Saturday morning we joined a group from the embassy for a field trip to one of the few nearby destinations. We are discouraged from traveling too far outside of the city on our own and forbidden to do so into the countryside. I wish we’d known of these restrictions before coming here, since one of the greatest things about being in the foreign service is having the opportunity to explore the city and country in which one is living.
Shipwreck beach is just over 20 miles from the city but with Luanda’s infamously choked traffic, it took us over 2 hours each way. Snakes joked that if we were stationed in Brussels, we’d be arriving in Paris soon. This reminded me of when we were studying at FSI and one of our instructors always referred to Luanda as “the Paris of Africa”. Hmmm, granted I’ve only been to Paris once and I have always taken pride in my active and generous imagination but, honestly, I’m not seeing it.
We threw together a small picnic and set off around 8am. We didn’t bring the dogs, though we should have. There were only a handful of other people wandering the rusty barge boneyard. When boats in the Luanda harbor are no longer seaworthy, this is where they once retired. It was stunning in that depressing “ruin-porn” kind of post-apocalyptic way. Massive barges, freighters and fishing boats rusted out, capsized and drifting ashore.
We didn’t spend as much time as I’d have liked at this incredibly photogenic spot. It’d be great to return much earlier to avoid traffic and take advantage of the early morning light. The bushbaby enjoyed the fresh air, open vistas from her papa’s shoulders and her first toe-dip in the Atlantic.
That night, tucked safely into our clean and comfy beds, my mind was cycling through images from the day, trying to wrap my head around all I’d seen. Sometimes it’s just too much to process. It’s overwhelming and exhausting. I always feel guilty for not doing more, having been simply born into the privilege and responsibility of being an American, the dizzying advantage of a birthright which so many have forgotten or never realize to begin with.