I'm Rachel VALENTINA Nghiwete and welcome to my world of travel and other interesting life experiences. Thanks for stopping by and exploring the world with me. I hope you enjoy my blog.
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I always wanted to visit the Dominican Republic so when I finally booked my flight, I decided to hit two birds with one stone by also visiting Haiti since it’s on the same island as the Dominican Republic and share a border. I was a bit familiar with Haiti because I had a few Haitian friends in the USA.
Although Haiti and Dominican Republic share the same La Hispaniola island, they are like day and light. They’re so different that you won’t even think they were neighbors. The fact that the two countries (people) don’t like each other doesn’t help either. I encourage everyone to read up on the Haiti and Dominican relations and why things are the way they are.
One of the things I was very aware of when it comes to Haiti was their voodoo religion. Being a Christian, I had to pray about this before I took my trip to Haiti. I also knew that it was a very poor country but being a world traveler, that was not an issue to me as I was sure that it wasn’t something that I hadn’t encountered before traveling in some parts of Africa. Haiti reminded me of Angola, where I recently visited earlier this year. See my Angola blog and make a comparison. Nonetheless, both are beautiful countries and with better management, could be even more wonderful countries.
Day 1 – Wednesday November 8:
I woke up early and made my way to Capital Coach Bus Line to catch my 8am bus to Port-Au Prince, Haiti. Unfortunately, when I got there, the trip was postponed to 1pm because there was a strike at the Haitian border. Apparently this happens quite often. I read about it when I was doing my research on taking the bus to Haiti. I was annoyed about arriving in Haiti when it’s getting dark. I wanted to get a good first glimpse of Haiti upon arrival since it was my first time there.
Nonetheless, I decided not to wait at the bus station until 1pm so I went back “home” to catch up on my sleep. I was a bit scared that the strike wouldn’t be over by 1pm but they Staff at the station assured me that the strike would be over by then. I wondered how hey could be sure of that. They said to call before I come and that’s exactly what I did. The 1pm bus departing at the scheduled time.
The trip to Haiti was very good and comfortable. I enjoyed the scenery while blasting music on my iPod. That made the trip even more fun and therapeutic. The bus ride was supposed to be 7 hours but it took longer, probably due to the time we had to wait at the two immigration control offices at the border; one inside Dominican Republic right before you cross the border and one inside Haiti soon as after you cross the border.
The Haiti-Dominican Republic border is the dirties area I have seen in Dominican Republic. I knew we were close to Haiti once I noticed that things looked different. See videos and pictures to see for yourself….
As soon as we got to the border, the bus stopped, the bus staff took our passports inside the building. Mind you, the bus staff take your passports and they hold onto them until you reach your destination. We didn’t have to leave the bus and I’m glad we didn’t because ground was muddy and I didn’t want to set my foot in it. We waited for over an on the bus until we were cleared to cross the border.
Soon after we crossed the border (passed through the gate above) we stopped at the Haitian immigration building. I’m not sure why we had to make two stops because when coming back on the Dominican side of the border (different from this one) we only made one stop. Anyway, we waited for some time, maybe 30 minutes to get our passports stamps. We didn’t have to leave the bus as the bus staff had our passports and they did everything for us. This was actually very nice because when I was returning to Dominican Republic, I had to get off the bus and present my passport, although the bus staff had our passports, we still had to line up and they gave us our passports while we we were in line. We didn’t get our bags searched either as was the case at the Dominican border when coming back to the Dominican Republic.
We eventually arrived in Port-Au Prince the capital City of Haiti at night when it was dark, because our bus left late at 1pm. The whole trip took over 10 hours. It was supposed to take 7 hours. The immigration stops took long. I was quite irritated that we arrived when it was dark because I could’t take videos and pictures once I got into Haiti because it was too dark and I had to wait til’ the next day.
Day 2 – Thursday November 9:
Nonetheless, I was happy to be in Port-Au Prince, Haiti. I like to travel and it’s always a pleasure to visit a part of the world I have never been to and to experience it for myself. The YMCA driver picked me up from the bus station and took me to my hotel to rest before I start my global health volunteer work with them the next day.
I enjoyed driving around Port-Au Prince learning more about the city and seeing how the people live. It was an interesting view. See videos below…..
Apart from driving around the city, eating great food and mingling with wonderful people, I had the pleasure of doing what I love, which is dancing and learning some local dance moves as well.
I also had the pleasure of doing health screenings and giving health advise and coaching a a global health fitness consultant and specialist.
Day 3 – Friday November 10 – Visiting Le Boule – passing through Petionville
The YMCA has many center/branches in Haiti. This day, we went to Le Boule which is just outside Port Au Prince. I spend almost the whole day there in the mountains doing health screenings. It was nice being out of the city and seeing a different part of Haiti. The scenery was beautiful and I helped a lot of people that day with their health numbers and general health advise.
– Le boule mountain top
Day 4 – Saturday November 11 – Leaving Haiti back to Dominican Republic
Haiti was short but sweet! I had such a wonderful time the last three days. The people were wonderful, the food was great and the vibe was good. I will definitely be back again!
