Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Last blog

As we know, all good things must come to an end eventually. Alas, and so has my wonderful trip!

I have spent another two days now stinking up at the airports and planes... Funny how I have always flown with or against time, rather than sitting in a plane for 7 hours in the same time zone. Really, shouldn't long distance travelling be like time travelling?

As I am sitting at the airport in Dubai, it occurs to me that the rest of Beijing is there- all i see is wind-breakers with Beijing 2008 logo on them. In all colours and shapes! And it seems true- as i arrived to Beijing, the city seems quiet and calm. This is where I presume the post-Olympics-depression begins. All the work and time spent to create the great atmosphere and years of preparation and building the city up has truly bore the fruit from the seeds it planted some five years ago. The games were spectacular, although I only watched them at the telly between my swims and BBQs...
So this is my final entry for my little journey diary, as my little journey has ended now. Before I finish, I still must add one thing:

African Albinos! Is that irony taken to the limit? Really? Apparently Albinism is not that unheard of over there. The lack of pigmentation offers no protection against the African sun.. Cruel. I saw three during my time over, where as I have only seen 1 Chinese albino in my 2 and some years in China. I wanted to crab a picture, but the guy saw me whip out my mini camera and gave me the look of death, so I tried to smile sheepishly while stuffing the camera back to my pocket. Although, that would have made a great entry to my blog: I got my arse whipped by a black albino! But you guys are just not worth it.

So there, until my next exotic trip.

I had a wonderful time!


Saturday, August 23, 2008


This is Africa. A phrase I first heard from the lips of Leonardo Dicaprio in Blood Diamond. Thought is as a Hollywood catchphrase for the movie, little did I know I would be hearing it over and over again… So this is Africa. A couple of thoughts from someone who has spent a week and some on a holiday:

Whether you are in a restaurant or in a shop with the music blasting out loud, followed by silence and darkness, no seems even to blink. The electricity comes and goes, and the lack of it, is so normal that people don’t react one way or the other. Generators do come in handy as it turns, handy and more so a necessity. Needles to say, with it goes running water, aircon, internet…

Usch… No roads, just dirt and dust and huge holes. Brings a whole new meaning to 4wheel drive and how necessary they are here. Most of the cars I see on the roads are huge 4wheel drives, (with the exceptions of huge H3 Hummers). I asked Kamene before our road trip whether he has a atlas of the roads to where we are going, and the answer was simple: “there is only one road”. Like the rest of Angola, the roads are busy being built as we speak. By Chinese.

Expenses and customer service
Now going back to my second blog and the hell hole of a hotel we stayed in at Malange… A city of nothing has three hotels in it, one that has no running water and they were charging $40!!! You believe that? Another that looked okay charged $160 and the third one would have been in the same lines, but was full so we didn’t see it. I need running water (or so I thought when I saw the first hotel), so we chose the $160 per night hotel. Now, for $160 one would expect to receive a clean hotel with modern commodities. Or even a bathroom door that closes? I tell you, our relationship took a turn… To give you a run down, the water was sandy, the towels did not look clean, the sheets were not crispy and pulled in, the breakfast was really not all that and on top of that no one smiled! Not even the hopeless bitch at the counter who did not know how to calculate our cash back.

Apparently this is Angola. I can see very specific soviet attitude in the service and the way people dress to impress and talk the talk although they go around the corner to catch the local bus. I have been told that crossing over south into Namibia, it is completely different - you get the best service and luxury resorts for that kind of money. Might my next stop..

I can see Chinese almost everywhere I go. (Ironically I did leave China for the same reason.) I see Chinese either driving huge trucks to building sites or huge Hummers to shopping malls. Originally Chinese made an agreement with the government: Chinese loaned a heap of money to Angola, in ways such as building the infrastructure, hospitals, government facilities, schools and most importantly the roads. In exchange they get oil. And as a sideline many Chinese have entered in private business and made a bundle.

I’ve heard the expression that “Africa will be built by women”, now I understand. On our trips we’ve seen and met numerous women, who get up early in the morning and start walking, they walk 30km one way to get a tank of water and carry it back on their heads. Or they walk to buy fish, bread or anything else, and walk back to sell it. All I have seen is women with massive parcels on their heads, bobbing a kid on their back, some cases even another one on their bellies (or in).

The big elections. On 5th September… The second election since independence. Of course the atmosphere is not the greatest due to the first elections: a party denied results and went to war. The elections are seen as a possible starting point for another war, so it will be interesting to see how many people actually vote. There are 14 parties, each representing roughly the same with no major differences. MPLA is a major party that has been in parliament since independence (1975). The campaign is vast and lucrative. (Costs so far are above $40m)

The well feared mosquito… I don’t speak Portuguese but the word “Malaria” keeps coming to my attention. The government has implemented a new programme to cut Malaria cases (successfully reduced cases by more than half in 2007) by distributing nets and sprays.
I of course have been eating my little magic pills Malarone and anointing myself with mosquito repellent. No side affects at all, no headaches, no tummy aches and even the little green elf on my shoulder keeps telling me to pop my pills…

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spending my lazy days

Oh I am getting pampered here… (And slightly fat)

Yesterday we took the boat out and went to an island near by, just to hang around and enjoy the sun. Of course since its winter here now the water is too cold for others, but not for me! After a delicious afternoon with sun, sea and crabs on the sand, we returned to get ready for the evening agenda.

