Category Archives: Luanda

São Paolo and Benfica – not your average trip to the mall…

Combat Shopping  – everyone should try it at least once. Not many trips to Macy’s require guards and a translator, unless you are Kim Kardashian, of course. But here in Luanda, some of the best shopping is found in the most dangerous places. There is a part of town called São Paolo where the locals go to buy amazing African fabrics at rock-bottom prices. Unfortunately, it is strictly off-limits to our company’s drivers. I was able to go two years ago, when I was here on my look-see trip. Apparently, that trip was a fluke – a result of a new and inexperienced driver falling under the charms of the gal showing me around town.

Once I moved here, I knew that would not happen again. Quite frankly, I am not that charming. To go back to São Paolo, I would have to go with someone from another company.  A couple of weeks ago, I finally got an invite to go. The lady who organized the trip (I will call her Mrs. S.) is a fellow seamstress and member of my bible study. I have been helping her make purses and casserole carriers to sell at the semi-annual craft fairs sponsored by the American Women’s Association. The proceeds from these sales are donated to a local orphanage, and I love to sew, so it is a win-win. It also gives me a reason to buy more fabric that even my husband can’t complain about.

For our trip to São Paolo, Mrs. S arranged two vehicles, complete with a guard and driver for each vehicle, plus a translator. Five helpers for five expat ladies – pretty good odds, I figured. I readied myself for the trip, hiding money in various pockets, stuffing my ID and phone in my bra, and spraying myself thoroughly with mosquito spray. I carried several large bags to bring back my treasures, snacks for the drive, and lots of wet-wipes.

Wet-wipes are an absolute necessity here. Every trip to the grocery store, golf course, or really anywhere, will leave you feeling grimy and in need of a good hand-washing. Even handling the Angolan paper money requires a wet-wipe afterwards. I don’t want to know why this money is so filthy, but I have actually considered tossing it in the washing machine. Money laundering for hygienic purposes – now, that is a new twist!

Our group of five ladies rendezvoused in the lobby of our building. A security official also met us in the lobby for a safety briefing, explaining the dangers of the area and introducing our guards and translator. We piled into a large van, with the second vehicle following close behind, and we were on our way. Initially, we arrived at a street which was not familiar to those of us who had been to São Paolo before. Also, it was much too far from the shop we were planning to visit. The driver suggested we park the car and walk to the shop, but he was quickly vetoed by Mrs. S., thank goodness.

São Paolo
São Paolo street vendors, just off the main street.
São Paolo
São Paolo market area. This is one-stop shopping – sort of like an outdoor, scary, muddy Walmart.
São Paolo
São Paolo – the produce department.
São Paolo
São Paolo – the toiletries and accessories department.

Reluctantly, the driver turned onto the incredibly muddy and rutted main road of Sao Paolo, which was teeming with pedestrians, merchants, and other vehicles. All I could see were foot-deep mud puddles that I doubted we could navigate around with so many people on the sidewalks. Thankfully, the parking gods were with us, and we were able to find a place to park which was within eye-shot of the shop – and it had a mostly mud-free path to the entrance.

Once parked, the guards got out of the car first, then us gals gathered our wits and climbed out as well, staying as close together as possible. One guard led the way, one was in the middle and the translator walked at the back. The street was so crowded that people were literally pressed up next to us. We had to push our way through the crowd and move quickly to avoid being separated. It reminded me of my one-and-only trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, except that these people were not drunk college kids intent on getting plastic beads. We knew that the crowd in Sao Paolo was full of pick-pockets, and so we held on to our bags tightly.

We made it into the shop and up the stairs safely, and finally relaxed. Our translator said we were free to wander from booth to booth and shop to our heart’s content. As before, the sheer variety of fabrics was overwhelming, but the merchants were fairly patient as we made our selections. There were many local ladies shopping there as well. Sao Paolo is a wholesale area, if you will. The local shoppers are there to buy fabric to re-sell on the street in other parts of the city. Some of the ladies were friendly to us, making positive comments about our selections and suggesting coordinating fabrics. Others seemed irritated that we had infiltrated their turf.

