Sunday, June 27, 2010

Renting a Car in Angola: An Oddity

Here is a photo of the car itself.  It was a Kia Sportage, I think.  Diesel engine.  Great Gas Milage.  Automatic.  No cd player.  Only radio.  Drove nicely.

I hadn't planned on renting a car or driving in Angola but the circumstances of this weekend persuaded me to go ahead and take the chance.  Délcio, my co-worker at ISCED (pictured above on the left), couldn't take the bus and leave with me the day before my workshop because he had classes.  Instead, I decided to rent a car for the day.  We would leave early morning to arrive there by 830.  The workshop began at 9.  We would workshop till 12, have lunch, drive back, and be home before dark.  Namibe, the workshop location, is about 2.5 hours from Lubango.

So, I go to a travel agent near my house to ask about a rental car but, as this is Angola, you can't assume a travel agent will actually help you with all your travel arrangements.  The bald guy wearing a black turtle neck, looking way too sharp to be helpful, sitting behind the substantial, distinguished, desk, informs me that they only sell air tickets but he knows a "company" that rents cars.  He calls a friend, named Miranda, who confirms that the Serra da Chela Hotel rents cars for 150 dollars a day.  They are the same cars that function as taxis in town:  White Kias.  He asks me if this price is ok and since I was going for work I don't mind the price so I tell him the price is fine.  I must add that during this exchange he keeps unprofessionally turning around to watch the World Cup game being shown on the large plasma behind him.  Very unprofessional.  Clue number one that since this is Angola you can't assume anything will be as you think it will be.

I call Miranda and he says that I can get the car at 5pm on Friday no problem.  He says I just call him a bit before and he will pick me up at my place and we can make all the arrangements.  I assume that this means there will be paperwork and signatures.  Assuming makes an A....
Friday 5pm comes and I call Miranda.  He comes at 520.  When I walk downstairs and approach the car, I see an old guy sitting in the front passenger seat with dark sunglasses, and some random man in the back.  No need to panic.  This is Angola.  I open the driver side door, get in, and look at him, expecting the car rental guy to tell me what I need to do to rent the car.  He says he is Miranda and the only other thing he says is "drive that way," and points towards downtown.  Unprofessional clue #2.  I drive maybe 3 blocks from my place and he tells me to stop at the corner.  At this point, random guy says "thanks for the ride," and gets out.  Aw man. WTF?  Then Miranda tells me to get out the car to have a look.  He shows me that the car has no damage and reveals the spare tire in the back.  Might I add that he is just saying all of this.  There is no paperwork.  I tell him I need a receipt and he says that it will be possible.  (I don't know why it wouldn't be possible unless....)  Then we get back into the car and he writes down my American drivers license number (pretty much useless here) and has me sign.  The paper I am signing is a simple table printed in b&w on paper.  There are other names and info, but it doesn't look very official.  At this point I am uncomfortable in the sense that I just don't know what to say to this guy and I can't believe that he is being so unscrupulous.  There is a weird pause, and I finally say, " I pay you now?"  He says yes, 250 dollars.  I say I don't have dollars, just kwanza, so he says 25,000 kwanza.  I take it out, hand it over.  He says thanks, and opens the door to leave.  WTF x 2?  I think it is only right to ask him how I return the car and where I return it.  He says just call when you come back and he will let me know where to go.


So fast forward 24 hours to 530 pm on Saturday.  After returning from the workshop in Namibe,  I call Miranda and he says I should meet him at the Serra da Chela Hotel.  I drive there and he is there at the bar with another professionally dressed old guy.  I listen to them and it seems like the guy is also renting a car.  I see that paper with the b&w table I signed on the coffee table in front of them.  Miranda has to give me a ride home so I just sit there near them for 10 minutes until they finish their business.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that they both were finishing off large glasses of beer.  They finish, stand up, and I am told to give the guy the key to my rental car.  I give it, but then remember that I left bags in the back so I get it back.  As I am taking my stuff out of the car, the old guy is putting his in.  I guess he was waiting for me to arrive in order for the transfer of the vehicle to happen.  

