Monday, July 09, 2007


I’m discovering that reciprocity is a big deal in Angolan culture. When the Portuguese banned Angolan drivers licenses because Angola is one of the few countries in the world that is not a party to the worldwide convention that standardizes traffic rules, did the Angolan government discuss ratifying this treaty, like the rest of the world? No! The solution, of course, was to ban Portuguese driver’s licenses, which resulted in a huge, country-wide crackdown on Portuguese drivers. (This crackdown was the cause of my near-“arrest” a few months ago. Driving while white, I guess.)

To some extent, I can understand the need for retaliation in this particular instance, given the colonial history and the fact that since independence Portugal had accepted Angolan licenses. Why the ban, all of a sudden? (For the record,I disagree with this because Angolan drivers are absolutely, incontrovertibly bad drivers.) But the latest attempt for reciprocity with Europe just seems hot-headed and stubborn.

A few posts ago, I spoke of the biggest news this year, the big TAAG crash in Mbanza Congo. As if it weren’t bad enough that the crash killed 6, including the administrator (mayor) of Mbanza Congo and an Italian priest, the crash happened on the very day that the European Union banned all TAAG flights on the grounds of maintenance and safety violations. Bad timing, to say the least. TAAG maintains that there is nothing wrong with their planes and that the EU’s ban is baseless. (Again, HOURS LATER a TAAG plane crashed, killing 6 people.)

Now comes word that the Angolan government, in an act of reciprocity (!!), has decided to ban all flights from European carriers! I am truly dumbfounded by this. Sure enough, the Angolan Civil Aviation Authority took away British Airway’s license to fly into Angola. (Not Air France’s or TAP, the Portuguese airline, for some reason.) Apparently, the president, José Eduardo dos Santos, is the voice of reason and has reversed this reciprocal ban, but it’s not clear what will happen, as BA still says it's not allowed into Angola. There is no reason for this except for vanity. Eye for an eye, indeed.

This ban is causing havoc in the Angolan airline industry. I happen to be TRYING (trying is the operative word here, folks) to arrange for my home leave in September. At this point, I need- forget want- to leave Angola for my health, both mental and physical, and go home. The first flight option I got was perfect- it fit directly into my leave dates and was on TAAG on the way out, returning on British Airways. D’OH! British Airways is the best option for me, since there is a direct Houston-London flight, and would have to spend less precious vacation days actually flying (2 days each way, opposed to 3 each way with the other options). With those flights out of the picture, it looks like I will have to spend up to 6 days traveling (total for both legs) and overnight in either Lisbon or Johannesburg. What a mess.

Of course, the remaining airlines are smart. They are not offering more flights to the EU and making a fortune in the process. The cost of those 3 day trips to get back home? Over $3000!

Just my luck that all of this is occurring when I am trying to get out of the place!

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