Home > Uncategorized > Goodbye….Hello (or “I have a headlamp”)

Goodbye….Hello (or “I have a headlamp”)

Several weeks have passed since my last post. In the meantime, I have finished my Portuguese language training and started work as a Business Advisor/Consultant/Supervisor for CAE – Apoio Empresarial. I have also written a few blog posts on my personal PC but lacked the patience to upload them as for the past few weeks my only Internet access has been during work hours. I thought I would post at least one below as even though they are “old”, you can still get an idea about my time in Benguela…..

Thursday, October 29th:

Last week marked the end of Portuguese language training and the end of my stay in Benguela. It also ended a glorious 6-month run of not having any deliverables due, whether for school or work (and somehow still managing to get paid for half that time). Before I move on and talk about my new city and my new job, I wanted to give a proper goodbye to the town that welcomed me to Angola. What follows are random thoughts and ramblings from my time in Benguela.

About half-way through my stay, Nancy’s English School moved me to a new family. My first one was a bit too silent for a true Portuguese language immersion experience. I watched a lot of Brazilian novelas on TV with that family. These novelas came on 6 nights a week, so they really gave me a chance to improve my Portuguese apprehension skills 😉 The cable is currently out in my Luanda apartment and I am just dying to know what happened on “Viver a Vida.” I would eat dinner at the table by myself, while my 2 nephews were allowed to eat only AFTER I finished. The bathroom in my old house didn’t have running water in the bathroom (just a drip coming from the faucet), so I learned quickly how to make the most of different sized buckets to take a “shower.” When Nancy first told me she was looking for a new family for me, I felt a tad bit guilty for moving out just because they were quiet and reserved. Aren’t I also on the quiet side, after all?? Everyone in that house had been nothing but kind to me – well, except for one of the brothers who always seemed a bit annoyed at my very presence for no apparent reason. I was immediately happier and carefree as soon as I was freed from that house. I can’t explain it, but it was like an oppressive weight was lifted from my shoulders.

My new family was the polar opposite. They were a boisterous, rambunctious, slightly irreverent crew – and they immediately welcomed me into their family as one of their daughters and made me feel at home. The head mama, a woman in her mid-50s by the name of Lolita, is a lifelong party girl. During one of our first conversations she told/asked me: “I like beer. Do you like beer? ‘Cuz I LOVE beer!” (or the equivalent in Portuguese). Soon afterwards a cold Heineken was placed in front of me. Oh yeah, my experience in Benguela was about to get lively. My new house had a hot shower, was next door to a padaria bringing the warm wafty smells of fresh bread and rolls to our outdoor breakfast area, and best of all was a 5 minute walk to Nancy’s English School. Lolita and her boyfriend invited me to karaoke one night and as I had heard about how karaoke was held in a large outdoor amphitheater, I decided it would be fun to join and check out this phenomenon. We started off the night at 10pm with a pre-dinner drink at a laid-back yet happening Portuguese bar. We recruited a few of Lolita’s friends to join us for dinner. We entered what appeared to be a very casual restaurant (like a lunch spot) and went through a door at the back of the restaurant with a sign stating that we were now entering the First Class section. Inside, the room was decorated in old-world Portuguese architecture, jugs, etc. I spent the next 2 hours eating “choco” (grilled squid) and having pleasant conversation with a guy from Portugal who was in Angola for the week. Our karaoke adventure began shortly after midnight. Lolita ran into more friends and after several alcoholic beverages, they all started dancing to the …… music? Most of the songs seemed to be traditional Portuguese ballads, although the occasional “We Are the World” would be snuck in to the mix. Angolans love Michael Jackson and hearing them sing in English is worth the price of admission! I decided to call it a night at 3am, while Lolita and her possee of 50-somethings put me to shame by continuing on to a night club. As I would learn, it is custom for Lolita to stay out till noon of the next day. Angolans know how to party!

My Portuguese improved greatly over the course of 5 weeks – or so I was told. I think it is customary in African tradition to be complimentary or at least tell people what they want to hear. Most Angolans I meet tell me that I speak Portuguese very well, and for a while, I started to believe them. Then one day I gave a presentation to a group of Angolan students. During the presentation, several voluntarily complimented me on how well I spoke Portuguese. Something must have happened somewhere towards the end. They were asked to grade my speaking and comprehension abilities. One by one, they mercilessly gave me a grade of either 30% or 45%. So, there you have it folks, I’m at 30%-45% Portuguese speaking capacity!

And I will leave you with a story: One day during class, I came across a word I didn’t know. Arrendar. It means to lease or to rent. My professor was trying to explain to me what it meant and ended up using “Rent-A-Car” (in English) as an example. He turns to me and asks, “Do you have this expression in English? Rent-A-Car?” I said of course, that we did. He didn’t seem to think I quite understood him, so I began explaining the process of renting a car. After he was sufficiently satisfied that perhaps we had this phrase in the US, he said, “Ahh yes, this is a universal phrase. It’s Latin.”

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