Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
So, here I am sitting in another airport, my tenth on the 41st day of my travels having done a whirl wind tour of Western Africa and Angola. My passport bears two new stamps, Senegal and this. Regretfully the Ethiopian one is not there in spite of the fact that I spent a night in the city – transit passengers are not considered to have actually been there! But I was, Scouts honour, and I have some pics to back me up too!
Impressions of Angola are mixed…. The people are not as friendly as I have found in the South, the East and West. Perhaps their many years of isolation, language difficulties are a possible contributory factor. But somehow I get the impression that they are generally rather suspicious… A smile is not often returned, something which is virtually unheard elsewhere, for Africans are quick to smile.
Things should change, and quickly too if the government allows it. But somehow, change when it comes, will not benefit the man on the street…. Certainly the infrastructure will improve, perhaps housing will too, but unless there is an effort to encourage the population to move out of the city, reduce congestion, develop local industry, it will remain difficult.
So, homeward bound I am…. Ah, my country, and its own difficulties. Life is becoming hard there, in what was such a beautiful place. The economy spiralling downward, inflation at levels never seen before. Making a living there is hard…. So little to show at the end of the day for all one’s efforts. I live a frugal lifestyle, and my earnings reasonable. Yet, the quality of my life is poor; for once the basics are paid for, utilities covered, there is nothing left, to enjoy life.
Thinking back, I suspect I did more when I was earning 3% of what I do now. Sure, housing was provided, domestics too, but 20yrs ago, my life style was of greater quality than now – for this I have successive governments to thank, most especially this one lead by a man I thought would make a difference. He has, he certainly has, but worsening our woes instead of reducing them.
Come Monday I shall be back, to deal with the daily drudge. My job has lost its glitter, only because of the kind of people guiding it, narrow minded, petty thinking.
My weekends I shall look forward too!!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
My visit to Luanda has been, how do I put it, contradictory?
Its all that I expected it to be, and yet, not at all what I thought. Language a huge barrier, it does make communication difficult.
The streets that are there, are wide boulevards, no other word to describe them. The ones that run between them are gravel, dust and cratered like the bad side of the moon.
The majority of the houses are built of cement blocks, hastily thrown together, asbestos roofs, in every direction, as far as the eye can see.
Drainage systems seem non existent, I see many carrying waste water to chuck it into the drains that line the main thoroughfares..... and yet, everyone has a smile and walks to a rhythm that you do not see in Asia.
Pictures of the city I shall add later on, perhaps tonight. I confess to have become rather lazy...too long in harness.
Till then, a good night...
Sunday, October 7, 2007
My own dabbling with the art go back to perhaps 16 or 17. I remember the first photograph I took, using my step dads Olympus. I was trying to take a picture of the ripples on the lake in N'Eliya and I can still remember the sound as the camera tried to focus on the moving surface.
From there I went on to a tiny Olympus of my own, shooting film and then slides over a year when I shot off something like a 1000 pictures....
For a few years I lost touch, taking up a camera again perhaps in 2004. The most recent enthusiasm stems from seeing, now a dear friends, own efforts - Radsmatazz's. Now she has an eye for detail!
I'm starting to think I need to up-grade my equipment... all this time I've managed by playing around with the exposure, and some digital cheating. Filters perhaps?
Managed to find another hotel, more reasonably priced and within my budget!
It comes at a cost, but no complaints from me.
The rest of the day looks quiet.... Sunday in Luanda, what else can I say? A welcome phone call from a dear friend was pleasant - thank you Lucy!
Country list update 27 now and 12%.
Angola, a country of contradictions
- 50% unemployment
- 50% GDP from oil
- 90% of exports are oil
- 50% of food is imported
- 90% of the employed are in subsistence agriculture
- 70% of the population lives in and around Luanda... not a hotel bed to be found. The few that are there on average $200/-
- 27yrs of war
- 5yrs of peace
- The continents second largest open market - Rouke - is here
And yet, business has boomed, imports of foods, white goods etc doubled in two years.... what drives it, I don't know, yet.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
For the first time on this trip I feel insecure, not in control of my surroundings. A new city, a new country, another language contributing to this sense of unease.
