08 December 2008

O homem mais antigo

A couple of weekends ago while we were at a mini-market around the corner we mentioned to a couple of guys having a beer that we were looking for an apartment but having a hard time finding one. One of them volunteered that he knew a few people that might know some people and that he'd ask around for us. This Sunday afternoon two men came to the door and offered to show us a house near here. We hadn't told anyone where we're staying, but the two men had no trouble finding us; they simply walked down the main road and asked where the people with the white baby that rides in the stroller stays.

I agreed to see the house and was soon meeting Beto in front of the loja where we had first met his friend. We walked around the corner to see the house. It is big and has had a fair bit of work done on it recently. There is a big yard and driveway and it has a well in the back. If we could negotiate it down to about 10% of the asking price we'd take it in a heartbeat.

On the walk back to the loja, Beto and I talked about how much Huambo has changed and how quickly. One year ago houses repaired like the one we had just seen rented for $300-400 per month instead of the $2500 such places are getting today. Now, many of the houses in town have come under repair with new facades and fresh plaster over the hundreds of bullet holes peppering the outer surfaces of each one. Even a year ago the work had yet to begin in earnest; the provincial roads hadn't yet been repaired and it was difficult to get building supplies here from the port in Luanda.

I asked Beto where he was born and where he spent the war. He told me he'd been born not far away in Bíe province and had come to Huambo as a child in 1968, that he'd stayed in Huambo through the war, and that he still lived in the same apartment in the building directly across from the loja. When we got back to his front door he pointed up the street to the left and said that the UNITA troops had a reinforced position about 15 meters away. He pointed right and said that the MPLA position was about 50 meters up the road.

I was astounded that he lived, literally, on the front line. He laughed as told me about how he used to wait for a lull in the fire to run across the street so that they could go to the river at the bottom of the hill to catch fish. He was proud as he told me that there had been 80 to 100 people stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder in his small house as people were looking for a “safe” place to bunker down and had learned it was one of the few, if not only, still occupied house in the neighborhood. And, he shook his head in amusement as told me that when the MPLA soldiers discovered a loja storeroom in a local house that the UNITA soldiers left them to eat and drink for a few hours before taking it over so that the MPLA soldiers would return the favor and they could all relax in peace for a while.

Beto told me that he had one or two neighbors that braved it out with him, but that he was "o homem mais antigo da rua" (the longest tenured resident on the street). It struck me as strange that this lively man, maybe 50 years old, had been here the longest. The Ovimbundu have been here since at least the 15th century (though they weren't the first) and the Portuguese officially founded a city here, one of their key economic engines, in 1912. The fact that Beto has, at this point, been here longer than anyone else is a striking testament to the impact of the independence and civil wars. That such a lush, rich, and desirable place was completely deserted is frightening and astounding. That Beto, however, has remained an engaging, funny, and joyful man despite all that he's seen gives me hope that Huambo, too, will, eventually, come through its tribulations.

27 November 2008

And then there was violence

Today on the way home from work, our dear friend had the car he was driving stolen at gunpoint. There were five people in the vehicle; one of the passengers was struck twice but it wasn’t serious and all escaped with their physical health. They lost cell phones, laptops, wallets, a passport, and a considerable chunk of time but all remained cool under pressure. Everything happened very quickly. They were passed by a vehicle which stopped immediately in front of them in such a way that their vehicle was blocked. Five men emerged from the car with weapons trained on the victims’ vehicle (one hand gun and the rest fully automatic military-style rifles). Everyone was ushered out of the car and ordered to hand over the contents of their pockets. The armed men piled into both vehicles and drove quickly away.