We spent more than an hour picking out as many fabrics as we could carry, most of which cost about twelve dollars for a six-yard piece. The prices had definitely gone up since my previous trip, due to the devaluation of the kwanza, but they were still a bargain.

Just before we were getting ready to leave, there was a loud scuffle in one corner. A policeman was pulling one of the local ladies towards the door, while she yelled and pleaded in protest. I was not entirely sure what was happening, until our translator explained that the lady had been trying to take fabric without paying.

We waited until things calmed down and then headed back to the car, heavily laden with all of our treasures, and moving closely together. Once back at our apartment building, we spread out our purchases to show each other. Between the five of us, we had bought almost fifty fabrics, and no two were the same. We were all happy with our haul and none of us had lost a wallet in the process. Success!

Another combat shopping area in Luanda is a large craft market called Benfica. I have blogged about it before, but had a very interesting return visit there just a few days ago. On my previous trip to Benfica, I bought a lovely pair of carvings – a Pescador (fisherman) and a Zungueira (lady who carries things on her head). They are both beautifully carved from a dark wood and quite detailed. The lady even has a little baby tied to her back. The real  Zungueira ladies are so amazing, with impossibly heavy and awkward items balanced on their heads and tiny, sleeping babies tied to their backs. It is one of the things I will remember most about Angola, and so I really wanted a carving to remind me of them.

When I bought the carvings, I asked the artist if it was okay to take a photo of him with his creations. He was happy to oblige – although he doesn’t look very happy in this photo!

The artist with his beautiful Pescador and Zungueira carvings.
The artist with his beautiful Pescador and Zungueira carvings.

It is a good thing I had his photo, because shortly after buying the carvings, both of them began to split as the wood dried out. The artists work, live, and sell their items without benefit of air-conditioning, and so when they are brought into a cold apartment, they don’t always fare very well. I had hoped to have them repaired, but not speaking Portuguese, I had no idea how I would find the artist again and negotiate the repair. Benfica is a huge market and I did not even know the man’s name.

As luck would have it, I have a new driver who speaks perfect English, so he is my own personal translator. His name is Jesus (pronounced zhay-zooch), and let me tell you, he is a treasure. Jesus could talk anyone into anything. I should call him Mr. Charming, but his actual name is just so fitting. Best of all, now I can say Jesus takes the wheel – literally and figuratively. Carrie Underwood would be so impressed!

So, Jesus and I went to Benfica armed with my photo and began to ask the other artists if they knew the man. It didn’t take long to find someone who knew his name, Guerra, and his phone number. Jesus called Guerra and asked him to meet us at the market. Guerra obliged and said he would arrive in a half hour. So, with a half hour to kill and surrounded by treasures of all kinds, I managed to find a few more things to add to my collection.

African treasures (L-R): a “fly-swatter” made from carved bone and horsehair, a village chief’s scepter, a neck rest (ouch!), and a musical instrument called a Kalimba, or thumb piano.

Guerra arrived right on time and said he would fix my carvings – for a price. Of course, he needed money to cover the materials, cab fair to the store to buy them, and lunch. I’ve lived here long enough to expect things like this, so it was no big deal. The hardest thing for me was leaving the carvings with Guerra, and trusting that he would show up two days later with them properly repaired. Jesus, with his million-dollar smile, was all high-fives and handshakes with Guerra, so I shouldn’t have worried. We went back two days later and both my Pescador and Zungueira were as good as new. Thank you, Jesus!

While I occasionally miss the huge, clean, air-conditioned malls of the US, they certainly don’t have the conversation pieces I am finding here. And you know, that fly-swatter will get a lot of use during the hot, buggy summer in Texas!

