Tag Archives: Expat

I’ve Got Some Oceanfront Property…

It’s been so long since my last blog that catching up is going to be a challenge. The best approach, I reckon, is to just pick up where I left off. My memories are getting a bit hazy, but thank goodness for pictures and my trusty Google Calendar. Without these two things, I would never remember where I’ve been and when!

In July, we headed out on the company boat of our friends, Mr. & Mrs. G. We knew fishing was going to be unproductive, so we planned to cruise along Mussulo Beach, nibble on some lunch, and take in the sights along the shore.

There are some very nice houses along Mussulo. According to the boat captain, most are owned by prominent generals and other government officials. Many of them look like small hotels, complete with dozens of tables and loungers set up on the shore. Most appeared empty except for occasional workers making repairs and wandering ladies selling various wares..

Luanda Angola Mussulo
One of many residences along Mussulo Beach

This lone potential customer is getting the hard sell from some ladies selling fabrics and dresses.

Luanda Angola Mussulo
Come on, buddy. Buy something. These ladies are having a slow day!

These young ladies were selling bread and eggs along the beach.

Selling eggs in Luanda Angola
I can hardly carry my eggs in a bag without dropping them, but this young lady has no trouble carrying them on her head.


Luanda Angola
Taking a break from tidying up the beach. The sand makes a nice spot for a siesta.

From our previous trips out, we have learned that proper boating etiquette has not yet made it to Luanda. More than once on this trip, we were almost run over by a fellow boater determined to have the right of way. Yikes!

Boating in Luanda
Get outta my way! My beer is getting warm on the beach!

If they weren’t zooming towards us, they were zooming around us. This is up close and personal, folks.

Boating in Luanda
Boating etiquette? Never heard of it.

After cruising around for awhile, we spied a shanty town precariously perched on the side of a cliff. From a distance, the colorful window coverings captured the imagination.

Luanda shanty town
Oceanfront property of all kinds can be seen in Luanda.

As we approached, however, the reality was a bit less charming. I wondered why the windows on these buildings were so tiny, when they could have a very nice view of the water. But of course, I was looking at things from a first-world perspective.

You see, there was no glass in these windows.

The small size was to protect against rain and a persistent sea breeze – and for structural integrity, I imagine.

Shanty town Luanda Angola
Lack of land makes for some very odd building sites.

Navigating through this maze of buildings would be hard for us from the flatlands, but these residents seemed to make their way without a problem. Technically, these houses were oceanfront property, but one hard rain was liable to wash them right into the water!

As I’ve said before, there is always something interesting to look at while out and about. Case in point, the words on the boat below translate to “Mana does not want problems with your husband.” There is definitely a story there!

Humor Luanda Angola
Who is Mana and what has he (or she) done to the local husbands?
Luanda Harbor
Thumbs up is a universal greeting – we hope!
Luanda Angola
New and old in close proximity.

Looking for the beauty in a place like this can be a challenge at times, but as long as you view Luanda through the eyes of a photographer, it rarely disappoints.

Sea Birds Luanda

© 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

Here fishy, fishy…

One thing I have never been a big fan of is fishing. It’s just not my thing. It requires patience and a very dull sense of smell, neither of which I possess. However, when faced with very limited choices for weekend activities, fishing is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as my daddy used to say.

As mentioned in previous blogs, one of the perks of our posting here in Luanda is the use of the company boats for whale watching in the winter and fishing in the summer. We went on several amazing whale watching trips right after we arrived last September, but now those fabulously rotund mammals have left our local waters and so fishing is our only choice.  I really enjoy riding in the boat, especially on a nice day, so when we were invited on two recent trips, I happily went along.

Our first trip was at the invitation of a couple whom I will call Mr. & Mrs. G. They work for another company, and we met through mutual friends shortly after we moved here. Mr. & Mrs. G are the best kind of expats: gracious, friendly, and always up for an adventure. On the morning of our fishing trip, we planned to meet Mr. & Mrs. G at the Marina, located a few short miles away. We allowed ten minutes to get there, but had not counted on the infamous Luanda traffic. Eight o’clock on a Saturday morning should have been smooth sailing, right? Wrong. We have since learned that for every event in this city, streets are simply closed and no detours are provided. I can only assume people are expected to sit in their cars and just wait until the event is over!

On this particular morning, there was a very small “fun run” which had brought the traffic to a complete standstill. After back-tracking and trying several different routes, we still ended up sitting in dead-stopped traffic, only marginally closer to our destination. Frustrated and late, we briefly considered walking the remaining two blocks to the marina, but thought better of it when our driver said it was not a safe area. A quick glance out of the car window confirmed his assessment.

Finally, after more than forty-five minutes, the event ended and the traffic started to move. We arrived at the marina to find Mr. & Mrs. G waiting patiently. Another lovely couple had also joined them, and we boarded the boat with high hopes and visions of fish on the grill that night.  It was a lovely day: slightly overcast, cool and only enough breeze to make it comfortable. We cruised around for several hours, in search of fish.

I was perfectly happy just riding along, visiting with the ladies and munching on the yummy snacks Mrs. G had brought along. But, clearly the boys were getting restless. For some reason, the group had decided that I needed to reel in the first fish – if one ever decided to take the hook, of course.  I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later, so I made myself ready by strapping on the fighting belt and preparing myself for the epic battle.

