This is my first time writing a "blog"....I know I was supposed to start sooner but I just don't know where the time flew!
It is hard to believe that I have been here in Angola for two months now. Luanda is an everchanging, growing city. Our home is actually in the Talatona section of Luanda Sul. We live in a compound of 13 homes.....that are brand new. What always surprises me is how modern much of the building and architecture is here. Our home is ulta modern....almost mid-century with its clean lines, marble and tile floors and smooth cabinets.
We have met wonderful people from all over the world. There are many expats here working......our neighbors are from the US but they have lived or moved from Beijing, Houston, Haiti, Louisana, and California. Many of the people I have met through social contacts are from Portugal, Indonesia, Britain, Ukraine, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa ...all over. We bond through common experiences....challenges and just laugh. Life here is an experience...it is not bad..... There are challenges: new language (I am learning as fast as I can), new homes have their own issues..(still no mirrors in the home)...(many lights not working)...tub leaks...etc. As far as the language goes...I can tell when I mispronounce something because my driver gets this puzzled look on his face. It can make getting around sometimes a challenge. You learn alot of sign language. Portuguese is similar to spanish with enough of a difference that you can easily mispronounce or use the wrong word. Eg:
in spanish: tarde =late, portuguese: tarde=afternoon....
I find that most people are very understanding...especially if you can make them laugh....people here have a terrific sense of humor.
We had an experience in Deskontao..a local mercado...when Dan asked the cashier in english if they would take dollars, her reply: "No...speak portuguese only"...when she had finished with our transaction, she looked at Dan and said: "Thank you"...to which my husband, waving his finger, said: "no..no..no: Obrigado! only portuguese!" She just burst out laughing ....we all did!
To make this work, you MUST have an open mind.....and PATIENCE......things happen at their own pace.
We have settled in pretty much. I spent most of my time initially setting up the house...we have not received our shipment..this usually takes about 6 months but I find that I actually would be ok without it. Most things you can find here....usually at a fairly reasonable price. There are things that are randomly expensive: a pound of brown sugar is $7.00, lettuce is $6 a bunch, $75 for a small stainless steel trash can. There are things not sold here: chocolate chips comes to mind. I am keeping a list for my next home leave visit.
I have decided to try everything and then settle on what I want to do. I have joined two women's groups that raise money for local charities. As donating money to the charities can be delicate matter, it is important that the money go where it is supposed to go....these two groups: AWAA(American Womens Association in Angola) and TICA(The International Community of Angola) do a lot of work vetting and assisting different groups. TICA allows groups to come in and present their cause to each monthly meeting.
I am also learning bridge and canasta...not very good at either but its a great time with other people.
It is how I found out about touring Kissama Park. Kissama is the wild life refuge that was set up after the war. All of the animals, especially the elephants were decimated. So to bring them back, Angola has set aside a massive area in Kissama as a refuge for the animals. They imported the elephants from, I think either Zimbabwe or Botswana, as both countries have an excess of elephants. The area has a massive fence that runs around the perimeter. Other than a dirt road and a small compound in the park, there has been nothing done to the area. The animals roam at will.
I set up the tour through a company called Eco-Tur. I would highly recommend them. It was a 2 day, 1 night tour. The itinerary: Leave home at 6:30am Saturday, go to Kwanzaa River Lodge, take a tour of the Kwanzaa River, then on to Kissama Park. Tour Kissama in the afternoon. Stay the night in Kissama and at 6:30am tour the park and return in the afternoon to Luanda.
When I set it up, it turned out our neighbors (all 4 of them) wanted to go as well...it was great! Paul was our tour operator(he is also the owner).
We were picked up in a modified Toyota Landcruiser. It easily fit all 6 of us. Paul had coolers in the car so we were never without beverages...which was great!
The scenery once we went beyond Luanda city was amazing. The dirt is so red..it has lots of iron in it. We drove along the coastline for a bit.
We could view the Atlantic and Mussulo Isand. We stopped at a bluff for pictures. The sights were stunning.
Then we headed to the Kwanzaa River Lodge. Of course, since it is off the highway, its down a long dirt road. 4-wheel drive definitly help here.
Along the way were Angolan homes ...they were a stark difference to the Kwanzaa Lodges that we later saw. They are a hard working people...they don't have much opportunity though.
After breakfast (we arrived at 8:30), we took a cruise on the river. Sometimes it felt like I was at Disneyland on the Jungle River Cruise. I did manage to capture a few pics of a bearded monkey. I found out that is very rare as they are very shy. Thank god I brought my 300mm lens. What I really needed was the 500mm lens but that is so expensive, next time I would see if I could just rent it. For most of the trip, my 300 is what I used.
The animals simply are too far away or skittish. So I was excited to get the photos that I did.
Anyhow...have to run now but I will add more details about the trip.
In the meantime...here are my photos...