The new magazine Kamene is also working with is the “economist” of Angola, and last night was the official opening! We got dressed, walked into a media mass (I flashed my best smile at all cameras) and mingled with the minister of communication and other government officials and company heads. Was great! The food was only so so, but I still managed to pig out by eating a whole lobster… Oink oink!
I was going to add here links of the news where I appeared, but alas, since I can’t see myself and know my friends don’t speak Portuguese, I'll leave it..

And to continue my seafood overindulging, today we grilled a cuttlefish that was caught just in front of the house. Actually, I’ve been eating more than well since I’ve arrived. Which kind of sucks cause now I need to stop cracking jokes about Africa’s malnutrition. (Which I have seen here)

And the different fruits and roots and veggies I have tried! Amazing! (And some not so amazing) We took a photo this afternoon, see below. Who ever knew cashew nuts grew with a fruit?

I also had the pleasure some nights ago to pick my very first coconut straight from the tree!!!

Kamene wanted to take me to South of Angola to sleep in the desert and see Tundavala and Serra da Leba (see Kamene's picture below) and villages along the way.

After our first trip and car trouble, I decided that sitting in a car hour after hour on horrible roads with holes and bumps will have to wait.

The idea of taking the boat and going a bit further and staying overnight at Kamene’s parents’ summerhouse, in an excluded place on the beach, sounds far more exciting!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Road trip!

So, sorry about my absence but it’s all explainable! We took a road trip! Now, I thought about writing this all in a chronological order, but screw it! I’ll go straight to the excitement and adventure (and those of you who know my last track record for travelling incidents were already waiting for scandal):

OUR CAR BROKE DOWN!!! In the middle of no mans land!!!

So, please see map below, we left early and drove on roads that are no roads for hours on end to Malanje. There were slept in a hell hole and paid $160 for that pleasure. (Yes, I will come back to the hell hole later on)

Malanje seemed like a little town under construction. Buildings that have not been repaired after the destruction of the war, but a lot of new things coming up. But no surprise to learn that it’s the Chinese who are building the roads and the hospitals. (more about Chinese influence later)

The following morning we left for the waterfalls in Kalandula- worse roads…

We saw absolutely amazing waterfalls! I can not justify them on pictures, but please see pictures! We spent the day there basking in the sun, eating our snacks and watching locals wash their laundry in shallow waters and little boys swimming and bathing.

On our way back, we noticed the car started heating up really quickly, we stopped and saw the waterfall under our car: the cooling liquid was flushing down… Now, I’ve broken a few cars in my lifetime, and I kind of thought that we can just take it easy, drive slowly and stop to cool the car once in a while, right?

It wasn’t until I saw the worried look on Kamene’s face when looking at the car, then looking at the sun that was beautifully changing its light while slowly descending, and then looking at me and trying to smile confidently. OMG! That’s the way I’m finally going: in the midst of nothing, in the desert somewhere in Africa I will be eaten to death by chromosome coyotes that have the taste for (well toned) flesh!!!

So, to make our survival story short, we did manage to make it to back to Malanje, had some friends of a friend to come and meet us while stopping a few more times to add water to cool it down. Incidentally, one time we stopped in front of a village and after a while, the little girls started rounding up and asking zillions of questions, (in Portuguese of course, that I don’t speak). But they seemed mesmerised by my black toe nails and while skin, that they kept touching. I’m sure had they reached, they would have gone for my hair… Unfortunately, when I took my camera out, they refused pictures, so I have none to show.

The following morning our new friends helped us to take the car to the only mechanic. We finally left Malanje at 17.00 which is about the time for sun set… Bummer to drive in the darkness especially since the roads seemed to be full of Chinese trucks, and we know how considerate they are towards fellow drivers… But it was a glorious night with the moon eclipse at sight- one doesn't see so many stars in Beijing..

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My first blog

So... I was recently told that you are a no-body until you have a blog. (Funny enough I was told the same about stalkers when I reported my first in London)

So here I am, in Angola, visiting my "Partner in Crime", who works and lives here. I left Beijing after the Olympic opening ceremony and it took me two days of plane food, airport toilets, weird smells and constipation, but I made it safely and intact!

I intend to write this blog as a travel diary for myself and of course for my friends to have a quick peek into my travels. (And for my mom who might be a bit worried) (And since this is my blog, I intend to be politically incorrect in every way possible)

It’s my second day and before we start rambling around Angola, I am merely relaxing and sleeping off my jet lag with the sea wind, sun shine and great food... (And the beach is two meters from the house!!!)