Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A taste of Lookal

Even after 14 months in Angola, I am still learning to cope with the various stereotypes slapped onto me.

* I look Chinese. Hence I must be from China.
* I must speak Portuguese, because I am presumably from China who is always eloquent in the local language. Having said that, Chinese is often mocked for their short tongue and funny accent.
* I should not worry so much about safety, because Angolans do not mess up with Chinese who is good in Kungfu, ninja and all things martial arts.
* Singapore is part of China. Worse, some OECD residents tried to fake recognition about where the hell Singapore is, when their eyes clearly show they had no clues.
* I am Asian, hence I need to be given geography lesson. On one occasion, one girl introduced herself and said I'm from Belgium, it is next to France, to which I replied in French, quel cote? a le nord ou le sud? Peut-etre l'ouest?
* I am married to a white boy, therefore I must be more open minded than same-origin/race/nationality/.. couple.

Mostly it is simply about educating them. For e.g. you rarely see Angolan in mixed marriage. There is, but not aplenty. In fact, when we double date with D & R, the men on the street would call her whore and other names, never to R (who is a french man), but always to D (who is an Angolan girl). Why are women always the victim? But that's another story.

The various stereotypes about Chinese and China, a lot of it are valid (though I cannot think of a more stupid lemma than security & safety in relation to my race). But the negative connotation also comes as a result of poor quality chinese products available here. I'm not only talking about lightbulbs or mobile phones. Most chinese companies here work in the construction industry. They are the ones building the hotels, offices, houses.. They hammer the nails 24x7, 7/7, they will finish the job faster than any other construction company, but they also often do not do a good job. E.g. You can't close the toilet door on a new, minted office building. Why? Because the locks aren't parallel hence do not latch each other. But when you find the same thing one cubicle after another, you surely get the gist? Another e.g. Our current guest house was said to be built by Chinese company not more than 6 yrs ago. And look, the roof is leaking everywhere.

Having stated the poor quality of Chinese constructions, I cannot not mention that it is the duty of the owner, building manager, etc to ensure the locks are working, the roofs are built as per specifications, timeline is met, budget is managed. Regardless of nationality or background, it is his/her responsibility. So if the house owner doesn't do his job, don't come home crying and bitch the construction company instead. In fact, I'd call him silly for paying that amount of money for that kind of quality.

I guess all in all, Angola is still very much an immature country. You can tell from the billboards. You can sense it when you're discussing a hypothetical situation. Even H's new office building has disco lights on the outside that are switched on every evening. It doesn't even exude business and professionalism but hey, let the freedom of expression run free. This country has not been free for a long time.

[Addendum: the road works happening along our guest house has been on going as long as I can remember. The goal is to widen the road, create more roundabouts and demolish all buildings by the seaside. A good 4 months ago, the first part of the roadwork was completed. A long stretch of smooth road accompanied by a wide berth of promenade, complete with exercise area (chin up, sit up, etc).  The second part is now happening. It involves of widening the roads (from 2 lanes into what looks like going to be 6 lanes) and creating roundabouts. Just last weekend, I noticed they had started demolishing the tail end of the newly-built-promenade, because the 2 new lanes will be running directly on top of it.]

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