Wow! I finally made it to Dominican Republic!!! What a dream come true! This place is beautiful and the people are nice! The weather is great; it’s in the 80s degree right now, so it’s not too hot….. Everyone who knows me well, knows that I love the Dominican Republic, the culture, the music, the dance, the food and the people. My love from Dominican Republic started in 1996 when I moved to Washington, DC from England, and met Dominicans who I thought were just the most beautiful people in the world, especially the men!!! Talk about FINE!!! There was a certain swag about them…. I instantly fell in love with the music; bachata, merengue and salsa and I picked up on the dance styles effortlessly, without anyone really having to teach me. I felt the soul of music in my bones and all I had to do was spend a few minutes watching people dance to it and voila, I got it! I’m a natural dancer; dance come naturally to me, throw me any music genre and give me a few minutes to see how it’s danced and voila! I love to dance so I guess that helps….
Anyway, back to my instant love for the Dominican Republic… Yes, the fine men attracted me to this country and a few months later after my learning about the country, in 1997 I fell in love with my first high school sweetheart who was from the Dominican Republic. To cut the long story short, we are still the best of friends today. Me and Dominicans just get each other…. 😊. I’m often mistaken for being Dominican when I’m around Latino activities and perfectly dancing to bachata and merengue, the music originating from Dominican Republic. I tell everyone that I was Dominican in my previous life…. 😊
So yes, it feels great to finally be in my Caribbean “home”. It took me over 20 years to make it here but the wait has definitely been worth it. I believe I came at the perfect time…. It pays to stay true to your dreams and make them a reality, no matter how long it takes… I’m definitely not disappointed. I have only been here for a day and I literally feel like I have been here before. I fit in perfectly and I’m having a blast!
For those who don’t know, Dominican Republic (DR) is a Caribbean Spanish-speaking country, on the La Hispaniola island which it shares with Haiti. The capital city is Santo Domingo (SD), where I landed from the USA. For more information about DR, please consult our friend, Google. 😊…
And if you’re wondering what I’m doing here and haven’t watched my opening video above, I’m here for vacation and for global health volunteer work. Every time I travel to a country, I like to do what I’m passionate about which is give back by doing some volunteer global health work,which includes biometric health screenings, health coaching and fitness demos and dance fitness/Zumba classes, through the Global Health Fitness Initiative organization, which partners with organizations like the YMCA do to global health work.
Day 1 – Tuesday October 31:
I arrived in Santo Domingo at 12:56pm with American Airline, wearing a big smile on my face and thanking the good Lord for the opportunity to come here and live my dream. Santo Domingo is full of energy, clean and by the ocean.
That first day after I got settled in Santo Domingo, I went out to eat with a great person at Adrian Tropical, which is right by the ocean (the Malecon). It was a beautiful first day!
Day 2 – Wednesday November 1:
I went to meet with the YMCA staff about the global health work volunteer work that I would be doing for the next couple of days. It was great meeting Mr. Andres Fortunato, the Director of the YMCA of Dominican Republic. His staff was very friendly as well. Mr. Fortunato took me to different YMCA branches in Santo Domingo and told me more about the wonderful work that they do. The YMCA of Dominican Republic focuses more on education and skills development. Watch the video below to learn more about the YMCA of Dominican Republic.
Tour of Santo Domingo:
After my meeting with the YMCA Staff, someone special took me on a tour of Santo Domingo. It was great getting to know this beautiful city.
Here is a video of me of me exercising/running/jogging at the Malecon. The view of the Malecon is beautiful and therapeutic. I encourage anyone visiting there to go for a walk/jog/run along the Malecon. It’s very safe. Watch this:
It was a beautiful second day. I had so much fun with great people in this beautiful city and I felt right at home in Santo Domingo.
Day 3 – Thursday November 2:
I started my volunteer work with the YMCA. I did health screenings most of the day and taught dance fitness/Zumba classes. I had a great time. Watch videos below:
It was a long fun day, from early morning to late afternoon. I enjoy promoting healthy behaviors. I was quite tired by the end of the day so I just took it easy for the rest of the day and chilled with good company.
Day 4 – Friday November 3:
After a delicious and chatty breakfast with good people, I went to teach dance fitness/Zumba at the park nearby, right across from the beautiful Malecon. We had so much fun. See video below:
After the morning dance fitness/Zumba session at the park, I relaxed and chilled for the afternoon and got ready to go out dancing with friends. We went to El Conuco, a very classy restaurant with a good dance party. We danced to Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. It was my first party in Santo Domingo and I had a lot of fun.
Day 5 – Saturday November 4:
I had a morning session at YMCA where I did health screenings such as blood pressure, body fat, BMI. I also did wellness coaching/health counselling where I was able to give people advice based on their health numbers. I also answered any additional health and fitness related questions that they had. I attended to a lot of people that day. It was a great busy day doing what I love.
After the health screening session, I went to the beach in Boca Chica. Boca Chica is about 30 kilometers from Santo Domingo. It’s one of the most popular beaches in the country. This beach is an ideal weekend and holiday getaway due to its proximity to the capital city. It’s also close to the Las Americas International Airport. We arrived at the beach a bit late to avoid the crowd because it is a very popular beach. It turned out to be an incredible night at the beach; great company, great food great music!
Day 6 – Sunday November 5 – Beach Day 2:
Today, I made another trip to Boca Chica because yesterday we went late to avoid the crowd. But I wanted to see how it looks like in the day. But boy, when we got there, it was so crowded we couldn’t find parking and we were being hustled left and right. It was just to busy and quite chaotic. So we decided to go another beach nearby called Juan Dolio. The people I went with said Juan Dolio is quieter, better and more classy than Boca Chica. We definitely had a great time in Juan Dolio!
