I think I’m getting a taste of what it might be like to be a federal employee back home. Since New Year’s Day we’ve had four public holidays here, with four more on the calendar before the end of May. That definitely beats the New Year’s – to Memorial Day holiday drought that I’m used to.
A brief summary of the Angolan holiday calendar to date:
5 JANUARY: MARTYR’S DAY
I have no idea what martyr-related event this is supposed to comemorate, but I appreciated the chance it offered to rest after a stressful trip back to the country after spending New Year’s in Cape Town (blog post about that pending, but I haven’t had a connection strong enough to post the accompanying video).
4 FEBRUARY: START OF THE ARMED STRUGGLE DAY
Somebody needs to come up with a shorter name for this holiday, which comemorates the start of the Angolan independence movement in 1967. Or something like that. The holiday seemed to parallel the American 4th of July, which brought back some hazy memory of my social studies teacher saying that revolutions usually starting in the summer (don’t tell the Bolsheviks).
Anyway, it was one of those random middle-of-the-week Wednesday holidays that seem sort of clunky. In a way it forces you just to relax though, and I took an invitation to spend the day at the beach with some new friends from the gym. The day was relaxing, even though the refreshments my friends brought left something to be desired (canned processed meat was a little too abundant).
Making new friends at the beach:
Here's to the end of the armed struggle:
24 FEBRUARY: CARNAVAL
After reading a description in the Lonely Planet guide about Angolans parading around with semi-dead cats to celebrate Carnaval I had some pretty high expectations for this holiday. To my surprise it turned out to be not much of a big deal, especially in Benguela, which swaps holding a parade with its sister city Lobito, 30 km to the north. This was Lobito’s year, so when I left the house with camera in hand all I found were some kids from Benguela boarding a bus heading north. I spent the day reading in the park instead, enjoying the shade and cool sea breeze while trying to avoid getting pecked by a persistent rooster. All things considered not a bad way to spend a holiday, if a little less festive than one might expect for a day associated with revelry. In fact things got even better when I met up with a friend to share a carbonated malt beverage and a huge plate of freshly prepared french fries while watching the parade in Luanda on television at an outdoor bar.
Who could resist reading and/or playing with chickens in a park like this:
Watching the events in Luanda in comfort and style:
The real highlight was a 2-stage beach party held the previous night (the first stage was the prior Saturday night) in Baia Azul, about 30 minutes south of Benguela. It was a pay-one-price-all-you-can-eat-and-drink affair, and I made sure I got my fill of grilled chicken and red bull in between attempts at dancing. The locals took the costume aspect of the party to heart, with results ranging from entertaining (sexy nuns seemed to be a popular choice) to disturbing (adult diapers entered the picture at one point). It was the best party I had been to in a very long time.
PS: Don’t believe the Lonely Planet comment about Angolans parading semi-dead cats around Luanda. An Angolan friend debunked that story, so there you have it.
8 MARCH: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
This was observed here this past Monday, which made for a 3-day weekend and a perfect excuse to take a trip somewhere. I hitched a ride with some coworkers to Lubango, about a 7-hour trip south of Benguela in a region much cooler and more lush than anything I have yet experienced in Angola. It was nothing short of friggin’ awesome and deserves it’s own blog entry, so stay tuned for more details. For now I’ll just say I’m glad the regional bus lines offer separate compartments for humans and live fowl.