Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sailing in Lobito Bay

I'd been bothering my friend Rui to take me sailing for quite some time, and on Sunday he finally obliged. Being surrounded by water, I'm surprised that it took over a year to get me on some sort of watercraft.

Rui has a small catamaran, a Hobie Cat. It was so nice to be on the water and see Lobito from another side. Honestly, it was one of the best days I've had here. Here are some of the highlights.

The Captain

We got up close and personal to some of the big container ships.

You'd never know that across the bay was a large city. Sadly, they are going to build an oil refinery on this side. Surely it will change the character and environment of the bay.

A rough life, I know...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Here’s a link to an article (in Portuguese) regarding plans to build the largest building in Angola. If all goes according to plans, it will be 70 stories tall (325 m) and cost US$800 MILLION. Apparently it will be in the shape of an “A” with a 400-room luxury hotel on one side and malls, restaurants, and luxury apartments on the other.

Even in this land of oil industry-propelled excesses, $800 million for a building seems a tad distasteful.

It will be called the Tower of Babel. Whoops! I mean Tower of Angola.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Angolan National Women's Team Wins African Handball Championship

Thursday night the Angolan national team won the African Handball Tournament. (Link in Portuguese. Link in English.) There wasn’t as much celebration as when the men’s national basketball team won the AfroBasket Tournament, but the cars of Lobito did come out honking to celebrate the women’s team.

This morning I heard interviews with some of the women on the team, and I was truly impressed. In addition to playing on the national team, one woman worked full time and up until the tournament, was studying at night. She said she was retiring from the sport to continue her studies. Another woman had given birth only 8 months ago and dedicated the win to her new son. I guess that’s why I was a little miffed to later see the women were referred to as meninas- girls- in the papers. It just sort of seems to undermine their accomplishments both on and off the court. But I know better than to get worked up over something like that!

As usual, whenever Angola wins anything, the President of the Rupublic of Angola José Eduardo dos Santos (who is never called anything but “the President of the Rupublic of Angola José Eduardo dos Santos”; not President dos Santos, and certainly not Mr. dos Santos) issued a statement congratulating them. What was interesting was that the MPLA, dos Santos’ party and the ruling part of Angola since independence, also issued a statement congratulating the team. I suspect this is the beginning of a propaganda campaign by the MPLA to put its name in the media as much as possible in preparation for parliamentary elections in September. If opposing parties like UNITA or FNLA issued similar statements, they sure didn’t make it onto the radio.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Identify this vegetable

I found these veggies at the market. I have no idea what they are called in English. Anyone have any ideas?

Inside it looks like an eggplant. They're only about 2.5" tall.

Unfortunately they sat in the sun too long and by the time I got home, they were already spoiled. But they still look good!

Awesome Structures in Angola: Part 4

After hitting the market we stopped for ice cream. There is a restaurant in Catuembela that makes good ice cream. Unfortunately, the day we went they only had two flavors, coconut and vanilla (which had artificial dried fruit in it). The two people who hadn’t tried it before were a little disappointed, but I’ve been here long enough that even Let Down Ice Cream is better than No Ice Cream. (Besides, as a Texan I know that there is not much better in life than Blue Bell, so I know not to have high expectations for anything made outside of Brenham.)

On the way back we passed this house. It’s located next to a roundabout, so I’m not entirely sure it was ever a house: perhaps a government building or something. Either way, it’s someone’s house now, as evidenced by the laundry hanging on the left-hand-side porch. I really like the metalwork on the large windows, but especially like the metalwork on the roof.

By the stream of the Catumbela market

On Saturday, my friends I went to the market in Catumbela which is about 20 mintues from Lobito. It has a better selection of fruits and vegetables and in general is much calmer and tranqüilo than the markets in Lobito. You don’t want to look too closely at things, though. My friend Deborah almost bought a cow hoof for soup until she saw that the butcher would chop it on a tarpaulin sheet placed directly on the muddy floor. I was buying some veggies and looked up behind the woman and saw this lovely green stream covered in flies. Not sure the emerald green colors comes across well enough in this picture, but it was truly unlike anything I’ve seen. If it weren’t so hazardous to the health of myself and the entire population of Catumbela, I’d even say it was pretty.