I know two things about violence and crime here in Angola. The first is that both are prevalent and that the average Angolan suffers a tremendous amount of each. Unfortunately they likely receive as much from the police as they do from criminals. Certainly the criminal activity of the police is more visible. I can remember two times in the last two weeks that I’ve actually seen bribes changing hands and have seen countless other instances where you can be sure they also did. The second thing I know, however, is that this country is far safer than your average expat or fat cat would have you believe. Companies and embassies regularly disallow their staff to walk on the streets of Luanda beyond the distance from their car to their door (frequently this distance is covered inside a compound instead of in a semi-public space anyway). The wealthy eye the average Joe on the street with haughty suspicion and/or complain about how everyone that works from them steals from them.

Having regular contact with foreigners and the well off I speak loudly and clearly about the safety of my neighborhood and the comfort I take in being well known by my neighbors. While most in my position wouldn’t set car (let alone foot) in my neighborhood I compare it to the suburbs and brag about my neighbors being the mid-level employees that actually work in this country. When people stutter with disbelief at where I walk and how much time I spend on foot not to mention how much I ride the condongueiros (mini-buses), I laugh with pride and talk about how much I’ve learned and add I’ve yet to experience personal violence and see little evidence of crime (excepting the police). I receive warm smiles and greeting from a majority of the people I pass on the street. I do not carry a target on my back and take confidence in the feeling that the average Angolan is far more likely to my aid in a moment of crisis than the average American.

Today, however, I can no longer say, "Knock on wood, we haven’t had any trouble!" Instead, when the inevitable conversation about crime comes up I have to admit that my friend who works for a non-governmental organization and has given everything he has to this place for three years had his car stolen from him and, much worse, his trust violated by an extremely small minority. I have to say that it was off the main road going through a neighborhood where he travels regularly and that it was planned and well executed by professional criminals. Worst, I have to say that I feel less secure here today than I did yesterday and that I worry that before I was being naive. This day was a terrible one for our friend and is a sad one for me.

26 November 2008

The move that will not end

It’s been sworn to me that Huambo is a mere seven hours from Luanda by truck on fancy new Chinese roads or a short, one hour plane trip on the national carrier. These figures, however, do little to explain the practical distance between here and there especially when you’d like to stay there for a few months or you’re trying to move the entire contents of your household there. Months after getting started with the process we’re still in Luanda.

We began looking for a house in Huambo in late August. Since, Rebecca has made two solo trips and we’ve made one as a family with the intention seeing, negotiating for, and signing a lease on an apartment. Each trip has gone more or less the same. A few days before we’re scheduled to arrive we begin making phone calls to tell people when we’ll be in town to see apartments. Everyone tells us that this will be simple and that there are lots of good, cheap houses in Huambo and that we should be able to see them and that we will find something quickly and without problem. We arrive in Huambo and find ourselves unable to get in touch with anyone. The lines are jammed, people’s phones are turned off or are disconnected, or the people we were supposed to speak with have just left town (usually for Luanda, from which we just arrived).

We spend a week living in a guesthouse and spend our days making dozens of phone calls and waiting for people to call us back. If we’re lucky we get some vague directions and the phone number of someone’s cousin’s father who promises us that so-and-so doesn’t work and is home and waiting there to show us the apartment. We spend an hour or more trying to find the place, standing in front of possible buildings, knocking on doors, and walking around asking all the same questions to dozens of neighbors, getting different answers from each, trying to find the right place and person. Eventually we arrive back at the first and most suspicious building to ask, one more time, if the people there are sure they don’t know so-and-so who lives on the second floor. “We were told that she would show us the apartment,” we say. “Oooooh,” comes the answer, “Yes, her. This is her apartment. She’s not home. She’s at work. She left hours ago and she’ll be home at the end of the day. No one is home.” Apparently now that we’ve spent an hour wandering around and being evaluated by everyone it’s safe to tell us that we had the right spot in the first place.

We call the person who sent us there to tell him the girl is at work. After we convince him that she’s not home and force him to admit that he hasn’t talked to her in days let alone told her that we were coming this morning, he agrees to come to show it himself and says he’ll be there in ten minutes. Twenty or thirty minutes later he arrives. He leads us past the women cooking in front of the door and the five or six children playing the front room as we try to see the apartment through the dim and dust. We try to discuss the possibility of a few repairs before we move in. He doesn’t know anything about all that; we’ll have to talk to so-and-so. “Great. We’d like to meet him. Where is he today?” “Well, he lives in Luanda.” Of course. Eventually Rebecca arranged for us a reduced rate that the guesthouse where we will live for the next couple of months. The move to Huambo can no longer be delayed simply because we have no place to live once we arrive there.

