Angola... it was perhaps the most mysterious location on my 2003 travel schedule, and I approached it with some trepidation. I had looked forward to this trip for more than a year with anticipation and apprehension. After more than 25 years of civil war, how would I find the country and its the people?
Would I be able to sense tension in the air, or have the Angolans put the internal strife behind them? And how would they view me, an outsider from the bastion of capitalism! After all, anti-Americanism is very popular the world over these days....
Like a child who is flying for the first time, there are all sorts of thoughts that pass through the young mind as an airplane is landing at a new destination. After several take-offs and landings, the child’s excitement subsides, but I think touching down in Africa is different. That excitement of the unknown, be it good or bad, is always there because you never really know what to expect. At least the excitement has returned for me, and the thoughts above were just a few going through my head as my Air Namibia flight from Windhoek started its decent.
The pilot did a corkscrew descent, circling over the city twice in a bid to lose altitude on the approach to Luanda International Airport. This gave me plenty of time to view the city below. From containerships and oil tankers in the bay to shantytowns and new industrial parks under construction at the edge of the city to its downtown core with shiny office buildings, I had the perfect view of Luanda, the city whose nickname before the civil war was "the Rio de Janeiro of Africa."
The city seemed to be running right up to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean only to jump off into the deep blue sea! I could see thoughtfully planned out streets, outdoor markets busy with Sunday shoppers, and children playing ball games on neighborhood courts. There was a lot of activity, this was Angola, this was Luanda--I had finally arrived!