At last, a dorado (or mahi-mahi) went for the bait and I grabbed the fishing rod. Wow! I had no idea how weak I was! Clearly, I need to start lifting weights. If my difficulty in reeling him in was any indication, he was sure to be a whopper. Or she – who can tell? Sadly,  he was no whopper, but he was a respectable size – at least big enough to keep. And best of all, I didn’t lose him.

A tasty dorado. Mr. G is having fun getting some underwater footage with his GoPro, too.

There. Job done. Now, back to solving the world’s problems with the ladies.

Over the course of the next hour or so, a few more fish were caught by the guys on board. I’m not sure how the other two gals got out of fishing, but no matter. My catch meant that hubby and I ended up with some tasty fresh fish for dinner, and even some to share with our driver. All-in-all it was a fantastic day.

My dorado. He looks a bit beat-up, but he sure tasted good!
My dorado. He looks a bit beat-up, but he sure tasted good!

Our second fishing trip was at the invitation of Mr. & Mrs. Adventurous, another one of our favorite couples here. These two intrepid travelers are just back from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Honestly, when I think of all they do, I feel like a slug. They are just the motivation I need to spend some extra time in the gym and take the stairs up to my tenth floor flat.

Well, maybe not every time…

The weather for this second trip was also very nice, a bit more overcast but nicely cool as a result. We met up with Mr. & Mrs. A in the parking lot of the marina. There was no traffic on this morning, thank goodness.

Jesus, the driver for Mr. & Mrs. A, reminded them that his wife trades kisses for fishes, and he was counting on them to help a fella out. As far as we knew our driver was only looking forward to a tasty meal, should he be getting some fish from us!

We headed out on our company boat, just the four of us. About an hour into the trip, we spotted some dolphins in the distance. As we drew nearer, it was clear that this was no ordinary pod. This group was made up of hundreds of dolphins, speeding along, jumping and playing. The captain maneuvered our boat right in the middle of the pod and matched our speed to the dolphins. Mrs. Adventurous and I climbed onto the front of the boat to get a better view of this amazing sight.





Honestly, I could have ridden alongside them for hours, it was so fun to watch them leap and slap the surface with their bellies as they landed. As we leaned over the bow, we could see them cruising along under the water within a foot of the hull, enjoying this game of chase. Many of the dolphins had pink bellies, which I later read is the result of very warm conditions, or even a general state of excitement. They certainly looked excited to me, leaping and launching themselves out of the water with a frenzy! We sailed along as part of the group for about twenty minutes, until the captain decided it was time to get back to the pursuit of fish we could actually catch. And so, we left our friends behind and turned the boat in search of some delicious dorado.

We cruised around looking for the “weed line”, where an inflowing river runs into the predominant ocean current. Weeds – or trash, in Luanda’s case – collect in this confluence. In fact, in Luanda, so much trash collects that the weed line is very easy to spot, even from quite far away. Large wooden pallets, buckets, plastic bags, and flip-flops of every size and color bobbed along in the water. I have seen many  barefooted people around here, and now I know where all of their shoes are! Theoretically, the weed line attracts bait fish, and they in turn attract bigger fish. This theory did not work for us, however, as we dragged our lines through that muck for hours and never had a single bite. We did hook a cute hot-pink bra though! And it looked to be about my size. Too bad it fell off the hook.

As entertaining as it was to see what ended up floating miles offshore, after several hours we decided we’d had enough and headed back to the marina. On the way, we spotted several small fishing boats and moved closer to see what they were catching. The fishing gods were with those fellas, as we watched them toss fish after fish into their small boats. They had set out long stringers which were now loaded with Carapau, an oily fish similar to a mackerel.


Our captain was very happy to learn that the fishermen would sell nine of these fish for only two-thousand kwanzas, the equivalent of about twenty dollars. He seemed puzzled that we were not interested in buying some as well.

I’ll admit, I considered it – but only for a moment.

Making a decent meal is a challenge for me on my best day, and using gourmet ingredients. Surely, anything I had made with those oily fish would have wound up in the trash bin.

Though we didn’t wind up with any fish – and Jesus would not be getting any kisses – we will always remember the thrill of riding along with those dolphins.  Maybe after these two experiences, I need to reevaluate my distaste for fishing. Of course, I know not every trip will be as fun as these two were. But as they say, a bad day fishing is better than a good day at the office…or in my case, a good day hunting and gathering through the mean streets of Luanda.

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Living in a Minefield…

Going to the grocery store should not be a hazardous activity, but here in Luanda, there are pitfalls and stumbling blocks everywhere you go.  Just today, as I was walking out of the grocery store, to my left stood a soldier with a machine gun. To my right, several men walked quickly towards me, sizing me up and shouting in Portuguese. I assumed from their demeanor that they were asking for money, which quickened my steps. Just as I approached the passenger side of my vehicle, with my driver inside and engine running, I narrowly missed falling into a three-foot-wide, six-foot-deep, open manhole. This could have been the end of me. Going to a hospital here is as dangerous as any accident.

No, Luanda is not a safe place for a klutz like me. I fall down – a lot. A bad ankle is the usual excuse for these spills, but mostly I am just too distracted by what is around me to watch where I put my feet. My favorite story about this legendary klutziness recalls my first date with the cutie-pie who would later become my husband. He is one of the most graceful and athletic people I know, by the way.