In the meantime we’ve been trying to find a home for the contents of our household. We left our other house at the end of September. It was the end of the first portion of our lease and as difficult as it was proving to find a house in Huambo it seemed it was more likely to happen if we simply went ahead and made the leap. In the end we did so because we seem unable to exhaust the patience, kindness, and generosity of Arthur and Jojanneke who have tolerated a house full of boxes as we’ve come and gone from Luanda on various trips. After learning that Luanda’s car rental offices don’t allow their cars to leave the city (even with a hired driver) and that renting space in a mini-bus on its way to Huambo is prohibitively expensive, we set about begging and borrowing space in any vehicle we heard was headed to Huambo. One set of boxes went on a truck of the company of the son of our former landlord (only after a complicated, favor-fueled twenty km trip to their shipping depot in Viana). Two other sets have gone with other kind organizations and the remainder piecemeal on various airplanes.

With lodging-of-a-sort arranged and having successfully moved most of our household goods we assumed that getting ourselves to Huambo one last time would prove relatively simple. We were wrong. We first tried to purchase plane tickets on Saturday. We arrived at 10:50 to find the office which is supposedly open until 12:00 closed. On Monday Rebecca found them open but was told that they couldn’t issue the tickets until they saw our child’s passport to verify his age. Though it seemed strange that we had been able to book travel through this agent four previous times sans passport, I took it and made the punishing trip to town with child in-tow – his nanny was out sick – and finally got our tickets.

When we arrived at the airport at the appointed time on Tuesday the check-in desk clerk simply laughed at us. The flight was cancelled. That flight is always cancelled. True, there’s an afternoon flight on the schedule, but when had it ever gone? She couldn’t remember. The agent never should have booked us on that flight. We got back into the car and headed over to the airline’s offices. After an hour of guarding my spot in “line” and a simple transaction we had new tickets for the flight early the next morning.

So, this morning we got up at 4:00 so that we could be at the airport for a 4:30 check-in and a 6:30 flight. We arrived at 4:35 to learn that this flight was also cancelled. Airline policy says that we should have called to confirm it was going before we left the house, but, of course, the offices aren’t open at such ungodly hours. Why would they be? We eschewed the growing line at the window of a small airline which serves Huambo and an opportunity offered by a man on the sidewalk who insisted he could get us on a different flight if we would just give him our money and documents, and we raced off to the airline down the street (which “conveniently” has its own terminal and departure area) to see if we could still make their daily flight. We got there in time, but it was cancelled as well.

We were back at the house by 6:00 but still unsure how and when we’ll be getting to Huambo. Having had a cancelled flight two days in a row we were pretty sure our good luck with the national carrier (a rare thing, but we’ve had no problems with them this year)has run out and are afraid of re-booking with them. Their competitors are all small and we imagine, at this point, quite full because of the other cancellations.

At 9:00 we (2 year old included) left for Maianga/ Prenda where we’ve heard tell there’s an office for one of the smaller carriers. At 11:00, after two miserable and unbelievably hot bus rides and thirty minutes of walking up and down Amilcar Cabral we decided to let the toddler, with mom in tow, retreat to the comfort of an air conditioned bakery as I continued on foot. By 11:30 I had successfully found the office and purchased their first available tickets to Huambo. We’re now scheduled to fly on Saturday.

With luck, we’ll actually board that flight and land safely at our destination. After four months of house shopping, thousands of kwanzas in phone credits, multiple trips to our destined city, a mixed caravan of vehicles, and a WEEK SPENT TRYING TO BOARD AN AIRPLANE, we’re finally headed to Huambo. On Saturday. We hope. Now we just hope that we can find an actual house to live in once we’re really there so we don’t have to live in the guesthouse. As always, fingers crossed.