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Luanda’s own Skeleton Coast…

The wonders of this country never cease to amaze me. This past weekend, we went out boating with our friends Mr. & Mrs. G and saw another fascinating sight just north of Luanda called Shipwreck Beach.  The term “Skeleton Coast” is a familiar one to many of us, but for me, I did not know exactly what it meant until I moved to Africa. On our recent trip to Namibia, we skirted the southern end of this famous stretch of coastline, but were not far enough north to see any of the hundreds of shipwrecks scattered along the shore. The wrecks in Namibia were caused by submerged rocks and the legendary fog that routinely blankets the Namibian coast. In Luanda’s smaller-scale version, the wrecks were caused by man, rather than by Mother Nature.

Shipwreck Beach is an area of impressive cliffs, golden sand, and dozens of huge, rusty, abandoned ships. There are several theories as to how they came to be marooned here. Some say they rusted away from their moorings in Luanda Bay and drifted to the beach. Others say they were deliberately sunk by the departing Portuguese troops as they were forced out of the city – a sort of “up yours” after a bad break-up.

Shipwreck Beach can be reached by car, but the beach area is not entirely safe, so it is best seen by boat. Since I had never seen it before, Mr. & Mrs. G offered to take us there after we tried our luck at whale-watching and fishing first. After an hour or so of cruising and a lovely lunch, we had encountered neither fish nor whales, but we did come upon a large pod of dolphins.

Honestly, in a contest between fishing and dolphin-watching, Flipper is the clear winner every time. What could be more fun that watching those friendly, intelligent mammals frolic in the wake of the boat?





And when one particularly frisky guy decides to jump up and splash us – not once but twice – all cares of the day just vanish away.

Dolphin jumping in Luanda
Cannon-ball! This is the shot right before the big splash!

After playing with the dolphins for awhile, we headed towards the coast, and a huge cliff complete with a red and white lighthouse came into view.



When the seas are high, the waves crashing along this cliff are quite impressive, according to Mr. & Mrs. G. I was just as happy to have calm seas, however, as big waves can also mean feeling a little green-around-the gills.

As we sailed along this impressive cliff, the rock color changed from buff to a chalky white, and it bore a remarkable resemblance to the White Cliffs of Dover.

Cliff coast of luanda
Not the White Cliffs of Dover, but close!

Soon, a few shipwrecks appeared in the distance.

Shipwreck beach Luanda
Shipwrecks in the distance…

The ghostly, abandoned ships looked like the perfect backdrop for the next post-apocolyptic blockbuster. One can only imagine Mad Max racing along the beach as hordes of bad guys pile out of these rusting hulks to join the chase.

Shipwreck beach Luanda

Shipwreck beach Luanda

Shipwreck beach Luanda

Shipwreck beach Luanda

Shipwreck beach luanda

What tales these ships could tell, about the men who sailed them and how they came to be forever stranded on the beach. For now, they serve as a reminder of the wastefulness of war and the scars men leave on our beautiful planet.

Once we were past Shipwreck Beach, we entered Luanda Harbor, with plenty of huge ships of its own. Luanda Harbor is one of the few places in the world where a small boat like ours can get up close and personal with huge container ships, and no one seems to notice or care.

Container ship luanda harbor
An enormous container ship. Look closely and you will see a another boat near the middle. The smaller boat was about the size of ours.
Luanda harbor
Just so there is no confusion, there is NO SMOKING on this boat! We had to laugh – that sign must have letters at least five feet high…

Near the marina, there is a sailing school that operates on the weekends. It is always great fun to see the local youth learning to sail, and a nice way to conclude our day out.

Luanda Bay sailing
Sailing school in Luanda Bay

From rusty shipwrecks to tankers to tiny sailboats, there is always something to see in these waters!

Sailboat luanda
Sail away, sail away, sail away…

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Teacher, teacher, teacher…

For me, Wednesday mornings are nerve-wracking, but Wednesday afternoons are the absolute best. Why the focus on a single day of the week? That is because on Wednesday mornings I teach English to Portuguese-speaking girls at a local orphanage.  I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I found myself volunteering to do this through the American Women’s Association (AWAA) here in Luanda. You should know, I am not a teacher. My degree is in Geology. And, I don’t speak Portuguese, although I am learning it slowly through this these precious kids.