It was a date to go water-skiing. Don’t get ahead of me, now. The two of us had been set up on this date by another couple. The girl was a friend of mine from grad school, and her boyfriend was one of my hubby’s co-workers. Everything was going along perfectly until the two guys tried to launch the boat from a very steep boat ramp, something both of them had done many times before.  Suddenly, the boat launched itself off of the trailer and began to float away. While all of this was going on, I was walking towards the water, enthralled with all of the commotion, and of course my hot date.

The next thing I know, I am flat on my back laying in dead shrimp. While I had been gawking at my hubby, I had stepped right off of a four-foot embankment, and landed right in the middle of two young boys who were fishing with the stinky shrimp I had just squashed. Not one to admit pain, I jumped right up and declared, “I’m Oookayyy!”, doing my best arms-in-the-air, Olympic dismount gesture. How embarrassing! Here I was wearing my brand-new bikini, preparing to dazzle this handsome guy with my skiing prowess, and I fall down like a bumbling idiot. One thing is for sure, I made an impression that stuck.  We did wind up getting married, after all. Years later, my husband told me that his first thought was, “She’s clumsy, but she’s tough!”.

All of this is to say that I am ill-equipped for life in such a hazard-filled place.  There are no clean, even sidewalks here. There are holes and rocks and mud puddles. The mud puddles especially need to be avoided.  You don’t want to know what is most-likely floating in them. I’ve found the best shoes to wear here are FitFlops, those very unattractive rubber platform sandals that allow for walking slightly above the muck and can be hosed off and disinfected later. In addition to concentrating on all of the hazards on the ground, one must also watch out for hazards coming from all sides: crazy drivers that have no intention of stopping, potential muggers and the occasional stray dog. Sometimes, it is just too much for my ADD mind to handle!

In all seriousness, while I speak of Luanda as an urban minefield, there are many real, actual minefields still remaining in this country, mostly in outlying communities. In fact, Angola is still one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world.  Following the end of the decades-long civil war, many land mines have been removed, but an estimated ten million still remain. Let that number sink in a moment. Ten million land mines. Imagine the damage they can do. And they are not designed to kill. They are designed to maim.  Many, many people are seen with missing limbs, even in Luanda.  It is a terrible tragedy that is entirely man-made.

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by MAG (Mines Advisory Group), a non-governmental British and American organization that leads a de-mining effort in Moxico, eastern Angola. Understandably, the process is long and dangerous. Money is short for training and equipping these brave workers. They are making progress, but it will be many years before their work is done in Moxico alone. Of course, donations are sorely needed so they can continue their work and rid these communities of mines. Here is some more information about MAG:


Other international organizations, such as HALO Trust, work in different parts of the country. Princess Diana was famously photographed walking through a land mine area while here on a visit with HALO Trust.  Fortunately, Prince Harry has continued Diana’s work through his visits to Angola. Here is their website as well:


Of course, a klutz like me would be more of a danger than a help in clearing land mines. There is not enough protective gear around that would make me safe in such a situation. But, I can certainly contribute monetarily and plan to do so.  In the meantime, I will be stepping very carefully as I travel around the city of Luanda. As interesting as it could be, I don’t really want to write a blog about an Angolan emergency room, thank you very much.

Now, back to that water-skiing trip.  I am happy to report that I did dazzle my date, and the other couple too, with my skiing prowess. In fact, with each fall – and there were many – those comedians on the boat yelled out, “That’s a 9.5!” or “That’s a 10!”  Yes, I did fall spectacularly, but I also got back onto those darn skis until my date, with his infinite patience, had finally taught me how to slalom ski.  And I didn’t even lose my brand-new bikini top in the process.

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Starting over…

After a two month hiatus, I am finally back to blogging.  My time in Houston was the usual “running behind the train” kind of craziness, with little time for writing.  I don’t know whether this trip home was particularly busy, or maybe I have lost all time-management skills, but I found myself in a constant panic to get everything done. Multiple doctor and dentist visits, car repairs, flying and driving to visit family and friends, shopping, and visiting the hairdresser have been part of every home visit since becoming an expat in 2011.  Why visit the hairdresser, you may wonder?  It took me over two years to work up the nerve to have my hair cut while living in London, which is arguably one of the most fashionable places on earth.  Allowing an Angolan hairdresser to chop away at my tresses will not happen anytime soon!

This being my first trip home since moving to Luanda, I also added buy supplies for any possible unforeseen situation to my to-do list. You think I am kidding? I collected a vast array of items over the course of two months, and then on my very last day in Houston, I went to no less than seven stores.  On that day alone, I filled up an extra suitcase – probably as my driver was on his way to take me to the airport. The idea that I would have to live for four months without taco seasoning or A1 Steak Sauce was just too horrible to bear.  And forget about living without my favorite shampoo.  That thought actually kept me awake at night!  So I crammed a small grocery and beauty supply store into four very heavy bags.  Truth be told, I am not alone in this compulsion.  Every expat gal I know does the same thing, and most of us arrive back on foreign soil to find plenty of taco seasoning – and at least four bottles of A1 Steak Sauce – hiding in the back of the cupboard.  Just par for the course, I’m afraid.