Day 7 – Monday November 6:
This day was a public holiday in Dominican Republic. It was the Constitution Day. I chilled most of the day and then went to one of the best malls in Santo Domingo. It was actually my first time there. I wanted to get some news shoes for a party I was going to in the evening that day.
Initially, the plan was to go and party at Jet Set but it was close so ended up at Merengue Bar at Hotel Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua. There was a live band playing salsa, merengue and bachata! It was a fun night!
Day 8 – Tuesday November 7:
Today I chilled most of the day and prepared for my trip to Haiti the next day. I went to Capital Bus Line station to buy the two way ticket to Port-Au Prince, the capital city of Haiti. One way ticket was US$45 and a return ticket was US$75. There was also a border/immigration fee of US$10. I prefer to travel by road between countries so that I can sight-see and get to know the country/countries better. When you fly to neighboring countries, you don’t really get to see and experience anything special.
Day 9 – Wednesday November 8 – Off to Haiti:
I woke up early and made my way to Capital Coach Bus Line to catch my 8am bus to Port-Au Prince, Haiti. Unfortunately, when I got there, the trip was postponed to 1pm because there was a strike at the Haiti border. Apparently this happens quite often. I read about it when I was doing my research on taking the bus to Haiti. I was annoyed about arriving in Haiti when it’s getting dark. I wanted to get a good first glimpse of Haiti upon arrival since it was my first time there.
Nonetheless, I decided not to wait at the bus station until 1pm so I went back “home” to catch up on my sleep. I was a bit scared that the strike wouldn’t be over by 1pm but they Staff at the station assured me that the strike would be over by then. I wondered how hey could be sure of that. They said to call before I come and that’s exactly what I did. The 1pm bus departing at the scheduled time.
The Capital Coach Bus Line is very professional, quiet, clean, and comfortable. They give all passengers lunch (water, juice and sandwich) as pictured above. I was very fortunate to get a front seat on the second floor of the double Decker bus. I had a good view for taking pictures and videos. The trip to Haiti was wonderful and scenic. The roads were good in Dominican Republic but the roads were not so good in Haiti. below are a few pictures and videos:
Day 10 – Saturday November 11 – Back in DR from Haiti:
Below, please see pictures and videos at the Dominican side of the border. Things were more strictly at this side of the border compared to the Haitian side of the border. Security was tighter and there was more passport/immigration control, for obvious reasons. Dominican Republic has the biggest Haitian immigration population in the world, despite the fact that Dominicans and Haitians don’t like each other. Their sour relationship has a long story so I encourage you to google “Haiti and Dominican relationship.”
At the Dominican Republic border, we had to get off the bus and line up at passport control and then we got back in the bus. Later after comfortably seating on the bus, we were told to take our luggage out and place it on the table in the immigration control area to have it searched. You will be hustled while trying to take your luggage out with people forcefully volunteering to help you carry it for you to the search table. Luckily, a fellow passenger who figured out that I was knew to this got off the bus with me to make sure that I’m not being taken advantage of. She went with me to get my bag searched. I wouldn’t even really call that a bag search. The person only touch a few things for exactly 2 seconds and closed my bag. He expected me to give him some one however the lady told me that there’s nothing in my bag to warrant me giving him money so I shouldn’t and I didn’t. And of course the person who grabbed my bag from the bus trying to help me carry it to the search area was also expected me to give him money. He followed me all the way to the bus entrance. He couldn’t speak English and all along I was trying to tell him that I don’t have cash on me. He was obviously disappointed when he realized I didn’t have any money to give him. Personally, I don’t like being hustled and duped into giving people money. I felt annoyed to say the least. But I understand that this is how they make a living….
See video below taken at the Dominican side of the border. Interesting…
The rest of the bus ride was smooth until we got to a road block. The bus stopped and a few people where told to get off the bus and get their luggage to be searched. This was a bit strange considering that we just left immigration control where our bags were “searched.” I don’t know if this was a random selection or if they were suspected of something. The passengers on the bus, most of whom appeared to be Haitian, didn’t seem pleased with this search. Everyone was staring outside the window. It must have been quite embarrassing for those who were being searched. See pictures below and video above.
I eventually arrived at Capital Coach Bus Line in Santo Domingo. The whole bus ride, including the stops, took about 9 hours. The normal drive with a personal vehicle takes about 7 hours or less. However, it didn’t feel that long because I was entertained by favorite music that I was playing on my iPod while enjoying the scenery and zoning off into my happy and peaceful world. The journey to Haiti and Dominican Republic was definitely therapeutic. I love taking bus rides between neighboring countries because of the opportunity to sight-see and see more of the countries and interact with the local people; a great travel adventure and you really get to know the country and its people that way in a way that you can’t by taking plane. And an added bonus is that, it’s also cheaper to take the bus than to fly.
It was nice being back “home.” I spent the remaining few days hanging out with wonderful people, shopping and preparing to return to the USA. The night before leaving Dominican Republic, I went to Adrian Tropical restaurant for dinner. I love being by the water and I like the fact that this restaurant is by the ocean/the Malecon. Beautiful view, great food. It was raining that day so we at inside the restaurant.
Day 13 – Tuesday November 14 – Last Day in DR; going back to the USA
I went back to Dominican Republic, for the 2nd time on December 30th, 2017 to celebrate New Year’s over there. I had a blast. Every year, there’s a free New Y ear’s Eve concert at the Malecon. It’s free and features top Dominican artists singing bachata, salsa and merengue. It’s definitely worth checking out… Here is the video:
I have been to Boston a few times before but the trip I took during in September 2017 was the best one. I had a great time with family and friends, and even had enough time to rest, relax, complete 1 hour+ runs/jogs along the beach and I even managed to fit in a tour the city because I was there for a whole week. That’s the longest and best time I have ever stayed in Boston. It pays to give yourself enough time to stick around when visiting a major city, town of country so you can see and enjoy all that it has to offer. Check it out; amazing pictures and videos below. Boston has become one of my favorite vacation spots in the USA.
On a cruise around Boston! See video below!
The Boston harbor is beautiful! We took the cruise downtown Boston. The scenery was beautiful and therapeutic. The tour guide share the interesting history of Boston during our cruise. I highly recommend doing cruise tour of Boston.
I live by the motto, work hard, play hard! I love the beach and being in that perfect world with no cares and worries. Boston beaches are beautiful. The weather was amazing that week. I woke up every morning to go for an hour run nonstop along the beach. Running puts me in a happy zone where I shut the whole world out and make it all about me. See beach video below:
I managed to take the popular Boston Duck Tours so learn about Boston from land and river. Quack-Quack! This was fun, check it out!
The food was amazing! I remember one particular brunch I had near the harbor. It was too good. I can’t remember the restaurant but it was a deli right the subway station downtown Boston. It wasn’t the most healthy good but it was oh so delicious! I jogged it off the next day though… :
And of course, I proudly flew American to Boston and back home to Washington, DC! 🙂
I hope you get a chance to visit Boston and if you have been before, and haven’t taken the tours, I hope you will! See more pictures here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4PryRj
“Now you’re in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you. Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York” – Jay Z: Empire State of Mind
New York City is one of my favorite cities to visit in the USA. I travel there at least once every year and there always seems to be something new to enjoy. If you have never been to New York, I highly recommend that you make a goal to visit, sooner than later. You will not be disappointed. Here is my personal experience in the city that never sleeps… The Big Apple… I will let the pictures and videos speak for themselves… Hope this inspires you to visit the city.
I’m a (clean) fun loving person, people person who enjoys socializing and getting to know people and cultures from around the world. We are blessed with a rich and diverse world, let’s take a moment to get to know and celebrate our diversity for personal enrichment and enlightenment. The best way to get acquainted with any culture in the world, without having to buy an expensive air ticket, is through music and dance. You can attend cultural events in your home town or major diverse cities in your home country. With today’s advance technology, you can google music and dance videos from a world culture or country of your interest and watch them to learn more about that culture and try dancing to the music. It’s a great way to connect with the culture and its people. And when you actually get to travel that country, you will fit right in and the local people will appreciate you and love you for making the effort…..
Here are my travel around the world through music and dance videos. Enjoy and stay tuned for more…!
Travel around the world through music and dance
Travel to Latin America through music and dance
Travel to Africa through music and dance
Travel to the Caribbean through music and dance
Travel to the USA/Americas through music and dance
Please stay tuned for more Around the World music and dance videos….
Angola is my third favorite country in Africa for various reasons. I was born in exile Angola, in a SWAPO refugee camp in Kwanza-Sul, during Namibia’s struggle for independence from the South African apartheid regime. I have fond memories of Angola from an early age of 10 when I left in June 1989 to go to Namibia after the war ended. Despite the war that my freedom fighter parents were fighting under SWAPO, my life in Angola was one of peace, joy, happiness and freedom. I felt so protected by SWAPO and the Angolan government that I had no worries or fears. All my basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing were provided for free. Life in Angola was great to me. It was the only life I knew and the first year In Namibia was not a happy one. I missed Angola and all my friends that I grew up with. Namibia seemed very strange. At one point, I wished that SWAPO would lose the election so that we could go back home to Angola to continue fighting the Boers…. Of course, that didn’t happen. SWAPO won and my parents and all exiled Namibians were happy to be back. I never got a chance to go back to Angola since I left in June 1989 but it has always been my dream to go back and visit my country of birth.
Early March 2017 while visiting the northern part of Namibia (Owamboland where my Oshiwambo culture and family originates from), I decided to take a quick trip Angola just to see how she looks like. I was required to get a yellow fever vaccination to travel into Angola. I wanted to see everything so flying to Angola was out of question as I wouldn’t be able to see much and I didn’t have a lot of time to tour the whole country. So, I decided to either drive or take the bus. A friend told me about a luxury and affordable bus that leaves from Namibia to Angola called Macon. Before I could settle for Macon bus I decided to do a bit of research two days before my scheduled trip into Angola. Just to prepare myself for the trip, I visited the Macon bus station on the border of Namibia and Angola in Oshikango/Santa Clara. Before I could enter the Santa Clara (Angola side of the border), I had to fill in my immigration papers with the Namibian immigration officials. I was traveling on my Namibian passport so I didn’t need a visa to go to Angola. Namibia is one of the few countries in the world who don’t require a visa to visit Angola. Our car didn’t obtain clearance to go into Angola before so I had to cross the border on foot which was just a matter of going to the other side of the gate which is kept open during normal business hours. It is very close and easy border to cross. You just basically walk through with no questions asked until you get to the Angolan Immigration counter didn’t look very secure. From what I witnessed, anyone could easily cross into Angola without proper documentation but you will probably get caught eventually while in Angola because they have a lot of road blocks where they check for IDs. But I heard one can easily bribe the officers and still make it through the road blocks without proper documentation. I would advise against entering Angola and any country without a visa and proper documentation.
Nonetheless, the Namibian side of the border (Oshikango) was very clean, very organized and orderly. I expected the same for the Angolan side (Santa Clara). As soon as we passed the Namibian side of the border, gang looking Angolans started hustling us. They offered to help us pass by immigration faster, they asked to exchange our money into Kwanza (Angolan currently). Some people were selling food and drinks in the open along the way to the immigration counter. It was a mess, compared to what we were accustomed to when we travel. But then again, this was my first time crossing any country border so maybe this is the norm but I doubt it…. When I got to the Angolan immigration counter, I saw people just passing through without their papers checked. I supposed the officials, somehow, knew who was a regular and who was visiting for the first time because my brother and I tried to just call through and they stopped us and we asked how come others could just pass through without being checked. Language was a problem at Immigration as they only spoke Portuguese and we only spoke Oshiwambo and English. Luckily, some of the Angolans speak Oshiwambo so they could translate to the officers. Soon after, we got our Namibian passports stamped and went through….
The reality of life in Angola hit us once again the moment we walked out of the immigration building. We were hustled right away again by gang looking youths who wanted to exchange our money into kwanza. They didn’t take no for an answer, they keep following us and when they stop, the next person carries on. I feared being robbed. Good thing I was with my brother and I didn’t go alone to check out the situation on the Angolan side of the border. I would have been terrified if I had gone alone. I wouldn’t advise any non-Angolans, females especially, to cross the border on foot alone. It’s just too messy. And to make matters worse, there’s no taxi service near the immigration building. We had to walk to the Macon bus stop which was quite a walk. We were offered a ride on one of those motor taxis who look so unsafe and they don’t provide helmets for passengers and the driver is not wearing a helmet either. Those motor taxis only take one person at a time so my brother and I would have been separated which was not an option at this point. So, we walked to Macon bus stop.
Besides being hustled all the way to our destination, our next shocker was the uncleanliness of Angola. We have already heard tales of how Angola is dirty and how Angolans are not very clean people from those who have interacted with them in Namibia and those who have visited Angola. I just didn’t believe it was this bad. Compared to the Namibia side of the border, Santa Clara was very dirty. There was trash and dirty running water everywhere. We even saw people standing in very dirty water with their shoes, no shoes and flipflops waiting in line, with no care at all about the unhygienic water. I suppose this is the norm for them and it doesn’t bother them. Now I understood why everyone is required to get yellow fever vaccination before they would be allowed to enter Angola.
Arriving at the Macon bus station was a relief and a ray of hope for Angola based on what I had seen up to that point. The gated bus station was very clean and had seating area, with phone charging ports and bathrooms and TV in the waiting area. It was also operating orderly and the customer service was superb. I inquired more about their service, the bus schedule, and the cost. They were indeed very reasonable. My trip to Lubango would cost less than US$50. My trip from Lubango to Luanda would cost less than US$100. I had gotten these information on their website which I was able to translate to English right now but I wanted to stop by and see for myself and ask all the necessary questions in person before I decide. I didn’t buy a bus ticket that day as I preferred to buy it at the same time when I leave, just in case I change my point.
We didn’t realize the border closes at 6pm (Angolan time) and 7pm (Namibian time). So, on our way back to Namibia, the border agents in Santa Clara wouldn’t let us through because the border was closed. They told us that the Namibian border was closed too. My brother and I started to panic. There’s no way we could spend the night in Santa Clara. We already didn’t feel safe enough in the town and we didn’t see any hotels while there. The only option would have been to sleep at the Macon bus stop but that was out of the question too. We didn’t know the border closed so early. I wish the immigration officers told us that we only had less than an hour because we told them that we are only going to visit the Macon bus stop and coming right back. To make matters worse, my sister was in the car with two toddlers and she doesn’t drive so it would not be safe for them to sleep on the Namibia side of the border either. We explained this to the immigration officers on the Angolan side and they let us through saying good luck, the Namibian immigration officers may not let you through. Once they let us through, we ran as fast as we could to the Namibian border. Everyone we passed was telling us the border was closed. One or two people told us to go and try to plead our case.
Indeed, the Namibian side of the border was closed too. We found people begging for the immigration officers to open for them so they can get into Namibia. The immigration officers had just closed the gate and were walking away when we got there. We called after them to please come and let us in but they just kept going saying the border is closed. I was so desperate that I was calculating how I’m going to jump the border fence and explain myself later. It wasn’t that high and I was determined that if I try, I would make it over. There was no way I was leaving my four-year son on the other side. Luckily, one of the immigration officers who saw us cross the border into Angola and who was there when we explained that we are coming right back, walked by and we pleaded with her to please help us out. She remembered us and went inside the building. She came back with the supervisor who also remembered seeing us. They eventually let my brother and I to get back into Namibia after hours. God bless their heart. We were so happy to be reunited with our family who were waiting for us in the car. Was it not for the two small children in the car, we would not have been forced to spend the night in Santa Clara. We were told to come back the next day to get our passports stamped so it would show a record of us having returned into the country. We lived to tell this tale and laugh about it. So, I would advise anyone using the border to make sure that they’re back way before 6pm before the border closes. Always ask what time the border closes because the immigration officers will most likely assume that you already know and won’t tell you. The time was written at the entrance somewhere but it is easy to miss if no one points it out.
