Today, Kacper noticed his Norwegian friend, posting a question on her Facebook status. Her question read ‘Hvorfor’? (Why?) Her simple why made Kacper think, and not understanding the reason behind it, the WHY brought his thoughts to southern parts of Africa.
Angola is one of these places, which you love and hate in the same time. When Kacper thinks about it, he is convinced he loves it more than hates it, but there were many times, when he was very frustrated with what he saw in his beloved land.
Kacper first arrived to Angola in 1996. He then visited the country in 2004, and eventually in 2007. None of the visits were easy. His first time to the country was when he experienced WAR for a first time in his life. It was then, when he realised how huge consequences wars had on people’s lives – on every sphere of their existence and that wars were not just images in his television. Wars were real, as there was a supermarket in Kacper’s hometown! Kacper didn’t like realising any of this. He didn’t know how to deal with it, not at all…
However more difficult than war itself, was dealing with its victims. He remembers standing in front of a 12 year old kid and trying to explain him that it was okey to cry, and it was okey to mourn his mother who had been shot in front of his eyes, and that his mother hadn’t die because he was a bit naughty a day before. ‘How do you explain to a kid that evil existed and there were people that actually liked hurting other people?’ Kacper asked rhetorically and felt sick, and disgusted. He didn’t know how to help the kids, he just didn’t know what to say – so, he didn’t say anything; he just sat with them, and kept silent. Sometimes he used to read them stories, and tried making them laugh… What else could he do…?
His second time in Angola was equally dramatic – perhaps for different reasons, but dramatic. A landmine killed Jose, a good friend of his… One day he was there, happy and jovial, the next thing that he saw was Jose’s coffin, and vacuum that his death created in lives of many people, Kacper’s included. ‘God, why did you take Jose away, why?’ Kacper wasn’t able to find any answers again.
Then there was his third visit to Angola, and his beloved Angola defeated him again. He left the country exhausted to the point, where he needed to ask a therapist from his organisation to help him cope…
Kacper knew that he didn’t feel well, and he desperately needed to share his frustrations out loud with his friends, with people, who he hoped would understand. Someone needed to hear, what he had on his mind and heart.
He wrote an email:
I am about to leave Angola, after working here for three months. I am leaving the country quite exhausted by many things that I have experienced here. I won’t dwell on why this is the case; I would however like to give you a short testimony of what I have seen and experienced in Cacuaco and Cazenga, which are parts of Luanda, where we implement our sanitation and HIV/AIDS projects.
Before joining my present organisation, I had been doing humanitarian and development work for ten years or so. I think it’s fair to say that throughout that time I had seen quite a lot of misery. I saw wars from the frontline, saw people starving and dying, I saw people losing their possessions, houses, and eventually their hopes. Many of these injustices left me doubting in humankind, made me feel sad, depressed and helpless. At the same time, these experiences hardened me, helped me build some kind of protection, and ‘accept the thing…’ In my arrogance, I thought nothing would surprise me anymore, that I am tough and that I have ‘seen it all…’that is until I arrived in Cacuaco and Cazenga, here in Luanda.
I remember some years ago in South Sudan, I was standing on the roof of my house watching Antonov planes bombing a neighbouring village. One after another they flew over the houses, each dropping a barrel filled with petrol onto them. Then there was smoke, and I imagined people dying, screaming and being really scared… I remember watching it from the distance of twenty kilometres, feeling the world was about to end, and I could do nothing about it. I cried, and cried and felt helpless. I thought I would never feel so miserable again. Today, I know I was wrong… I have now seen the slums here, and let me tell you, the experience is equally traumatic.
The slums of Luanda challenged me again. Confronted me with unspeakable sufferings of around three million people who just struggle to survive another day, who live in real hell on earth.
It is difficult to describe how life goes for inhabitants of Cacuaco and Cazenga. To me, the experience of people living there is just incomprehensible. Initially, you don’t really realise how bad things are, but when you start discovering new places, and take time talking to new people, the horrific picture of these places is forming…
Imagine three million people in a city of four million, without access to water, many without basic (I mean basic) sanitation or infrastructure that we all take for granted. Imagine kids playing in trenches filled with toxic waste, or filthy water full of all unimaginable bacteria. Imagine people desperately looking for something to do so that they can survive one more day… People without any hope, I mean ANY HOPE of things getting better for the, or at least their children. People, who eventually die of malaria, cholera or some form of Ebola, because they are deprived of basic health services. All in the environment of extremely high criminality, where the price of human life equals a handbag with $10 in it, or where sexually assaulted women and kids do not even reporting it, because what difference would it make anyway…Imagine chemical odours brought by winds from neighbouring factories, toxic rains that kill any trees that have not yet died from extreme pollution. Imagine women carrying 50 litre buckets filled with water on their heads from the collection points as far as five kilometres away. Imagine people living in houses constructed from mud, rugs and metal scrap… Finally think of people selling their bodies, their organs – out of necessity to survive. This is reality for three million people living in Luanda, and what is worse, there are so many of such ‘Luandas’ out there in the world.
Initially, I have been trying to cope with all of this, but then, the other day, I was in the middle of this hell, and for the second time in my life, I felt absolutely HELPLESS, just like years ago in South Sudan. I hardly manage to stop the tears coming to my eyes, after all I am meant to be tough… how could we have allowed this to happen, how can we allow it continue happening, why?
I will leave it here.
Lots of love to you all, wherever you are in the world,
Yes, Kacper remembers how upset Angola made him. Today, he is here in Chad, reading reports of people being regularly abused by militias, people being forced out of their homes, people loosing hope… ‘Here we go again…’ Kacper thought to himself… ‘We are allowing horrors happening again…’
He still hasn’t found any answers to the persistent question that his Norwegian friend had posted on her Facebook: WHY?’ Will she help him understand?