Monday, January 14, 2008

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.

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