Living in the United States, I never imagined living in Africa, yet here I am at the tail end of year three. When I’d imagined a life abroad, like most Americans, I suppose, I imagined European destinations. There was always something in the back of my mind, a sense of the unknown, that made the rest of the world, but especially Africa, destinations of lesser consideration. My Western privilege blinded me to the wonders of the world. I assumed, mistakenly, that like-mindedness equaled contentment.
Earlier this summer, I accepted a teaching position in Luanda, Angola, so I left Morocco which I’d called home for more than two years. Nissrine and I arrived early, so we’ve been able to explore the city a bit. Much of it is reminiscent of Morocco, like the local markets and easy pace of life, yet there is a level of development here, at least in the city, which is outpacing the northern kingdom. Though there is still striking difference between the many huge new skyscrapers and the long-standing, dilapidated housing.
Our apartment overlooks one of the several yacht clubs within the inner harbor and looks toward downtown. We were surprised at the size and quality. It’s much nicer than I would have been able to afford in the States. It was yet another example of how my skewed expectations sold short a different culture.
Along the waterfront is a lovely new promenade adorned with palm trees. There are exercise stations, small amphitheaters, basketball courts, and waterfront restaurants. From the apartment, located roughly at the center of the bay, we can walk to the port in less than an hour and to the tip of the peninsula in just over.
Below are some images from our first few weeks, including a few of our apartment.
The National Slavery Museum
One of the saddest aspects of human history, both ancient and modern, is the tendency toward enslavement of others. More than perhaps any other area, Western Africa suffered greatly from the trading of humans for labor. South of the capital, near a major slave shipping point, there is a National Slavery Museum honoring the experiences of those who had been shipped abroad.
The Armed Forces Museum at Fort San Miguel
From the point of its independence in 1975 until a ceasefire in 2002, Angola was embroiled in a brutal civil war. One side was supported by Cuba and the USSR, the other by South Africa and the United States. The whole of Angola was a Cold War battlefield between world superpowers. To this day, the country struggles with leftover ordnance, such as minefields and unexploded shells.
Housed inside an old Portuguese fort overlooking Luanda Bay is the Museum of Armed Forces. Most of the collection was from the civil war, though there are several displays from items dating from before colonization. It wasn’t as thorough as the National Anthropological Museum, but interesting nonetheless. One particular bunker housed a great display of prehistory and along the walls were beautiful tile murals depicting traditional Angolan life.
The fort itself, Fort San Miguel, has bee completely restored. From its ramparts, there is an amazing panorama view of both Luanda Bay and the southern lagoon.
Also published on Medium.