My only experience with teaching was about fifteen years ago, as a substitute teacher in our local school district. I only did it six times, and it was for a different school and grade each time. When I signed up to be a substitute, I was told the regular teacher would always leave me a lesson plan, and all I needed to do was show up and fill in for the day.

Nope. Never happened.

Each experience was the same. I arrived to find there was no lesson plan, and I was face-to-face with a room full of twenty-three or four kids, all expecting me to know what I was doing.

It was terrifying.

The last time I taught, it was for a third grade class in one of the less-affluent elementary schools in our district. The class had its usual collection of overly-energetic kids, but there was a particularly disruptive boy sitting on the first row. For the entire morning, he could not keep his hands off his fellow students, would not stay in his seat, and refused to complete any of his work. After lunchtime, I gently took him aside and asked if perhaps I had failed to send him to the nurse to take his medicine. You see, I knew many kids on Ritalin, and if ever there was a child with ADHD, this boy was it.

He narrowed his eyes at me and said, “What do you mean, medicine? I don’t take medicine. I’m telling my parents!”  I never went back.  Teaching was just not for me. Some people have math anxiety dreams, public speaking anxiety dreams, or showing-up-somewhere-naked anxiety dreams. For years after that, I had teaching anxiety dreams.

So, you may wonder, why in the world would I volunteer to teach English to a bunch of Portuguese-speaking orphans? No, I have not lost my marbles. The answer is: because I am able. Because I have the time, and they need every bit of help they can get. You see, English may give them a leg-up on getting a job when they are older. Luanda has many hotels, businesses, and English-speaking expats. In each of these situations, a little English would be a big plus when seeking employment.

There are a number of orphanages in Luanda, and they all have more kids in them than they should. The orphanage where I volunteer is called Mama Muxima, and it is run by only three nuns. There are over four hundred kids in school attendance, but some of them live in the surrounding barrio, and come only for the classes taught by the nuns. The one hundred kids who do live there range in age from toddlers to age seventeen. Once they reach the age of eighteen, they have to leave. What happens to them then is very uncertain. Of course, that is very tough to swallow, but there is no denying that Mama Muxima is an amazing operation.

So, how do only three nuns care for and teach that many kids? Each child is on a very strict schedule and the older kids all have chores to do. They have morning and afternoon classes. In between, they clean and do laundry. They help with the cooking and tend to the younger kids. And, you have never seen a happier, and more well-behaved group.

Who pays for all of this?  I’ve been told the majority of their funds come from the church, private donations, and business donations. The AWAA supports them financially as well, through funds raised on twice-yearly craft fairs, dues, and other donations.

Yes, the orphanage is an amazing operation, but it is anything but plush. There is no electricity in most of the buildings, and the plumbing is often broken. Up until recently, the nuns themselves were living without a functional bathroom. The older kids had to haul water upstairs in buckets to the nun’s bathroom so they could wash and use the toilet.

Recently, the AWAA provided the funds to install water purification equipment. Prior to that, the children were often sick from bad water. The kids sleep in buildings with open holes near the roof for ventilation. There are no screens, mosquito nets, or bug spray to prevent bites. As a result, kids often come down with malaria, too. Like I said, this is not the Waldorf-Astoria, but these nuns do so much with so little, and these kids are the recipients of their dedication.

I am by no means the only English teacher at Mama Muxima. The AWAA provides a number of volunteers who teach English, sewing and crafts, all on alternate days. This certainly lessens the load on the nuns, but they are still responsible for the vast majority of instruction. You should know that many of the members of AWAA are not American. We have ladies in the group from all over the world.  It has been so much fun to interact with such a  diverse group of women!

The Wednesday morning class is made up of girls between thirteen and fifteen years of age. I have a daughter, and let me tell you, teenage girls are a different animal. They can be moody, stubborn, and just plain mean. Thankfully, my daughter has grown into a lovely young woman. But, her early teenage years were not a lot of fun. I am sure my own mother would not have fond memories of my teenage years, either.

