Friday, September 5, 2008

Week 5: Cabo Ledo Beach, Benfica Market & Luanda

Aug 30 – Sept 5; 08

Although last weekend was rather a hard act to follow, we’ve had another great weekend. On Saturday we got up early to get a bus (school provides various forms of transport which are bookable in advance) to take a group of us to the surfing beach – Cabo Ledo. A group goes out there almost every weekend it seems. The beach is south of Luanda – maybe half an hour past the entrance to the national park, but before Rio Longa.

This weekend the transport gods were not smiling on us – we went to pick up Jo & Marek & then the door of the bus wouldn’t shut! So we had to go back to school to get it fixed & then, we hit a major traffic jam on the way out of the city – a truck had flipped over on the road & we had to wait for it to flipped back onto its wheels before the road could be cleared. It took us over an hour to go 15mins worth of distance!

Once we got clear, the trip was smooth & we arrived at the beach about 11 am. I don’t know what I was expecting, but as always, Angola surprises! The beach had a series of rickety shelters built & maintained by some locals – a few men & a group of small boys. Each section of the shelters costs US$5 to rent for the day – somewhat expensive given the size of it, but the shade is necessary. There were a big group of (all foreign) surfers & family there – I think I thought we would be the only ones. The waves were strange too – they basically ran parallel to the beach from right to left, so the surfers ended up on the beach after a run & then had to walk their boards up the beach to start all over again. Altogether there were 4 boards of various quality available to use – many of them just left behind when their owners left. That made Marek’s day when he heard it – British Airways have banned surfboards from their flights, so wasn’t able to bring their boards with them.

Bill decided he wanted to learn how to surf (note – this is despite the fact that the sea was FRIGID & that he has a badly bruised & possibly even broken rib from a soccer game the other week). He was told the basics (all of 1 minute of instruction) & left to try to it out. He hurt his rib, never got on his feet but is determined to keep going till he learns to surf!

Needless to say, the water was way too cold for me, & I didn’t even go for a swim (although I did get pretty wet just taking photos)! We had a big picnic (we had splashed out the night before & bought ourselves a big chilly bin (cooler) & amused ourselves taking photos of the surfers. Marek & Jo took a load of photos we took of them (Jo has also been learning to surf – she can stand up on her board, but sensibly has a wet-suit). We also have emailed some photos of a French geologist who was delighted when we caught good photos of him towards the end of the afternoon when the waves had got a bit bigger.

But the best photos of the day were of the local boys running the “security & shade” on the beach. They asked if they could borrow boards that weren’t being used, & then proceeded to have a surf themselves! They also borrowed a skim board which they were playing on in a little lagoon behind the shelters. The water must only have been a few inches deep but they had a lot of fun trying to make it go in circles.

We stayed at the beach till about 3pm – Bill & I walked along the beach & both of us got great photos of a little egret as well as more surfing photos – a great day out with the camera. Unfortunately his camera is playing up at the moment & many of his shots have been ruined. We are trying to work out what exactly is the problem – his camera, the battery, the memory card etc. You can imagine how upsetting it is to come home & find a heap of great shots beyond salvage.

On Sunday we had a lie-in (first in 2 weeks) & then went with a bus load of others to Benfica market – the only tourist market in town. Neither of us took any photos – maybe next time. The market is definitely a mixed bag – lots of paintings (of various artistic merit), not many of which grabbed us very much. Lots of tacky jewelry, a few Angolan t-shirts, and various wooden crafts – tables, boxes, trays, carvings, masks etc. Bill was in his element (he has a large mask collection from his time in Togo) & bought a pair of masks. He also got an Angolan t-shirt (for the football world cup in South Africa in 2010) and a very interesting wall hanging/textile. I think it must be made from sisal. It is sewn together in pieces & then has appliqué on top. The weird thing is that everything we bought is permeated with a wood/smoke smell. I washed the wall hanging & a lot of dirt came out, but it still smells. The masks are outside in the hope that they lose their smell relatively quickly.

The market has its ugly side too – there was a small live monkey chained to a post, there were numerous cat skins that we didn’t bother to investigate closely and way too much ivory! Despite the CITES breaking stuff, the market itself was non-pushy & I suspect that if we go back every now and again & get to know some of the sellers, the prices will come down. However, everything is relative & considering that we routinely spend US$100 at the supermarket on next to nothing, $20 odd dollars for a mask no longer seems excessive!

School was a short week – only 3 teaching days & a half day professional development day on Thursday. The days fly by – our TV is no longer working (maybe something to do with recent power cuts?) and on Tuesday Bill stayed at home to wait for someone to come to try to fix it while I went to the supermarket by myself. This turned out to be a really bad plan as I had to queue for half an hour just to get the bread, then I had to queue again to go through checkout! Nasty!! So much easier with two people – one to stay & queue (me – Bill isn’t the queuing type) & the other to shop. Lesson has been learnt! Maybe everyone at the supermarket knew something I didn’t (it did seem unusually crazy) as Wednesday morning we were informed that the government had announced that it was a public holiday (we heard they announced this at 6pm the day before)! Of course it was too late to cancel school so it was a normal day for us with almost full attendance. Rumors were flying but it appears that the holiday was to allow people to attend political rallies that were scheduled for the day. So maybe the supermarket was closed on Wednesday (I certainly did not go back to see).

Wednesday evening Bill played a football game of teachers vs parents. Historically this has been an ugly affair with teachers coming off very worse for wear. Not quite sure why the tradition continues, but it was initiated by the parents, which tells you something! However, (due to the new talent on the staff) the teachers thrashed the parents this year (4-2 with the last parent goal scored in the last minute), so maybe it will all die a death now they have been whipped!

Thursday was a teacher-only half day where we worked on some paperwork for an upcoming accreditation of the school. Tedious, but has to be done. Then, we went into town so we could catch the post office before it closed. We both had postcards to post & although we were successful with buying stamps, don’t hold your breath that you will actually get one. I figure there is no more than a 50% chance of them arriving & goodness knows what sort of time frame will be involved! The trip in was very fast (no traffic) & the trip home wasn’t too bad considering the traffic was much worse. What was interesting was all the tents up for people to vote in on Friday. They seemed to be all over the place – in islands in the middle of the road even. Schools are also being used for voting. It all seemed very organized – the tents were being guarded as it seemed that the ballot papers had been delivered. Certainly, from an outsider’s perspective, it seems to be very well organized & calm.

Friday we had to stay at school as it was voting day & the admin didn’t want us in town at all. So it was a very lazy & relaxing day just sitting around at home. Bill was watching the BBC online reports of the elections – apparently there are charges of ineptitude (rather than corruption) with late starts, long lines & ballot papers running out. I guess we will just have to wait & see what the election watchdogs have to say about it all.

So it’s been a nice week (when there are only 3 teaching days, it is hard to go wrong). We have Monday off as well so it is a lovely long weekend in front of us.

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