This section was written by my daughter Ana Rita when she was 15 and as part of her work in Negotiated Studies in Year 10. She conducted several interviews with me and put together her impressions of what can be a summary of my life. The text has not been edited and was left the way she wrote it in Year 10.
In the next few pages I will tell some passages of the life of my father Fernando Manuel Leal Costa as he told me. I called it Nhamalanda, The life Story
Nhamalanda was the name given to Fernando by the rebels which he fought in the Guerrilla war. In the Ganguela language spoken in the South of Angola it means The One That Sees Over The Elephant Grass referring to his height.
On the 7th of January, 1949 Isabel Costa gave birth to a son called Fernando Manuel Leal Costa. He was born in the family home which was situated in Silva Porto, Angola, West Africa. The Costa Family lived in Lobito, but Fernando was born in Silva Porto because that is where the rest of the family lived.
Fernando completed his first year of primary school at home because he was too young to go to school. At the age of seven he finally started school. Primary school in Angola consisted of four years, with exams every year. Fernando was always an above average student but not very well behaved.
When he was a child he was very naughty, always picking on his sister Mariazinha who was one year older than him. Her porcelain dolls never enjoyed peace and tranquillity. In Lobito there was a large tidal swamp which he spent many hours fishing and hunting sea birds with a sling shot. He received many smacks for what he would call accidents!
For example broken windows and street lights and he even gave his sister a black eye by convincing her to play William Tell. His sister was lead to believe that with a sling he could hit a water pipe (which was situated above her head) and miss her, but this did not work as planned; she was rewarded with a black eye and Fernando got 4 lashes with a hippopotamus skin whip.
In the Compão, Lobito Fernando use to build rafts out of balsa wood and go fishing in it. Because the sea was always so rough the rafts did not last for very long and the kids were always building and re-building them. When Fernando finished primary school, his father was transferred to Silva Porto where he and his family lived for about one year. From Silva Porto they moved to Nova Lisboa. There he attended high school.
It was at high school that Fernando became interested in Basketball, Roller Hockey, Volleyball and Handball. In basketball and handball he became a national coach and referee. Due to his ability in handball he was appointed provincial coach, where he traveled and ran training clinics in all the schools in the province. When he was 20 he was selected to represent Angola in the national basketball team and was voted 2nd best player in Angola. At this time Fernando was studying Electrical Mechanical Engineering.
The family had increased with the birth of his younger brother Pedro and his parents found it difficult to meet with the expenses of educating the kids so Fernando's father decided to leave his job as a clerk with Benguela railway.
They bought a farm in Mavinga, in the far south-east of Angola. It was a very wild and inhospitable area which they called The Land At The End Of The Earth. When Fernando's parents moved to Mavinga he stayed in Nova Lisboa and boarded with his sister and her husband while he continued his engineering studies. One day he was invited to go to a basketball tournament in the city of Cela. Fernando was going to be the referee of the tournament.
But this was not the only thing Fernando was going to do. This is where Fernando was going to meet the girl of his dreams, who is now known as my Mum. Fernando and Filomena (Mum) started dating each other and after 4 years he finally had the courage to propose to her.
In his 3rd year Fernando was asked to teach Applied Electricity which he did for 2 years. When he finished he completed his thesis on Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and then went on a six month hunting expedition. There he hunted elephants, hippopotami, rhinoceros, lions, leopards and various types of antelopes such as zebras, gnus and sables. For the first time Fernando had to fight the guerrilla forces of Unita when they attacked an Uncles farm in Rivungo on the border with Zambia.
After spending 6 months hunting he had to join the Portuguese army which was compulsory for all males at the age of 21, but Fernando didn't go until he was 22 because of his studies.
The Costa Family
Clube Desportivo do Ferrovia in Nova Lisboa
Santo Amaro in my Mum's farm
Fernando spent 4 years in the Portuguese army where he attained the rank of Lieutenant. He had to spend 2 years in the front line where he received a bravery award. After being discharged from the army Fernando got a job in Lobito as an Electrical Engineer with a power generation company Hidro Eléctrica do Alto Catumbela.
A few months after arriving in Lobito, Mum gave birth to my sister Erica Paula. A civil war was then ravaging the country and Erica was born in the middle of it. The day Mum started with her labor pains they were asleep in the corridor. The house was full of windows and was being shot at, and therefore the corridor seemed to be the safest place to sleep.
The hospital was situated at the other side of the city and the battle front was situated between their house and the hospital. The public hospital next to them was hit by a mortar shell so they did not consider it safe for Mum to go in there. Luckily they were able to take advantage of a break in fighting and managed to sneak by car to the private hospital as they had first intended.
Fernando left Mum at the hospital and had to go back to work to re-establish the power to the city. The city was in confusion with numerous wounded people bought into the hospital and therefore Erica was not born in peace and quiet. For 5 years Fernando, Mum and Erica lived in Lobito. The country was at war and Fernando was responsible for a company that generated electricity and distributed it to the center of Angola.
He had to cover 700 km of overhead lines power stations and sub stations. Fernando would leave on a Monday morning and all week would repair damages caused by the war, train personnel and manage the company's finance. Then after a hectic week he would return home on a Saturday morning.
On the way home Fernando would have to dodge ambushes from the Guerrilla's, landmines and all sorts of problems related to the war. To give you an example of the sort of things people had to endure in Angola during those times I will tell you of one incident faced by my family. One day Fernando, Mum and Erica were traveling from Lobito to Nova Lisboa where Fernando was going to repair a generator.
