Monday, September 24, 2007

NYC 2007

This is how fast my trip went by.

I'm back in Houston after 10 days in NY. I lived in NY before leaving for Angola, so it felt like a homecoming.

Spencer Finch piece at Mass MoCA

First on the agenda was a road trip to North Adams, MA to attend the wedding of my good friends Liz and Greg. It was at the Mass MoCA, America's largest comtemporary arts musuem, a beautiful space for the event. They had an excellent exhibition by Spencer Finch. It was a beautiful wedding, very reflective of who they are as people.

At the hairpin turn in North Adams

I spent the following week in NY, revisiting my old haunts. I didn't visit any museums or do anything touristy; for me it was more important to see friends. And shop, shop, shop!

Cesar and me

Arie and me

Under the Brooklyn Bridge at night, after eating a ton of Grimaldi's pizza.

Jade and me

All in all, it was a wonderful visit. A bit too wonderful, actually! It was bittersweet to be around so many real friends whom I have known for years. I don't exactly have that in Angola. And of course, New York City is the greatest city on earth, so how can I not miss it?

Mmm, funge!

One question I've gotten a lot while at home is, "What do you eat in Angola?" Well, my bouts with salmonella have made me wary of eating out, so I tend to eat at home and eat the same things over and over (beans, pasta, soups).

While in Luanda, my coworkers included me on their lunch order. Here's what we had:

FUNGE: The staple of the Angolan diet. It can be made with corn meal (funge) or with yucca/manioc flour (bombô- not sure if this is correct spelling). I've had both and prefer funge. People say it's like polenta- but it is not like polenta! Neither really have any flavor, so you eat it with whatever food is on your plate. It of course tastes better when eaten with your hands.

BEANS: Having spent two years in Honduras, you'd think I would have had my fill of beans, but I can't get enough of them! I especially like beans in Angola, beacuse they are made with dendem, or palm oil. (Yes, Brazilians, it's called dendem here, not dendê!) Dendem gives the beans a heavy, delicious flavor.

STEWS: Angolans love their stews, and I don't blame them! This particular one is made with goat meat- not my favortie, but it was good. A national favorite is kalulu, made with okra.

Monday, September 10, 2007

At home!

I'm at home in Houston for a few weeks on my annual home leave. Plenty of Tex-Mex, BBQ and shopping! I probably won't be posting much- no exciting stories about gun shots outside my windows or crazy visa problems.

This vacation gives me a much needed rest from work and Angola. I've been home only a few days, but already I feel engerized. Hopefully it will carry over when I return to Angola!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

How things work around here: Passport/Visa edition Pt. 2

I thought things couldn’t get more difficult as far as my visa went. I should have known better!! On Thursday I followed up with our HR director to make sure that I had everything ready to submit the visa once I got home. She handed me a memo and said, “Oh, I just got this today.” The memo said that in order to process ANY visa, the passport needed to have at 18 months validity until it expired. My passport, of course, expires in 11 months.

Oh, the confusão!! I’ve read several articles about how the new requirement of a passport to enter the US from Canada and Mexico has put a major strain on passport agencies and people have had to wait several months for passports. So we called the US embassy to see what we could do. The solution to the problem is so incredibly complex and will literally cost hundreds of dollars. Here it is:

· Fly to Luanda Monday, instead of Wednesday as planned. Renew passport at the embassy. They will hand it back to me right then and there with a receipt which must be presented with my current passport to get the new one. Thursday I get on a plane and go home.

· But wait! If my current passport is with me in the US, how will my colleague in Luanda be able to pick my new one up? Upon arrival in the US, I will have to DHL my passport to our office in Luanda.

· But wait! How will I get my new passport, which I need to process my work visa? Our office will then DHL both passports back to me in the US. I’ll submit my new passport for the work visa.

· But wait! How will I travel to the US if my new passport is in the Angolan embassy (or who knows where it will be)? They don’t actually need the passport after the initial processing, so they will release it back to me and I’ll travel back to Angola using my current visa (visto ordinário). When the actual paperwork is done and my work visa is ready, I will DHL it back to the US so it can get the work visa put in it.

· But wait! How will I use a visa that is in my no-longer-valid passport? Allegedly, I can just present the valid visa in the old passport along with my new passport and I will be let in the country.

I am extremely suspicious of this last part. I don’t see how this will be accepted by the Angolan government, but many people assure me this is very common. We’ll see.