These are the blue buses that are seen all over Luanda.In the background are the tents set up in which Angolans sell their wares. (Jessica Talbot/YJI)
LUANDA, Angola – After school I walk to the driveway and catch my bus.
As we approach the heavily guarded gates with barbed wires along the tall cement walls of Luanda International School, I look out the window and see half-constructed buildings, a football pitch, Chinese construction workers, and Angolan women wearing vibrant cloths selling fruits on either hand.
I notice the dusty dirt sidewalks and the Catholic church to my right.
Anyone can quickly deduce how diverse Angola is.
Men take a break near a run down building. (Jessica Talbot/YJI)
A mixture of Portuguese influences as well as traditional Angolan ones, it almost makes you wonder how such a place came to be.
Luanda has a great gap between the rich people and poor ones. Especially after the war it has been slowly climbing its way back to stability.
Luanda is an interesting place.
With over 4 million people in Luanda alone, you can’t imagine the traffic. The natives travel mainly in blue buses or motorcycles.
However, if you travel another hour away from the city you’re suddenly surrounded with trees, greenery, waterfalls, and wildlife. It’s such an incredible sight.
One of Angola’s beautiful waterfalls (Alessandro Pentoli/YJI)
The most detrimental thing about this city is the poverty that consumes it. It has one of the lowest incomes in the world and as a result of that, the lowest calorie intake, leading to malnutrition.
Ever since the war ended about 10 years ago, Luanda has been recovering at a steady rate, something you would expect from a less developed country.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve visited many orphanages and interacted with the Angolans. Most of them have to walk miles just to find water and you would be surprised at how humble they are despite their hectic lives.
Angolan children at an orphanage (Julianna Espinosa/YJI)
Luanda has some very distinct features, including its music. The Angolans invented a genre called Kuduro with a certain style of dance along with it.
Angola’s wildlife includes lizards like this one. (Alessandro Pentoli/YJI)
There aren’t many landmarks in Luanda but if you travel here you might want to rent a boat and go whale watching or just relax by the beach.
If you go camping, you might see a Palanca Negra, an endangered antelope that is an Angolan symbol of pride.
U.S. State Department map.
The national tree of Angola, the imbondeiro tree, is easily spotted with its torpedo shaped pods and giant, thick trunks.
Sadly despite having oil and diamonds as its main exports, Angola is still struggling to keep its people alive past the age of 40.
Despite its troubles, Angola, or specifically Luanda, is still a wonderful place to be.
At Luanda International School, many people come and go, and those who have to leave always miss Angola.
Whether it’s the close bonds you create with the people or the sunny climate, Luanda is a place where you can feel at home.
Yes, you may have to put your luxuries aside, but living, or visiting here, is an experience that can encourage you to become involved in the world.
Julianna Espinosa is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International. YJI’s Alessandro Pentoli and Jessica Talbot took photographs for this piece.
An Angolan vista (Alessandro Pentoli/YJI)