#musicamondays #MusicMondays (21)

Welcome to the 21st installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

Less a song and more of an experience, this week’s selection is an excerpt from one of my favorite movies: Los Tarantos (Spain, 1963). This excerpt of the famous and talented Carmen Amaya, is just a snippet of the flamenco and gitano culture the film richly displays. She brings to life a rich subculture that has also married Arab, Spanish and Romani people. Amaya was born in Barcelona, but traveled the world including to Argentina and New York with her family and her dance company.

#musicamondays #MusicMondays (17)

Welcome to the 17th installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

This tune is a bit of a throw back classic from the Angolan born, Namibian raised Perola. She laments the working woman’s conundrum: success while single. Looking for love… Hope you enjoy this real Kizomba (not that crappy salsa Brazilians are passing off as Kizomba)!

African Window Shopping

12322536_10102163250390672_4913808849918494200_oFor as long as I’ve heard of Luanda I’ve known that the town is pricey. It has religiously been on the top ten list of the most expensive cities in the world and when I happen to spot Angolans in Brasil, South Africa or Mozambique they stick out like a very sore, expensive thumb. They tend to be flashy and fashion conscious elsewhere, but how can that be when they warn that Luanda’s shop prices are appalling?

If you don’t know much about Africa or southern Africa or Angola, you should get acquainted. The country sits on the southwest coast of Africa, just south of both Congos and north of Namibia *Windhoek.* It was once colonized by the Portuguese and Luanda was the epicenter of economic life. Colonization took a strong hold here and, for me, its remnants are more visible here than in other ex-Portuguese colonies. The Portuguese fought hard to keep Angola within the crown because there were so many expats living there and so much money made from exports and natural resources. Independence came in 1975 after a multifaceted resistance movement that started as early as 1956. After independence, a civil war broke out between nascent political parties and it lasted until 2002. Over half a million people lost their lives and about 1 million were said to be displaced (both internally and internationally). The country shares porous borders and cultural ties with its neighbors, with many people having relatives that live in both Congos & speak French or in Namibia & speak English. Tribulations in bordering countries have reverberations in Angola.

How did the capitol get so expensive? Angola is an oil rich state. Much of the nation’s conflicts and economy revolve around an oil rich region named Cabinda. It is disputed territory, but the Angolans have held fast to their claim. Oil is the backbone of Angola’s economy and, with its protectionist policies & hefty bureaucracy, much of the nation’s wealth has remained in country.  The colonial legacies of Namibia (forcibly annexed to South Africa) have resulted in either family ties or none at all to its neighbors to the south, so they’re not dumping their cash into the @home store in Cape Town as much as I had suspected. Angolans tend to keep within the Portuguese speaking world and often head to Lisbon for all things they idealize.

Oddly enough, Portuguese neo-colonialism has resulted in the demand for Portuguese imports and the oil market has powered the ability of many people in Luanda to willingly pay the high costs of transportation, fees, taxes and mark ups involved in getting goods from Europe.

Anywho, Luanda is notorious for being a shopping nightmare. I was told to bring my food with me and only plan to purchase perishables in town. I was warned to be prepared and to pack well, because I’d be giving up a limb and a progeny to replace basic clothing items forgotten in my haste.

I’m happy to report that it’s not so bad to shop in Luanda, but there are a few catches. First, there is a lot of poverty. I don’t want to paint the picture that this town looks like the Abu Dhabi of Africa. There are many people who struggle for the basics and I would be remiss to omit them. Second, the exchange rate, foreign currency exchange, and oil prices have all fluctuated ridiculously over this past year. It has resulted in the USD to Kwanza exchange being officially 135 Kwanza to 1 USD, but the street rate can go as high as double that.  Based on exchange alone, prices have dropped about 50% for those paid in dollars. Third, Luanda is full of stores. I mean FULL. There are boutiques everywhere. There are new malls popping up. There is an abundance and variety of options, if you’re actually looking and think you can afford it. So, I went on the prowl.

I shopped craft fairs:

I shopped designer boutiques:

I shopped mid range shops:

 

And I reached out to independent designers:

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We all know this is not the end of my exploratory shopping project, but the initial visit was indeed promising. Artisan crafts are much higher priced than what can be found in neighboring countries, but since Luanda believes itself to be very Afro-Europolitan  there are actually few craft shops to choose from anyway. I’d say hitch a layover to Johannesburg airport and shop duty free instead. There’s more variety and quality there than in Luanda.

The clothing boutiques vary. I absolutely fell in love with a dress priced at 36,000 Kwanza or about $265 USD. While the dress was cute and it actually fit, it was made in China by a brand called Hesperus. Google it and see if you find a single thing on this brand that doesn’t entail a creepy wholesale website that asks you for your SSN before you check out.  #supersideeye

 

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The price was too high for my blood, so it stayed in the store as a result. But, it haunts me!

Last, the high end stores range from exactly the same outrageous US price to slightly less. My personal fave was the Dolce & Gabbana collection at Boutique Anisabel, though I couldn’t afford even a belt on the discount rack.

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The Du Carmo store turned out to be a big hit and just affordable enough to make my heart skip a beat. I almost considered getting my niece a couture frock and my husband some Orlebar Brown polos until I remembered that neither one of them is currently in Luanda and I’m extremely selfish. Back to the ladies’ section:

All in all, the shopping expedition was interesting and insightful. From brand names to Chinese no names, it is true that Angolan stores have interesting European styles and, in a pinch, a lovely young lady could theoretically hop to an unknown shop and pick up a much needed outfit or accessory for a special occasion. The prices certainly aren’t cheap, but they are accessible for a splurge. This visit has certainly debunked the myth that it’s impossible to shop in Luanda.

It is certainly possible, but it should be done with caution!

The power of enough…

IMG_2660Thanksgiving this year was a particularly joyous occasion. It was a holiday filled with way too much food, new friends turned adopted family, and lots of reflection. We prepped, we preened, we prepared and we were preceded to roll out all the stops for a bustling house filled with soul food and cheer. One nagging little thought that reared its little head over and over again was the subtle, but persistent, idea that something was missing.

In all of the abundance of the occasion, it’s hard to believe that something could possibly be missing. After all, we had each other and a barrel of laughs. But, there were a series of absences. There was no flour. There was no working guest bathroom. The lights went out, so we were without electricity for a time. There were “oops, I think I forgot”s and “darn it, I should have brought”s, closely followed by “can we run out and get?”s tapering off with “next time [he/she/it] should come”s. There were phones on vibrate and instatweetbook updates to stay connected with all those who were absent, even with so many people present. And even I found myself thinking, in a sea full of “yes”s, it’s amazing how easily we cling to one measly little “no.” With a basket full of blessings, it’s shocking how fast we critique the clasp that doesn’t keep all the goodness securely tucked in.

Let’s face it, this was my first time hosting Thanksgiving. In my attempt to re-create a holiday from an imagined place of perfection, I tried to transfer a caricature to a completely foreign space, with uncommon ingredients, and unseasonably warm weather. It wasn’t going to be perfect and perhaps I shouldn’t have been striving for it. What I got was a meme that was worth a few chuckles and lots of good memories in the making.

I found myself acting like my maternal grandmother. Apologizing for things that made no sense, acting nervous when my in-laws arrived, pretending to ration out food only to hand out aluminum foil and tupperware with zest. I was antsy and nervous. In the hopes that everyone else was okay and distracted, I pined for my favored pastime of laying across the foot my grandmother’s bed at the end of my first Thanksgiving meal. Why? Because, eating is a tiresome game. And that’s pretty much my role each year – to be a stellar eater.

This year marked a change to my role in this whole play on tradition and traveling calamity, however. I stopped being a taker, the one with empty and idle hands. The one who drops in for a meal and runs away when her plate is empty. The helicopter family member. This year reigned in the era of my being a giver.

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To my mind, a giver always notices what’s missing, because there are many needs and so many needy. There could never possibly be enough to go around, no matter how many supermarkets we go to, how many bags of chicken we defrost and how many invitations we send to friends and family – present and future – there’s a thrust to do more.

While I can’t help but wish Tareeq were here and I’m sure my paternal grandma can’t help but wish Janie were too, for those seated at our tables of giving on Thursday being present was, in fact, enough. Communing, communicating, being thankful and appreciative – in our own individual ways – is a team sport and I found all present to be well equipped.

For me that was a powerful lesson.

IMG_2980What I’ve learned from all of this is simply that while it may always feel that something is missing, I’m thankful that in my circle of family and friends there really was enough. Much like Ekhart Tolle‘s lessons in the ‘Power of Now,’ it just takes a moment of self-reflection to remember that we’re doing our best and we’re doing okay. I could harken back to a time when things were different, dare I say better, but in the moment of saying grace before we ate and in the moments before the last guests left, we had enough… of everything. That’s a luxurious statement to make and an extravagant luxury to experience in these days & times.

So even if just for that alone, I give thanks and anticipate fully the thanks of giving [more than] enough for many years to come.

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Anton Kannemeyer, E is for Exhibition (Stevenson Gallery – Johannesburg, 2015)

 

#musicamondays #MUSICMONDAYS (11)

This classic samba album from Jorge Ben Jor is one to start of your week with pep. This is the root of all the current day Samba, Bossanova, and even the Funk(y)! we all love so much from Brazil.

Welcome to the 11th installation of #musicamondays & #MUSICMONDAYS, which features music from around the world. Each song is selected to start your week off with a new energy and new country(ies) to explore! Go forth and do great things!

Enjoy the tunes…