I got to Luanda a few days ago. To my surprise, it is a clean, thoroughly modern, efficient and beautiful city. No, just joking. It's coated in a thick layer of dirt, dead animals lie by the side of the road, and buildings rest in states of very obvious collapse. The smell changes every ten metres.
I get an extra half hour in bed too, as the bus leaves at 6.15am as compared to Malongo's 5.45am. Saturdays and Sundays too, so I was up this morning and over to have breakfast, in preparation for another day of hard graft (98% internet surfing). The dining room seemed suspiciously quiet though. Perhaps, I thought, Saturday is a late start - curse my unnecessary early rise! I munched my deeply unappetising cold beans and bread alone. A few people meandered by and poked about the breakfast spread, but the mood was quiet.
A guy appeared then, whom I met yesterday at the base and who was extremely helpful in showing me around. In fact, all the Halliburton guys I met yesterday were very friendly and helpful towards me. He said good morning, and I replied likewise.
Then he said: "Oh, did you hear the Halliburton base burnt down?"
"What?" I replied, for there's no other response.
"The Halliburton office burnt down last night. There was a big fire, and it burnt completely to the ground."
"Are you joking?"
"No, I'm dead serious."
And so it seems that the main Halliburton building in Luanda's Halliburton yard burnt down entirely last night. This was the building with all the admin, HR, managerial, travel logistics, and probably my passport too. It didn't contain my company's equipment, and the building where I've been mostly based seems fine, but for the core building for Halliburton in Angola to be razed to the ground is causing, as one may imagine, some ripples.
There's some good news. First, it looks like I'll be getting today off. Secondly, due to it happening it the middle of the night, I don't think there were any casualties, including, I hope, the many stray cats that hung around.
But mostly it's bad news. This will cause all sorts of disruptions, and worse will seriously damage the business, and in this economic climate could lead to job losses. And from my own perspective, it's very possible my passport was in that building, in which case I'm trapped in Angola forever. Or at least, a little longer than initially planned.
So I guess I better get comfortable in this modern metropolis of delight. And more pertinently, I better find a good supply of beer. Because ironically, Halliburton have a barbecue planned this weekend.