Monthly Archives: May 2008

Living Luanda – Luanda

I’M BACK! 🙂 I have already added a few more posts since the last time, and prior to this one, which those of you with RSS would have already picked up.

Well, this is just a quick few lines to report on the a bit of nothing actually. Well, not really nothing. It is more of a general update on what life has been like here for the last few weeks that I have been here this “tour of duty”. And also to show off a few more pics! 🙂

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1. The Marginal (Promenade) with the National Bank in the foreground on the left, and the brand new Torres Atlantico Building on the right! Our new premises at some stage.

2. The usual Petrol chaos at the garages. It is like this every day and night. And Fuel is R4 a litre. Read and Weep!!

3. The Angolan equivalent of Maccy D’s

4. Mobile Clinics and Chinese quality control for construction!

Today I saw my first stab victim first hand! It was pretty horrific I must say. Some dude staggering down the road being supported/led by two guys, one on either side of him. He had his hands on his stomach, and both hands were just covered in thick red blood. Pretty crazy actually.

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5. Locksmith – Angolan Style

6. WTF??

We had our pantry door lock replaced the other day and had to get access to the room – Angolan Style (5).

I also arrived home 2 days ago to find that my light bulb in my room was LEAKING WATER (6)! I mean come on . . . WTF is that all about??? The water was actually running down the INSIDE of the electrical cabling to the light bulb! It’s a miracle it didn’t short the whole house when I flipped the switch!

I started gymming again this last week. At $100 a month I can tell you I will be going at least 6 days a week. It is nothing special, and is really small. Like really small, but has really good equipment, all the latest Technogym equipment, with a few pieces I haven’t even seen in SA too.

2 Xbox games have been already finished twice over by Warren,and I have a had a round or 2, but not much really. Been way to busy with work actually. Just got loads on at the mo, so it has been good.

Oh, and we finally got our power sorted issues sorted. Well, kind of.The guy came along one night and split the power loads that was on the breakers to balance it out a bit more. It has been stable since then,so we can only hope it is not sorted. They did it at night, and had to shut the power off, so he decided to wire a bulb directly to the city power coming in. As you can see in the picture below (7), it was another Angolan “job”. How he tested it was working? He licked his finger and briefly touched the contact to see if it “was alive”. I would have thought that he would have known by the massive spark that came off the contact when the connected it up.

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7. Connecting a light bulb directly to the City Power.

8. The “fancy” underpass with the usual traffic queues trying to get into the city.

Monday is another  public holiday, we had one last week too. This Monday I think is definitely gonna be spent on the beach, or at least in the sun! Definitely gonna bring my beach bats up when I come back next time!

More to follow soon. Plus I’ll be updating y’all on my 2 weeks back in ZA recently.

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Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

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Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) & a Sad Day for my Car! – Luanda

In order to get access to the FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) vessel, or any offshore rig/vessel, you have to complete at least Helicopter Underwater Escape Training, which is exactly what it says it is.

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The Simulated Helicopter Chassis, which they drop in the water and spin around!

The ESSA training facility is based at Cacuaco, just North of Luanda. 14 kms from the centre of town. That’s 1 hour to get there early in the morning, if you leave before 06h that is, and 2-and-a-half hours to get back at 16h30.

The facility itself is built on a hill overlooking the town of Cacuaco, right on the edge of the bay, with an am amazing view of the beach. The center is used for all forms of offshore training and can also cater for a full STCW95 course, along with fire fighting, and many other off-shore petroleum related courses. The ESSA facility is also home the largest number of cats I have seen since arriving in Angola. There were about 10 of them just around the breakfast deck alone.

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1. Cacuaco  from Essa. 2. An underwater wellhead/”Christmas Tree” unit.

The training session starts with a breakfast, which if had known, I wouldn’t have had breakfast at home, so only grabbed a drink. From there we attended a theory session which lasted the morning, and then lunch, followed by the issuing of overalls and water shoes, and then off to the pool. We had our heart rate tested and given the signature of approval, issued with helmets, and the training begins.