But, the girls I teach are unlike any American teenagers I have ever encountered. Every single one of them – and my class can have up to fifteen – are polite, helpful, and eager to learn. When I arrive at the orphanage, they come out to greet me, and help carry in my bag and supplies. The class is held in a room with tables and chairs, but no electricity. Often, the girls straggle in, many of them tired from their chores and regular classes. But once they all arrive, they are happy to see me and ready to learn.

Like all kids, they get bored with being lectured to, so we play games and sing songs. They thought the Hokey-Pokey was hilarious.  I used it to teach them right from left and parts of the body. Today we played a game with opposite words (hot, cold, young, old…). I had pictures of these opposites, put the girls in a circle, had them close their eyes before I gave each a different picture, and then had them open their eyes and race to find their opposite. Great fun!

During a previous lesson, my fellow teacher and I were working on numbers and telling time. We gave them a handout with pictures of blank clocks, and they were supposed to depict whatever time we told them, by drawing in the hour hand and minute hand. Surprisingly, they had no idea what to do, even though they knew their numbers fairly well. Finally, we realized that they had never learned how to read a face clock!  None of them own watches, so it should have been obvious to us, but of course we were looking at things from a first-world perspective.

I mentioned that all of the girls are well-behaved, but there is one young lady in the class who can be a bit of a challenge. I don’t know how long she has been at Mama Muxima, but she has a terrible burn scar that covers the front of her neck and part of her chest. One can only imagine how hard her life was before she came to the orphanage.

Every time I have taught, she persisted in loudly calling out, “Teacher, teacher, teacher!” whenever I was trying to answer questions from the other students. When I would walk over to see what she needed, she invariably asked the same questions about where I am from, and how old my kids are.  Then, she would tell me she likes my watch – a very inexpensive one with a rubber wristband that I picked up in the airport. I think these are the only things she feels comfortable saying in English, and that is why she asks them over and over.

Today, she did not show up to class until we were almost finished with our lesson. As expected, the minute she sat down came the usual “Teacher, teacher, teacher” followed by the same questions. The difference today was that we had three other ladies there to help teach, and our group of kids was smaller than normal. Usually, I teach with one other lady or on my own.

So today, when this young lady started in on her questions, I pulled together all of my supplies and we had a little one-on-one lesson on opposites. She was focused and interested, and when we finished, she asked me to draw a star on her paper. For this, I was rewarded with a huge smile. Clearly, all of the “Teacher, teacher” stuff, was just her way of getting some individual attention – a rare commodity at an orphanage. What a blessing that I was able to give it to her today!

After class, I headed to the grocery store in the usual Luanda traffic. It took almost an hour to travel only a few miles, which meant I had plenty of time to people-watch and think about my morning. While sitting dead-still in this bumper-to-bumper mess, a tiny, barely-clad little girl tapped on my window, begging for money. Her hair had a reddish tint to it that I later learned was a sign of malnutrition. Looking around at several others wandering the street, I had a stark realization.

In this country, wracked by extreme poverty, the children at Mama Muxima are incredibly lucky. They may be orphans, but they have a roof over their heads and plenty of food to eat. They are in school, and learning how to take care of themselves. They are not begging for food, standing in the middle of dangerous traffic hawking cheap trinkets, or carrying around huge, heavy baskets of vegetables for sale. Instead, they are loved and tended to, as all children should be.

Now, back to why Wednesday mornings are nerve-wracking and Wednesday afternoons are so wonderful. Since this teaching thing is very far outside of my comfort zone, I spend every Tuesday night and Wednesday morning frantically pulling together enough broken Portuguese to explain my lesson, and hope that Google Translate is not steering me wrong (which it frequently does). Of course, I could start earlier, but that is not how I operate, apparently.

However, once the lesson is done – and especially when I have moments like I had today – it feels so great to help these kids. It isn’t much, and it won’t drastically change their situation, but I am sure they see how much all of us volunteers care for them. It truly does take a village to raise a child, and I am happy to be a small part of the village caring for these girls.

