Saturday, December 10, 2011

The wild life of Angola

Finally! I have been waiting to see some wild life here! I have been in Angola for almost a year now, and to be totally honest, I have been quite disappointed to not be able to see any wild life. What I mean is, I realise that Luanda is a huge capital and one doesn't tend to see wild animals in cities, but since we live a bit on the south side I thought I would have seen something by now. Or in one of our travels to the other cities.  But no. African wildlife is in danger, it must be protected, hence the national parks. 

Now we all know Angola is war ripped and only now starting to build itself in different areas, this includes the animal preservation. One such a park in Angola is Quicama (Kissama) National Park.

We did a short half day tour to Kissama. Our "guide" was the director himself. South African, has been in Angola for over 10 years, managing the park and maintaining animals, capturing from the wild and bringing into the park for protection. Listening to him was fantastic, you can truly hear the passion in his voice for these animals. 

He drove us around explaining the state of the park; current and past, the politics in Angola regarding national parks and animal conservation and about the Palanca Negra Gigante; Giant Sable Antelope: Angola’s national icon. They are considered to be the most beautiful living antelopes in the world. And this species is found nowhere else in the world but in the miombo woodlands of Malanje. 

We saw a lot antelopes and gnus (yes, you'll be pleased to see some deer ass since they were mostly running away from me), saw a giraffe! And monkeys and huge birds. In this park there are no lions, due to the lack of "proper" food for them, not sure what that means, but there are hyenas and leopards. We didn't get to see them because it was not hot enough. Which was also the reason we didn't see elephants although we went to their drinking and bathing spot at the right time of the day. 

Here are some photos from our trip. Unfortunately I was using only a 70-200mm lens so its a bit like playing "where's Wally" in my photos... 

on our way
start running
and off they go
unfortunately I don't know what this is, but impressive size it was
So ornamental
looks like paintings on his side
Monkey business
bungalows to stay overnight, with aircon of course... 
Look closely- you'll see a pair of amazing twisted horns 
The variation of vegetation is bewildering 
where's wally? 
He was a curious giraffe, checking us out for ages 
more ass
running ass
what a beauty
this is the elephants watering hole
on a hot hot day this pond would be filled with elephants 
I must admit, I was a little disappointed to not see any elephants, but according to our guide, it was not hot enough for them to come down to drink. I couldn't see why not since there were five of us in the jeep and the smell was not pleasant at all.. Not hot enough you say..  

He said they are roughly 10 meters from us in the bush. But there is not point trying to see them because the bush is really thick and dangerous. He did say that if the wind would change now, we could see trunks rising about the bush. How funny that would have been! 

We didn't catch the elephants but here's what they left behind
Our South African guide
majestic looking animal
two bambies
not afraid of us at all
curious little thing
more bums
male in heat
he was performing a dance for us
and on his way
"who me?"
I had a wonderful time, and it definitely left me yearning for more! The guide said the best would be an overnight stay and a really early ride. So I'm trying to lobby my boyfriend for a long weekend at the park! 
last for the best eh?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I volunteered! Yes, this is significant news in two ways! 

1. We were volunteering at a big supermarket called KERO (It's a word play: kero is pronounced the same as "quero", which means "I want" in Portuguese). The plan was to ask shoppers to buy an extra bag of rice or a bottle of oil or a packet of milk powder and donate it to the organisation called "Juntos", which means "together". The food donations are raised for two local orphanages and the oncology department of the paediatrics hospital. 

2. I had to talk to total strangers with my broken Portuguese. 

Total success in both cases! We raised a lot of supplies and I, although shy at the beginning, managed to cough up some good pitches, got the message through and made results! 

That was a feel-good day! 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Personal CSR

As most of you know, I have been working within communication in China, and CSR is a big part of that. I am currently looking into CSR projects to implement in Angola, in the rural areas, not in the capital. There seems to be so much to do and so many projects to be done, but it takes time to find the right channels and the right people and the right projects of course. I'm not talking about charity. Charity is good. But I could argue that in developing countries like Angola, charity could, at the end of it, be more damaging than helpful. 

A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend's dad was going out of Luanda for a couple of meetings; one of which was to pop by a farm of a close friend of his. He asked me if I would be interested in tagging along, which of course I was! 

Very excited to see other regions of Luanda- we drove around the "VIA Expressa" to Luanda regions called "Cacuaco" and "Funda". We went to see an old relative, and it was very very interesting to see how majority of Angolan's live. I have visited expats in Luanda and wealthy angolans, but this was my first visit to a house where the hardworking peoples' salary does not exceed $400/month. I did not dare take photos of course, but the house was simple, thick walls of clay "adobe", small windows but clearly placed with precision for the ventilation was good. No air-conditioning, but the the thick walls kept a lot of the heat away, open doorways, a small courtyard in the middle of the house, scarcely any furniture. There was state electricity but no running water. Some chicken in the yard and small piglets. 

Here are some photos from the way: 

Primary School, check out the black piggy running in front
everyone is building something here
markets by the road
Cumpapatas i.e. motocycle taxis
more markets
family business? 
And the Chinese are busy little beavers, as they are building these huge compounds around, I heard the apartments are small, one bedroom apartments which should be the prefect fit for an average Angolan family of 8, right? 

But back to my CSR story; we were heading towards the farm, and to my surprise it is quite vast! 