The HUET training uses a simulated Helicopter module, which is attached to a pulley system that drops you into the water. It also has a rotation motor on it so it can spin you once in the water.

Before starting the training you are split into groups for 4 people per group. The module contains 6 seats, 2 for the pilots right in the front, and then 4 for the passengers at the back. The passenger seats are 2 in front, right next to the open doors, and the 2 at the back, next to portholes, which are the equivalent of windows. Each seat has the standard airplane buckle seatbelt. The front doors are primarily for those students who can’t swim. Oh, what, I forgot to mention that there are people on the course who can’t swim?? Yeah, that’s right, people are put through this who can’t swim. Now that is pretty mental I must say, as I was even nervous beginning this, but for them . . . it must be really scary.

The testing procedure is thus: You swim to the module, which has been positioned just on the water line in the pool, climb in and secure yourself with you seatbelt. If you can’t swim,you are escorted out there by the divers. The module is raised, then slowly lowered into the pool, whilst the trainer calls May Day, May Day, May Day, then Brace. You brace yourself, protecting you head with your had that is closet to the exit, and the other hand grabs the seat to steady yourself.  He then bangs his hand on the side to signify the crash. Once you hear that, you grab the exit, in this case a rail, or the window frame, but in real life the window lever, or door lever. and look towards it. The water rises, and just as it is below your head, you take a deep breath, and begin counting to 15, after fifteen, you release your belt, and exit via the door, or window, pulling yourself through, out and up. Very straight forward. The 15 second wait is to allow the blades, in a real-life situation, to stop spinning.

You are not even 1 metre below the water at any time, but it is the feeling of being in a “confined” space that is disturbing. There are 2 divers just outside the module under the water at all times. So, there really is nothing that can go wrong. Except for PANIC itself! And PANIC was a big one that day.

We were all given a dry run for practice in the module on the ground still. That was very basic. Then the guys climbed into the pool and had to submerge their heads for 15 seconds to experience the sensation, whilst holding onto the side. This was also so the guys who can’t swim could see what it feels like. After that, group 1 was off. I was in group 2. The guys ran through their paces and the module submerged. It hadn’t been underwater 5 seconds when 2 very frightened guys breached the surface, and doggy paddled like hell to get the edge of the pool. It was quite amusing to watch I must admit. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am not making fools of them at all. I think they must be seriously brave to get through that without freaking completely. However, it was early days yet. The trainer, Joao, or John in English, was very cool, and very, very good. Great guy,and he handled the students fine!

Then it was my turn. I hadn’t mentioned to anyone yet that I used to be a Scuba Diving Instructor in a previous life, about 4 years ago, and decided not to either, as it wouldn’t look very good if the Scuba Diver Dude with over 500 dives landed up losing it!! 🙂 There is only thing that pretty much stresses me out,and that is water up my nose. I don’t know why. It is just one of things. Otherwise, I am rock solid under the water. No worries with anything . . . except water in my nose. Once I spend a bit of time in the water, then I’m sorted. So this was gonna be interesting. The last time I had been in the water was in Cape Town on our lovely 8 degree dive, about 2 weeks previous to this. So, at least I should be okay. The first “landing” was fine. Nothing to worry about at all. You just hold your breath, wait a bit, release your belt, pull yourself out of the hole. I was at the back left. Being a pool, you have the benefit of being able to open your eyes, which if you think about is kinda cheating, as you probably won’t in the ocean. But hey, why the hell not. So I waxed the first attempt. I must have been down for about 20 – 25 secs before coming out,which means I am theoretically alive still! Yay!! 🙂 Piece of cake.

We watched the next 2 groups go after us, and there was a White, French dude – a chef apparently – who was one of the non-swimmers. He just managed with the first “drop”. Everyone else was pretty cool with it. Some guys popped out early, within a few secs, the rest were fine.

So, onto round 2. This was going to get a bit more interesting. In this round we were to be spun around. virtually 180 degrees. So the module is lowered into the pool, and then spun thru 180 degrees whilst it is still sinking, to simulate the helicopter flipping. This is apparently what happens in about 90% of all helicopter water landings, so it must be done. Especially when the rigs here, are all at sea! So, we get back in and the the sequence starts again. we start rotating whilst sinking this time, and as it flipped to the left first, I had to hold my breath longer than the required 15 sec, as it only really stabilised and stopped moving after 25 secs. It was a bit weird being upside down I must admit, and I didn’t really have any issues with water up my nose either. I had just exited the module and was surfacing, when I suddenly felt a guy behind me. What the hell? He had touched my shoe and had come through the same window I had. That was just weird. The trainer told me I had gone out the wrong window, which I thought was wrong, as that would have meant that I had swum across the module, not far, but still just strange, as I remember myself exiting the window right by me. I watched the next dump and noticed that I had come out the right window. The muppet who had been sitting next to me on the other side of the module had actually swum out my window after me! I told him and the trainer, and then he realised that that was correct. Sweet, so I had been right. I had been wondering about it. The cook made this one too, but he was mega stressed after it, and it looked like he was close to cracking.

Round 3 was exactly the same, just we went the other way round,so I only had to grab my breath at the end, just before I dipped under the water, and I was only under for a secs before it stopped and I could “escape”. By this time we were all pretty much old hands at it, and I was tempted to muck about on the last go, as Blythe had done when he did his HUET. The last round they had swum to the Cockpit and stayed there for like a few secs longer, taunting the divers by hanging around under water longer than required. 🙂 At this stage I decided to just complete the training and chill. Also the chlorine was seriously killing my eyes. So I just did the usual escape and got out. I was also at this stage intrigued to see how the Frenchman coped. Well, he didn’t. I think this third time was just too much for him, and PANIC set in in a big way. Shame. Poor dude. I really felt for him.It is one hell of a thing to be thrown in a pool, and then told you have to do it whilst tied up under the water. Man, no way. I would’ve gone to find a different career.

After the HUET stuff we did a bit of basic sea survival on a raft, and practiced dragging and huddling. Basic stuff.Then they elected me as leader for the raft evacuation, which was cool. It meant I was the first one out. Sweet. Cheers Suckers, I am getting the helicopter outta here!!! haha 🙂

So, that was pretty much the HUET in a day, and I had to admit to the trainer at the end that I used to be a Dive Instructor, whereby he said he wasn’t surprised as I looked very calm underwater. This was surprising, as even I thought I was a bit panicked at times. God, would have been great to see the faces of the others then! The day ended on a good note for all, including the Chef, as he wasn’t going to be doing that again in a hurry, and to date there has never been a ditching of a Helicopter off Angolan Waters. Let’s keep it that way.

UPDATE: ESSA, the HUET Training Agency in Luanda, can be contacted here: http://www.essa.co.ao/contacts_en.shtml

I was called at lunchtime by my mom to inform me that the guy who had taken my car for a test drive the day before I left, had decided he was dead keen and was taking it. Great news . . . but at the same time, I was a bit bummed. I absolutely my loved my little gas guzzling Jetta 2.3l V5.

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My Baby! 🙁

It was a really sweet machine, and had gotten me out of a lot of sh!t in the past. Okay, it had also gotten me into loads too. 😮 haha It is gonna be sorely missed, and I wish it the best of care in the hands of it’s new owner. Lucky guy!! But,time to move on I guess. Now to start saving for that RS4!!  🙂

Well, it was a great day, and fun was had by all.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Written on the 31st May ’08

Avoid the Cops – Luanda

So, I got back to Luanda around 13h in the afternoon to find everyone at the house fast asleep. I was also knackered from my really late night the night before, like 2 hours sleep or something stupid . . . my fault, so I hit the bed too the minute I arrived. This was after about 2-and-a-half hours of on-off sleep on the 2 flights up.

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Yes that is a Wimpy. The “Best” of South Africa! 🙂 Taken whilst travelling, so a bit blurred.

So the flights were interesting. I got the Emergency Exit seat, not that I would have been any good in the case of an emergency, as I was really exhausted from the night before. Got to bed around 03 I think, and had to get up around 05h for my flight. And I wasn’t even out partying.That would have been explainable at least! 🙂 But it was a good evening, regardless. So I literally passed out in my seat. I woke up about 20 mins before we landed and saw the guy next to me had a whole of papers out on his tray. I happened to notice the logo at the top, as one does . . . and said:

“Quinton or Sigi?”

He looked at me and said “Quentin”. My my, what a small world. I had just been on the phone to Quinton from Unison in Cape Town about 2 days earlier regarding a BP installation in Luanda, but we had never met. He was on his way to Windhoek for a business trip. Not going to Luanda. Lucky for him! So weird man, what a small world huh!!

The flight from Windhoek to Luanda was different. We were on a much bigger plane this time, something in the upper 737 range, a really big one, with 4 seats in the middle.Luckily I got stuck next to my favourite type of passenger, a young Portuguese Angolan Family, consisting of a mother, who didn’t give a toss about anything else, and 2 young kids who were an absolute nightmare, and kept kicking and knocking me, and hitting my leg with her hand, the little bitch, whilst I tried to sleep. And the plane was RAMMED, so there was no escape for me! 🙁

I arrived and cleared customs, which was a primary concern, considering I had our new House Asset in my laptop bag, along with 3 x controllers, and about 8 games . . . the asset is the new XBox 360!! Something to keep the kids happy. And I was worried as I don’t speak Portuguese and decided not to use the services of our protocol man, as he is just a waste of money in my opinion. So,I was nipping a bit. But cleared without having my normal bag scanned. Sweet!

So, got home and slept for 2 hours. The guys were chuffed when they found out about he XBox. That’s cool. After the last “tour of duty” I really needed something to keep the guys happy and busy at night.

Sly and PG told me their rather “hectic” & funny story about the night before. They had gone to a club called the Da Pub, know to be rather dodgy apparently, and as they were leaving, they had organised for Jeje  the Driver to meet them outside as they didn’t have their phones with them, they walked out meet him. They spotted him across the road, and they were just about to cross, when a Police Van pulled up, and bundled them onto the back. The Police vans here are all pretty much open-top Landcruiser bakkies. Pickups for you foreigners. With a bench on the back that the cops sit on, facing outwards towards the sides. So Sly and PG get hauled onto it, and Jeje decides to follow. The cops drive them around a bit, and then decide that they’ve spent enough fuel, and now need to make their costs back, so they have a feel,of their trousers, remove their wallets, and lighten their load by about $120 between the 2 of them. Oi. They got dropped off on the wrong side of town. Luckily Jeje had seen them and had been following otherwise they’d be stuffed. They started arguing with the one guy, who realises that they may have made a mistake when they find out they don’t speak any Porra, and he has a chat to them. Their money however is not returned. They returned to the house, considerably poorer!

The following week they logged it with BP’s Alpha Zero, security department, and told another guy who works there. His old man managed to track down the vehicle and occupants from that night, as they had gotten the vehicle number. To date nothing has come of it I don’t think.

Well, its been a fun return to Luanda!! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Written on the 30th May 2008.

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Cape Town Carnage :) – Time Off!

Okay, so as many of you know my last trip into Angola was a complete disaster the last week I was there. Things had just been getting progressively worse as the month progressed.

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Cape Town from the Tampon Towers 🙂

Luckily I managed to get back to Cape Town just in time for the 2 day week. 3 public holidays almost in a row led to some serious debauchery and over-indulgence on my side. This was well timed, as I was in serious need of a break after my last week in Luanda. Well, I took serious advantage of it!

We: The Pharmacist, Bokkie and myself, hit Oblivion on the Friday night which was pretty good. I landed up at Tiger on Sat after rugby with Borat, and that was once again a late night. Can’t remember much about the night to be honest, but it was a good one, and I got pretty drunk, and landed up getting some chicks blood all over my jeans, which apparently I had caused when she fell off her chair, but I very much doubt it. Well, Johnny Walker doubts it! 😮

It landed up being a week of complete excess – the public holidays very well timed for me!

I got a dive in on the Wednesday afternoon with The Advertiser and a college friend of his, and we did A-Frame which was chilled. Not too cold and good to be back in the water, especially with my new mask, a Mares X-Vision, which was just great. I had borrowed one briefly in Sharm when I was there back in 2004, and as my Cressi had now given up the ghost, it was a good purchase. Very happy with it indeed. Vis wasn’t bad for A-Frame, but the wind was absolutely howling, so it was cool to get under the water. The Advertiser found us an Octo, which was always cool to see and there were the usual “strepies” (fish) hanging around the A-Frame itself, with loads of starfish, with the big legs.

Borat and I hit Tiger again on the Wednesday night as Thurs was a public holiday and it landed up being an absolute ripper. I actually started off at Jade bar in Green Point  with the Sales Man, and a few of his mates. From there we went to Karma in Camps Bay, which was okayish. Borat pulled through and then very aptly called it a “Coloured Jol”, which it seriously was. haha

From there we HIT Tiger . . . and  . . . I can’t actually remember what happened next. I do remember running around Harfield Village at about 04h30 trying to wake people up to help me with my car, as I had run out of fuel – not immediately obvious to me at the time – something to do with dicing Borat back from Camps Bay and burning the rest of the half a reserve tank, and then forgetting to fill-up when I left Tiger . . . oi vey the Sales Man comments! 🙂 The funny thing is the cops drove past me twice. Anyway, I called Borat and he said he would pull through. 30 mins later, he hadn’t arrived, and I had finally sobered up enough to realise that I was actually covered by the AA, a company thing, a good thing, and I called them and made it their problem. The guys arrived about an hour later, now around 06h and had to knock on my window, I had fallen asleep again, whilst listening to Harry Potter on my iPod, and was now completely lost in the story too. The AA dude found a 500ml bottle in the road, which he took off to get fuel in, luckily for that, as they don’t carry with them, and I waited another while for him to return. He did manage to get me going, and I headed off home to sleep big time! And still with no word from Borat. I called him a  few times, to no avail. Think it went straight to voicemail, and texted a few times too, but they never got delivered

I got a text from him at around 11h30 that morning saying: Got busted by the pigs on my way to you, just got home now. And that was it. I didn’t hear from Borat for the next 4 days, and I reckoned it was cause he was miffed with me.

Thursday afternoon I got out a bit and went up Lion’s Head, as it was great weather. The lack of gym showed very quickly though with me being completely stuffed, without my pump halfway up the path, just past the paraglider’s launch point. It was also probably due to the fact that I had hammered it getting up there, and that wasn’t very clever either.

My phone decided to give up the ghost around about that time, and the sim card just died! Little did I know what fun I was about to have trying to get it replaced.

Saturday I decided to go diving in the morning after the relaxing dive I had had the Wednesday. So pulled through to Hout Bay to head for a dive from there. Met up with the dive crew from ProDivers. We heard reports from the guys coming in that the vis was amazing, like up to 20m at parts. Hmmm, that was ringing bells in the back of my head, but I couldn’t remember why . . . I got my kit ready and we launched from there. We were supposed to do some site or other but the swell was pushing a bit so we landed up doing Vulcan rock instead. The boat stopped, we all kitted up and dropped in, and BANG it hit me what great vis in Cape Town meant. BLOODY FREEZING WATER!!! 🙁

Like 8 degrees freezing!!! Man it was cold. My head got serious “ice freeze” on the way down,and I just remember my body going f#ck this is cold! The dive lasted about 25 mins max I think – I didn’t have my computer on, the strap was broken – and we all agreed unanimously when the DM said time to surface! It was a great dive though, and the vis was truly amazing. Probably about 15m there even with the effects of the surge around the rock. Saw loads of urchins and some really large starfish. We were also joined by a few seals at the end of the dive, and they were rather playful, which is always cool to have with.

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Fish and Soft Corals

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Starfish and Urchins

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Seal and Diver

When we got back to the boat the one diver was already there. She told us she got about 5m deep and decided no way it was too cold, so cancelled her dive. Clever girl. Once back no land I decided I was only doing one dive, that was cold enough for me that was. My hands were burning the entire way home due to the senses finally returning to them from the sheer cold of the dive. Our Instructor Exam had been done in 11 degrees, but this took the cake! Won’t be doing that again in a hurry! And will definitely remember what great vis means next time round!

Headethrough to Tiger that evening, once again, and who did I see at the one counter on the far side?? Borat. Hmm, he hadn’t beein in touch sine Wednesday, and to be honest, my phone hadn’t been in operation since Thursday afternoon, so I wasn’t actually sure if he was pissed with me, or just hadn’t been in touch. I went over and said Hi. Well,to cut a long story short,he had been pissed with me at first, then got over it, and then said that  if it happened again, he would call me a taxi! Now that’s a mate. He had also been trying to get in touch, but my phone was off,so once again we were on the lash! 🙂 It was a good sat night and fun was had by all.

Monday morning early I nipped through to Malmesbury to get my new Jumbo Passport I had ordered, as mine was due to expire in March of 2009,and judging by the amount of time I was due to be spending out of the country, I decided to organise a new one 2 months back. I had already been informed that it was waiting for me. The reason I couldn’t have it posted was due to the fact that I still required my current one for travel, so had to go get the new one in person. Why Malmesbury? It is a little trick for Capetonians. It is only about 40 mins out by car,and is a fairly pleasant drive. You get there at 08h45, and there is literally no queue. You land up being first, second or third in the queue, and are pretty much done within half and hour. Not like having to wait 4 hours in a queue at Home Affairs in Cape Town somewhere,only to be told you have to wait again for the form, etc. Absolute disaster that place. I believe you can also get your drivers done in Malmesbury. That’s on the cards soon too, so I think I’ll be taking another trip soon enough. Plus there is also the Engen where you can stop off at for a decent Wimpy breakfast on the way back. 🙂

From Malmesbury I headed straight through to the Angolan Embassy to get my Visa sorted. I arrived around 10h30, and it was an absolute disaster. The queue was at about 47, but I managed to get in fairly quickly,for once,only to be told my LoI (Letter of Invitation) had not yet been received. In order to travel to Angola, you require a Letter of Invitation from an individual there. Our representation company usually sorts this out for us, and I had organised mine way in advance. To be told it wasn’t here, meant that I would have to request a new one and come back tomorrow. This would also mean my 5 day ordinary visa would now have to be treated as an Emergency Visa, and cost an additional R250! Which it did. I landed up returning every day for the next 2 days, as when it did arrive it was then missing some sort of contract number, which we had NEVER included in the past, and had never had a problem, but now we required it to do on there for them to process. Why was I not surprised. So I eventually got my application in on Thursday, which left 1 day to get a visa, as I required to have it by Friday afternoon, to fly out on Sunday morning. This is pretty much unheard of, getting a visa in 1 day, but I managed to wrangle it,and I collected it Friday afternoon. Why do we have issues every time we go to the embassy? It is crazy man.

I also put my car up for sale, as if I realistically only going to be spending approx 4 more weeks in the country,it didn’t make sense to keep it, especially since it was still be paid off. So I advertised it on AutoTrader and literally got a call the very next day by a guy who really wanted it. He took it for a test drive a few days later, and job done, he took it. We had to get a few minor issues sorted,which dragged on, once again Cape Town service :(, and then eventually he got the vehicle. I was sad to have let it go,as I absolutely lvoed my little Jetta V5, but at the end of the day, at least he will get pleasure from it, and it removes one more burden from my life, especially since I know that my sister had been driving it whilst I was away!! 😮

I got one hell of a Tummy Bug on the Saturday, the day before I was due to fly out, and was literally man down the entire day. Cramps and the the good old toilet tap scenario! Not cool,especially when you literally have to t spend a whole day flying the next day! It didn’t help either that I only got 2 hours sleep on sunday morning before getting up to go to the airport. My eyes were burning whilst I was showering I was sooo tired, and I almost fell asleep in the shower from exhaustion.

Next thing I knew . . . I was back in Luanda, for another tour of duty!

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

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