Sunday, April 01, 2007

Arriving at Night: Wako-Kungo: Early May 2004

We arrive in darkness. A twelve hour journey across the barren coastal strip, punctuated by the baobab with their swinging mice, up until Sumbe, when greys and beiges slide into palm-lined beaches, but without any smooth blues: instead the ocean, a deep black, oily void, drops dramatically down from the beach: consuming, inhospitable, disturbing waters.

The road takes a sharp inland route from Sumbe, through dense, humid jungle-forests, patterned with lightening-white tree-trunks and thickly woven canopies. At once, through a fracture in the green, a crashing waterfall opens a wider window upon an island settled in the thick currents of a gluey river, upon which people are living on floating grass. We stop here, by the cascades, for the first time – and stop there on all proceeding trips that follow, to listen to violent water and filter gold through our fingers.

After the waterfalls, the frost-edged bushes of coffee-plantations line the road for a mile or so, fringing the driveways of old Portuguese coffee fanzendas: a promising symbol of Che Guevara’s failure to destroy all of Angola’s plantations.

Over a tumultuous curve in what was once a road – now obliterated, and filled with ferocious mud waves – the car tips into the Kwanza-Sul valley: jurassic, volcanic, expansive and breathtaking: I can see pterodactyls cut through clouds and dive into nests tucked into crevices of the almighty boulders that pepper the wrinkled green landscape.

A journey that began at seven in the morning in Luanda, is over by nine in Wako-Kungo, our new home. My first sights of Wako are in darkness: a high street lit only recently – for the first time in thirty years – by mains electricity: although it’s only ever sporadically lit from then on. We drive through the town and up to the top of it – where the road ends and the park before the white church begins, marking the foot of the mountain, where another, smaller, church overlooks the town: an abandoned guard-post of spirits.

We take a sharp right before the park and drive over the holey, gravel and mud road, and before the road meets a fork that either continues, or doubles back on itself, we pull into the driveway on the right of a white house, and are met on the doorstep by Harel, shining a torch into the Landrover, so I can’t really see him yet, and who was to be one of only four other people about to become our strange surrogate family.

In that first month there was only five of us: Harel, who was the entire Logistics Department, Yosi, who was the entire Construction Department (ABH), Danny, the entire Bullshit Department, Eran, the entire Social Department, and me, the entire Female Department! I became too accustomed to the small numbers – I adapted and took for granted too quickly, and grew too used to, feeling familiar and at home, with these people, in each of our spaces. With the exception of Danny, I felt like it was home – our home – but I was wrong, and it was very quickly taken away, very quickly filled with more people; people who were not part of my idea of what this new home was for us, and too quickly the people who had made up that ideal were pushed out. And I don’t think, in all the proceeding three years, I ever really got over this – this usurpation – and the indifference and invisibility that followed.

Turbo Tagger

1 comment:

Mazungue said...

Hello Jenglo,

After finally recouping my password to an old blog of mine it was an awesome surprise to find your link in there. It is like rediscovering your writings again (away from Myspace). A hug from NYC