26 August 2008

Visiting and Visitors

We’re a few of weeks removed from our last visa-renewal trip to Namibia, and I have to say that I’m happy to have it well behind us. It’s not that Namibia isn’t wonderful – in fact, it’s just the opposite: leaving a beautiful, clean, organized, relatively cheap Windhoek behind to return to filthy, chaotic Luanda wasn’t one of the easier things I’ve done recently. Coming at the six-month mark of our time here (half way, as we’ve recently decided), the trip was a sort of bittersweet celebration. We’re proud at how well we’ve done here in six months – how much we’ve accomplished both in terms of work and in terms of making a home – and how easy it’s seemed despite being difficult and exhausting. We’re excited that we get to return to the US in six months – to return to the comforts we enjoy there and to be closer to our family and friends. We’re sad, however, at how quickly time has passed and how little of it we have left here.

One might reasonably expect that we’ve learned a lot about Luanda in living here a half year, but after our visit to the country next door I can only say that I’m more confused than ever. How country like Namibia which is comprised largely of dessert and boasts a fraction of the wealth of (natural and fiscal) Angola be so much better off?

It’s not that Namibia doesn’t have its problems, to be sure. I feel a fairly intense vibe of racism and there are still some fairly serious problems with poverty. But, when you meet Namibians they ask for how long you’re on holiday instead of saying, “Welcome to hell” as I frequently hear around Luanda. Another difference between there and here is the presence of an educated middle class to manage and run the country. When the Portuguese left all of the knowledge about how to manage and maintain industry and infrastructure left with them. In the 30 years of civil war that followed the situation with local capacity deteriorated further. And while I’m not sure having a white, imported middle-management class, like Namibia’s, would be the best thing for Angola, having a sizable, decently educated group of people seems to make a world of difference in keeping a country functioning.

Despite its problems, though, Luanda is a far nicer place to be now than it was a mere two years ago. This fact has been highlighted by the recent arrival of a friend making her first visit to Angola. Even though she’s been studying and reading about Angola for years and is quite well traveled, she’s been awed by the conditions here in Luanda and how disgusting things are. Last week, as I was showing her around town, I spent a lot of time talking about how much has been improved recently and being surprisingly defensive about the conditions. For example, arriving here in the Bairro Popular this year I was amazed at how relatively little garbage there was in the streets. As compared to two years ago it absolutely gleams; one of our main roads is regularly swept and there’s nightly pick-up of trash that almost works.

However, based on the amount of trash remaining on the streets in our neighborhood among other things, it was pretty clear that our friend was having a hard time believing me that things are actually better today than they were a short time ago. So one day she asked a cobrador (the guy who gets people on and off the taxies and collects fares) if life here has improved. He said it’s more than improved; he said that life here today is good. His statement highlights the difficulty of describing the current situation here. The following two statements are both true: life here is far better than it was 2 year ago; life here is miserable, difficult, and unhealthy. The fact that it’s improved considerably shouldn’t be overlooked, but it also can’t be allowed to detract from the problems that still remain. More than that, given how poor the situation is we can’t afford to have satisfaction with the speed of progress.

As Angola prepares for its first elections since 1992 the ex-pat and international communities are rightfully concerned about how free and fair the elections will be especially given the situation here with government control of media. The effect, however, that the elections seem to be having on the government in terms of pressure to make improvements and pressure to demonstrate their fitness to govern are impressive. Free and fair or not, I’d say that the elections have had a positive effect on the country.

The propaganda on TV, Radio, and Billboards here brags about how little has been accomplished in the mere 6 years that have passed since the end of the war. One television ad, in particular, compares how much rebuilding has occurred here with how long it took in Europe and Japan to recover from two world wars. It’s hard to argue: a lot has changed and a lot is changing – quickly. Moving forward, though, we must hope that the government continues to compare the situation here with the situation abroad and that Angolan’s visit other places as people from other places visit here so that we continue to be reminded that no matter how far Angola has come or how fast, there remains a long way to go.

