This evening I was invited to the pleasure of the British Ambassador and his wife. I told everyone who cared to hear, that the Queen was kind enough to share her birthday party with me. This was also my pre-departure party :D. A brilliant idea if I say so myself as this lead us to talking about why I deserved such a party in the first place.
I introduced myself as a maritime professional, but more importantly as a Mandela Washington Fellow. I was fortunate enough to meet the American ambassador, who will also be hosting us (MWF) tomorrow for lunch, The Korean, British and Turkish ambassadors as well. I spoke with so many people doing so many creative things! Here are the highlights of my evening.
The British Ambassadors Speech
He reminded us that Great Britain was one of the first countries to recognize Angola as an independent state in 1975 (did not know that). He noted the strong bilateral ties between both governments and was positive about the future. He even managed to advertise the new James bond movie, so Angolans might want to see that and hopefully love the Brits even more! Bond movies will do that to you!
Blowing up Mines
I met two representatives of different British based NGO´s. Both Halo Trust and MAG are doing a tremendous job in Angola. I do not think I realized just how much until today. Jessica, who runs the operations at MAG, also happens to be a dear friend. She even let me try on the cool PPE at the presentation booth. Yes, I know, very exciting! But that not the best part. I wish you could hear her talk about how many lives are changed. How many homes are built, how many businesses are established as a result. Companies like MAG and Halo trust have been operating in Angola for decades now. They rely a lot on the communities to inform them of accidents, and incidents in their vicinity. I like to think of their work as pretty inspirational *insert superhero reference here*! They get to blow up mines for the right reasons. To give one more Angolan family a home, to give the Bairro (village) a school, to give back communities their land.
The Top Secret lawyer
I met another returnee to Angola. One of those like me who grew up outside but came back to be part of the change. He was very James Bondy (excuse my reference). I learned he was a corporate lawyer, his focus was mostly the oil and gas sector and that he was not allowed to discuss his work with civilians (Not a direct quote, I’m afraid)! His card stated he worked for the International legal Network. Their aim is to “Think Global, act local”. Needless to say, I never found out what that meant with this lawyer being all secretive and stuff… Allow me to digress here, it just occurred to me from reading all the John Grisham novels out there, that lawyers actually love to brag about their work, just not this guy. Tsk tsk…
I did not forget to tell him about the YALI network, I will be sending him a link to the website as soon as I post this. Maybe someday when he is done doing top secret lawyer stuff, he might school us on legislation and Angola, and how we can move forward to adopting post colonial laws relevant today (Yes, the Angolan law is primarily based on Portuguese law and that needs to change).
Lets be Civil
Just as I was leaving the party, (trying to spot the Ambassador for a photo), I bumped into Hans. He is the United nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I interrupted a conversation about university in Angola which I wished I had been a part of. Somehow the conversation veered towards civil societies and the reluctance from governments to allow them to thrive. Civil societies drive political issues, which them influence public management and the private sector ( corporate social responsibilities). This was obviously my cue to brag about the MWF tracts and how the program seeks to nature young Africans in the various tracts to make a difference in the country. I got his card, explained I would be away at the invitation of the US president (very humbly of course) and promised to get in touch. I want to be part of their next round table event. More so, I could not stop thinking of my Angola fellow, Angela, she was born to preach civil societies into existence. She has a passion I cannot match and she wants to empower people to take their future into their own hands. Hans needs to meet Angela.
I am glad I took time off packing my bags for the trip tomorrow (Its finally here!) to attend this great event. The Ambassador and his wife were lovely. The trinkets from the BP, MAG, Halo and Range Rover booth were also great. Everybody loves freebies. The finger foods tasted great and there was no pork which was a bonus for me (Kosher things). I shook hands and held the pipes of a piper who once not long ago played for Queen Elizabeth herself! I spoke with a young Angolan couple, the wife a medical practitioner and the husband an immigration officer. We spoke of pre-natal deaths and the health systems in Angola, we spoke of immigration laws and visa issues. I even found time to speak about maritime security!
I left the reception four hours later, a happy MWF. Our county was doing great things. Our diplomatic relations were sowing great seeds. The YALI initiative may just be the greatest example. We will continue to do great things because our country is filled with so many people who cant wait to walk into the future with us. Here´s to a brighter future…