If you want to know more about Mama Muxima, here is a link to their Facebook Page:

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Snap out of it…

This has been a rough re-entry to life in Luanda. A few days ago, I arrived back in Angola after six weeks in the good ‘ole USA. Laughing with treasured family and friends, enjoying wonderful meals out, and shopping till I dropped, I had completely settled back into my old life.  And much needed time with my kids had refilled that empty place in my heart.

A fourteen-hour flight brought me back to Africa, and the chaos of Luanda. Of course, it was wonderful to see my husband again, as I had missed him terribly while away, but a severe case of jet lag had put me into a full-blown pity party. After four days, with no more than a couple of hours of fitful sleep at a time, I awoke this morning in a less than chipper mood.

To top it off, the situation in this country has deteriorated sharply due to plummeting oil prices. The economy here is overwhelmingly dependent on oil revenues, the lack of which means cuts to social aid and fewer jobs. In addition, the lack of incoming dollars means less money to import goods and rising prices.

The people here are suffering and petty crime is on the increase. Stories of recent attacks on expat women are running rampant in our ever-shrinking circle, and this made me none too happy to be back. One such story really had me worried. A woman was attacked while sitting in traffic in her locked car. The assailant had smashed the window and punched the woman while grabbing her purse. Very scary stuff!

Walking into my kitchen this morning, I greeted my housekeeper, whom I had not seen since my arrival. She smiled, clearly happy to see me, and then proceeded to tell me I looked “mais gorda”, indicating with her hands that my backside had expanded from all of those wonderful meals at home. I was appalled, and it clearly showed on my face, but she quickly said, “Oh no, Madame, ees beautiful!”  Oh well, I guess it was to be expected after six weeks of Tex-Mex and not a day on the treadmill.

Still smarting from her comment, I headed down to meet my driver for a trip to the grocery store. I may be “mais gorda”, but we still needed food for the week. My new driver is a sweetheart, but he speaks very little English. I told him which store I wanted to visit, and even wrote it down, but he had never heard of it. This irritated me, as it was a large and well-known store, and I did not like the idea of driving around in circles on these crazy and clearly unsafe streets.

Unfortunately, I could not give him directions.  In this city, it is very difficult to learn your way around as a passenger. Drivers frequently take numerous switchbacks and maze-like streets to avoid the insane traffic. My previous driver took a different route every time we went somewhere, and so, except for a few main roads, I rarely know where I am. Of course, having no sense of direction may be part of my problem, too.

The only option was for my driver to call the dispatch office and ask them where it was. He spoke in Portuguese, so I did not know what was being said, but he seemed satisfied with the directions he was given. As he started out, the main road was familiar to me, but then he drove into narrow streets filled with sinister-looking pedestrians. This made me more than a little nervous, as visions of assailants smashing my window swirled through my mind. My typically overactive imagination was running full-tilt, as I fidgeted and held my breath, looking at each passerby with suspicion. At long last, we arrived at the store and I finally unclenched my fists. All of this round and round had given me a pounding headache to go with my sour mood.

My grocery list was small and filled with very basic items, but several of my items were nowhere to be found. There were tons of hard-to-find veggies available however, so I bought them even though they weren’t on my list. I had heard grocery shopping had become even more hit-and-miss than ever, and my hoarding tendencies really kicked in. As if life here wasn’t hard enough! Now, I won’t be able to count on even the basics when I go shopping!

This is just too much, I pouted. How can it be that there is no stick butter or canned tomatoes? Finally, after several hours and three stores, I gave up and we headed back to my apartment – with a full load of veggies, but no butter.

As we drove along the main road back to town, I saw a man standing at the very top of the hillside which ran along the road. The top of the hill contained a shanty town, and the residents there regularly tossed all of their garbage over the side of the hill. This gave the appearance that this man was standing on a mountain of trash.

Then, something unexpected happened. He began to dance. Here this man was, living in a shanty town, surrounded by refuse, and he was dancing. What a blessing to be reminded that joy can be found in even the most dire circumstances. Never in my life had I been snapped out of a pity party faster!

The awakening continued.

