Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Photos, Photos, Photos

Our trip to the Benguela/Lobito area, in pictures.

A Visit to Grandma's House

A short while ago, Sam and I took the opportunity of a three-day weekend and took a trip to the Benguela/Lobito area to visit Sam's grandma and aunts. Benguela is a coastal town about a four hours' drive from here. It's also the province where Sam was born. We left early on Saturday morning and were in Benguela by lunchtime. We stopped at a little restaurant called "Tudo na Brasa" ("Everything on Coals") I wonder who chose that one? After lunch we headed to Sam's aunt's house where we would stay for the weekend. We spent the afternoon chatting with the relatives and adjusting to the HEAT! It's surprising how much warmer it gets when you leave the high altitude of Lubango. The weekend was laid-back, filled with leisurely afternoons of long talks, tea, and visiting. The main point of this trip was for me to meet grandma, and for us to spend a little time with her. Meet we did, and what a sweet little lady she is. She is in her mid-eighties. Sam's dad happened to be in town at the time we visited, so we had a chance to visit with him as well, and take some photos. Ok, a lot of photos.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Things I have learned while living in Angola for the past 11 months: 1. Rain is a legitimate excuse for being late to work or school. Or for not going at all. 2. Sometimes “You can’t get there from here”, is the truth. 3. “Dinner is ready” does not mean you will be eating soon. 4. If you are inside and it’s pouring rain, sit down, have a cup of coffee or tea, and by the time you’re done you can walk to your car without getting wet. 5. Potholes and sink holes can break the axle of your car, and sometimes entire tires can sink entirely under the surface of the road. 6. Expect it to be ten degrees warmer when you leave Lubango for pretty much anywhere else in Angola. 7. Beautiful, unspoiled, natural beaches do still exist. 8. When the city haphazardly plants tall evergreen trees with no roots attached before the election, they will quickly become tall everbrown eyesores after the election. 9. Roads with no drainage dissolve very quickly. 10. If you eat too many mangoes, you can end up with the chapped lips from Hell. 11. A grown man operating a motorcycle carrying two other grown men as passengers at night with no lights, is a very bad idea. 12. Chickens are good gifts to give to sick people and guests who have come to visit you. 13. Turn signals don’t mean “I’m planning to turn soon”, but rather, “You see how I just braked hard? I AM TURNING. NOW.” 14. If the task at hand would take ten minutes to complete in North America, plan for it to take three days to six months in Angola. 15. Having a receipt that your paperwork has been submitted works just as well as having the actual paperwork. 16. It’s a good idea to laminate that receipt because you may be carrying it around for a few years. 17. Roads that were never paved are much more pleasant to drive on than roads that were paved at one time. 18. Live goats can be tied to the top of buses, or strapped to one’s back on a motorcycle for transport. 19. A pano (a large rectangle piece of colorful printed cloth) is an extremely useful and versatile item. It can be used as a skirt, privacy for peeing in the bush, a shawl, a baby blanket, to tie a baby to your back, used as padding when carrying something heavy on your head, and countless other uses. 20. When you hear the hum of the refrigerator, there is electricity! Plug in your phone, and laptop, use the microwave, electric kettle and coffee grinder, and watch tv while you can!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Time Flies

I remember a time when… I used re-sealable plastic bags only once, then threw them away. I could bought cheese without laying down ten bucks for 250 grams. potholes were mere inconvenient bumps in the road, not black holes that could swallow the whole front end of your vehicle. the majority of people in my town carried things in bags in their hands, not basins on their heads. a seemingly unending range of coffee always lined the shelves of pretty much any supermarket I entered; no need to buy three months worth in advance. Sam and I used to travel and return without our luggage filled with five tubes of toothpaste, three jars of peanut butter, various spices, new clothes, and any number of other items, often in duplicate or triplicate. I couldn’t look out my window and see mango and banana trees, and a mountain with Christo Rei on top. Driving to work didn’t involve dodging multiple stray dogs in the street. Mosquitos were only pests that made you itch, not things that can and do actually kill people on a daily basis. Football was called soccer. Going out for dinner didn’t cost at least $40, no matter where you went. There was electricity every day, all day and night long, and no one ever wondered at how absolutely marvelous that was.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Attack of the Malaria: a Reprise