My solo trip back to Luanda required two overnight flights and an eight hour layover in London.  I’m proud to say, I put that eight hours to good use, visiting the shower and spa facilities in the lounge, taking a nice little nap, and grazing my way through the airport.  Not a bad day, really.  On both flights, I watched every movie I had not already seen and managed to get a few hours of sleep.  Once I finally arrived in Luanda, at 4:30 am, I learned the hard way that luggage trolleys are a hot commodity in the baggage claim area.  After securing a spot in the queue, I waited patiently for more carts to be brought in.  Apparently, the line was only for beginners.  As a few carts were brought in, people rushed from everywhere to snatch them up.  Tossing my southern manners aside, I joined in the melee and wrestled a cart away from a weaker fellow passenger.  Don’t judge.  Okay, so she was old – but my bags were much heavier.  Here in Africa, it’s survival of the fittest, you know.

Once outside of baggage claim, my sweet husband’s smiling face was a very welcome sight in the even-more-chaotic scene. Hordes of jet-lagged people searched frantically for their drivers, while struggling to maneuver their luggage carts through the crowd.  I followed glassy-eyed as Hubby took charge, found our driver, and lead me to the car. On the way to our apartment in the early morning light, I was overcome with the sense that I was completely starting over.  The hard-won experience and confidence that I had acquired during my previous time here had all but evaporated.  I felt like a fresh-off-the-farm newbie once again.  This is not an easy place to live, and it takes more than a little hutzpah to survive and thrive here.  I am happy to say that, despite four days of jet lag and general disorientation, I am finally back in my groove. Hunting/gathering, disinfecting veggies, cooking – these skills are all slowly coming back to me.  I cooked exactly two meals during my two months in Houston, and one of them was Christmas dinner, so I am a little out of practice.  The search continues for very basic recipes that a kindergartner could make.  If you have any that might fit the bill, please send them along!

The day after I arrived was a clear, warm Sunday morning, and we were awoken by glorious worship music coming from the Marginal.  An enormous crowd had gathered under a large white tent.  They spent the next several hours listening to a succession of preachers and singing praises to our Lord.  Even from a distance, we could see they were dressed in their Sunday finest, dancing happily and enjoying the lovely day. What a nice welcome back!

Celebrating the founding of the city of Luanda and the swearing in of a new archbishop, Dom Filomeno Vieira Dias.
Celebrating the founding of the city of Luanda and the swearing in of a new archbishop, Dom Filomeno Vieira Dias.

Yes, I was happy to see that the constant stream of entertainment coming from the Marginal had not changed.  But other things will be changing around here, thanks to the free-falling price of oil.  For one thing, there will be fewer expat ladies for me to pal around with.  In a normal oil market, there would be new people moving in as others move away, but not with the industry struggling as it is.  Lower gas prices are a positive switch for most people, but here in the oil patch, they only mean one thing – downsizing. Many of the friends we made are headed home, and I am deeply saddened to see them go.

We’ve been on this Oil Boom & Bust roller coaster for more than 25 years, so we know the drill – pardon the pun.  Things will turn around.  They always do.  Until then, we will dig in and focus on the positive.  Case in point: my visa requires me to leave the country every thirty days, and that means we will have several trips to exotic African locales coming up.  I wouldn’t want to find myself on the wrong side of the law, after all!  Stay tuned to see where we go on our first “forced” vacation…

© 2015 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

London calling…

Just as I was finally settling into Luanda and getting used to the pace of life there, it was time for me to leave. Hubby has business back in London and I have come along with him.  Even though I was really enjoying the sights and sounds – but not necessarily the smells – of Luanda, it was impossible to pass up ten days of shows, shopping and no cooking!  My mama didn’t raise a fool, y’all!

The only wrinkle in my little plan is the unfathomably complicated visa process for Angola.  Because I do not have my work visa yet, I cannot go back to Luanda when our London trip is done.  I will have to go back to the states until my visa is ready – whenever that is.  After almost three months of waiting, my husband’s visa is still not back, and his has to be returned before mine can even be submitted.  Clearly, this could take awhile.  The visa office is in no hurry to let us pesky foreigners into the country and no amount of fussing and hollering will make one iota of difference.  As I have said in previous blogs, life in Luanda is all about waiting – for absolutely everything.  So, here I am in London making the best of things. Sigh.

One can never count on the weather in London, but one can always count on plenty to see and do.  Within hours of landing, Hubby headed to the office and I headed to a huge annual holiday market, the Spirit of Christmas Fair, with some friends. Don’t judge – we all have our roles!  This market is enormous – every bit as big as the Nutcracker Market in Houston, for those of you who are familiar with that behemoth.  Set in a large two-story exhibit hall, one can literally shop-till-you-drop for every conceivable gift or specialty food item.  For someone who was operating on only three hours sleep, I managed to cover the entire building and find a few treasures.  Yep, I’m pretty tough when properly motivated.

Luckily for my husband, London has so much more to offer than just shopping.  On Saturday, we were fortunate enough to catch the ‘Poppies at the Tower’ display on its crowning weekend (see https://poppies.hrp.org.uk/about-the-installation). This is a commemoration of the nearly 900,000 fallen British soldiers of WWI.  Each soldier is represented by a red ceramic poppy placed one-by-one in the moat of the Tower of London.  Volunteers have been placing the poppies throughout the summer and the final effect is truly breathtaking.  After a wonderful steak dinner at Hawksmoor and the thought-provoking King Charles III play on Saturday night, we wandered over to the Tower to see the poppies all lit up at night.