It occurred to me that my maid was being genuine when she said I looked beautiful to her. Packing on a few pounds meant that I had a healthy appetite, plenty of good food to eat, and the leisure time for my body to hold on to those calories. In her world, many people were not so blessed. Pants that were too tight and a lack of stick butter were laughable problems compared to those she faced on a daily basis.

At that moment, I said a prayer of thanks for the reminder of how lucky I am. Life in Luanda can be a challenge, but I trust that He will keep me safe while I am here. And clearly, the Big Man is looking out for my health, too. How wonderful that He presented me with such beautiful veggies instead of more butter for my bloated backside!

I may not be the quickest on the uptake, but even I can’t miss such clear reminders that He is watching out for me, as we make our way through this crazy new life. Now, off to cook a healthy meal so I can fit into my clothes again…

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

One Night in Cabo…

This past weekend, we spent one night in Cabo.  No, not Cabo San Lucas, but rather Cabo Ledo – which is about as close to Cabo San Lucas as we are going to find in Angola. Cabo Ledo boasts a lovely crescent-shaped stretch of beach, and is one of the best excursions from Luanda.  It can take two to three hours to get there, depending on very unpredictable traffic.  You never know what diversions will be encountered on the way, and whether or not your driver will know where he is going.  More on that later…

Saturday morning about nine o’clock, our personal driver picked us up.  I will call him Mr. Mellow, as he drives about as fast as an eighty-year-old woman, and never seems the least bit ruffled by anything.  Just outside of town, we encountered the usual bottle-neck of street sellers, and I had a chance to snap a few photos with my phone – very cautiously, of course.  In Luanda, displaying a phone is discouraged due to the risk of someone smashing your window to steal it, especially when stuck in heavy traffic.  Risk aside, there is always so much going on along the road, that I really wanted to capture all of this chaos and commerce!  It is truly unbelievable what people are selling: hangers, home-made yogurt, brooms, portuguese/english dictionaries, and a few porno videos thrown in for good measure.

2014-10-25 10.17.48
Would-be merchants lay down a blanket to peddle their wares along the road.
2014-10-25 10.17.24
Angolan women are amazingly graceful and strong. I’ve seen them run across three lanes of traffic with babies on their backs, huge baskets on their heads, and dragging a child with each hand. Yikes!
2014-10-25 10.00.05
Running the gauntlet of street sellers. Peanuts, anyone?
2014-10-25 10.18.11
Getting ready to hoist a heavy bucket of sugar cane back onto her head, with a small round of rolled fabric as the only cushion.
2014-10-25 10.18.36
A local gossip session. The lady on the right is clearly not impressed…
A baby sleeps peacefully, while mom and big sister conduct some business.
A baby sleeps peacefully, while mom and big sister conduct some business.

Mr. Mellow drove his usual easy-going pace and we reached the resort in about three hours. Hubby was a little anxious to get there, but I was happy looking out the window along the way.  Just part of the fun for me.

Our resort, called Carpe Diem (love the name!) is made up of about fifteen small cabins, an open-air restaurant and a row of palapas on the beautiful beach.

2014-10-26 08.06.44
The cabins are very basic, but there is hot water and A/C.  What else do you need?
Lovely beach with a mostly Portuguese crowd. There are one or two other resorts a little further down the beach.
A very nice pool, but everyone there opted for the beautiful beach instead.
A very nice pool, but everyone there opted for the beautiful beach instead.

We enjoyed walking along the beach and just relaxing for the day.  Colorful wooden fishing boats dotted the sea in front of us. From one side of the resort, we watched a few groups haul these large boats onto shore with their catch for the day.

No speed boats or oil derricks to be seen here, just local fishermen hoping for a good catch.
No speed boats or oil derricks to be seen here, just local fishermen hoping for a good catch.
These old wooden boats must be heavy as lead.  Just look at how many men it took to get this boat onto the beach!
These old wooden boats must be heavy as lead. Just look at how many men it took to get this boat onto the beach!

Evening brought a beautiful sunset followed by a delicious dinner, with very attentive service by the manager of the resort, name Mr. Dias.

