My Hometown

Beauty, Poverty Blend In Luanda, Angola

These are the blue buses that are seen all over Luanda.In the background are the tents set up in which Angolans sell their wares. (Jessica Talbot/YJI)

LUANDA, Angola – After school I walk to the driveway and catch my bus.
As we approach the heavily guarded gates with barbed wires along the tall cement walls of Luanda International School, I look out the window and see half-constructed buildings, a football pitch, Chinese construction workers, and Angolan women wearing vibrant cloths selling fruits on either hand.
I notice the dusty dirt sidewalks and the Catholic church to my right.

Anyone can quickly deduce how diverse Angola is.

Men take a break near a run down building. (Jessica Talbot/YJI)

A mixture of Portuguese influences as well as traditional Angolan ones, it almost makes you wonder how such a place came to be.
Luanda has a great gap between the rich people and poor ones. Especially after the war it has been slowly climbing its way back to stability.
Luanda is an interesting place.
With over 4 million people in Luanda alone, you can’t imagine the traffic. The natives travel mainly in blue buses or motorcycles.
However, if you travel another hour away from the city you’re suddenly surrounded with trees, greenery, waterfalls, and wildlife. It’s such an incredible sight.

One of Angola’s beautiful waterfalls (Alessandro Pentoli/YJI)

The most detrimental thing about this city is the poverty that consumes it. It has one of the lowest incomes in the world and as a result of that, the lowest calorie intake, leading to malnutrition.
Ever since the war ended about 10 years ago, Luanda has been recovering at a steady rate, something you would expect from a less developed country.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve visited many orphanages and interacted with the Angolans. Most of them have to walk miles just to find water and you would be surprised at how humble they are despite their hectic lives.

Angolan children at an orphanage (Julianna Espinosa/YJI)

Luanda has some very distinct features, including its music. The Angolans invented a genre called Kuduro with a certain style of dance along with it.

Angola’s wildlife includes lizards like this one. (Alessandro Pentoli/YJI)

There aren’t many landmarks in Luanda but if you travel here you might want to rent a boat and go whale watching or just relax by the beach.

If you go camping, you might see a Palanca Negra, an endangered antelope that is an Angolan symbol of pride.

U.S. State Department map.

The national tree of Angola, the imbondeiro tree, is easily spotted with its torpedo shaped pods and giant, thick trunks.
Sadly despite having oil and diamonds as its main exports, Angola is still struggling to keep its people alive past the age of 40.
Despite its troubles, Angola, or specifically Luanda, is still a wonderful place to be.
At Luanda International School, many people come and go, and those who have to leave always miss Angola.
Whether it’s the close bonds you create with the people or the sunny climate, Luanda is a place where you can feel at home.
Yes, you may have to put your luxuries aside, but living, or visiting here, is an experience that can encourage you to become involved in the world.
Julianna Espinosa is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International. YJI’s Alessandro Pentoli and Jessica Talbot took photographs for this piece.

An Angolan vista (Alessandro Pentoli/YJI)


  • You are so wrong in so many ways! To start off, the "heavily guarded gates with barbed wires along the tall cement walls" is put completely out of context. The school was built shortly after war, by American oil companies as a way to attract workers to the country. Because of strict company security policies, high walls were built. Yet today, you can't really call the schools security guards 'high caliber.' Even though there is a great 'no guns allowed' sticker in the window of the main gate. Another way in which you are wrong, the "Catholic church on the right", isn't a Catholic church. It is in fact a Universal Church of God, a religion of Brazilian origin which, for its most part, tricks the naive locals into buying their way into Heaven. Blue buses are called 'Candongas' and are illegal, privately owned vans which take people through the main avenues. An hour away from the city is more city. You are probably referring to Luanda Sul, or the Talatona area, which has been built recently in comparison to the rest of Luanda, and is on the southern outskirts of the city. Most foreigners come to this area as the more expensive compounds (which houses surpassing US$ 1 million), alongside your ever so precious Luanda International School. However, the waterfall in the picture, is much more than a mere hour away. It is also Angola's biggest waterfall. Now to the music. Kuduru wasn't invented so much as adapted by Angolans. And the dance isn't a style, but part of Kuduru itself. There are in fact many landmarks in Luanda, like 'Predio da Cuca' (building of Cuca, a local beer producer), A Ilha (a peninsula where all the nicest clubs and restaurants are located), among other I can not care to mention. If you go camping, you won't see a Palanca Negra, as a single specimen of the species hasn't been seen by man in over 30 years. However, as it is Angola's national animal, and a great local pride, the government has officially stated it is not extinct. Also, Luanda is nothing like the rest of Angola. During the civil war, it was agreed that Luanda would remain neutral, for the sake of the country. Hence the large migration and overpopulation seen today. However, the rest of the country has rebuilt itself much faster, and despite lacking many imports, it can even be said there is more infrastructure outside Luanda than in the capital itself. For instance, the first 5 star hotel in Angola was outside of Luanda. Obviously from your report you are an American student who felt like sharing her experience with the world, but the fact is you have no clue what you are talking about.

  • Hi there!
    I apologize for upsetting you with the information in this article. I wrote it on my perspective of Angola through my 'American' eyes. I hope you understand I wasn't trying to be offensive in any way.

  • I loved reading your article! It really described Luanda from a great point of view. It portrayed Angola from the way that many people see it and that showed that you took no intentional biased point of view. I'm sure you live in Angola and if you are attending the International School and participating in the IB program then you must be a busy person! The fact that you took time to write this beautiful article shows your commitment to writing and sharing your experiences with others. I am 100% sure that I am not the only person who appreciates your contribution. Not very many people have the opportunity to go and visit Luanda. As you said "you may have to put your luxuries aside" to come and visit. I can see from your writing that living in Angola has really changed your perspective of the whole world. It takes a lot of courage to write about something you love and it is clear that you have had an experience that no one else can have.
    I think we all know that points of view change from person to person and there will always be a great range. Thank you for sharing your experiences!
    Your writing is very gripping and your choice of vocabulary is exquisite! The pictures you chose are also beautiful and help people who have not experienced the same things as you, understand what you have seen. I really hope that you continue to write as this is an amazing article! I look forward to reading other articles you will write in the future!

  • Wow, what an incredible aricle! You gave such a great personal perspective of Angola and your experiences, and described what you have seen, experienced and learned so well! Everybody will have different experiences and see situations differently, I love this article because it shows us your perception and gives us such an interesting, genuinely personal view of Angola. Wonderful job, your writing and ability to create such real and true images through it is so beautiful, you should be very proud 🙂

  • Julianna E.

    You shouldn't take everything you read in the internet so seriously. It's the internet… Even though there are some major flaws in your article.