A view of the moat of The Tower of London, with the Shard visible in the background
Poppies at the Tower – Night view of the moat of The Tower of London, with the Shard visible in the background
2014-11-08 23.00.50
A side view of the Tower of London moat and the Tower Bridge

The next morning, Remembrance Sunday, we braved the masses again and managed to arrive just in time for a moment of silence beside the moat.  The huge, bustling crowd remained respectfully silent and still for a full two minutes.  The only sounds we heard were birds chirping as they circled overhead and a band playing faintly in the distance.  It was very moving and a lovely tribute to those brave soldiers.  I had hoped to purchase a poppy as a remembrance of the event, but all 888,246 poppies have been sold!  At 25 GBP each, this means a whopping sum raised for veterans causes.  It was a very successful event in so many ways!

2014-11-09 10.50.21
iPhones up! I dare say that at least 900,000 photos have been taken of these famous poppies!
2014-11-09 11.51.28
A view of the entrance to the tower, with ‘The Gherkin’ and The Cheese Grater’ buildings visible in the background. The Brits love to name their buildings after food items, apparently…
2014-11-09 11.31.45
Poppies at the Tower – A waterfall of poppies coming from a Tower window.
2014-11-09 11.25.59
Volunteers have been placing these poppies all summer. Quite an undertaking!
2014-11-09 10.52.28
A fitting tribute to the fallen of an often forgotten war.

Never ones to waste a sunny London day, we decided to take in a few more sights and then enjoy another great London tradition, a Sunday Roast at a busy pub.

2014-11-09 13.40.17
We wandered along both sides of the Thames, enjoying the sunshine and great people watching. The Tower Bridge is always a favorite sight.
2014-11-09 13.38.45
The Tower from across the Thames.
2014-11-09 12.10.06
Sunday Roast on St. Katherine’s Docks. Here you see the Britannia, the Queen’s Royal Barge, and a very odd companion, Hippopo Thames. Here is the story of Hippopo:  http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2014/09/02/have-you-spotted-a-huge-hippo-floating-down-the-thames/

It has been wonderful taking in the buzz of this fabulous city and catching up with friends. My time here will go quickly as it always does.  Even after living here for over three years, I have yet to scratch the surface.  Better get cracking, time’s a wasting!

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Explain Whales (parts dois & três)…

With so much happening since I arrived in Luanda six weeks ago, it has been a challenge to keep my blogs up to date in chronological order.  Being a Type A person, this is making me a bit twitchy.  But wait – I just realized it’s Thursday!  Crisis averted.  I can call this a Throwback Thursday Blog! Whew, now I can breathe…

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going whale watching twice in one week.  This first trip was at the invitation of Mr. & Mrs. Boss Man and also included another delightful couple, some friends of ours from London who had also just moved here.  I will call the second couple Mr. & Mrs. Tea and Jambalaya, as he is a proper Brit and she is a down-home gal from Louisiana.  This combination is both surprising and entertaining. For them, opposites attracted in the best possible way – but I would have given my right arm to witness that first “meet the parents” event!

On Sunday morning, the six of us headed out on the same boat as Hubby and I had the week before, but this time we were not having any luck finding whales.  The weather was also not cooperating. Strong winds and choppy waves made for a very rough ride.  After two hours of being slammed about by the waves, we finally spotted some whales in the distance.  Thank goodness!  I was afraid this was going to be a bust for Mr. & Mrs. T&J.  The ride also became much more pleasant as the wind began to die down and the sun peeked out from behind the low, gray clouds. Moving closer, we were able to get a really good look at the group of about four or five whales.  When you can see and hear them breathing, it is quite an experience! Just love that sound!

We followed this pod of whales for quite some time, but the thrill of proximity was quickly wearing off.  We wanted to see more than just lazy swimming and an occasional tail sighting.

Scanning for whales…
They were close enough for us to see the spray and hear them breathing.
Lots of tail sightings…

Things finally changed when Mrs. Jambalaya announced that she could speak to whales.  You think I am joking?  She proceeded to make Animal Planet-worthy whale sounds as proof of her abilities.  Almost immediately, we saw our first whale breech!  This happened several more times after that.  I am now a true believer!  That Cajun girl has an amazing talent:

Mrs. Jambalaya – aka, The Whale Whisperer!
Doing a backwards jump…
A strange, twisting jump…
Excellent form, Mrs. Whale!
Rolling along…
Buh-bye! Show’s over, folks!

After this amazing display, we stopped at a nearby island called Mussulo, where there is a small beach resort and restaurant.    Although the service was lacking and the prices were sky-high, there was always something interesting to look at while we waited for our $40 pizzas.  There never seems to be a shortage of good people-watching here in Luanda!

Mussulo Beach.
Lots of folks selling things. This gal was selling swimsuits.
A lady selling some colorful African fabrics.
A herd of pigs wandered the marshy area behind the restaurant.
The local girls often have their braids decorated with colorful beads.
Ladies selling fabric and beach clothing. Luanda city is visible in the background.

The second whale watching opportunity I had that week was with a group of British ladies.  Go figure, I live in London for three and a half years and only make one British friend.  I move to Africa and have a whole boat-load of them in a couple of weeks!  And what a fun group they are, too!  We didn’t have much luck with the whales, despite absolutely perfect weather and water as smooth as glass.  Oh, we saw plenty of whales, but I guess they saw us first and decided to frolic elsewhere.

