your children to illness or, in Angola’s case, a brutal 27 year-long civil war. When I asked Juliana, the woman who cleans my house, how many children she had, she said she had two daughters who were aged 7 and 15. She then mentioned that she first gave birth in 1985, so I was a little confused. She then said, “Well, I’ve had 8 children total, but six have died.”

Maybe this is part of the explanation for the grief expressed by the family of the killer I talked about in the previous post. To have a son make it through to his twenties and then die from unnatural causes- when so many young children die from “natural” although preventable causes- must be devastating.

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