We’re strangers here

We are loving Angola – incredible scenery, friendly happy people, but the poorest people here are so poor it’s hearbreaking.

We went past a school a few days ago on our way back from the Giant Baobab Tree to the main road. 6 classes of primary-school aged kids, tiny shed within the school grounds, each class of 20-30+ kids sitting under a different tree in the yard with teacher and blackboard at the front of the class. I guess the shed is to store the blackboards. It doesn’t rain much here, but I wonder what the classes do when it rains.

Lots of people carry water from rivers, dams or water tanks back to their village. The water containers they use are mostly open containers that look like they were originally 20L paint buckets or similar, which the women carry on their heads. Little children carry 5L containers. There is no running water, power or sanitation in villages away from towns.

Of all the ‘stuff’ we have with us, the one thing that would immediately improve their lives is our 25L water drum with its nice tap in the cap … I wish we’d brought more water drums to give away.

Lots of people ask us for money or food. I don’t give money, but do give away food and water. I’ve written about this before.  I’m suffering from a lot of 1st World Guilt at the moment – we have so much, they have so little. One young woman spotted our 25 litre water container and really, really wanted it, but settled for a bottle of cold water in exchange for letting me take her photo.

Food here is expensive compared with Sth Africa and Namibia because most of it is imported. I saw frozen chicken breasts in the Shoprite supermarket in Lubango … from Brazil.

In Lubango there’s a smaller replica of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, perched on the highest part of the city, over 2000 metres above sea level. This statue of Cristo Rei Christ the King has several bullet holes in his chest. We drove to it and were the only people there, apart from 2 local men and a group of about a dozen pre-teenage Mwila girls in traditional dress. Several girls came to either side of the car and asked for money or offered themselves to Greg. On my side, one of them spent the whole time looking at herself in the side mirror which was the only appropriate behaviour we observed there. It was pitiful.

The really sad part is that this country is the 2nd largest oil producer in Africa, so there’s a lot of wealth here, but it’s not trickling down to the ones who need it the most. In contrast, Norway’s management of it’s oil wealth has set their economy up so that everyone has a good standard of living.

We’ve driven through several police road blocks each day. Most either wave us on or stop us and ask to see Greg’s driver’s licence and maybe the car’s papers. Then there was that time just after we left the Giant Baobab Tree when we drove through a roundabout … well, not quite the wrong way, but we went down a part that was meant for vehicles turning right and we were going straight ahead. Of course there were no road markings or signs because … #africa. So, 50 metres down the road there was a police roadblock and a very cross cop stopped us, asked for papers and got out his receipt book while explaining what we’d done wrong. Greg was escorted into the police building conveniently located right beside the road block. Cop flicked through his receipt book which was full, but the message was clear. Cough up, buddy. Greg came back and we thought that 2000akz $10 might be appropriate. We didn’t want to insult him by offering too little, but how much is too much? Turns out that 2000kwz was very generous, but we’ve written it off as ‘research’, and unlike the ‘speeding’ incident in Namibia, this time we really had done the wrong thing, so a fine was in order.

 

Christo Rei above Lubango
The crumbling Labango sign above Lubango

 

2 thoughts on “We’re strangers here”

    1. Those bits probably just fell down. Good workmanship and ongoing maintenance are not in abundance here. And then when the sign bits had fallen off, they probably got re-purposed … maybe to fix a hole in a wall or similar.

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