No worries.  When the going gets tough, tough expat ladies go to lunch!  We headed again to nearby Mussulo Beach, but this time we ate at the fancier restaurant set a bit back from the beach.  Apparently, there is also a small hotel hidden there amongst the trees.  We will have to come back for a quick weekend getaway if the clamor of the city gets to be too much. I so enjoyed getting to know these ladies, and their British accents were a welcome reminder of my time in London. Sparkling conversation coupled with yummy food (and plenty of wine) made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

I’ve learned that expat life here in Luanda is all about focusing on these little islands of tranquility amidst the sea of chaos. These moments can be found on a boat, on a beach, or just by spending an lovely afternoon visiting with new friends… DSC_0133

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist…

Shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist – and you know I am all about saving money.  As a child, whenever my mom told my father that she had bought something on sale, my father’s response was always, “Woman, you are saving me right into the poor house!”  Well, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  I have done my share of hunting for bargains that I really did not need.  But while the tide has turned in my husband’s favor with regards to my cooking, I now have the upper hand on the shopping front.  People, my husband has moved me to Africa.  The way I look at it, shopping is a matter of sanity preservation.  Besides, there is some really cool stuff here! No more shopping for African-inspired items.  It’s time to buy the real thing.

To that end, today I went with a group of ladies to a local craft market called Benfica, about a half hour south of town.  It is a busy, covered, outdoor market filled with row after row of artists peddling their wares, from paintings to wood carvings, and even some illegal items to boot.  If you have ever been to a bazaar in Mexico, or something similar, then you know that as soon as you look at something for more than about 3 seconds, you have now entered into a negotiation.  And heaven forbid you touch something!  Well, you might as well just get out the cash, because it will be yours!

Yes, Benfica is home to some master negotiators and they do not like to take no for an answer.  Hubby and I had found that out the hard way a few weeks earlier, when we made a quick stop on the way to the beach. We were so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of exotic goods and overzealous salesmen, that we only stayed for about fifteen minutes. No. To do this place right, I knew that I would have to go back with a pro – someone who had lived here awhile and knew what things typically cost.  And preferably this pro would be a woman.  Men seem to get all hung up in the “need vs. want” argument.  That can really slow things down.

The drive to Benfica means you get to play chicken with some street sellers.  These guys are fearless!
The drive to Benfica means you get to play chicken with some street sellers. These guys are fearless!
Luanda's answer to London's black cab, the ubiquitous blue taxi.
Luanda’s answer to London’s black cab, the ubiquitous blue taxi.

We arrived at the market to find that it was much hotter than any of us expected.  Immediately upon getting out of our air-conditioned cars, we all began to sweat – or “glow” as we Southern girls say.  Let me tell you, I was glowing like a pig.  Africa is hot y’all – and it is not even summer yet! We began on the end of the market that held many colorful paintings and beautiful African batik fabrics.  A young man dressed in some of this bright fabric came up to greet us.  One of the ladies knew him, and he would be our “helper” for the day, acting as interpreter and negotiator.  Of course, since I do not speak the language, I have no idea if he was actually bidding the price up rather than down, but it certainly was nice to have someone there who spoke English!

Our guide for the day.
Our guide for the day.

Things started out well.  I bought some beautiful fabrics and felt pretty good about what they cost.  Not cheap, of course, but certainly reasonable.  Now came the real challenge: gorgeous carvings of every description, from elephants to giraffes to masks of every size. How do you ever decide!

Whew! Lots to see!
Beautiful carvings out of exotic woods. These animals are about knee to waist-high.
Alligator purse, anyone? How about some ivory? No thanks!
Yes, that is a leopard  skin hang in there!  Poor kitty!
Yes, that is a leopard skin hanging there! Poor kitty!
Walking past some African antiquities.

As it turns out, the decision was made for me.  I saw a beautiful Sable Antelope, also called a Palanca, carved in a deep, ebony wood.  This is the national symbol for Angola, so I knew that I wanted one eventually.  I picked it up to get a closer look and wham, bam, I was handing the artist a large stack of bills!  It’s like someone else was speaking through my mouth, it happened so fast.  Somehow, I had managed to get him down to half of what he originally quoted me, but only because that was literally all I had in my wallet!  Apparently, I’m really good at negotiating when I am broke. Oh well.  Regardless of whether or not I was ready to buy, I do love my new pet.  Isn’t he purdy??

2014-10-24 00.35.14

At the end of the day, I learned a lot and came away with something I really love. But next time, I think I will keep my hands in my nearly empty pockets, because at Benfica – you touch, you buy.  And I’d like to actually remember negotiating for whatever I bring home!

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Three Stooges Plumbing…

Plumbers seem to be the same the world over.  When you need one, they can be your best friend or your worst nightmare.  Here in Angola, they tend to fall in the latter category.  When we moved into our apartment one month ago, I noticed a mildewed spot on the caulk around the bottom of my toilet.  No big deal, but obviously there was a small leak there that needed to be repaired, and so I sent in a maintenance request.  My shower flow switch is also stuck in the shower position, and I am unable to get the water to come out of the tub spigot.  Again, no big deal.

Since I submitted the request over a month ago, I have asked four or five times when I could expect a plumber to show up.  Each time, I was told they would come in a day or two.  Things run on a very different time schedule here, and the repairs were not critical, so I did not press the issue – but I did want to get it fixed eventually.  When will I learn to leave well enough alone?

