Watchful in a War Zone

On a forgotten and rutted dirt road in Angola, our Land Cruiser got stuck in mud. The nearest town was a four hour drive away. I got out and sat on a log and realized I had malaria. We ate mangoes and sweated and waited five hours before the first random vehicle approached.

Check out our happy rescue tow-truck:

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An unexpected tow truck

This scene epitomizes Angola – where tragedy mixes with joy, beautiful landscapes are sprinkled with land mines, and sweetness is never far from sorrow.

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A questionable bridge

But here is the strange thing: after living through decades of bombings, machine gun attacks and watching the slaughter of friends and compatriots – these people still laugh. A lot. They smile. A lot. They sing and joke and flirt with open abandon. They think that helping strangers stuck in mud is nothing short of a grand adventure. That’s an eye opener. Talk about resilience.

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Buying black market gasoline

Angola is beautiful. There are lush green highlands, horseshoe shaped waterfalls, gorgeous glens and tranquil beaches. It was clobbered by civil war after Portuguese settlers pulled out. The war lasted decades. Roads decayed, telephone lines disintegrated, and buildings were punctured by aerial bombs. The scenario grew ugly.

These are a few photos from my e-book Water after War – Seasons in Angola.


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A rainbow of hope

I had the fortune to spend a few months in northern Angola in the late 1990s. Later, after leaving the country to work in a cushy job with a poolside apartment in Dubai, I ended up returning to Angola for a few months. Why? The landscape is seducing, and addictive. The cease fire between wily rebels and a Marxist government lasted for over a year before guns rattled again and bullets flew and rocket launchers downed United Nations helicopters delivering food to internal refugees.

The rolling hills of Uige

With beauty…



…lurks danger

When peace arrived and the war – which was more about egos than ideology – ended, Angolans were happy to leave the memory of those decades behind. Now they have roads to improve, bridges to repair, mine fields to clear, crops to grow and inflation to reign in. They’re still smiling as they go to it. They are a proud people looking ahead, not behind.

Click here to read more about the book Water after War – Seasons in Angola. [Click, then scroll down the new page.]




Comments from Readers

  • I found in the DRC that the mood of the general population changed vastly depending on what part of the country I was in. Sometimes a slum or roadside would be super friendly, with everyone smiling. Other times it was like the unhappiest place on earth. No discernible difference in income…just attitude.

    I wonder if it’s some mob mentality thing.

    Gorgeous photos, by the way.

  • Love this post. Love the photos and the stories.
    Especially love the truck filled with the gang of rescuers!

    By the way – I loved the book, too, and have recommended it a number of times. It’s a great story about part of the world most of us will never see or know. Thanks – excellent!

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