First Experiences

I can’t believe that we’ve been in Lubango almost two weeks.  We’ve been in our apartment for a week.  It has been a sprint in working through the long list of things needing done for us to settle in.  Today, for example, I need to pick up our truck from the dealer, meet with an auto insurance guy, get a license plate, finish repairing our water pump, and replace six outlets.  Yesterday, I fixed a toilet leak (we woke to a bathroom full of water), replaced a float in our water box, worked on our water pump (still not fixed), fixed a broken shower and arranged for internet to our home.  All of these are simple jobs in a familiar location but in a very disorganized, city in the developing world they take so much time.  In fixing the toilet, for example, I went to 5 different small hardware stores and none had the part so I improvised with non-ideal parts and a lot of silicone (which was also difficult to find) and got the job done (how long will it hold?).

The kids have worked hard at the apartment painting and cleaning and helping with all of our tasks which have included repairing screens, moving furniture, shopping.  We’ve spent many hours in the unfamiliar environment shopping for a fridge, stove, washer and generator.  We’ve been given much furniture from former missionaries which has been a huge help.

I’ve been at the hospital for less than an hour since our arrival and have been encouraged to get settled before beginning work, which I greatly appreciate.  I sure am looking forward to beginning.

A few of our first experiences follow:

While out shopping as a family, we went to leave our spot and four young men wouldn’t let us leave.  As I was deciding how I should handle this, one peed all over the back of the car.  Rather than get upset, this 52 year old man was in awe of the force and distance of his stream!  Well, they sure got a kick out of themselves, roaring and laughing as we drove away.  Urine really is sterile.

There are oneway streets everywhere and every corner either has no signs or unfamiliar signs.  On our third day driving, stopping at every corner and asking the four drivers scrunched in our car whether they thought it was ok to go this way or that, we were pulled over by a policeman on a motorcycle.  He said that I went the wrong way on a certain street several blocks past (we had no idea which one) and that there was no excuse (I tried the rookie whine) because the streets are all so well marked!  He wrote me a ticket for $110US and told me that it would be most convenient if I just paid him.  I had absolutely no idea how to respond so I swallowed all of my fleshly responses and paid the guy.  The local missionaries told me later that this was a perfect example of the crooked system and he was simply spotting the new white family and lining his pockets.  I’ve been stopped three times in less than two weeks.  I either stand out as fresh meat or am an awful driver.

While at a local “walmart”, a small store that has everything, we witnessed a young man angrily pulled toward the back of the store by two guards and beaten severely with a nightstick for several minutes.  He had been caught trying to shoplift and suffered severely for his indiscretion.  Every store has several uniformed guards who take their jobs seriously.

We have a guard/gardener who is about 50-60 years old and is as pleasant as can be.  He does tasks such as replace our cooking fuel and generator diesel, take our trash away, care for the yard, protect the premises, etc and we will pay him about $20US/week for this.  I think he will actually be a joy to have around and maybe help a bit with security.  He’s like having a Golden Retriever for security!

We have several people/day stop by asking us for food.  We typically give them some rice, beans and eggs.  Some seem genuinely hungry and some are drunk and we will need some time to develop some cultural perspective.

I’ve never encountered such dust, and the eight month dry season is just beginning.  The humidity has averaged about 40%.  We are at about 6000 ft elevation and the nights have been in the 50’s and the days in the 70’s.

There is a woman who pounds on our door every day at about 6:00a, yelling who-knows-what for about 30 seconds and walks away.  As I write, the woman just knocked again.  I’m watching her walk away, talking and yelling.

I joined two other docs for a radio program on hypertension.  Who’d a thought?  A medical radio program in the heart of Sub-Sahara Africa!

We got DSL internet yesterday for $122/month and it worked great for about 2 hour and hasn’t worked since.

I already love the smell of diesel in our home.  It means we have electricity!

I walk for an hour each morning, through beautiful wildflowers growing everywhere among the trash and human waste.  It is such a beautiful illustration of God’s kingdom beauty in the midst of a confusing, painful world.  I walk on the hills of the city, among the simplest of short, mud houses, along narrow dirt roads full of large, granite rocks (granite is everywhere), impassable for most vehicles, packed with people walking, standing and talking, kids playing…  Most women are carrying water or laundry on their heads.  The paltry streams are full of women washing clothes.  Men are peeing out in the open without inhibition.  There are so many flies, likely because of all the trash and waste.  Some of the shacks have satellite dishes, most do not have wiring or plumbing.   There are no outhouses.  Often I pass someone and they say to someone else, “Look at the white man!”

About every half hour during the night the thousands of dogs around the city go crazy for about 15 minutes.  It is so loud and often wakes me.  I’m sure I will eventually block it out but it is impressive.

We’ve been trying to call home for a week and haven’t yet been successful.  We’re hoping Skype will eventually work.

Angolans are not coffee drinkers.  This is a difficult transition after Brazil, where it is always served and savored, even in the remotest jungle villages.

Nobody’s been ill, and everyone seems to be doing well.  I leave on Sunday for a two week trip to Namibia, through the interior, to pick up my truck and run some errands for the hospital.  I will be traveling with Norm, a fellow missionary with MAF, who has been such a pleasure to get to know and a huge help to us in getting settled.  The missionaries here have been a huge help to us in our adjustment and in orienting us to the work and culture.

Thank you for praying and supporting us in this work.  We are thrilled to be here and more certain than ever that this is exactly where our Father would like to spend us for the sake of those He dearly loves in the interior of Angola.


  1. Welcome to Angola, sounds like you have been warmly accepted. One December in Lubango we were driving on Christmas day and a policeman put his arm out and stopped us. What did we do wrong I thought. He said to us, it is Christmas, don’t you have a gift for me? US$40 later we drove on! Keep looking past the things that so easily distract you and stay focused on the people. They are lovely and your care for them will be the hands, eyes and feet of Christ. Blessings to your family.

  2. Wow, once again! You guys have been very busy. I have to say that you (Tim) have a great sense of humor. Thank God for that! I can only imagine the feeling of total culture immersion and shock. Your blogs help a lot. Thanks for taking the time to write. Its a blessing to me. Praying for you all, and now most especially for Betsy and the kids while you are away for two weeks! obviously, my perspective is from the mother side of things. 🙂 Love and blessings,

  3. Tim, I have to admit your most recent post was hysterical. I know it is easy for me to laugh when I’m an ocean and a hemisphere away, but know that you guys are often in our thoughts. Can’t wait to come visit!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.