luanda- a slice of life

I am safely nestled into my new apartment in Johannesburg, grazing on fresh vegetables and fruit throughout my languorous days. I’ve been out of touch due to some extraordinary circumstances back in Luanda. We received our HHE (the majority of our things!!) the Friday before last, in a previously unheard of length of time. Glory be. I was able to spend my last week in Angola unpacking, dragging, organizing, rearranging and finally editing (the universally despised Drexel Heritage). Through a clever use of closet space and baskets, I was able to eject 3 huge dressers from our bedroom. What a toe-stubbing difference that made. Great to be reunited with all of our artwork and favorite doo-dads. I didn’t have the chance to take many “after” shots but plan to once I return in late September. Oh! the suspense! It is exponentially better even after just a week of primping. Most importantly, there’s a chance I’ll be eager to return after this 3 month absence. (Did I just write that??)

sneak peak! With a gorgeous bunting made by two talented and creative friends of mine.


It’s come to my attention that I have been peddling half truths disguised by my sunny disposition, can-do attitude and obstinate determination to not let this post unravel me. I’ve never cared to spend too much time contemplating the obvious, especially when the obvious is covered in a thick layer of desperate stench. Life in Luanda is NOT easy. As I’ve detailed before, I prefer to focus on the good fortune of eachother, our home, access to shipments from Amazon, an oasis like the embassy, and a finite amount of time here. But perhaps most importantly, the intimate knowledge and lush, beautiful memories of a life so incredibly different than this.  A life that I have taken for granted more times than not. God has blessed us tremendously, America. Don’t ever forget that.

taken a couple of miles from our house, but fairly representative of the landscape of the city.

Just a few blocks from our house is a road with an actual sidewalk that twists it’s way along a craggly hill on which many embassies and one of the president’s estates are situated. Those few blocks from our house to the tolerable road are miserable since they wind through a park which is used primarily as a toilet and secondarily as a lounging, drinking, tooth-sucking, cat-calling vomitorium (Despite the obvious misuse of this theatrical word, it seems to convey the park most accurately. Forgive me.) The sidewalks are torn to shreds, often it’s best to walk in the middle of the street. Early on I twisted an ankle and am convinced that I fractured a bone in my foot, as it still hurts. The other day Snakes tripped over one of the countless hazards that litter the streets and tore a hole in his suit pants. They’re ruined. That’s just it. No time for daydreaming, letting one’s thoughts drift or letting one’s guard down, even for a split second. You WILL trip, fall, splash into a pool of urine or step into a gaping uncovered manhole. And this is a nice neighborhood.


the hill which smolders ever with piles of burning trash

I get so frustrated with that place. How on earth did we manage to draw this SERIOUS old maid card? To test our mettle? Strengthen our marriage? I don’t want to dwell any longer but it kills me that my guys are there, my family. And soon enough I’ll be headed back there with a chubby little girl strapped to my chest. Knowing what I do, does it make me a bad mommy already?




23 thoughts on “luanda- a slice of life

  1. It does not make you a bad mommie.It makes you a loving and wise mommie who wants to have her family together. At least you are aware of the filth and can steer clear of it by staying at home or hiring a car if you girls want to swim or have lunch with Daddy at the embassy.Now is not the time to be stingy with yourself…
    It’s very smart to be aware of your surroundings and even smarter not to dwell on the negativity of it all. It does no good at all and will only make you and everybody else feel worse. However, if you really believe that the place is way too dangerous and unsanitary for your little one, your only choice is to relocate. You just can’t take that chance with your baby. She has only you and David to depend on and she deserves your best. But you already know all this!
    Good luck in making some difficult decisions. LYTP

  2. Eve- I am praying for your family. It is so funny because you pop into my brain and I just pray for safety and peace and a healthy little girl. I can only imagine how hard it is to be away from home during this time.

    1. Thank you, Julie, that’s so nice to hear! Baby girl’s doing great, wiggling around like mad but her head’s been down for nearly a month now so we’re getting there. I did miss the US this weekend especially- all the FB photos of parades and fireworks- biz as usual in Jo’burg. Hardly seemed right!

  3. Hi Eve! The place looks pretty hellacious but the finite time is a blessing. We are incredibly fortunate in the States and so many Americans never travel and don’t appreciate their home turf. You have an awesome opportunity to see places your daughter may never get to and transfer whatever positives you can glean from it all. I know you are an awesome mother already just with your pre-natal care and Little Baby Girl won’t remember a thing but mommy and daddy love from this time period.
    Two years will be over before you know it. In Estonia it was the first 4 months that were the hardest / most homesick. Just think – Richard and I got married 13 years ago – does it seem like that long at all? Ruby’s ELEVEN! Eleven and ready for puberty with a whole lot of attitude and arguing. Luanda will be a distant memory before you know it.
    I’m pretty sure others have kept you updated but sad news in New Orleans – James Leeming passed away suddenly in the hospital with some sort of bleeding ulcer complications. Super sad. So we are all counting our blessings on this 4th of July – hang in there! Jen

    1. I heard about James through Facebook of all places, then looked it up in the paper. My heart goes out to Heather and Kobe. That is too tragic. He really was a good man. Thanks for keeping me in the loop. Tons of love to you and your sassy offspring. xoxo

  4. Hi, I have been reading your blog wiht great interest – since we are about to move to Luanda. Good luck wiht an exciting new chapter in your life! If you have the time it would be great if you could send me an email, as I have a couple of questions for you…

  5. NO, it doesn’t make you a bad Mom! Hell, I’m about to take my toddler to Djibouti…where he’ll probably get the sunburn that will give him skin cancer in fifty years. 😦
    You’ll be fine. Hang out around the house (that’s all your going to want to do anyway – newborns = exhausting) love on your baby, teach her, be happy with her, and you guys will be just fine.