Two days later, my brother and I decided that we would drive to Angola together as it would be faster than the bus and will provide more convenience and opportunity to sightsee properly along the way from Santa Clara to Lubango and then from Lubango to Luanda and then back. The night before we were supposed to leave, we were driving around in the village where the roads were bumpy and not tarred. This caused the back light of our car to fall off. We didn’t realize this until much later and all the repair shops were closed for the weekend. Our car wouldn’t be cleared to travel into Angola without all the lights working properly. I didn’t want to waste any more time and the uncertainty of having the light fixed on time, so I decided to take Macon bus to Angola.
On a Sunday morning, my brother escorted me to Macon bus station on foot as we left our car at the Oshikango border. Macon bus does not accept non-Angolan debit or credit cards. So, I went to all ATM machines between the border post and Macon bus stations, about 4 of them, to withdraw money so I can pay the bus but they were all not working. Luckily, I had 2000 kwanzas that I withdrew from one of these ATMs two days ago but I needed 2028 more and the money exchange hustlers could exchange my Namibian dollars into kwanzas. The Namibian dollar is well received in Angola because it is stronger in value. I could get enough kwanzas so I bought my ticket and boarded the Macon to Lubango. The bus was very clean and I had a front seat right behind the drive so I could see everything. The bus also had entertainment (music and movies to watch).
On my road trip to Angola, the first thing I noticed, other than the dirt and uncleanliness in Santa Clara, is how green the country is. The high way road was also excellent. I didn’t see any potholes until about 127 kilometers from Lubango. The Angolan passenger who sat next to me on my way to Lubango spoke good English so he could give me updates about Angola, economically, politically and culturally. He was also my translator as I didn’t speak Portuguese.
I arrived in Lubango at night, about 8 hours later since I left Santa Clara. The trip would have been 4-5 hours by car but the bus makes frequent stops. We stopped in every town that we passed. This was a good thing because I got to see all the towns on the way to Lubango and this exactly what I wanted; to see as much of Angola as I possibly could on the road trip. It was great to be back in Lubango. Lubango is the last place I lived in Angola before we left for good to go to Namibia. I lived in the SWAPO camps in Lubango so we didn’t interact with Angolans that much and Angolans were hardly seen in our camps. The Mwila tribe that lived near our SWAPO camps were the only Angolans I was a bit accustomed to but we were discouraged from interacting with them. I believe this was for security reasons. Nonetheless, a friend of my who I had never met but was introduced to me by a close of friend of mine who was her relative came to pick me up from the Macon bus stop. Her name is Mariana and she’s a very beautiful inside-out lady of Namibian origin but was now living in Lubango. Lubango wasn’t much different from all the other Angolan towns we drove by along the way, except that it was a bigger town. When I got to my friend’s house, they were having a birthday party so it worked out great for me because I love to party. The Angolan music of kizomba, semba, kuduro and tarraxinha was blasting through the speakers, the food was great, plenty of drinks and the vibe was just perfect. I’m a social butterfly so I didn’t waste any time. After I greeted everyone and got a bit settled, I got right on the dance floor and enjoy my first party in Angola. The people there were so wonderful, you would think we knew met before…
The next day, I went around Lubango. Our transportation was not available so Tatiana and I decided to take public transport… I didn’t want to get on the motor/bike taxi because they seem unsafe. Tatiana and everyone tried to convince me that they were safe but I couldn’t get over my fear of riding on a bike, especially when the passenger and driver didn’t have helmets. Unfortunately, I had no other choice as that was the only form of public transportation readily available and I was told that we were not going too far. So, I hopped on one of those. Boy, was I scared. First, people drive crazy in Lubango, I have noticed. There are no traffic lights so the bike was just maneuvering its way through the streets and crossing the roads was scary for me. I wanted to get to our destination quickly so I get off. I held on tight to the driver and I prayed that my fear wouldn’t distract him because an accident on one of these would be quite serious. I felt irresponsible agreeing to get on one of these. When we got to our destination, I told myself that never again, will I get on a motor taxi. Our destination was Millennium Mall, one of the major malls in Lubango. We went there so I could purchase a sim card or system as they call it for my phone so I can make calls and get on the internet at the local rate. Unfortunately, the Intel phone store there was down so I couldn’t purchase the “system”.
Tatiana said we must go to another store and that we must get on a motor taxi. I was like “no way am I getting on those again. I have a 4 year child who needs his mommy…. I can’t be this careless with my life…” I asked if we could just call a private taxi. Public taxis are the minivan that looked just as unsafe and overcrowded as you’re in there with a lot of other people. I have seen those mini vans drop off people while still moving and people getting on them while they were still moving and the door was still open. So, we called a private taxi where it will just be me and Tatiana. However, it was going to take a long time and it is much more expensive. We waited for a while and eventually I got tired of waiting and asked Tatiana if the store is within walking distance. It was about 10 minutes away so we walked to another Intel store and on the way, I got a chance to sightsee Lubango. It was beautiful, although unclean with trash and dirty running water, just like everywhere else I have been to Angola thus far. Unfortunately, that cell phone store’s system was down too. We went to another one and same thing. I ended up not getting a sim card and I had to roam as I got tired of asking to use other people’s phones to contact my family and son in Namibia. I was roaming on my USA contract number and my bill for two days of roaming came to about US$250. Bummer! But I had peace speaking to my son and making him feel like I was close and that he was fine. I couldn’t take him to Angola because he was too young for the road trip and I didn’t have a visa for him. I also didn’t know how Angola was so I didn’t want to take that chance with him.
