Thurs night and Friday
06.10.2006 0 °F
After about 4 hours of sleep, I had to get up to get back on the bus back to the airport. There, my experience with TAP was not much better than the night before. There was much more confusion, further delays, and they refused to give me a meal voucher. Ugh. I, in turn, refused to buy expensive airport food and ate the mini Mars bar I had saved from the flight from Newark. (Sadly, I knew that its high glycemic index would not keep the hunger away for long… Haha, that’s for my dietetic interns!)
When I finally got on the plane, I sat next to a British guy headed to work on the offshore rigs near Luanda. I learned a lot about offshore oil production, and from how he described Luanda, I felt that I was headed to Hell on earth. (I won’t go into what he said, but, I am not exaggerating that much.) The view as we descended into the airport made me feel even worse. Luanda is as monstrously sprawling as Los Angeles – but instead of suburbia, it is shantytowns for as far as the eye can see.
Ever since I decided to take this internship in Angola, I have wavered between thinking that it is the greatest idea in the world and thinking it is the worst idea I’ve ever conceived. Landing on the runway in Luanda was a “worst-idea-ever” moment.
The airport reminded me of the old Dhahran airport. Rushing around, barely any English, and scary military/police guys. But I got through, and was thankful to see my bag (The British guy predicted that it would not arrive at all, and that maybe it would show up back in Boston with anything of value stolen from it.)
I wasn’t able to contact anyone about my delay, so I was afraid that there would be no one to pick me up. I was so focused on the crowd outside the exit that I didn’t notice the WFP driver until he tapped me on the shoulder. Then I saw his WFP sign and big smile and all my anxiety for the moment disappeared.
When we turned off onto a dirt road and at a door in a concrete wall, I must admit, I was a bit scared to see my new home. But the house was clean and simple. Reminded me a lot of my grandmother’s house – containing all the necessities, and not needing the luxuries.
The empregada (housekeeper) let me in and I picked up that Arlette, my host, was at a friend’s house. When Arlette arrived, her English was much better than I expected and I tried my best to profusely thank her for her hospitality. We ended up talking for a long time that night in broken Portuguese and English about lots of things – the US, Angola, the Angolan government, her family, nutrition, HIV, education. It was great. I’m really glad to be living with her.
My first day at work was interesting. Mostly doing HR/IT stuff. And since it was Friday, they only work a half-day. Took two huge binders home to read over the weekend.