16 July 2008

I’ll pay my electricity bill as soon as the power comes back on

I will. I really will. I promise. This isn’t even a threat. In fact, I’d be happy to pay it today. I just came back from the local EDEL office where such things happen, however, and it isn’t possible because even though we have power here at the house, they don’t. Yes. One more time: I cannot pay my electricity bill because the power company doesn’t have power at their office.

The above paragraph is, of course, prerequisite. I write it in obligation to the unspoken contract between me and this continent what with it being “undeveloped” and I being a “westerner” with a blog. Just between you and me, however, I wasn’t too surprised. It makes enough sense to me that the potential irony is lost. On the way home, just to check, I told my neighbor what had just happened. He waited to make sure I didn’t have something else to add, something that would help explain why I stopped him, and to make sure I wasn’t simply taking an extended pause to try to think of a word in Portuguese, eventually shrugging his shoulders saying, “Yeah. Huh. Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Yeah, after the 15th maybe.” It didn’t even occur to him that what I was telling him could be the basis of a humorous anecdote. I’ve come to internalize what he did long ago: there’s no imperative connection between the office where I pay my bill and “the power company,” let alone between “the power company” and the generation and delivery of power.

I had doubts about whether I would be able to pay my bill in the first place. After all, it’s been more than two months since anyone was here to read the meter. I was really going to the office so that at least if anyone from EDEL came by to disconnect the power I could be telling the truth as I handed him his whiskey (a hopefully passable bribe) and told him I was just at the office.

I had been home from my attempt for about an hour when two EDEL men came by the house to read the meter. They were nice: a sweet older man with slurred way of speaking and a polite if somewhat serious younger man. Despite our nervousness, they were uninterested in the status of our account. They wrote down some numbers from the meter and from our paperwork, quickly drank a glass of cold water, and moved on to the neighbor’s house.

I’m going to go try to pay my EDEL bill again on Friday. Maybe the power will be on and maybe the data from today’s collection will be in the system. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll have to return next week. Maybe I’ll still have to bribe a guy to keep him from shutting off our lights. Maybe the power will go out anyway, like it was most of last week, and this will all seem really, really silly. Maybe when I’m at the office next I’ll suggest that they might want to look into getting a generator because the power from EDEL is, you know, really unreliable. And, maybe, after that, the water will come on for the first time this week.

21 May 2008

Being Angolan, and Not

While I wish my most recent trial were ending, I cannot report such good news. I write to you from the comforts of my good friend's home in Maianga where there is air conditioning and, most importantly, electricity. The power in our part of the bairro went out early Friday morning and as of this moment (Tuesday afternoon) has yet to return. Our generator has not worked since day one in the new place and our water only runs if the pump has energy to retrieve it from the tank. Fortunately, we've had good luck with the spigot out front (which we usually use to top off the water tank) and, so, with a small amount of physical labor life at home remains almost comfortable.

It's been a somewhat convenient time for this to happen, as lately I've been contemplating my Angolan-ness. Having no power and having to carry all my water (though not nearly as far as most of my neighbors) has created a nice space in which to consider how well I'm adapting to life here. There are a few Angolan-isms with which I was born and a few that I've acquired in my time here. All-in-all, I'm assimilating rather well but it remains clear that I am not and will never be Angolan. Four months into my stay here seems as good a time as any to give you the current rundown.

I make noise CONSTANTLY, or so I'm told… This may or may not be apparent to you depending on the context in which we've spent time together, but it would appear that if I'm not playing a radio or music just loudly enough to annoy my spouse I am singing, talking, clicking (yes, clicking), whistling, or, worst of all, working. To be fair, making strange noises all day is kind of my job, but I suppose that this doesn't quite justify all of the other racquet. I would kind of like to deny the charge, but have been forced into a situation of self-awareness and I cannot. The good news is that I fit in perfectly here. In fact, if anything, I've got some headroom. Since arriving I've even made some somewhat surprising complaints about life here being too loud. For example, the ladies that we employ listen to the radio all day at volumes just loud enough really wear on you throughout the day; even I'm relieved when they go home and we can turn the damn thing off.

