In Luanda!

The arrival in Luanda was not the easiest... Starting with the landing, which was probably the scariest of my life so far – hope next time the captain remembers that it is actually good practice not to start landing when there is a plane occupying the runway! Getting our luggage back was also a bit of a nightmare. Apparently someone decided that the collective weight of the luggage in our flight was just a little bit too heavy to accompany the passengers. What better solution then to just leave it behind in South Africa?? Of course no one would miss their things for a day or two, right?? “This is Africa” I was told I don't know how many times, as if to justify this attitude.
Well, we eventually returned to the airport today – not without experiencing what is like to see your car dying in Luanda's chaotic traffic – and managed to pick up our bags from literally a pile of bags, which had been left for whoever wanted to get their hands on them...

Apart from that, so far everything went quite well. We are all settled in the house. The neighbourhood Chicala – where the house is located – illustrates very well some of the most pressing issues affecting Luanda these days: a growing informal settlement literally next to some of the most impressive modern buildings of the capital, complete lack of infrastructures (no water, roads, etc), absence of a strategy for storage or collection of waste, poor quality of the built environment (mostly self-built), and so on, and so on...
Despite all of that, it enclosures something inexplicably beautiful and special... J.M., the owner of the house where I am staying, confessed today that he would not change his humble house for one of those new apartments being built as part of the National Housing Programme. “I have lived here for a very long time and have my life here. If I am taken to a completely different place, how will I earn my living?” he told me. J.M. added that, in fact, the eviction and relocation of people has been common practice over the last years in Luanda, and that is often leading to very complicated situations. As he said to provide an example “the government may demolish a fisherman neighbourhood and take all its inhabitants to a place far from the sea, or demolish a farmers neighbourhood and take them somewhere close to the sea”.
N., an artist with a passion for African sculpture said just earlier today that he knows that sooner or later, Chicala will also join the names of other neighbourhoods that ceased to exist. “When?” I asked. “Only God knows...There is nothing we can do to stop it”...

Today was quite a busy and full day. I'm not sure how or why, but tonight I ended up at someone's birthday party. Interesting experience, great food, non-stop very loud Angolan music and very energetic moves (seriously, everyone seems to be a professional dancer!!) :)
Probably the whole neighbourhood was there - children, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends... I am pretty sure that by tomorrow every single person in the neighbourhood will know that I am spending some time as their neighbour. Hopefully that will help with the interviews for my research.

Tomorrow I am going on a sort of fieldtrip around Luanda with some students from the local university. Looking forward to it!
See you soon!


Anonymous said...

Good to hear from you Célia! Hope you manage to have quite a "normal" daily living there! Beijinho :) H.A.

cmcm said...

Hi H.A. :) Thanks for your comment. One thing I understood, there is no such thing as "normal" around here... It is nevertheless a wonderful experience.
Talk to you soon!