I was expecting a long drawn out process at the airport - but strangely, when other more seasoned visitors were held back, I was waved through. Perhaps the bundle of passports I carry had something to do with it, could not have been my smile.
A sense of loneliness fills me, melancholy and even mildly depressed. While I enjoy my solitude, I am a man who enjoys company. The past month has been difficult, and with each passing day, I find myself yearning for human touch.
This evening, as I watched the sunset upon the city, I looked upon the block of flats below my hotel. No different to the scores around me, all with a sense of poverty about them. All the tenants on the forth floor had gathered this Saturday evening for a brai on the walk way. As they prepared their meal, some cooked, others danced to music, it was a sight of such profound simplicity.
It also occurred to me that the less fortunate know how to enjoy life. I look at my own, and it's never enough at the end of the day. I am too worried about tomorrow that I forget about today....
I mean not to sound stupid, life is not easy and I have no doubts that mine is far easier than a majority of the people that I share this earth planet with. Greener grass on the other side? Perhaps. There is a story I read starting with a tramp, residing by the side of a building, and as the tale unfolds, it goes from his perception upward, from the doorman of the building, to the security, the mail man, the administrator, so on, so forth, ending finally with the chairman of the company, looking upon the tramp and imagining his life to be far richer than his own.
A few hours sleep, and back to the airport for my connection. The city of Addis Ababa is a colourful one, roofs and walls in multi colours, and the green, red and gold flag of the nation decked every where in celebration of the Millennium!
Ethiopia just celebrated the dawn of the millennium, September 23rd. Why you may ask, a little late isn’t it? Well the reason is simple; Ethiopians still follow the Julian calendar, one that the rest of the world dropped a few years ago in favour of the Gregorian. From what I have been reading, Ethiopians from around the world flew home to celebrate the event.
The Molo airport is in an amazing location, at the end of a small plateau it gives the impression of being at the edge of a cliff.
On my way in, I took a few minutes to indulge myself and give me a present. A few months ago on a rip that was an utter disaster I lost my old leather jacket. It was all very stupid how it happened, but it did.
My indulgence then was a replacement, not quite what I had in mind, but close enough.
Lined up to board, I make the acquaintance of an exotically gorgeous Angolan – Julian. A business and finance major at a university in Bangkok, she was returning home on vacation.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I've been sitting on it for the last eight hours, and yes I know it's supposed to be sat on, but there is a limit.
Landed in Dubai at 6, after a random walk around the airport I found myself a nice quiet corner to surf the net.
Another three hours to go.
The hours have passed pleasantly spent in chatting with a friend, doing e mails and basically making a pest of myself.
A 12 hr wait in Addis, then on to Luanda, where I hear I don't have a hotel reservation - long story. I'm hoping some woman will pick me up and take me home. The truth is more than a bed, I am rather keener on a toilet. After all, by the time I land, I would have, effectively, been travelling for more than 48hrs.
Shall keep you posted.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
In 33 days I have traveled through nine countries by aeroplane, helicopter, cars and a hovercraft. I've walked in the markets of each place, tramped through the mud, seen and smelled so much! If I was asked to name the one thing that stood out, I could not; five I can:
- The processions winding along the streets of Freetown
- The gate of no return on Goree Island
- The birds wheeling in the sky at dusk in Dakar
- The dance floor at Macumba
- The look in the eye of the immigration guy in Gambia as he tried to hassle me
- Seeing my brand served at the business class lounge of the International Airport in Ghana
I've been delayed 8hrs for the want of jet fuel, been escorted to collect my luggage without passing immigration as well as to a departure lounge to meet a client in the process, seen some amazing things and done a few new things too.
I shall miss it.
From here I go to Dubai for a 12hr wait till my flight to Addis Ababa and another 12hrs for my connection to Luanda. ( I intend changing my travel agent by the way, this is a god awful schedule she's given me)
A week or so in Luanda and I am on my way home.
The black Africans personality is an open one. I am talking about the majority of them who have not become westernised. What you see is what they are - they are open with their emotions, they smile when they are happy, they show anger when they are so. Its in Asian and Western cultures that people mask their emotions...