Tatiana and I walked around downtown Lubango which was walking distance from where I was staying. The foot tour was fun but my face felt dirty from all the street dust and dirt. I quickly washed it when I got home as it was the most uncomfortable feeling. My face is very sensitive to dirt and I felt the same way I feel when I’m a room full of smokers. Nonetheless, Lubango was wonderful and the people I was with were wonderful and made me feel so welcome. I went on another tour of Lubango the next time by car this time. We went to see mountain Tundavala, Jesus Christ Statue and I got a chance to see more of Lubango. I couldn’t make it to the snake looking road because it was just too scary for me.
A few days later, I left Lubango with Macon bus for Luanda, the capital city of Angola. I wanted to stop by in Lobito as I lived there for a few months when I was 7 years old and had fond memories of the seaside town where I stayed right by the beach. I was running out of time and couldn’t stop by in Lobito so I went straight to Angola. The road to Angola was bumpy with a lot of potholes. Thank God I was in a huge bus and felt safe from accidents. I was so glad that I didn’t drive with my brother because the roads were so rough. Our car would have broken down and we would have been more prone to accidents. It would have been very unsafe for us, especially if we broke down in the middle of nowhere…. I believe God caused that light to fall off to protect us… Nonetheless, the trip to Luanda was fun. Again, I was lucky enough to sit in the front row, right behind the driver. I asked to swap a sit with someone on the bus because it was my first time in Angola and I wanted to see everything. They understood that I was a tourist and were very accommodating…. One of the things that stuck out for me during this road trip was the Unita place that I passed one time with a SWAPO convoy and feared for my life. This place is where a lot of Unita rebels used to hide out in a ditch nearby and ambush oncoming cars, mostly Angolan cars. SWAPO convoy was safe as it was guarded by SWAPO soldiers so Angola civilians used to join the convoy so they can safely cross this point during the war. However, I saw dead bodies for the first time when I pass by there at the age of 6. I could never forget the sight of Angolan civilian cars burning with bodies inside the cars and on the ground with their legs sticking out. This was when there was civil war in Angola between the MPLA and Unite forces. So, it was quite amazing driving there again. This time it was a peaceful sight because the civil war ended when Savimbi, the leader of Unita was killed a few years ago.
I also drove passed Sumbe the capital city of Kwanza-Sul the province in which I was born. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go around Kwanza-Sul as my destination was Lubango but I intend to make another trip with more time to visit Kwanza-Sul. We eventually arrived in Luanda and I fell in love with Luanda once more. The city is surrounded by the beach and I’m one of those people who loves the beach and just being around the water. The city may not be as clean but it sure is beautiful and bustling with energy. One of my friends, Cafala, picked me up from the bus station and took me around Luanda. I spent the night at my cousin Martha’s place who lives in Luanda. It was nice seeing everyone. The next day I went on another beautiful tour of Luanda and spent some time at Miami Beach, one of the popular beaches in Luanda.
My time in Angola was short and went by very fast. Four days later, I returned to Namibia. The plan was to fly back as I didn’t need to take the long bus ride back anymore, now that I have seen everything that I needed to see. I went to buy a plane ticket but they were sold out and the next one available wasn’t leaving until two days later. The plane ticket to Ondjiva, the Angolan town closest to the Namibian border, the town after Santa Clara, was about 35,000 kwanzas. The bus would get me there sooner and at only 14,000 kwanzas. So, I decided to take the bus back. It was a long trip but well worth every time spent. I had an amazing time in Angola and I’m happy to finally say that I have been back to Angola since I left in 1989. I will be back again soon and with more time. The purpose of this trip was just to see Angola and reintroduce myself to my country of birth. My goal was accomplished and I have memories to last me until I visit again.
During my 5-week vacation to Southern Africa in February and March 2017, I had the pleasure of visiting my top three favorite countries in Africa: Namibia, South Africa and Angola. I was stationed in Namibia which is basically a smaller version of South Africa. The two countries are almost one because they share the same apartheid history, same food, music etc. Namibia was once almost considered a province of South Africa. I encourage everyone to read about the reach history of Namibia and South Africa. Unfortunately, Namibia is still very depended on sister-country South Africa…..
Anyway, I took a direct 1.5 hour return flight from Namibia to Johannesburg, South Africa, via South African Airways which has about 4-5 direct flights between Namibia and South Africa every day. I missed my first flight due to South African Airways lack of communication on new policies. When I flew South African Airways in 2014 with my one year old son, I wasn’t asked to produce any documentations for my son other than his passport. South African Airline’s new policy is that anyone traveling with a child has to produced a certified copy of the child’s full birth certificate and a letter from the father saying that the child has permission to travel. If one has full custody of the child, they can produce the court full custody order instead of a letter from one of the parents. I only found this one when I was about to fly to South Africa with my four year old. I had to miss my flight and catch a later flight after I had gotten certified documents required to fly with my son. Of course, I had to pay flight rebooking fees and other related fees. So to all parents out there traveling with children and using South African Airlines, please make sure you have those documents. I wish they had asked me to upload them when I bought my ticket online or told me to have them handy when I check in. There was no such communication. I ended up having to pay for South Africa’s lack of communication on new policies. I was quite upset about this but thanks for technology, I was able to get all the required documents with in a couple of hours and I was able to fly out the next day with my son.