Lovely cool evening and not a bug in sight!
One of about fifty sunset shots we took…
Delicious meal of local lobster and fish.

All during dinner, there were music videos playing on a large screen.  We noshed to Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Celine Dion, and others – all American and British artists.  The Portuguese crowd seemed to know all of the songs, and sang along with gusto.  This always amazes me!  We have heard American Top 40 tunes in virtually every country we have visited, even in places where very few people speak English!

After dinner, a few Spanish and Portuguese dance tunes worked their way into the mix.  This made for free entertainment, as some very energetic couples soon got up to dance.  Later (after more alcohol was consumed) a few of them wound up in the pool – involuntarily and with clothes on, of course.  For hours, we just drank in this surreal scene.  Such a strange life we are leading – sitting at a beach restaurant in West Africa, watching a Portuguese crowd gyrate to American music! The world is indeed a very small place.

It was a great night and way too much delicious Portuguese wine was consumed, thanks to an excellent recommendation by Mr. Dias.  The next morning, we were awoken by a flock of Weaver Birds, building their nests in the trees by our cabin. It was a clear, cool morning so we enjoyed our last few peaceful hours by the beach, before it was time to head back into the  maelstrom of Luanda.

African Masked Weavers. The males weave the hanging nests and then try to entice a female to move in.
So colorful!
2014-10-26 08.28.50
Our breakfast companions. Several peacocks wander around the grounds and restaurant.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mellow does not work on Sundays, so we had to arrange a car through Tango Delta for the ride back to Luanda. About ten forty-five, the driver called to say he had arrived (in very limited English).  After searching for him for several minutes, Hubby gave him a call.  Uh-oh. Apparently, wherever the driver had “arrived” was nowhere near us.  Unable to decipher what the driver was saying, Hubby handed the phone to the parking lot attendant, who took a full ten minutes to direct the driver to our resort.  An hour and a half and several phone calls later, the driver finally showed up.  I didn’t mind the wait so much, but the two hour, white-knuckle drive back was another story!

At first, the driver was very distracted, weaving all over the road and looking at me in the rear view mirror.  Keep your eyes on the road, buddy! Maybe I have gotten used to Mr. Mellow, but it also seemed like we were driving entirely too fast.  I’m not sure how I will readjust to Texas highway speeds on my next visit home!  At seventy miles per hour, I had a death grip on the door and could not look out of the front window.  Of course, the fact that we criss-crossed the center line repeatedly did not help me to relax!  After about an hour, the driver began to shake his head and rub his eyes in an effort to stay awake.  Aargh!  Where is Mr. Mellow when you need him!  I will never complain about his granny driving again.  Okay, I know never to say never, but this time I really mean it!

Once our hearts stopped pounding from the drive back, we realized what a nice twenty four hours it had been.  We will definitely return, but next time we will offer to pay Mr. Mellow extra to drive us both ways.  After getting Tango Delta’d like we did, it is worth whatever he asks.  And who knows, maybe a Celine Dion CD would sweeten the deal for him…

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?  Well, these days a name (a blog name, anyway) needs to be bought and paid for.  I loved my original blog name “African Cowgirl”, but so did another gal – and she paid for it first.  To be fair, she is a real, true-blue cowgirl from Africa.  I, on the other hand, am not an everyday, put on your chaps and spurs kind of cowgirl.  I am a native Texan, grew up riding my horses instead of riding a bike and did actually herd cows – once…

They were a little smelly for me.  Here I go with the smell thing again!

So…I came up with another name – Lass O’Luanda.  This is partly a reference to my many hours spent on a horse (lasso) and to my fondness for the quirky and varied pub names we encountered while living in London.  One of our favorites was the Lass O’Richmond Hill.  I suppose I could have taken on another of my favorite pub names, The Shy Horse (the sign outside actually had a very sheepish-looking pony on it), but that name would not fit me at all and, more importantly, made no reference to this wonderful new place that I live.  And so, I have now duly purchased my new name and am printing up stationary and ordering monogrammed towels as we speak…

Welcome to the Lass O’Luanda Blog.  Have a pint on me!

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved