When I was in my late teens my family had a friend who claimed he had done so many things in so many different places that we all thought he was just making things up. However when I was talking to a friend recently and telling her some of the things I had done, I realized that he may very well been telling the truth. Sometimes we are just too close to our own truths to realize how rich our lives really are. We always seem to think the grass is greener on the other side and that our lives, despite of whatever you may have witnessed, done, or learned, are just plain boring.
A good friend told me I should write down some of my life experiences. “My life? Who would be interested in that story?” Well, if I bore you to tears with tales of an ordinary life I apologize ahead of time. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to tell my stories. So, for what it’s worth, here it goes.
Captain log 001. Just kidding…
Even though I had lived for a short while in the islands of Cape Verde, my first memories of the many times we lived outside my familiar cocoon of continental Portugal, have to be of Angola. At the time, Angola was a Portuguese colony. My father was an airline mechanic and my childhood was similar to that of military families; always moving from one place to another. We lived in an apartment building (4th floor I want to say, but I could be totally wrong) that operated like a big family. Everybody seemed to be friends with each other and there were many parties to be had in the rooftop terrace.
In my school in Angola I learned that some grownups are just bad and seem to get their kicks by humiliating little ones. I also learned that I couldn’t care less if my best friend was black and her parents weren’t married. I learned that Christmas came even when we were wearing short sleeves and shorts instead of sweaters and coats. In Angola I fell in love for the first time. I was only eight and he was an “older man”, at least nine. His name was Henrique (I hope he is not reading this right now) and he had reddish hair and freckles. We used to write love notes to each other while hiding behind the couches. (I carried that torch for many years 🙂
In Angola I had my first communion and I remember feeling so grownup in my frilly white dress waiting in line to accept the Host for the first time. My dad bought his first car ever; a giant, ugly American Dodge that died on us shortly after we got it. Then he bought a Renault 4 which had seats that were basically beach chairs and that rolled like a ball if you went around the curve a tad too fast.
We travelled across the country in an old jeep and used a giant block of ice as air conditioning. I got to visit cotton and coffee fields, watched monkeys and other wild creatures cross the road in front of us, met many local kids and had something resembling a tan for the first time in my life.
The whole family loved Angola with its hot weather, the beautiful avenues and parks, the awesome music and the amazing moamba (chicken stew cooked in red palm oil). A chunk of our hearts was left behind when we left.
There is a saying in Africa. It goes something like this; once you drink the water in Africa, you are hooked for life. I am not one to believe in superstition, but I think there is some truth to it. Africa is still in my blood even after all this time.