Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kizua Mwangola: Part 2: The Lion's Den

Alvalade is the home of Sporting Lisbon, the mighty lion of Portuguese football. And now, its also the key to my future...

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As promised, the day started early, with a trip to Alvalade's Conservatoria. However, it was just my luck that it had burnt down in a fire recently. Oscillating between hope and despair - have they lost my entry? can we create a new one? - we wondered down to the abandoned shop window to read a notice: the conservatoria had migrated, lock stock and smoking barrels (literally) to a different place. Luckily, it was only up the road, next to the Sonangol pumps by the national radio station.

To our great displeasure, the new place was nothing like the ordered chaos of Kinaxixe. Here we had sheer, unabated, uncontained disorganised chaos. After watching some great examples of Angolan queueing (surely an oxymoron if I ever seen one), I managed to sneakily speak to a worker. She dutifully told me that archive searches were not one of their set tasks; I should know to which conservatoria I belong, and that's that. If I truly wanted to conduct a search, I could wait two weeks for the new IT system that was being installed.

Well, we couldn't wait two weeks - half of our visas!! - nor did I have any belief in time scales for software development - Angolan's or otherwise, worked on far too many of these critters to have any faith left - so we gave up and decided to go for breakfast. I badly needed my morning coffee to regain my strength. God had, of course, very different ideas. An hour walk revealed nothing that could vaguely resemble a cafe and Shahin boycotted all street vendors so, in addition to all our troubles, starvation now beckoned.

We considered our options in a quiet shade under my baptism church. As if sensing our despair, just there and then our friend L decided to ring us. A lawyer! Surely a sign. She didn't know off the top of her head whether there were any other conservatorias in Alvalade, but she would check; in the mean time, we were to ring Portugal and try to rinse out more details. Shahin also thought we should consult the padre and see if we can get any additional info from him.

As we queued up to see the padre, we met another couple that were in almost exactly the same situation as us: a Scottish girl was trying to marry an Angolan chap, R, but they were struggling in both Britain and Angola. The coincidence was so amazing it felt uncanny. We chatted for a bit and traded war stories, commiserating each other. R told us he had had a lot of problems getting his birth certificate, and one of the most important things is knowing the location of one's entry in the registry. This was to be a vital detail.

In the end, all our sources came together:
  • The church archives did not know where I was registered, but they knew the exact location (book, page, etc.) of my entry in it; thanks to R, we appreciated the importance of this vital information.
  • My uncle knew where we were registered, and L confirmed that there was only one conservatoria in Alvalade. We also found my cousin's B entry in the church archive, and it mentioned the conservatoria (but regrettably, not the location of his book in the archives!).

Great dectective work. Now all we need is to request the documents on Monday.

Kizua Mwangola: Part 1: Dead on Arrival

Not so long ago I started a email newsletter with very restricted circulation: a palavra do dia (word of the day). Its purpose was to teach myself and a few friends and family some meagre words of kimbundu, one of the major Angolan languages. I regret to say it was a rather short lived and somewhat unsuccessful project, but I did pickup one or two words. One of them was Kizua, or "word". My really limited kimbundu has not progressed much further since then, as the title of these series of blog posts attests. What I'm trying to say in terrible pidgin kimbundu is "words from Angola". Perhaps one day a real kimbundu speaker will help me fix the title.

Another pet project of mine was A Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, chronicling my return to Angola. This one was slightly more successful, and a complete book was actually "published" in the end - if with a somewhat restricted circulation of one copy. At the time, many people protested about the long length of posts (all the ten of you), so this time I'll try to keep them short and (hopefully) frequent.

* * *

After a rather long trip, we arrived in the motherland safe and sound. As usual, Cousin R had made a sterling job of organising it all, a feat even more amazing considering she now dwells far away in the provinces and did everything by phone. Cousin Z picked us up and gave us a mini-tour of town.

Its strange but if anything Luanda hasn't changed that much: there are lots of new buildings - all of them sky-high - but the key things are as we remembered, if not worse. Terrible traffic, bad side-walks and expensive things. Luanda is incredibly even busier than any city in Vietnam, with the added messiness that only big African cities seem to have.

* * *

Our first mission after a good night rest was to obtain my cedula. We hoped the job was going to be easy as I already possess a shiny"certidao narrativa" (not quite a birth certificate, but almost. Don't ask.). No such luck, said the man at the Conservatoria (Registry Office). We need to figure out where my parents did the original registration and Lord knows where that was.

Mum gave us some tips. We're going to queue up from 07:00 onwards tomorrow morning in the vain hope that one of the places she suggested is the right one (Alvalade). Of course, cedulas are only requested on Mondays or Tuesdays and collected on Wednesdays and at best take eight days to be processed but hey, we'll try it on anyway. Our spirits are high. And we're that desperate to get out of Luanda and hit the real beaches down south.