Postcard from Angola

I’m Ready

Here we are saying goodbye and thank you to the people and the place that have hosted us the past three years. There are no words beside this certainty that they will stay with us till the very end.

Tu es prete?” H asked me. Switching to french are we now?

“Yes, ready.” I answered.

One last look. Then off we go, with our suitcases, heading up north to chase our next summer. The page has been turned, a new chapter ready to be written. Ate a proxima vez, Angola! Te gosto muito.

p.s. Gonna see my parents whom we have not met in two years. Be back end of May. Till then, keep safe & have a good one.

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A Courageous Nation

Nacao Corragem

We received this book as a farewell present. It’s a photo journal of Angola during the civil war in 1998, when the civil war ended in 2002 and the days after; by a Brazilian photographer Sergio Guerra. Some photos are very intense, while others are light and hopeful.

Angola, A Courageous Nation. Courageous to live, courageous to die, courageous to restart. Restarting every day, finding forces in their own bodies, not disheartened by the pain of separation: children, husbands, wives, mothers and sisters, separated or missing.
Courageous to reinvent life every day and not be embarrassed by this, but rather to make this as a hope for the future. Understand that pain will bring about happiness.

SG 3
SG 6
SG 5
SG 1
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It’s Not Long Anymore Now

Quinoa SaladBy this time next month, we would no longer be in Luanda. We would be in our temporary home in Paris. Our Angolan adventure is almost over and there are still many things to do before time runs out on me. D reminded me yesterday that despite all our hopes and wishes to impart knowledge to the people, to this place, this continent, we are the ones being taught. How to take things slower, how to live with frustrations, how to keep the faith, how to be thankful when we have water that flows from the tap, electricity & generator that run 24-7, roof that doesn’t leak and money to buy food.

M&M Cookies 03
There are plenty memories of bleak moments. But my fondest would forever surround our morning routine of boiling water, using pot to pour warm water over H, so that he could wash up before going to work. H called this our camping time, when water was scarce and electricity was intermittent. Oh, we laugh about it now. There is a tinge of pride whenever we recall those moments, that we survived those and came out stronger and closer and more committed to each other. If there’s any take away from my time here, it is this: Angola did good for our marriage.

Tomato Soup Pinwheel Pasta 02Then there were countless time spent on soul searching, testing and grappling with what I want to do and how to fill my days. To fill it wisely with activities that do good for my soul, with things that will not compromise who I am but a step closer to who I want to be.

It was liberating at the beginning before it became a source of frustration, trying to define who I am in a world where the money I bring home is a big measurement stick. And finally it turned into a source of contentment, that at last I had the luxury to discover new things and actually did something just because I could afford the time and the energy.

Claypot Rice
Angola changed and shaped me, there’s no doubt about it. The question has always been how long, how far I would walk away with every good change that has happened upon the person I am.

We, human, always have fear, haven’t we? Fear of tomorrow, fear of failures, fear of the unknown. I suppose I should feel relieved for leaving this place behind, that I’m returning to life that I used to know. Yeah, there is that. And there is also this deep intake of breath, squaring of shoulders, stiffening of spine before I step away from a place that I call home for the past 2.5 years.

Salad Wrap 02
Parmesan Soup 02To everything and everyone I’m about to leave behind, to everyone who has left before me, I hope our paths will cross again soon. The world is only that big.

And maybe one day, H & I will return to Angola.

Angola 01
Angola 03
Maybe I’m crazy.

Angola 02
Or maybe I’m not.

Pizza Show Down

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
– Anais Nin

So after our successful sushi night, what’s better than to seize the new year with a pizza show down?Pizza Night
Same style, same principle. I make the dough and people bring what they would like to put on their pizza. I prepare one dough for each of us, so people can showcase their inert cooking abilities. And while people have different ways of making their pizzas .. round, rectangle, elliptical, thick, thin pizza, spicy, meaty, tomato base, cream cheese base, salsa base..

Happy face, Dark Avenger face pizza ..

Pizza Night 03
.. every single one of them was very good, I kid you not. Now if only people remembered what they put on their pizza, we would have been able to replicate them.
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Finally Figured It Out

Sushi NightLast night, H and I hosted our very own sushi night. It’s not as if we are experts of Maki or Nigiri or hand rolls. But H and E just decided to do something fun, and since I’m Asian, I should know how to make sushi, or so E thought. Sushi Night 2
The idea was everybody came bringing whatever filling they want in their Maki, while I provided the rest: sushi rice, nori (the seaweed), wasabi, sichimi (the 7-flavor chili powder), soy sauce and rice vinegar.

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If Hopes and Prayers Are Birds..

.. the sky would be full of them today.

I always need a moment for myself after I visit the orphanage. To think, to feel, to remember and occasionally to nap (I’m sorry but it’s true!).

The ChoirWe had the first Christmas party at the orphanage today, for the children who live there. At the last count, there are 54 children and even after the many months, I still need to ask “Como te chama? Como se chama?” to 75% of them. There is Kin short for Joaquim the cheeky growing boy who suddenly acts as your personal bodyguard when he sees you carrying food but otherwise ignores your silly games because he’s not a kid anymore (and who still doesn’t know the numbers well). Then there is Tete, short for Teresa, who is just oozing sweetness, always the first to reach out to any new volunteers and offer a hug. Then there is Maria Jacinda, a 5 year old girl who can’t wait to be 6, who always chews some random things in her mouth, who had fungus-lookalike heat rashes the last I saw her. But today she showed me her rash-free arms and legs, saying “Creme!” (she was given some cream for her skin).

Orphanage 2
The children decorated the walls with their drawings. The choir sang songs and we had brownies and drinks.

OCSI Xmas Party Collage 2.jpg
The shoes fit, the flipflops were excellent. They love their new pillow cases and they immediately dressed up their Barbies.

Orphanage 5
Orphanage 6.jpg
It was humbling to say the least.

But my favourite part is the smiles and participation from (wait for it).. the drivers. K had the foresight to bring lots of Christmas hats that she distributed to all adults, including the drivers. And that little gesture brought them closer, like they were part of the Pai Natal team. The drivers usually wait outside the orphanage while we do our thing, but this time they came in and joined the party. While we were busy sorting the presents, the food, the drinks, they became the much-needed audience for the kids who were singing or reading a short poem. “Natal e paz, Natal e liberado, Natal e amor..” They dutifully clapped their hands and interacted with the children.

Cunha, my driver, wore his Christmas hat all the way home.

(all photos are courtesy of SL Campbell)