Today, at 4:00 pm three “plumbers” showed up to fix the leak, which appeared to require nothing more than a little caulk. They all crowded into my tiny bathroom, while I continued making dinner in the kitchen.  About ten minutes later, one of them rushed in and mimed the motion for a mop (I forgot to mention that they only spoke Portuguese).

This cannot be good.

A few minutes later, they all came out of the bathroom, pointing at their watches and talking very quickly.  All I understood was “amanha”, which means tomorrow.  It was quittin’ time, and they had to go.  “What do you mean, you have to go?”, I said.  Blank stares.  “Is the toilet fixed?”, I asked.  More blank stares.  This conversation was going nowhere, so I got out my computer and typed in my questions via Google Translate.  They looked at the screen and scratched their heads, so I tried rephrasing my questions.  Nothing.  Finally, one of them decided to try his hand at this Google Translate thing, and he began to type very slowly.

When he was done, and turned the screen my way, I was able to decipher from the somewhat jumbled words that they did not have any caulk (why would a plumber have caulk?).  They would have to come back the next day.   Oh, and by the way, the toilet was now non-functional, as they had yanked it out of the floor before they realized they had no caulk.  Brilliant.  And also the base is now cracked and they cannot get another toilet because this one came from the USA.  This just gets better and better. Again, they promised they would fix it tomorrow.  Oh sure, that’s gonna happen.

Before they could rush out of the door, I reminded them about the shower.  Yes, I’m a slow learner.  Reluctantly, they went back into the bathroom.  Squeezing through as they blocked the doorway,  I discovered the floor was a half-inch deep in water and muddy footprints.  Nice.  I pointed out the shower switch, showing them how it was stuck in the shower position.  The head stooge stared at the switch for a moment, and then leaned closer to the switch, while turning on the water.  You guessed it.  He was immediately soaked as the cold water sprayed out of the shower onto his head.  Yep, that is why I called, Curly.  Sputtering, he rattled off a few more words I did not understand, and then they were all gone, leaving a wet, muddy trail out of my door.


Now, what do you think the odds are that I will have a functional toilet – or shower – anytime soon? Just this week, another expat lady told me about the time three guys showed up to change a lightbulb in her bathroom.  Yes, I did say three guys.  They wound up walking out of her bathroom half an hour later carrying her now cracked bathroom sink, and leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling where the light fixture had been. I think I’d better get settled into the guest bathroom.

Anyway, after they left and I had cleaned up the messy floor, I went back to cooking dinner.  One of my ingredients was some cream of mushroom soup in a little pouch, which I was very excited to find on my latest shopping trip.  Not sure whether or not to add water, I typed the cooking directions into Google Translate:

“Deite a sopa num tacho e queca em lume brando, mexendo de vez em quando.”

This translated to:

“Pour the soup in a pot and get laid on low heat stirring occasionally.”

What can I say?  The guys at Google certainly have a sense of humor.  I don’t want to know what Google did to my questions for the plumbers.  Maybe I’d better ask my husband to be here when – or if – they come back tomorrow…

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Home is…

Where is home?  That should be an easy question.  At least it is for most people. Home could be where you were born, or where you spent your childhood years.  As greeting cards and throw pillows say, ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’. But, what if your heart is in more than one place?  Being an expat means having a heart in pieces.  Not that our hearts are broken, necessarily.  Rather, we feel pulled in more than one direction – all of the time.  When I am here, I feel like I should be there, and vice-versa.  This feeling of restlessness is just par for the course, I’m afraid.

As expats living in Africa, my husband and I are here without our children, who are grown and establishing their own homes back in the states.  Of course, we miss them terribly and hate missing big moments in their lives, or missing events for dear friends and extended family.  Luckily, since we became expats three and a half years ago, we have managed to be there for most major holidays and events, but certainly not all of them.  We knew going into this new lifestyle that missing things would be part of the deal, and we tried to prepare for that eventuality.  But even with all of our preparation, there have been tears and temper-tantrums – and my kids have had their moments too!  That is the downside to expat life.  More accurately, that is the rip-your-heart-out-and-stomp-on-it side to expat life.  None of us wants to disappoint those we love, and being absent for big moments is a painful thing. No way around it. But, where there are clouds, there are silver linings, and expat life has some that truly shine.

The biggest upside for our family has been the opportunity to travel with our kids to places they never would have gone otherwise.  During the three years we lived in London, they were able to join us on ten European vacations. Chevy Chase, eat your heart out!  I certainly hope they appreciate how unusual that is. Only Brad & Angie’s kids can claim more overseas vacations that that!

Another upside to our living overseas, has been to “allow” our kids to figure things out for themselves.  I have always been a “helicopter” parent.  Yes, I admit it.  When my kids were younger, they climbed on the school bus every morning and I followed right behind.  I was the PTA Queen/Homeroom Mom/Volunteer Lady and spent almost as much time at their school as they did.  This continued for most of their growing-up years.  I’m sure they wondered if they would ever get away from me!  Because I was always there, it was easy for them to rely on me to solve their problems.  I’m a fixer.  It’s what we helicopter moms do.  Even as they got older, I was still always there if keys were locked in a car, etc, etc, etc.  But something wonderful happened when we moved away. My kids began to fix their own problems!  Imagine that.  Seeing them become capable and resourceful adults has been a beautiful thing.  I always knew they had it in them.  I just needed to get out of their way.

