Friday, October 17, 2008

Week 11: Hanging-out for holidays

Oct 11 - 17, 08

The weekend was another “stay-at-home” one; we went into the city for lunch on Saturday – at a place called Bahia. It is right on the marginal – so it overlooks the bay. It is on three levels – we went up to the “rooftop” to have our lunch. It is a very relaxed place & a cool place to hang out for an hour or so. We only took my small pocket camera, so the photos are a bit hit & miss, but you can get the idea.

We had the vegetarian pizza – a rather ominous-sounding concoction in the menu – eggplant & banana being two of the main ingredients! Due to lack of other options as much as anything else, we braved it & much to our surprise, it was actually quite tasty. Not that we’re going to add banana to any of the pizzas we make at home, mind you, but it certainly it is something we could happily order again in the future. After lunch we found a small supermarket close by (I’d spotted it when we’d driven past going to shipwreck beach) & we were absolutely delighted to find pesto! (Do you get the impression that we are becoming besotted with food? Its simply that so much of what we have taken for granted is just not available here - & of course, what you don’t have is what you miss the most!)

Although we only spent a couple hours in the city, it was a nice break away from campus. Just to prove the previous weekend’s cooking wasn’t a fluke, I made naan bread when we got home & we had a wonderful dinner of curry & naan on Saturday night.

On Sunday I had to mark some tests & write some reports. Bill joined a group of teachers to go watch a soccer game in the city – Angola vs Niger as part of the qualifiers for the World Cup in South Africa. Due to a combination of paranoia (trying to blend in with the crowd with white skin) and just genuine support for Angola, almost everyone turned out in Angolan colours. This photo was taken just before everyone jumped on the bus to go into town.

The first stop was for a few drinks along the Ilha, waiting for the time to go the stadium, which is right down town.

You can get an idea from Bills photos what the crowds were like – all supporting Angola because of course the visas are impossible for anyone to get, so any Niger supporters who may have wanted to come were just out of luck!

Crucial to the local support was the Angolan Brass Band who played randomly throughout the game. The Angola team won the game: 4 – 1 but the last goal was such a blatant offside that there was a huge upset – so huge infact that the riot police had to storm onto the pitch!

At the end of the game, Bill managed to con his way down onto the pitch, claiming to be a photographer with nothing more than my little camera, the size of a cigarette packet - & was even able to get into the players tunnel as the local media were interviewing the players as they came in off the pitch! Talk about cheeky! Of course his biggest regret of the day was not having a better camera with him! I was sorry I hadn’t been able to go, but I did get my reports written, which was something.

The week at school was a short one, with Thursday being a parent – teacher day. For us it was drop-in rather than interviews, I saw alot of year 5 parents (give me parents of older kids any day!). Bill had a nice relaxing day while I was busy the whole time (I teach a lot more kids than he does as the primary classes are much bigger than the secondary ones). Thursday evening was the first chance we’d had to pack for our holiday & due to internet & Skype problems we were only able to confirm accommodation for our first night in South Africa & nothing at all in Tanzania.

Friday morning was an early start – our flight left at 2:30 in the afternoon – we left school to go to the airport at 7:30 in the morning! The trip to the airport took just over 1 hour – so you can see were very early. The system at the airport is unlike anything I’ve ever seen – in the main “hall” of the airport are queues for each of the flights going out that day. As we were so early, we were at the start of our queue. (we were flying Air Namibia to Windhoek & then Johannesburg) We weren’t allowed into the check-in area until the security guy let us through – which wasn’t until after midday. Although we were at the front of the queue – we weren’t the first to check in as about 10 people had bribed their way in front of the line (we saw the money change hands – someone told us later that it costs about US$200 to do that). Despite being there so early, we weren’t able to get seats together – there were a heap of school families on the flight & apparently they had block-booked their seats! We will obviously have to try & sort out this booking-seats-in-advance for future flights! In case you are still wondering just why we arrived so early – the man sitting next to me on the flight to Windhoek told me that a friend of his (who arrived at the airport about 12) was the first to be bumped off the flight, & that the following 2 days flights were also fully booked, so he wouldn’t be able to fly before Monday!

Anyway, the flight to Windhoek was about 2 hours I think & unfortunately neither of us was sitting next to a window, which is a shame as we would have flown directly over the school. But looking out the window as we flew into Windhoek airport, it looked like a very cool place but absolutely in the middle of nowhere – it looked as if we landed in the middle of the desert. Obviously we weren’t the first people to think it kind of surreal, as they made an announcement once we landed that we couldn’t take any photos of the airport due to security reasons! We had about 45 minutes before our flight to Jo-burg, but although our luggage had been booked all the way through, we had no boarding passes for the second flight. It was a bit stressful, queuing again for new boarding passes (still no seat together), but we got into the departure lounge a good 10 minutes before the flight boarded! Once on the plane, a man came to my seat & asked to see my boarding pass – we both had the same seat! His friend was also doubled up in the row in front! The cabin attendant was looking a bit stressed, but fortunately this flight had a few empty seats – so I asked if I could sit with “my husband” & we were both moved to the emergency aisle next to the wing exit where there were only 2 seats instead of 3 and we had twice as much leg room! So that was a nice flight to Jo-burg – also only about 2 hours I think. At the airport it was obvious we were back in the land of the modern – our bag arrived quickly, immigration was painless & we were able to change money easily & there was even a shuttle to take us to the hotel (which we hadn’t known about but a taxi driver told us!).

The hotel was only about 10 minutes from the airport & we crashed pretty early – it had taken us 12 hours to get there with just 4 hours or so of flying time!

So – at the end of week 11 in Angola, we were in our third African country (I know, 1 hour in Namibia is pushing it a bit!) & definitely feeling the “it’s not a developing country” type of culture shock that life in Luanda has already given us. (You won’t know the symptoms as you live in this world already, but our 10 minute taxi trip had “look, a McDonalds & take-away Pizza”, and “there’s traffic lights”, not to mention the existence of taxis!)

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