Sunday, April 26

Angola, the land of "embondeiros" | ANGOLA

It was in the end of 2009 that I had the pleasure to finally meet this land which, just like me, is made of extremes. I was 14 years old when my mom got a job opportunity to work in Luanda, Angola, and crazy like she is, she accepted. Months later, and a lot of tears after, I flew to the land of "embondeiros". 

In my teenage view, this was practically the end of the world: to go to a country that was at 8 hours distance of my friends, my routines, my safe and comfort zone. That was the reason why I annoyed my parents so much while I was there, for an entire year, asking them to send me in the next plane back to Lisbon. It worked. In my "20 years old person" view (because with 14 years we're teenagers but at 20 we're too old to be teenagers and too young to be adults), I know that it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and if I went with another attitude, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. 

View Hotel Presidente, Baía de Luanda
What I can tell you about my experience is that Angola is indeed a country of extremes. To start with, whether you like it or you just don't! If you go there with a spirit of aventure and acceptance, you'll absolutely love the experience. But if you go with your "european routines" and high heels, you won't go past the airport.
The poverty is super noticeable because it's one of those things you just can't hide. Although, instead of asking for money, they make you want to give them: believe me, if you don't find in the stores what you were looking for, you'll find it on the streets! In the beginning they'll ask you for a lot of money, but then my dad's techniques kicks in: you have to use the expression "sou pula mas sou angolano", which means "I'm a white portuguese but I'm from Angola" and negociate till you have a nice price. Understand them! It's one of the richest cities in the world with a population that doesn't even have money to buy food, but still's very humble and feel embarrassed to eat at the same table with a white guy, in one of the few shopping malls that existed at the time.

When it's hot, there is no airco that can help you. And you can't open a window either or the mosquitoes will eat you alive. When it decides to rain, the best is to look for Noah's Ark and wait till the water goes away. Luanda literally stopped when it rained!
I can't talk about Luanda without mentioning the Portuguese School of Luanda where I finished my 10th grade of the Languages and Humanities course. The truth is that the free education system in Angola, even though I don't know much about it, is very limited. However, if you have the opportunity to put your childrens in this school, you won't regret it. The teachers are amazing, the students are an example for everyone and the school itself is absolutely ridiculous compared to the portuguese ones. I'm very thankful to all the teachers, fellow students and friends who I had the chance to share great moments with and also my biggest frustrations while a teenager.

Portuguese School of Luanda
The war scars are still very present, whether in people or in the buildings, and that's why I still call it the land of the abandoned palaces and lost paradises. If you ever have the opportunity to fly to Angola, don't stay just in Luanda. If you like to go on a boat, go to Mussulo. If not, drive till Sangano, where you can eat an amazing lobster rice. You can also go to Benguela, Barra do Dande or Barra do Kwanza. 
Lost paradises, Benguela

Miradouro da Lua, Barra do Kwanza

War memories, Benguela

Abandoned palace, Benguela
When you're coming back, and while you're stuck in the usual traffic, I hope you remember this land just like I do: the land of "embondeiros", the people who called "big father" to my dad and "the oldest" to my mom, the sand in the air, the smell of wet earth and the orange sunset as the mangos that you can buy on the street without forgeting to ask for "the lost ones". 

Click here to check more pictures.

4039km away with very nostalgia,

P.S.: Follow the "A Única Mulher" on TVI to see more about this country.