Was it worth it?

Once the Littles were safely despatched onto the school bus I went and sat on my bike in our storage room for an hour. I should add that the bike is sitting on a bike trainer so I was actually exercising, quite ferociously in fact. My current gardener likes to have a good look in my windows whenever he strolls past and this morning was no exception. I often wonder what he thinks when he can only see me from the waist up, bobbing around and sweating profusely. I like to think that he is impressed by my conviction to getting and staying fit. More likely is that he is utterly unconcerned with my activity and thinks only of the likelihood that I will pay him a larger tip this month.

Having ‘staff’ is something that I am still getting used to. I m fairly sure that I will never get used to it. I have drivers who take me here and there; I have my nosey gardener (Beto) and I have a maid called Teresa. I call her Dona Teresa out of courtesy (DT behind her back). She spends her days washing our dirty laundry, cleaning the house and ironing the small mountain of shirts and school uniform that a family of five generates. I am fairly picky about what I put in the washing basket as DT likes to bake everything in the tumble dryer regardless of the printed care instructions – which of course she doesn’t understand as she speaks only Portuguese. Anything that I want to save from the tumble dryer I hide on a shelf in our wardrobe and wash it in secret at the weekend when DT doesn’t work. Sometimes, when DT is away and we have a stand-in maid, the maid will come across the screwed up bundle of smelly gym gear and other exotic dirty clothing and assume that we are too lazy to fold our own clothes. On occasion Michael has discovered a very smelly pair of dirty gym shorts that have been carefully folded and put back in his draw.

DT likes to sing. She sings as she irons and she sings when she is cleaning the bathroom and she sings as she sweeps around me when I am talking on the telephone or trying to write. Obviously I can’t ask her to stop as that would make me an asshole, but I really wish she would. Right now she is in the room next-door playing Portuguese ballads on her telephone as she does the ironing.

On a Tuesday (today) I have a cook (Lena) who comes and cooks the same two meals for me every week – Meatballs ala Lena and Chicken Parmesan. When you are the chief provider of meals for a family of five you tend to get into a habit of cooking the same meals week in week out. They are meals that 80% of the family like with a further 20% eating it too providing I withhold snacks in the preceding 4 hours.  In a country that lacks convenience and fast food (and sometimes even the basic food we are used to) it is a joy to have someone come and take care of two meals. Sometimes, as a special treat, I like to get into bed for an hour on a Tuesday afternoon and think about DT doing the ironing (singing of course) and the lovely Lena preparing the dinner. It does make up for the portuguese ballad torture.

After the bike ride my driver and I drove from the Luandan suburbs, where I live, to a house downtown to attend a coffee morning of mostly American embassy spouses. Everyone had gone to a lot of effort to bake delicious fare except me who arrived with just a box of biscuits that we discovered upon opening were slightly stale. An Italian lady offered me one of her parmesan laced baked items. It looked exciting but I soon discovered that the paper case in which it came was welded to the pastry. Not wanting to put it back on my plate, I popped it into my mouth, paper case and all. Naturally I told her that it was delicious before downing half a mug of microwaved tea (my friend doesn’t have a kettle) in order to swallow the paper. It was a 2.5 hour round trip in the car for 1 hour of socialising. You might say that that wasn’t worth the effort, but Valerie (the hostess) is lovely and, despite her lack of tea making skills, I think we have a long friendship ahead of us. Angola can be an extremely challenging place to live with a small family but what gets us through is having a close network of friends around us. So it was worth the long journey to attend Valerie’s social function.

While writing todays entry I have inadvertently eaten an entire packet of chocolate digestives. I blame the portuguese ballads (which DT just turned up, must be one of her favourites). Michael can judge the type of day I have had by the quantity and variety of junk food wrappers he finds in the kitchen bin. Today there will only be the digestive’s wrapper as I was quite full when I returned from the coffee morning (paper cases are surprisingly filling). I should probably stop here and remove the crumbs from the keyboard before they cause any permanent damage to my precious blog writing device. Thanks for reading. Ciao ciao.

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Its taken 4 years but I ve finally done it……

We left England in November 2010. We had 2.5 years living in Texas and we ve been in Luanda, Angola for 1.5 years. During all of that time I swore that I would keep a diary. Three small kids and a dream of becoming a pro triathlete gave me four reasonable excuses to procrastinate about putting pen to paper. The three children are now at school and I ve finally accepted that, at forty, the likelihood of becoming a pro athlete is probably pretty slim. So, here I am.

It’s most likely that the only person who will read this blog is my Mum. She has been a lifelong supporter of my written word and always offers positive feedback so I can live with only having a readership of one.

Today felt like a good day to start my blog as it has been a typical ‘Angolan day’. After sending the littles off on the school bus I swam, worked a little bit on my core and then spent 1.5 hours in a car (some of which involved being thrown around in the back as we forged our way along unmade roads, feet deep in mud) to get to an orphanage. We taught 45 orphans how to tell the time and I cut up 40 oranges surrounded by a cloud of flies (my second least favourite creature  – mosquitos are my first) ready for a small birthday celebration for all those kids with a birthday in November. Birthday celebrations can be a bit fraught as some of the kids don’t know when their birthdays are which can lead to upset. One little boy claims every month that it is his birthday. There are 3 new children at the orphanage. A brother and sister (2 and 4 years old) and a 9 year old girl who is lost and doesn’t know where her family is. My heart breaks a little bit every time I go and hear their stories. I find that I spend a little more time hugging my three on a Monday. Around lunch time we climbed back into the cars, hot from the midday sun and sticky from the fruit, and made our way home. I attempted to eat a salad in the back of the car, although it looked as though I was wearing most of it by the time we reached home.

I picked up the littles from school and then spent 15 minutes picking the weevils out of the pasta I was cooking for dinner. Between weevil picking and supervising homework, I chased a tomcat away from the house, not before he had left his ‘pee-mail’ around my back door. I like to think of myself as an animal lover but this particular cat really drives me crazy. He is pretty beaten up from all the fights he has and I would be sympathetic to his cause if he didn’t keep peeing on my air-conditioning units. When I turn on the aircon in anticipation of the wave of cool air, I am instead overcome by the whiff of fresh cat urine. No amount of air freshener seems to mask the stench. That, coupled with the fact that my 4 year old is often distracted when using the conveniences and ‘waters’ the tiles around the bowl, means that my house often smells like a public toilet. My maid has recently taken to cleaning the floors with a cleaning fluid that smells like sick. An acute sense of smell is something of a curse in this country.

Its nearly 9 pm which means bedtime in our house. My husband’s alarm clock will get him out of bed at 4 am. It means he ll miss the worst of the traffic and get an early start so that he can leave at a reasonable time and join us for dinner. So this is a good time to finish my first entry.

Night night…..