Nonetheless, South Africa is my second favorite country in Africa for various reasons…..Namibia is the first and Angola is the third….. I love South Africa for various reasons… One of the reasons is that it’s a sister country to my motherland, Namibia, which shared the same brutal apartheid system and government. This resulted in my being born in Exile (Angola) where my my parents under SWAPO, along with their ANC comrades fought to end apartheid in their respective countries. I also love South Africa for its rich arts and entertainment. I’m of the opinion that South Africans are the best natural and effortless singers and dancers in the world. As someone who loves music and dances from all world cultures and backgrounds, no music and dance moves have ever moved and impressed me the way South African music and dance has. South Africans are very talented. Another thing I love about South Africa is the beauty of the country and its diversity. The country is beautiful, well organized and better managed than a lot of African countries. It’s good to go to an African country where things are orderly and well organized, on the most part (Namibian and South Africa), with out trash and dirty running water in the streets, electricity and water regularly shutting off at random times, without warning (Angola).
It was indeed a pleasure to visit South Africa again in March 2017 for a week. It was my longest time in South Africa. I have visited South Africa before but it was just a quick stop and I didn’t really get to see and do as much as I wanted. This time, I got a chance to visit three major areas in South Africa. I was staying in beautiful Pretoria, the capital City of South Africa, which is a short 30 minute drive to the busy and energetic city of Johannesburg. I was able to do an interesting tour of three major areas in South Africa: Pretoria, Johannesburg and Soweto.
While in South Africa, I stayed in Pretoria for one week and had a great time, especially sine it’s only 30 minutes to an hour drive (based on traffic) to Johannesburg, the major city of South Africa. Pretoria is the beautiful, ever green, and peaceful capital City of South Africa and therefore it’s full of historic sites. I visited the magnificent Union Buildings, the heart of South Africa’s government, with a beautiful garden and a huge statue of Nelson Mandela. I also visited the Voortrekker Monument which symbolizes Afrikaaner Nationalism. I then visited Church square with prominent buildings such as OuRaadsaal, Palace of Justice and Capital Theater
Here is a video of my tour of Pretoria!
I had a great time on a tour of Johannesburg, a major town in South Africa! This city is amazing. I saw all the main tourist attractions including Sandton where the statue of Nelson Mandela is. We passed through the popular Hillbrow, Central Johannesburg, Braamfontein, Newtown. We stopped by the 269/50 stories Telkom Tower with a distinctive skyline where you can see the whole of Johannesburg. We visited the Constitution Hill which is the highest court in South Africa. I had the please to go inside the court. We also passed through the longest Southern African bridge, the Nelson Mandela Bridge. We visited the Carlton Centre also known as the Top of Africa; it’s the tallest building in Africa with 50 floors and you can experience the amazing view of the whole of Johannesburg from the 50th floor. We also visited the Apartheid Museum before visiting the infamous Soweto Township (see separate video).
Ironically, I had an experience at the Restaurant inside the Apartheid Museum which made me feel like I was still in Apartheid South Africa. My four year son and I went to get food. We purchased our food but the food took a long time to come and we were so hungry. However, the white people who came after us got their food faster. I had to keep going back to the counter to ask how long it was going to take and every time they told me that it was coming. What we ordered wasn’t supposed to take long to make. So we waited an hour until I got really upset and went back to the counter and asked for the last time why I’m still waiting for my food when the white people who came before me all got their food. I told the restaurant servers that we need to do a better job treating each other well like we do white people. The restaurant servers were all black. They assured me that “no, it’s not like that ma’am….” But it was like that. I have noticed that in Namibia too, black service providers treat white customers better than they treat black customers. However, I will give these restaurant servers some credit because they were polite when I complained and apologized in the end and prevented a bad customer service situation from escalating…. They even let me go behind the counter to charge my phone. I think our people just need to be constantly reminded that we black people need to treat each other better. We are in this struggle together.
Watch my tour video of Johannesburg!
I enjoyed the visiting the hotspots of Soweto, the infamous township in South Africa. The tour included a visit to the famous National Football Stadium (the Calabash) where the first and last matches of the 2010 World Cup were held. Visited the Diepkloof market area, Orlando West where the Nelson Mandela house and Desmond Tutu’s house is located. We also visited the shanty town and closed of the tour at Hector Pieterson Memorial about the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976.
Watch the video below of my awesome time in Soweto!
The only thing other thing I wanted to do while in South Africa was go party in Johannesburg. I live to dance so it’s not like me to go to a country and not go dancing. I was ready to go dancing but I was in South Africa the week when foreigners were being targeted violently so I was discouraged from going out partying by loved ones in South Africa. I personally didn’t feel threatened or unsafe in South Africa but that’s a story for another time…… I had a great one week in South Africa and I can’t wait to visit again. My next stop has to be Cape Town, the beautiful seaside city in South Africa with beautiful beaches and mountains.
View all pictures from this trip here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/148965481@N05/WjxmTQ
South Africa, I love you! Thanks for the great time. Until next time….. Stay beautiful!