Big Brother Angola

Posted by Barrie
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on Friday, 10 August 2007
in Digital Blogs

Big Brother Africa II has started.


You haven’t noticed?  Well, well well…  where have you been the past few days?


It so happened that by pure fluke I was skipping through the channels on the decoder the other day when I stumbled upon this new DSTV hit show.


It immediately reminded me of the situation my colleagues and I find ourselves in while working here in West Africa.  Not that we are confined to one house, but boy, does it get close!


Allow me to explain.


The oil company where we are deployed take the safety of its employees and contractors very seriously.  In my humble opinion, though, they go a bit over the top.


Let me give you an example of two by way of explanation.


The house we are staying in has a set of Safety Operating Procedures, both in English and in Portuguese.  Here are some of the more interesting rules:

·         Use gloves and dust mask when you are broom cleaning and dusting off the house.

·         Do NOT store anything in the fridge without a label.

·         Use plastic domestic gloves to wash the dished and cutlery.


You see?  I am not ALLOWED to do any of the cleaning type tasks, even if I really wanted to.  I just do not have the right equipment and protective clothing, so I am forced to leave such tasks to the housecleaning staff.  It’s a tough life, I tell you.


In all other buildings notices are put up at the top and bottom of every staircase to warn you:

·         Do not use both hands to carry things up the stairs – always use one hand to hold on to the handrail.

·         Do not use a cell phone when using the stairs.

·         Do not read while using the stairs.


Sounds simple enough, but how many of us always obey these rules?  Here it is not unheard of for someone to tap you on the shoulder to remind you to “hold on to the handrail, please”.


Please don’t misunderstand me.  The above “rules” and all the others that apply make perfect sense.  It is just not something I am used to.  On the other hand, maybe it does explain why there are so few incidents in and around the premises.


The bit that really gets to me is that we are not allowed to drive or even arrange our own private transport.  If you have read one of my previous articles about the driving habits of the local population you will understand that I do not actually WANT to drive here*.  Nor am I particularly keen to make use of the local blue-and-whites (minibus taxis) either.  It is just the fact that I cannot “quickly” go anywhere.  Not ever.


Firstly, you have to request a driver from the transport department to take you where you want to go.  And then get someone to come and pick you up again.  You feel as if you are always being escorted around the place, even when you only need to go to the nearest shop to go and buy smokes.


This is the closest to house arrest that I have ever been and it is not fun, this I can assure you.


But Africa is a dangerous place!  Just ask any of the expatriates that have recently arrived and attended a “security briefing” on their first day here.  For days and even weeks they go around clutching bags and briefcases and fearing an attack any second.


Fortunately I grew up in Africa and understand a bit of the culture.  Being a WAM it is extremely difficult to “blend in and not attract attention”, as I am advised to do.  It is much easier to strut around with confidence as if you belong here and thereby decreasing the chances of actually being mugged.


The biggest drawback of the protected life we live here is that I will never get the chance to really mix with the locals, visit their regular spots and get to know the people and their culture a bit better.


So back to the TV I go, switch to channel 37 and watch a mix of twelve African cultures getting to know one another.


Thanks, BBAII!


* To read the article about the driving experience in Luanda, go to and look for the title “Thank God for S.A. taxis”



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