I am a master of the overly long and complicated precursor statement and I repeat the same point ad infinitum as though the slight variation in my examples carries profound meaning… No statement here begins without a precursor. The simplest variation is “olha” (look) as a clause at the beginning of nearly sentence (or, more commonly, “olha, olha, olha…”). Other favorites are, “É como assim…” (It is like this) and “É o seguinte…” (It is the following…) which begin most declarative statements but add no meaning whatsoever. I would be tempted to claim that my lead-ins are important and that they pave the way for the coming information in an important way, but to make such claims would be a folly.

I've picked up the habit of counting money out of a drawer… In every loja here in Luanda (I'd guess Angola, but I can't say for sure) the money behind the counter is kept in a drawer. Not a drawer, however, like you'll find in a cash register, but one rather like my sock drawer. Money received is tossed in casually and change is made by digging through a heap of crumpled bills. The result is best described as dinheiro soup. Larger or well organized shops have two drawers, one for small bills and one for large, with a result that is much the same. In what I must confess was a moment of pride, I recently found myself digging through (read: making a mess of) the top drawer of my desk, where I had put all of my money at the end of the day, for a 200 kwanza note.

I recently began improvising objects out of plastic... É como assim, I've needed a laptop stand for quite some time to facilitate the use of my external keyboard and mouse, and to help cool down an already hot-running laptop in the miserable heat. I didn't bring one because I didn't have room and expected I'd be able to make one out of something. I have been using a stack of books, which took up too much space and caused problems each time I needed to use one of the volumes. After months of contemplation in a world filled with plastic (I mean FILLED; seriously, this is a whole other post), the vision for my perfect laptop stand hit me like a bolt of lightning. With one container and a razorblade I had the below in under 5 mintues. I feel like I'm living the end of the first matrix movie when the hero is able to see that the world is really made of code and he can alter it as he sees fit. I have arrived.

But for all that I may have or may be gaining in common with your average Angolan, the degree to which I am not and will never be one is ever-present. Last week, for example, a woman we know that works as an empregada got beaten by her ex-husband for going to his home to ask for money to help support their three children. She was beaten over the weekend and subsequently missed work (and pay) on Monday as she was seeking care for her mangled teeth and dealing with unresponsive police about the incident. On Tuesday when she went to work, she learned that she was losing one of her two cleaning jobs (the one with more hours, of course) because the husband in that house was sick of paying for a cleaner when “all his wife does” is study full time in university. In her remaining job she works about 15 hours per week and gets paid $120 per month. That's less than $2 per hour but it's also a slightly generous wage by local standards. How she supports her three kids, I have no idea. If she spends her entire salary on food she's got around $4 per day to make it work out. That's about 6 eggs (or 2 small pieces of meat), 2 cups of starch, an onion, and a tomato per day. Give or take. I wish I could tell you her life was unusual or particularly unfortunate, but I can't. It could be going a whole lot worse for her – it is for others. And, while there is plenty of abuse and poverty in the US, but it doesn't compare to the quantity and depth of it here.

And so, really, as amusing as it maybe now and then to marvel at my own budding Angolan-isms, I'm working hard to keep things in perspective. Unfortunately daily life here provides plenty of reminders. I was born in a rich country. I was born with access to all of the privileges afforded white men. I have experienced financial insecurity and have wanted for food because of it, but I do not know poverty or hunger. I am well educated. I have opportunity. I also have an obligation to make a positive contribution in this world. I have yet to figure out how best to do so, but I will learn. Being in Angola will help me. And, maybe, as I work to figure it out, I can pick up that beautiful Angolan ability to laugh and sing and dance, to find a way be kind, to be generous, to be joyful, and to find beauty despite the crushing misery all around.

