After the first weekend in Benguela it’s apparent that I live in a house full of crazy women. Friday night Lolita (my host mom) had me out until 4:30am at a bar called Trilhos. I thought it was a bit odd they kept playing silent George Michael videos on the wall (mostly from the Wham! era) while the DJ kept switching between Buena Vista Social Club and UB40 music. In other developments my question about the Portuguese word for “seed” started a 30 minute discussion; apparently this was not an easy question to answer (the candidates were “semente” and “caroço” – asking the same question later at the language school I’m attending sparked a similar debate the next day). I had asked because I kept drinking the seeds of the caipirinha I had ordered and I was just curious; I had no idea the chaos that would ensue.
Anyway, Saturday was a lazy day involving a tour of the beach with Burch that included dead fish, dead mice, and some washed up electronic equipment. Later on, after some long gossip sessions at the house that involved making a case of Carlsberg beer disappear it was time to check out “Tchirinawa” or the local disco. You pay 2,000 kwanzas ($27) up front and get a card that becomes a sort of credit card for drinks; the cost of each drink being deducted electronically until you spend the prepaid amount and have to pay the balance in cash. The good news is that 2,000 kwanzas buys a lot of drinks, so this moment usually doesn't arrive. Around 5am Burch and I had had enough (he was trying to pick up some local girls but his efforts, in spite of some promising dancefloor antics, proved unfruitful) and decided to walk home along one of the few lit roads. Lolita and Chris called to check on me and when they heard we were walking they came to pick us up in the car (apparently we weren’t supposed to be walking at that hour). After dropping Burch at home I thought we were headed home also. Instead we made an unannounced stop at a bar in the center of town. My faint protests ignored, Lolita and company continued drinking in the parking lot with some friends that had magically appeared. I recognized a few people from the disco, including a candidate for a mythical group I like to call GOB (gays of Benguela). At some point there were hamburgers involved, but details are fuzzy since I decided to make my mental state known by falling asleep in the backseat of the parked car. The sun was up around 6am when we finally made it home, and I slept well into the afternoon on Sunday.
After my routine breakfast (lunch, in this case) of corn flakes and strong coffee I went with my host sister Erica (who works as a quality control expert at the local Coca-Cola bottling plant) to pick up a family friend at the airport. His flight was late so we ended up taking a Sunday drive around a nearby town that featured such exciting attractions as a jacaré (crocodile) in a pretty sad looking pond. It was a great day actually, with a nice ocean breeze and about 70 degrees. Our conversation turned philosophical when Erica started talking about the human condition and how life is short, nothing is guaranteed, and how we should endeavor to enjoy each moment as it comes. I wanted to tell her this was exactly the message from Ecclesiastes, my favorite book of the Bible, but I didn’t want her to think I was religious because I’m not (and I wanted to avoid the kind of questions such a statement might inspire). Anyway we talked about relationships and the balance between the desire to share your life with someone special and the stress associated with the process (dealing with jealousy, insecurities, narcissism, etc.) It felt weird to be having a conversation like this in Portuguese and I'm not sure all my points came across clearly, but it was fun to try. I wanted to come out to her, but decided to focus on building our friendship first before going there. The sooner the better though, because she keeps asking what I think about the local girls. Oy.