Paul Russell, the deputy director of SIM Canada, recently travelled to Angola, Namibia and South Africa. He took a friend with him, Paul Huntington to document the trip. Over the next four weeks, we will travel with them as Paul Huntington describes what they saw and experienced. Be sure to also look at the great shots Paul took of the trip at the end of each day's blog. Enjoy!
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I stayed true to my decision, as I didn’t crawl out of my bed until 7:00 a.m., just in time to get to roll call where Stirling has a Bible study every morning with the labourers. We returned to the house for Cream of Wheat. After breakfast, we left in the Land Rover to check out the cattle. Our first stop was at one of the herdsman’s homes: two thatched roofed huts, one for sleeping and one for cooking. This herdsman had several children and a few guests. After taking some pictures, we walked through the bush to the kraal. There were 80-100 cattle: three bulls, cows and calves, including one little guy with a cleft palate which made him oddly cute. I wandered the kraal, photographing the cattle and freezing. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. It was warm in the Land Rover, but really cold standing in the rain with the cattle.
We left the cattle kraal and returned to the warmth of the Land Rover for an inspection of the fence. The workmanship was very impressive! Some portions of the fence were 2 years old. In that time the bush had already grown up 4 – 6 feet tall along the fence. It was clear that construction would give way to maintenance before the rest of the fence was completed. The local aardvarks are not deterred by the fence; they just dig right under. It will take regular fence inspections to keep the smaller game inside the farm. One of the trees by the fence was stripped of its bark – evidence of elephants.
After that, I quickly packed my equipment and we loaded into the SUV for the long ride back to town. As usual, Afonzo was asked to stop periodically so I could take pictures. I wanted to video the SUV traversing the worst part of the road, so I hopped out of the car just before that section and ran ahead. I kept running, but never reached the spot I had remembered. I imagined that the meadows on either side of the track were home to a pride of lions – that very well might have been but I might have been watching for elephants as well. (The day after we left the farm, Stirling and Donna were charged by a pair of elephants while driving down the same road I had been walking on). Thankfully I didn’t see any lions or elephants. I didn’t see any SUVs either, so I turned around. It wasn’t too long before the SUV came cruising down the track. I guess I missed the turn. Embarrassed, I climbed into the SUV. The bad news: we wasted 40 minutes of travel time and didn’t shoot any video of the road. The good news: now Afonzo and Becky knew a new way to the farm that avoided the worst section of road!
We arrived back in Lubango at sunset. We didn’t see the sun setting, as we still had not seen the sun while in Angola. The power was off when we got "home”. Paul offered to take Becky and Afonzo out to dinner, but they preferred dining in, so after cleaning up, we joined them downstairs. Soon it was missionary midnight, so we said our good byes and climbed the stairs for bed. I spent an hour trying to catch up on my journal, while Paul teased me about my slow typing. The mosquitos have not been bad, in fact, I’ve only seen one, so, I chose to leave the window open for some fresh air. The open window brought the sounds of Angolan security systems into my sleep: dogs. I think that Lubango means "the city of the dogs”, because they are speaking to one another all night long. It never stops and sometimes the barking reaches a crescendo of what must surely be rabid fits on a massive scale. On top of this, the roosters start at 3, at least 2 hours before sunrise.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
We were to spend Wednesday in the Lubango area with Sheila. She came to pick us up at 9. She had some business to do with Becky and needed to pick up some literature from the UIEA office in the compound.
After a stop at the seminary, Sheila took us west out of town towards the escarpment. We passed the new construction, the N’gola beer plant, the Coca Cola plant and into the hills. The landscape suddenly looked very tropical and lush but around the next bend, things were more arid. The rock in the area appears to be limestone. We were on our way to a lookout which faces west towards Namibe province. The road was under construction in preparation for a visit by the president. The workers were laying grey granite cobblestones and had created several kilometres of smooth two lane road. The center line and edges of the road were black granite. The road continued to climb past and through giant limestone boulders an on to a parking area. The same cobble stops were used the whole way up and paved the parking as well. When you see the conditions of the roads in Angola, you really wonder about the government’s priorities!
As we arrived at the top, you could see the tops of the clouds on the west side, and mist flowing up through the cuts in the escarpment. By the time I had the camera out, the scene had changed and the whole area was shrouded in mist. It was cold and damp, just how I expected Africa in the summer to be!
We stayed for a few minutes at the lookout area, but the mist remained thick. I took a few pictures despite the conditions and then walked over to the lookout by the cut. It was in the mist as well. Too bad, the cliff face is approximately 3,000 feet high. The second look out, at a deep cut with sheer cliffs, was a popular spot for executions during the war years. Standing at the edge required one, and gravity took care of disposal of the body. Sometimes the bullet was saved and the victim was simply pushed. Having been at war for 40 years, one can only imagine how many remains are at the bottom of the cliff.
We drove back down to the seminary for lunch at Sheila’s. We then drove southeast up onto the plateau to the CESL hospital. I had another video interview to conduct – this time in the operating room, during surgery. Things at the hospital were ahead of schedule, so we needed to get dressed in short order. I was already warm from running and had to put scrubs on over my street clothes.
I set up the video camera so I could shoot the whole scene without grossing out the audience (which included me). I gave the still camera to Paul and told him to shoot whatever he wanted. The operation was to remove a growth from the back of a young woman’s head.
As I started shooting, Steve Foster explained to the resident how he was making the incision and cauterizing the area around the growth, (which had attached itself to the woman’s skull. Paul was in position to shoot all the gore. Before long, a 3” round chunk of scalp and growth was tossed onto the sheet covering the patient. Totally not necessary for me to see that!
Now, the problem was how to sew things up. When Steve asked where the head was, I knew the patient was in trouble. How do you sew a 3” round circle of missing skin back up? Well, by loosening the scalp around the circle. How is this accomplished? Insert your fingers under the scalp. Doesn’t it sound nice? Not to me, but I think that was Paul’s favorite part!
While Steve did the sewing, I interviewed him on video. The most unusual video work I’ve ever done? Oh yeah! Steve gave a great interview, and I packed up.
On the way back to the city, Sheila stopped at an overlook and I shot and video recorded the beautiful city below. Beautiful, that is, from a distance. It is amazing how good a city can look from above. Lubango, for the most part is not beautiful close up. There is no garbage collection that I can see evidence of. Crushed cans, plastic bottles, paper, car parts, broken bricks and rocks are everywhere. At least the rocks and bricks can be tossed onto the tin roofs to hold the tin in place.
Again, we had dinner with the Chinhamas. Saurib joined us. Naturally, the power went out during dinner. Missionary midnight came early and we climbed the stairs to bed. I packed for the next part of our trip by candle light and then dropped onto the bed to listen to the dog symphony.
WARNING: The following photo album contains some graphic content.