09 April 2008

I recently had the pleasure of attending a futebol match between our “local” team, Kabuscorp, and 1º de Agosto, one of the dominant forces in Angola’s premiere league. While the quality of the futebol was questionable (even to the untrained eye) the afternoon was incredibly entertaining.

First, a little background: We live in the Bairro Popular which is in Kilamba Kiaxi (which is in Luanda) – our neighborhood area appears in the lower left hand corner of this map (for reference, Ingombota contains the bulk of the central city). The bairro next to ours, just off the map to the lower left, is Palanca. Palanca is known as a war destination for Angolans from the northern province of Zaire and a large immigrant community from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Portions of the DRC and Zaire province were formerly part of the Kindgom of Kongo which had its capital in Mbanza Kongo (the current-day capital of Zaire province) and the size of the Kongo community in Palanca is large enough that Palanca is sometimes jokingly referred to as "República Democrática do Palanca." Futebol fans in Palanca are quickly becoming known for their rabid support for the team of their local “Kabuscorp Sport Clube Palanca” which was elevated to the top tier of professional teams this year.

As a recently promoted team, Kabuscorp is more or less expected to occupy the bottom of the rankings. This doesn’t appear to put much of a damper, however, on the enthusiasm displayed by their supporters. Three weeks ago underdog Kabuscorp triumphed on the road against Benfica do Lubango, a victory which has been credited, at least locally, to the turn out and volume of their fan base. At the match I attended, cheering for Kabuscorp began a full two hours before play and continued unabated until the 86th minute when 1º de Agosto scored the game’s only, winning goal.

Highlights from the shenanigans included crowd leaders in full body paint, a sizable brass band with incredible volume and endurance, a fire breather or two (of which the police did not approve), taunts at spectators in the building behind us including warnings that their building was going to fall (no small joke in Luanda these days), and special new cheer citing the presence of Kabuscorp’s white fans as evidence of its impending victory. The cheers and songs throughout were in Lingala but a friend of Arthur and Jojanneke from work was able to translate for us. He was initially nervous about doing so as the cheers pretty vicious in their treatment of the other team and their fans, but once Arthur relayed the content of some common Dutch futebol songs our informant was comfortable sharing the gist of their taunts with us.

While normally I’d be dubious of the ability for cheering to have a large impact on the game, it seemed best not to discount the importance of the Kabuscorp support crew. I’ve never seen a team interact with a crowd as much as this one. One of the assistant coaches even came over to the stands before the game to confer with the crowd ring-leaders. Some of the loudest cheering of the game came when the head coach made his tour of the field and tipped his hat to the crowd. While he was on the field everyone in the stands made sure we realized who he was and told how him important he was – he was described to me as "chefe" (a common word here translating more-or-less to boss or chief) as well as king and hero in English. Indeed, despite terrible play by the goalie and despite 1º de Agosto being bigger, stronger, faster, and more talented at every position Kabuscorp managed to keep it tied 0-0 until the very end of the match.

Even if our attendance at the match didn't culminate in Kabuscorp victory, the fallout from our presence continues to be felt -- as recently as this weekend I was stopped in the street and asked about my support for Kabuscorp. I've also heard rumors that were clips of us on the television during the local sports coverage. The only problem with all of this is that Kabuscorp isn’t considered by everyone to be a "real" Angolan team, as many of the players have (apparently) naturalized from the DRC. There’s also the small problem that I now live on the other side of the bairro from Palanca and all of my new neighbors are 1º de Agosto supporters. I do, however, appreciate that Kabuscorp is a huge underdog and cheering in Lingala is a heck of a lot of fun -- even if I don't know what I'm yelling. I’ll have to hear out my neighbors on the case for 1º de Agosto and I’ll report back with my fan status in a few weeks.

Kabuscorp v. 1º de Agusto

p.s. Jojanneke took some excellent pictures – keep an eye on her blog for more…