I sit here on a beautiful, sunny and cool Friday morning, having just swallowed my cocktail of 8 pills for the morning. Yes, I once again have malaria. And amoebic dysentery. Fun. This time it hit hard at night with fever and chills and abdominal cramping and trips to the bathroom every hour. I thought to myself, “This feels rather familiar…” When morning finally I came I dragged myself out of bed and took a shower. That took all the energy I had, so after that I lay down and promptly fell back asleep for another hour and a half. When I woke up I got a ride to the hospital and saw one of the docs who ordered a malaria test and feces sample. Then began the worst part of visiting the hospital for tests – the WAITING. CEML is always busy. Which means a severe lack of places to sit. When you’re sick and just want to lay down, finding a space on one of the hard wooden benches may not exactly be comfy, but the prospect is certainly better than standing or sitting on the cold floor. The hospital is understaffed. There are a handful of doctors, some of which are actually surgeons, who do double or even triple duty as general physicians, ER docs, etc. There is a tiny lab with a few technicians who take in the paperwork, and draw the blood and read the test results. The little window to the lab is crowded with patients waiting to hand in their papers to have blood work done, or waiting to pick up their test results. I’ve been through the process at least 4 or 5 times now and I still can’t quite figure out if there is a system for who gets helped next or not. After waiting 20 mins or so to get someone to take my paperwork so they’d know I needed tests, I finally took the Russian approach when someone came sort of near the window - I reached through the window and thrust my paper in front of them. It worked. She took my orders and within 2 mins I was sitting in the chair in the lab getting my blood drawn. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my orders were stapled to the “employee beneficiary” paper you get at the payment window that shows that you are a relative of one of the doctors or staff there. So I must say, that part was rather quick. But next came the waiting for the results. In the 4 or 5 times I have had tests there I would say that the average wait for results in about 3 or 4 hours; which seems like an eternity when you feel horrible and don’t have anywhere but the floor to sit or lay down. This time, however, God provided a much more comfortable option. It so happened that a friend’s daughter had been admitted the hospital the night before (also due to malaria) and they had a bed right near the lab. I was invited to come share the much more comfortable place and was able to have someone to pass the time with too. Soon it was past noon and my friend and her daughter were being released, so bye bye cushy hospital bed. However, it does pay to have friends on staff. Nurse Audrey saw my pitiful-looking self and ushered me into the clinical director’s office (which pretty much doubles as the dr’s “lounge” or “break room” of sorts, complete with an exam table, which, while not as comfy as the bed, was a HUGE blessing. I lay down and promptly fell asleep waiting for my results which were “going to be ready in fifteen minutes”……RRRRRRIGHT. About an hour later….someone from the lab comes into the director’s office apologizing profusely, something about unclear results. Another finger stick, another slide, another “fifteen minutes”. But then, hallelujah! Results. Malaria, check. Amoebas, check. Prescription, check. Now, into town on the adventure called “finding-the-pharmacy-that-has-the-medications- you-need”….

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Amber

Driving in Lubango is like being in a video game. People, dogs, children dash out in front of you, cars swerve around pot holes the size of small cars and you need to be alert in case they happen to swerve TOWARD YOU while trying to avoid the crater. Motorcycles fly by you on both sides and weave in and out of traffic. Mini-bus taxis slam on the brakes and stop without warning to pick up new fares. You also need to constantly scan the road surface in case they've recently been digging up the asphalt to install new pipes, for example, and have left the hole as is, or haphazardly filled with a little loose sand. Did I already mention sink holes that randomly open up in the middle of the road? If you're lucky, there may be a huge pile of sand in front of them to keep your car from disappearing into one. If you're unlucky...well, let's just say I hope you have insurance. Most roads are one lane in each direction, but be aware that the space between those two lanes will be taken up by cars passing in either direction and they will be inches from your side view mirrors. Yes, this is driving in Lubango....and I LOVE it. Sure, you need to be on full alert all the time. But it's never boring. When was the last time you saw any of these things on a motorcycle: a man riding while sitting on top of two bags of cement that were balanced on the seat? a motorcycle passenger balancing three boxes on his lap while carrying several bags in each hand? Anyone on a motorcycle carrying multiple chickens? I bet you've never had the experience of watching what can only be described as a "tunnel on wheels" driving through the streets on your city with four men riding on top, whose job it is to use wooden sticks to lift up the power lines so the tunnel can pass underneath? Come on! How could you not love driving in this city?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Things You Can Buy While Sitting in Traffic in Luanda

You know how, in some in some big cities, there are people who walk in between the cars which are stopped in traffic or at a stoplight selling newspapers? Well, Luanda kicks that idea into overdrive. Just for fun, while we were sitting in traffic for hours inching along at a pace of only a handful of kms in half an hour, I took an inventory of some of the items you could buy from the comfort of your car while sitting in traffic. Here is my (by no means exhaustive) list: bottled water/juice/sodas, flash drives, sunglasses, Shower heads perfume/cologne, textbooks, rakes, machetes, bathroom scales, jeans, ties, windshield wipers, yogurt, pillows, dog leashes, boxes of tissues, ukuleles, jumper cables, remote controls, irons, clocks, toilet seats. Just to name a few!