Then I get into Miranda's truck and we head down the mountain to my house.  After a minute a realize I still have no receipt.  I guess in all the paperwork and renting of the car to the old guy, Miranda forgot about it.  I tell him I need it today, but instead of turning around to get the receipt from where I thought the "office" was, he continues to drive and calls somebody and says, "yeah, so can you make me one of those receipts we did last time?  If she accepts it, ok.  If not, we have to do something else."  The Sketchy Fest continues in full force.  To make a long story short we drive around Lubango, stopping sometimes to call people, looking for a "receipt".  Finally we end up at the Millennium Shopping Center parking lot where he asks a taxi cab to give him a sheet from his receipt book.  He commences to make up the registration number, millage, and whatever else was on the paper, and hands it to me.  I look at him like he is crazy and ask for the stamp.  The stamp is always put on official receipts and includes the word PAGO, meaning the person paid.  He rather stupidly, says "oh, yea?  You need a stamp?  Can I get it to you tomorrow?"  In true Akisha style I tell him no, I told you yesterday I needed a receipt and you gotta give it to me.  He then calls another friend and asks him to use his PAGO stamp.  Oh yes, and I forgot to say that during our driving Miranda is listening to Kuduro music.  If you don't know, it is booty shaking stuff.  He was also shaking his booty the best he could while driving, singing along, and gyrating to the beat.  Maybe he was trying to impress me, maybe it was just the beer he had before getting behind the wheel.  At this point I am not angry or scared.  Just tired and laughing on the inside at how ridiculous the situation is and amazed at how normal it seems to Miranda.  I am very proud of him because he asks me if it is ok if we drive to San Antonio (a neighborhood near the train station 20 minutes away) to get the stamp.  I agree because, although I am exhausted, I want this thing over with so I don't have to deal with him again tomorrow. 

When we get to San Antonio we pull up to a house party.  Guys drinking outside the house.  Little kids arriving with their moms.  Music blasting.  Miranda uses his phone, in pimp style, to summon the guy with the stamp.  A big, effeminate, guy with a pregnant belly who was in the house, comes out with a PAGO stamp, says hello--his name is Mario, stamps my "receipt" and then Miranda and I head back to my house.  Two hours of driving around for a "recipt" from a car rental "company" is pretty easy, huh?

On the ride back Miranda asks if he can call me sometime.  Oh maan.  I just can't get away from it.  Again, maybe it was the beer, or maybe he was just an a#$.

So, will I rent a car again?  Maybe...apparently 250 a day for a car is quite cheap in Angola.  Now that I know that the "system" isn't really a system and the "company" is probably just the taxi company's cars being pimped out by Miranda to folks who know him, I know how to deal with all of it.  You see, you learn so much when you come to Africa.  I laughed to myself while waiting for the power and water to come back on after I arrived home (2 hours after I actually returned from my trip).  I laughed because I would have freaked the *@%# out years ago if this had happened to me.  What actually scares me is that I wasn't that scared at all.  Deep thoughts...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2nd Namibe Workshop

Click on the image to zoom in

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2nd EFP Workshop

Click on the image to zoom in

Sunday, June 13, 2010

ISCED Game Afternoon!!!!!

My 4th year student Nhenze working it playing 30 seconds. She was really good. I think she got people to guess 7 words one time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

OMG Student gem of the week

"What is your optimal sexy position?"--this was a question asked during our daily 5 minute "hotseat" Q&A in my third year class. One student stands in front and must answer all questions that are not deemed too personal. After this doosy was asked, it was dead silent, everyone thinking, "I know this chick did not just ask THAT." Someone asked for further clarification and she said the meaning of the question was correct. Then we all erupted in hysterical laughter. My eyes are dry I cried so much.