    Also, is that a classroom rolly map thingy?!?! Those things are awesome! Where did you snag that?!

  6. I got one on ebay- which was lovely (and super cheap) but topographical. I wanted a political one so I could quickly sort out unfamiliar geography (embarrassed to say how many cities/countries I had never heard of on our bidlist…oh, look, now I’m living in one…) I finally gave up and ordered a new one from somewhere I found online. I just tried to google it but can’t remember the site. I’ll keep looking since I seem to have an extraordinary amount of time on my hands just now. I’ll let you know what I find.

    1. Sorry to hijack your comment, Camille. My friends found me a classroom map from a school estate sale which was advertised on Craigslist. You should give that a shot too, although it sounds like Eve’s method of purchase would definitely be easier.

  7. If we ever get in to the FS, I will remember to never rank a place “High” out of gratitude for getting in to the FS, unless I actually want to go there.
    It’s not an Old Maid card. You aren’t a spinster. You live in a yucky place (or will again soon) but have so much and have the love of many.
    I hope your pregnancy continues along as well as it has been going.

  8. There were days when I was fairly certain our CDO hated us, and other days when I felt like the world’s worst mom dragging my kids here. (And there were days when I felt like the world’s worst mom for evac’ing them.) We have learned so much and grown so much as a family though. I don’t ever want to do this again but I am grateful for the experience. You are strong people and will come out even better from this. I really believe that about you. You are incredible. This blog is such an incredible window into your soul and your world. And you are really doing an amazing thing helping people to understand a place they never even consider on a daily basis. I hope the rest of the pregnancy and birth go well. You are a smart woman and you’ll know what you need to do for your little one, whatever it means in this case. I’m cheering for you.

  9. Oh the lovely lovely smell of burning trash. Blech! I am still not loving Malawi but I think our family has grown stronger and I think there is a reason we were sent there. All the same I will be happy when it is time to move on.

    I too tend not to talk to much about the bad stuff although I have posted a few rants and I will surely post more from time to time. I haven’t posted much on the blog for a while because I haven’t had much nice to say so I have just been quiet, and of course now that we are in the states on R&R we are busy busy busy.

    Right now concentrate on taking care of yourself the the soon to be new baby.

  10. You are absolutely, positively incapable of being a bad mommy. We are (will always be) so grateful for the help you gave us when I was close to my worst last fall. Look at what you’ve done already to help the community….I know it can’t be easy, but she will be fine!

  11. It is now less than 2 years, and as the history already shows there are pleasant surprises that the future holds: your house was ready early and your things arived safely. I know it is easier said than done, but continue to focus on the possitive and the time will fly!
    One of my good friend’s parents took him and his then little sister to Bungladesh to volunteer for a year. His mom is a nurse and he got dyphteria. She was telling me this years later sitting next to her very healthy, beautiful, well rounded son, who is grateful for all the experiences his parents put him through. I believe there was also a part of the story where she allowed her kids to swim in the croc and snakes infested river 🙂 and something about man eating tigers 🙂
    You, David and the boys will do wonderfully 😀

  12. Should I read from the doubt about raising a child in Angola that Angolan moms are bad moms by having and raising them there?

    you never know, raising a child in a place where people don’t have the time and the $$$ to have all those allergies and be fearful of germs may make one more sensitive & a respectful person who never calls other’s homes a “yucky place” as one of the commenter wrote

    I do understand your “question”, of course
    but it annoys me to see who people get so far from the worlds reality comparing everything to the good old north America & Europe as if it’s the role model

    Please don’t take my comment as aggressive, it’s not my intention
    It’s just that, you know… more respect for others reality is in order… please

    1. “me”-
      I’d love to respond to you more thoroughly and continue this discussion off line. It seems that you have a wealth of experience regarding cultural sensitivity. Since you have chosen to remain anonymous and failed to provide a valid email address, I’ll just say this:

      First off, I am speaking strictly of Luanda. (The bits of Angola that I’ve seen have been lovely.) Most Luandan moms don’t have the choice to have or raise children elsewhere. I do.
      I was born and raised in the US, thus the basis of my comparisons are bound to be colored by my own experience. That’s human nature. This is my VERY first time living overseas and I am 38+ weeks pregnant. I wonder if you’ve spent any appreciable time in Luanda and if so, were our circumstances similar? I’d love to hear your impressions and how you were able to so gracefully navigate the challenges. I think that many women in the foreign service grapple with the idea of inoculating (malaria, yellow fever, etc) their newborns or themselves, while pregnant or nursing. I was simply reaching out for a little input from others who may be or have been in a similar situation. I think that most brand new mothers have moments of anxiety and under such unique circumstances (ones with which other FS ladies are familiar) things may be amplified.
      I encourage all comments, contentious or otherwise. This is one simple way we can all benefit from one another’s knowledge, support and increase our cultural sensitivity as a whole. If someone says something I don’t agree with (“a yucky place”), unless it’s truly incendiary, I’m not going to edit it out. I can appreciate your opinion that I am insensitive and disrespectful. It is my husband who is the diplomat. I am very pregnant, isolated, first-time mother on a country that doesn’t feel very hospitable. You’ll have to excuse me if I seem a little anxious. Thank you for your comment.

      1. Horton clinic run by angolese doctors was my favorite place…there is a wait unless to call pay more and mark it urgent… I did go to the expat clinic with gps but i prefered the pediatricians there. If your still there?

  13. Wow nothing has changed i lived in luanda for twelve years…one day i just decided to leave seven blissful years in south africa and a total disconnect with my patient husband and father for my thirteen years old son. I have come to crossroads to come back or give the best to my kids and myself. I recently wnet to luanda and made pros and cons list and it was very hard to see through the expense, traffic, noice…….what to do?

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