In about 2004 we set about creating yet another new life in Angola. A country that until shortly before our arrival in Luanda (its capital) had been involved in a three way civil war that had been raging for some 30 years. This was basically a war against the Portuguese colonists in the beginning, and then later became yet another of Africa’s proxy wars between the USA and the USSR. The USA used the South Africans as their tool for this, and the Russians used Cubans as theirs. This was all about diamonds, oil, uranium and several other valuable resources that Angola has in huge quantities.
What it meant in practice was that three armies – the third being a bunch who owed no allegiance to either the USA or the USSR, but simply wanted to rule the country for their own benefit (money you know) rampaged around the country, killing and destroying anything that got in their way.
We were going to Angola as Lotty (my wife) had landed a job in Luanda International School as the Middle Year Program Coordinator and I was going to be found work upon our arrival.
Anyhow, on leaving France, we went first to London, said goodbye to various family members, and then caught a flight from London to Johannesburg. This flight was a longish one, and owing to some sort of strike with the BA catering department, there was no food on the plane..
This meant real suffering for one such as I.
Then on arrival in South Africa, we were confronted by the reality of what apparently is one of the most violent cities in the world. Razor wire everywhere, signs in several languages on private houses warning of “armed response” to any attempt to enter uninvited, guns galore, newspaper articles about the 20,000 unsolved murders annually in South Africa and a general feeling that this is not a safe or good place to be.
Quite a shock to us after our peaceful lives in rural France I can tell you.
Anyhow, we were met and whisked off to a sort of conference centre/retreat on the edge of Johannesburg for an intensive week of workshops to introduce us to the ideas of our new school, and to get to know our new colleagues, and to be given a lot of background information about living in Angola..
This turned out to be a very pleasant week, friendly interesting people, good food, comfortable accommodation, generally a good experience, one which gave us hope that working in Luanda might be a good experience.
On the other hand, in the course of this week, we were also told all manner of horror stories about life in Angola, gaining the impression that it was the most expensive, most dangerous and most chaotic place in the world. Of these things, the only one that turned out to have any truth in it was the one about the chaos, Angola is chaotic…… Amazingly so in fact. The rest? Nope…… life is about as expensive there as in rural France, and dangerous? Nope……. Apart from the drivers of the infamous African blue and white taxis, the folk there could not have been more friendly, easy to be with and uninfected with any apparent racist feelings about white people. By and large delightful people. As in any city, there were places you can better not be after dark, but in general Luanda I found to be one of the most unthreatening cities I have ever been in. Beautiful it wasn’t, but it had an energy!!!!!