Right now he had tomatoes, onions and corn, which was just starting to get ready. Of course the fields were very different from European, or at least Finnish crops. First of all the tomatoes were growing on the ground, with no support. The earth was dry and clay-like and there was no shade, just the burning sun, which meant that the lush green leaves of tomato plants were dry and brown more or less, but the tomatoes do look good and taste good! 

fields of tomatoes
chick house
But here comes the problem, there are too many tomatoes and people do not want to buy them anymore and the wet season is slowly coming in, meaning they will go bad very quickly. I think we all understand that in a country where agriculture is taking baby steps and where the starvation level is still high, there must be something wrong with the "supply chain" of this farm, i.e. he needs to find better people and places where to sell. 

hang in there little tomato
But this where I come in; my boyfriends father was telling his friend about the preserves of tomatoes I made the other week and he had never heard of such a thing. Sun dried tomatoes regretfully are out of the question because of the moisture and humidity of the air, but one can make quickly oven dried tomatoes, throw in some garlic and perhaps fried onions into the jar with some peppers and voila! back home as the summer is short, we always used to make preseves of cucumbers and beets and jam out of berries and apples. 

Oven dried tomatoes! 
So let us see if we can start local preserve business in here, starting with delicious tomatoes of course! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back to Luanda!

After a great summer back home (over two months) I am now back to Angola, ready for the "second" summer of 2011... Will be hot and moist. I returned almost a month ago now, and the weather changed roughy a week ago, literally over night; one day it is nice and dry, with a cool wind blowing, the next day the sun seems to burn me and the cool wind has turned into a moist breeze like a cows breath when its mooing. And the occasional showers have already occurred, so here we come, rainy season called summer!  

I arrived to Luanda with a vengance; two consulting jobs from finnish companies and a goal to get hired before the year ends. (Not hundred percent sure about the job though; this nationalisation process is great and necessary for Angola, but crap for little foreigner me.)

But the great thing about my consulting jobs (besides the pay) is that I am getting out and about. Meeting people and more so meeting ministry people. It´s been an interesting couple of weeks! The higher the people I meet, the better their english, which makes the job easier for me. The best thing so far was when I had a meeting at the Ministry of Environment. I spoke with the head, he gave me the address and time to meet. I arrived at the Ministry, asked for him at the reception, no one knew, I showed his name card and the address which was on the second floor. They point towards the stairs, so up I go. I go to the second floor and start looking. A man sees me lost and asks who I am looking for, so I give the name-card like before. Well well, this gentleman knows who I am looking for, he literally takes my hand and walks me down the stairs to floor one, then through corridors that seem to be getting smaller and smaller until we arrive at some backdoor almost like the servants exit, and he points up the stairs. I thank him and head up, where I find the environmental department: a crammed office built into the attic and practically closed off from the rest of the departments. I guess that tells us how new and influential the environmental department is in Angola, you know, the guys discussing climate change, carbon trading and other nonsense... 

But I can honestly say I have learnt a great deal about Angola as a country in statistics and geographically, and how to go about finding information and meeting people; the most important factor being "guanxi", you simply must know someone who knows someone who'll be able to get you a mobile number. Seriously, not kidding about the mobile number, it is virtually impossible to get through to anyone, even with a name and title; you must have the mobile number. 

And finally let me share with you a photo of the really nice lady we bought coal from, her laughter was genuine, loud and contagious! 

The lovely lady selling us a bag of coal

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ilona is no longer an illegal alien in Angola

Yes, it's true! Not only am I an immigrant to Angola, but for a wee while there I was illegal! Never thought that would happen to me, a Finn, European, a Caucasian hetero female (also a bit educated) and here I am, with all major boxes ticket above, I belong to a minority! I love it! 

It was no joy ride for anyone to get my paperwork done, and I'm sure some strings, ranks and titles were pulled for help.. 

But here we have it! I have permanent residency of Angola! (for a year at a time) No more visa issues, no more paper-hell at the airports no more ducking at the backs-seat when driving past the police.. 
Angola is not very keen on giving visas, but hey, it's not like they need tourism currently.. 

In addition for my legal status, I am now also allowed to work here. Ahhhh, the plot thickens! Yes, I really can not wait to get myself to the employment arena and see the life from a totally different perspective! Since confirming my status I have in deed been in contact with some interesting companies.. Let us see how things develop! 

But let me tell you what I have been up to in my almost six months of residency in Angola. Learning Portuguese is a given! Not quite fluent, but I think I'll get my message through when needed! But also, like the good illegal alien as I was, I took up the backdoor sweatshop facilities and started sewing! Ok ok, sweatshop is a bit strong; a perfectly good sewing machine and some lovely canvases I bought at the São Paolo market. 

Some panos I just got
Canvasses with African patterns are called: Panos. Panos most often come from China, as everything else nowadays, but on occasion I see some from Nigeria as well. Panos comes in sealed packs of 5-7 meters, depending on the heaviness of the cotton. Panos are colourful and pure cotton, which makes them really ideal for this weather to wear, they breath through and are comfortable. What I love about these are the vibrant colours and how you see them on the streets. Everyday you see loads of women, mostly sellers on the streets that are wrapped in panos. I was told that one packet is sufficient enough for a wrap around the legs, wrap for the upper body and a head wrap. And these are not just to look good, most of the time women have jeans and shirts under the panos but they double as practicalities, such as the lack of toilets so the wrap around the legs you can wrap around your entire body when you need to squat by the road. The wrap on your upper body is most often used to strap a baby to the back and the head-wrap is what women use to carry their heavy loads on top of their heads for. 
Sorry for the crappy quality, taken from a moving car...
Life of an African woman is not easy.

But I do not use the panos for anything necessary, but rather for my own pleasure. 

Finally I get my own photos done: Photo by Kamene M Traça
My latest idea has been to make hats. As I am used to wearing hats, I find it a necessity here as well, with this strong sun piercing through my sunblock 100.. 

Anyhow, here are a few below and I must admit: I already managed to sell. I'll be open to investment plans, anyone anyone? I guess I need a name as well ha ha haa Kamene keeps calling me the "crazy hat-lady", as if I was mad as a hatter!