Monday, August 23, 2010

18 - More Huambo Zambo

Huambo's government palace across main square in upper city
The upper city of Huambo is dominated by a vast square in front of the pink government palace (photos verboten), with streets radiating out obliquely. Yours truly plays mouse and cat with the security forces, sneaking the odd oblique palace shot. Likewise at the equally photo-verboten pink national bank mansion in the lower city, darting out from a tree shadow to snap another quickie. When the cat is away (or asleep), mousey-me can play with a leap.

Huambo was founded by the Portuguese nearly 100 years ago under the name Nova Lisboa (New Lisbon) as the centre of the large agricultural area on the central plateau. It's quite
'Verboten' National bank in lower city
an extensive city meant for some 2 million people, but suffered heavily in the war as it went back and forth changing hands. Many buildings are still pockmarked with shell impacts, others by small arms fire, some high-rises are virtually destroyed or in various stages of disrepair, and there are now only about 500,000 inhabitants.
War damage on October 5 street
 A stroll down October 5 Street by the side of the Benguela railway line can give a fair impression of the war’s devastation, and the halting attempts at repair and rebuilding. But at about 6,000 feet the climate is ideal, and there are plenty of trees and green spaces throughout the city to relieve the gloom; at the western end of town a cemetery unfurls its ornate mausoleums and avenues under a canopy of trees like a miniature garden city with cathedrals. 
More war damage

Chinese workers are laying new crazy paving on the sidewalk outside a nice little pavement cafe in the upper city, giving a whole new dimension to crazy. They first tore up the pavement to lay new water pipes, according to a friendly fellow tea-drinker, but these were too narrow and burst under the pressure. Then they laid larger pipes, but put mud under the crazy paving instead of porous sand, ensuring some magnificent buckling during the rains, and equally magnificent dives by Huambo's high-heeled divas on their way to afternoon tea. Now they’re on their third try, putting down a sand foundation. My fellow drinker swears Angolan worker could do much better.

Cemetery avenue
Which leads us onto the subject of corruption, with the current rulers' switch from communism to capitalism, getting the gravy both times round. But then, as they say, capitalism is the exploitation of man by man while communism is the opposite.

Opposite is a lovely park in front of a pink mansion with two fountains and a copse of beautiful trees marred by one glaringly fake plastic orange and yellow palm tree. Now why would they do that? But the cafe's a great place to see the Angolan world go past – crippled beggars pulling themselves along the curb; more footless mine victims; a briskly walking woman nonchalantly suckling her child; walking vendors hawking shoes, sunglasses, and all sorts of knicknacks; lots of children, some of them shoeless; your ordinary average citizen going about his or her business; and of course the Chinese taking jobs from unemployed Angolans.

Fake palm amid lush natural vegetation

Market shoe shop under the trees

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