In the background you can see the charcoal section of the market. The production of charcoal as a livelihood was a new thing to me when I came to Angola. Basically, people set trees on fire so that they can harvest the remains as charcoal. A lot of Angolans can’t afford electricity (assuming it’s even available where they live, which is a big assumption) or even gas canisters to fuel gas stoves, so they must rely on charcoal for cooking. It’s cheap, but as you can imagine, not produced by the most environmentally friendly methods. A little over a year ago, when I was doing the Listening Project conversations, the people living in the most miserable of conditions all had one thing in common: charcoal. It provided practically nothing, but it was all they had. As a result of those conversations, I’ve always thought of charcoal as the work of the very poor and marginal of society. I guess their location next to the stream of emerald green water confirms this.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Info on Luanda shooting

A while ago I posted a link to a one sentence item from the NYT and how decidely uninformative it was. BBC to the rescue!

Shoot to kill

Film director Radical Ribeiro said he was filming in the crime-ridden Sambizanga area of the capital when an elite unit roared up in a pick-up truck and opened fire without warning.

Mr Ribeiro said he thought the police might have mistaken the actors, who were carrying unloaded firearms, for real armed robbers. "They went on shooting until I shouted out: 'Please don't shoot, this is a movie,'" he told the BBC's Portuguese Service.

He said the officers then stopped firing and raced off, without attending to the
fatally wounded actors.

The incident happened as the interior minister was chairing an extended committee to discuss the escalating crime-rate in Luanda.

Correspondents say Angola's disparate police forces are perceived as a law
unto themselves.

This is why I avoid police as much as possible.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Angolan Customer Service

As an American, I forget how good we have it in terms of customer service when I am at home. Two experiences this week have reminded me that Angola has a way to go in terms of good business practices.

Changing money:
I get my salary in US dollars, so I often have to change money at stores. I have my preferred money changing place, but I often have to change money at ShopRite because I invariably spend way more there than I want to. ShopRite has a money changing booth, which I think doubles as a manager’s office. Tuesday I went there to change money and waited for the guy to see me standing there. He was counting out money; he finished his one stack, put it down, looked me in the eye, then turned to pick up another stack to count. Although there is only one reason I would be standing there, I thought he might not have understood that I wanted to change money. So I said, “Boa tarde, good afternoon.” He turned around, looked at me in the eye and went back to counting money. I was getting angry, so I said again, louder, “BOA TARDE.” He rolled his eyes and finally put down the money to change my dollars. I said to him, “Não me ouviou? You didn't hear me?” He looked at me as if I was crazy, changed the money and went back to what he was doing.

At Zulu: Zulu is supposedly the best restaurant in town. It definitely has the best location- right on the beach- but the food is average. I will give Zulu credit because of all the restaurants in town, it has the most professional and courteous waitstaff. But they still do some things that make you want to bang your head on that beachside table. I went for an after-work drink with my friend Anne and her two kids. I ordered a rum and Coke, which they pour right at your table. I guess it seems fancier that way. The waiter came over and poured the rum. As he did, a bunch of black junk that was not supposed to be there came floating up. I pointed it out to the waiter, who prompty used his ice tongs to try and fish out whatever it was. I told the waiter that the glass was dirt and as such, the rum was now dirty, so would he please bring me a new glass? He happily obliged and came back with a new glass. He then proceeded to pour the contents of the old glass- junk and all- into the new glass! I pointed out to him that the rum was still dirty and said, specifically this time, “Please pour me some new rum.” He then said he couldn’t, because the rum had already been poured and if he poured another shot, I would be charged for a double. I tried to explain to him that the rum was not consumable so it was his responsibility to bring me another one. He looked at me blankly and I said, “If you’re not sure I suggest you go ask your manager what to do.” He came back and said, “Okay, this time we won’t charge you for the second shot.” Gee, thanks!