Yes, there are pros and cons to being an expat, and then there are some aspects that are neither positive nor negative.  They are simply facts of life for many of us.  As my kids have become adults and moved to different cities for both colleges and careers, we have become a scattered family.  We all have to go where we can earn a living.  Since my husband also travels for work, it is not unusual for the four of us to be in four different cities – and even four different countries, at times! Thank goodness for internet and social media.  In these technology-filled times, many would say that home is wherever their WiFi connects automatically!

So, what is home to me now that I am living in Africa? My answer is: no matter where I am, it does not feel like home until all four of us are sleeping under the same roof.  That roof may be in Paris, or London, or Munich, or even Houston, Texas.  As long as we are together, it feels like home.

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

To wait, to hope…

This is our second expat assignment, and our first where we have been offered the services of a driver and maid.  Here in Luanda, a driver is a necessity, as it is not safe to walk anywhere, except a small area along the waterfront called the Marginal.  The maid service is purely a luxury, one which I have not had for many years.  Truth be told, I have always preferred to clean my own house, mostly because I’m a bit of a neat-freak and usually wind up cleaning behind the maid.  But, twist-my-arm, I will suffer through having a maid while I am here.  Poor me, right?

If I had to sum up Luanda in one phrase, it would be the verb “to wait”.  The simplest tasks take an inconceivable amount of time to complete here. My driver has the patience of someone who has dealt with this waiting every day of his life.  Even now, his job is to wait – for me.  He sits in his car all day, waiting for a call from me or my husband, asking to be driven somewhere.  On our way to wherever we are going, there will be traffic – crazy traffic.  Drivers squeeze their cars in front of one another with no regard for any rules.  We creep along, inches at a time.   More waiting.  When we get where we are going, again my driver waits in the car.  Is he bored by all of this waiting?  Not visibly.  He appears to be perfectly content to pass the hours in the car.  From what I have seen, he considers this a good job and is thankful to have it.

He is not unique in his attitude.  No one here seems the least bit unnerved by waiting ridiculous amounts of time for just about everything.  In the US, I can open a bank account and have a debit card in my hand in about an hour.  Here, we have been working on opening an account for about two months!  Aargh! More waiting.  I will surely have a stroke if I don’t just accept the pace of life here! Patience is a virtue I clearly do not possess.

In Portuguese, the verb “to wait” is “de esperar”.  This also means “to hope”.  Somewhat ironically, my driver’s wife is named Esperanza.  What does she hope for?  Perhaps she hopes for the same things I do: happy children, health for my loved ones, and good friends. More likely, her hopes are for everyday things I take for granted: food on the table for her family and a roof over their heads.  Being surrounded by good people just doing their best to make ends meet, well…it sure makes my problems seem small.

My maid is another example of this patience and acceptance.  As young and pretty as she is, I can only imagine how different her life would be, if she had been born in the US or any other western nation.  With small children to take care of and no husband to help her, life is incredibly hard.  She needs this job to feed her family. When I came home the other day, she was sitting in my tiny hall closet, waiting for the dryer to be finished so she could fold the clothes before she left.  I was appalled!  Of course, I immediately told her it was perfectly fine for her to sit at the table, and I served her a piece of cake to make my point.  It was such a strange feeling to walk in and find her sitting there in that dark closet, full of cleaning supplies and wet clothing.  Even now, the picture is still fresh in my mind.

Dealing with “staff” is a new thing for me.  Obviously, it is also one that makes me a bit uncomfortable.  One thought has stuck in my head ever since I saw my maid in that closet: but for my fortunate birth, I could very easily have been in her place.

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved

Substitute this…

Since moving here one month ago, I have been hoarding food like the apocalypse is coming.  If I find something recognizable, I buy it no matter the cost.  Last week, at one of my go-to grocery stores, I spied a small pack of eight flour tortillas sitting in the dairy case.  Astonished, I quickly grabbed it, checked the expiration date, and then – with a bit of trepidation – checked the price.  They were eight dollars!  Even in the UK, I never paid more than about two bucks for a small pack.  Oh well, whatcha gonna do?  A girl’s gotta eat.

Today, I found them crammed in the back of the fridge behind more recent treasures.  Better use ’em before I lose ’em, I decided, pulling out my trusty Chicken Enchilada recipe and gathering the ingredients.  Chicken – got it.  Onion – of course.  Cheese – yep, we’re good.  Sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, chopped green chiles – nope, nope and not a chance.  Okay Cheryl, time to get creative.

It will be shocking to those who know me, but I actually made a cream sauce with some hot chili peppers, red bell pepper, onions, milk, seasoning and a little cornstarch. Sometimes, I amaze myself!  I broiled the chicken breasts, chopped them up and mixed them with the sauce.  Then rolled the mixture in my prized flour tortillas, topped them with the rest of the sauce, grated some cheese on top, and Velada!  That is Portuguese for Voila, by the way.

Our sour cream topping will be homemade as well.  Just a little vinegar added to milk and cream and some time at room temperature and BAM, you have sour cream! This cooking thing is kinda fun!  You just have to approach shopping like a treasure hunt, ignore the prices and prepare for the worst.  Realistically, they can’t all be home runs.  I’ll squirrel away some spaghetti sauce in the freezer for the inevitable dud.  Until then, I’ll continue my experimental cooking – and say a prayer of thanks for a patient hubby!

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved