Well, it looks like my passport perished. As the main office disappeared into flames, so did my hopes of escape from Angola.
I had the last three days at leisure. Drinking beers in the evening sun and enjoying crisply barbecued food in the staffhouse. Nothing really happened, and I barely strayed beyond our guarded gates. Luanda has a bit of a reputation for badness, something not assuaged by the presence of four (armed?) guards at the nearby cornershop, and although I wouldn't have been worried about a daytime stroll through the city, it was just too hot, and there's nothing to see anyway. Really, Luanda is not a pretty place. Everything's falling apart, dust and car fumes fill the air, and more attention has to be paid into not walking into a pothole than enjoying what sights may be on offer.
I was back in the yard today and got my first viewing of what used to be the main office. Yup, it's pretty much levelled. The actual office building, three storeys I believe, is now a pile of charred rubble. It's believed an electrical fault on the third floor was the likely culprit. The office was attached to a covered yard, the metal roof of which has buckled and collapsed. The whole scene was like a small slice of the apocalypse. It still smells of burning and ash. There was a meeting at 8am, in which a man jumped on the back of a pick-up and spoke Portuguese for fifteen minutes; the English translation lasted thirty seconds.
And somewhere in the devastation lay my passport, or at least a bunch of dust that once constituted it. I do have a spare passport with me, but it doesn't have the visa, and so isn't much use for getting out of the country if I hope not to get arrested at the airport and given a thorough physical overhauling by the gents at immigration in some grimy back room. One solution is to go to the British Embassy and get an emergency passport out of the country; another is to use the photocopies of my old passport and visa and maybe some help from Halliburton; and another is simply to live in Angola for the rest of my life.
We'll see. The pace of progress is not too speedy over here, but I can take some solace in the fact I'm getting paid pretty well for doing really very little indeed.
Incidentally, this is now the fourth passport I've lost in just over three years. At least this one isn't really my fault (I choose not to divulge the lapses of sense that led to the previous three going AWOL).