They traveled in a convoy accompanied by several lines men and other personnel including the wife of one of the men who traveled in front of them in a land rover. The rebels ambushed the convoy that Mum and Fernando were traveling with when a rocket was fired from no where killing the woman in the other car. Fernando swerved to miss the Land Rover that was already burning and drove like mad to the nearest village where he waited for the survivors of the Land Rover.
After repairing the generator they had to returne to Lobito along the same road that they had previously traveled on and to their surprise they found a letter that was left by the rebels in the middle of the road. The letter contained an apology from the rebels saying that they were sorry and had mistook Fernando and his co-workers for someone else.
Incidents like that were quite common and after five years Fernando started questioning the wisdom of living in a country such as this one. When Mum became pregnant for the second time they decided to find a safer place to live. From Angola they defected to Portugal where two months later I was born, Ana Rita. When they arrived in Portugal, Fernando was offered a job with Macau Electricity Company in Far East Asia.
When I was old enough to travel we all left for Macau. The Costa family lived in Macau for two years and traveled extensively through southern China and Hong Kong.
It was while living in Macau that Fernando first set his eyes on coming to Australia but the process of immigration was difficult so instead he accepted a job in the Republic of Nauru. Nauru is a small Island located in the Central Pacific just fifty miles south of the equator and it was here where our family settled for the next five years.
Fernando worked on a phosphate mine in Nauru as a Services Superintendent responsible for the power stations, the engineering department and all mechanical and electrical workshops. The island Nauru started as a volcano. When the volcano stopped erupting millions of coral polyps built their complex structures which form today the Republic of Nauru. This process took millions of years and still continues today.
Prehistoric seabirds left their droppings between the coral reef which turned into phosphate that today fertilises Australia and New Zealand fields and provide Nauru with its source of income.
In Nauru Fernando become interested in underwater photography, and after taking many rolls of film decided to open an exposition displaying different types of corals, shells and underwater photos.
Nhamalanda - Cuando Cubango 1970
Biópio hydro power plant in Angola
Rita in Nauru with Xoninhas the cat
Diving on Nauru
Fernando was the president of the Dive Clube on Nauru
Some reminders of the WWII on Nauru
Nauru was very different from any of the other places in which the Costa family had lived in. Nauru was what you would call unique. They have many customs which a normal person would find difficult to get used to.
One of the most outrageous customs would be the one when a couple has a baby. If a couple has a baby in Nauru, they would have to unlock their houses and let their friends take whatever they liked. For example: cars, boats, fridges, beds, televisions, videos, computers, toys, clothes, kitchen utensils and even the water pump, everything would go. People then have to go and buy everything new again until their next baby was to be born.
Another custom which was very common in Nauru was the one of having guests to your house for dinner. If you were to have a guest for dinner the food that was prepared for the meal was considered to be theirs. So when it was time to leave, the guests would use plastic basins to take any food that was left over from the meal.
Like most houses in Nauru the Costa's house has a large swimming pool. Erica and Rita use to swim in it three to four times a day. Every Sunday all the family friends would go to their house for lunch and dinner and would have a big party around the pool.
Whilst on his diving trips Fernando would bring home all different types of fish and sea creatures and then put them in the pool for his daughters to play with. In the swimming pool they had an octopus, Morton May bug and even a lobster. When Fernando first bought the octopus home and placed into the pool Rita jumped in to play with it. At the beginning the octopus wrapped itself around her arm and held on with its tentacles quite hard. After ten minutes the octopus calmed down and then the whole family could play with it.
Fernando had many close encounters with sharks whilst diving but never got seriously hurt. He went on many night dives and took hundreds of pictures but this was quite dangerous because he was not able to see very well but the sharks could.
During one of his last dives Fernando and Mum were cruising the reef when two sharks started circling the divers too close for comfort. One of the sharks followed Fernando into a cave and he decided it was high time to test his strength against the tiger of the deep.
Fernando stabbed the shark in the head and to avoid to be bitten he pinned the shark against the bottom of the cave. To be able to control the violent trashing of the hounded shark, Fernando had to cling to the coral with his spare hand. And there he was in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean with a very upset two meters white tip reef shark and not knowing what to do next.
Mum came to the rescue but only made matters worse when shaking with fear she dropped her knife onto Fernando's head. A Nauruan diver tried to help Fernando but was hit by the tail of the shark and had the strap of his mask broken which forced him to go to the surface for repairs.
Fortunately for Fernando the Nauruan diver returned and put and end to the embarrassing situation by cutting the tail bone of the shark. Fernando rarely dived alone. He used to train people in the pool at home how to use the tank and regulator. He also taught them how to buddy breathe in case of an emergency.
Fernando taught Mum how to dive. At the age of eight he taught his eldest daughter Erica the basics before she took for the underwater world herself. When his younger daughter Rita saw that her sister was diving she demanded to be taught. So at the age of four she knew the basics of diving and dived a few times.
Two years after living in Nauru the Costa family decided to go on a trip around the world. From Nauru the family traveled to Honk Kong and Macau where they spent a week traveling and catching up with old friends. From Hong Kong they flew to Switzerland and spent three days in Zurich.
The whole family loved Switzerland mainly because it was a pretty place and had lots of interesting clocks and most importantly ... the chocolates! From there they traveled to Lisbon, to be with their family and friends. In Portugal they spent about six weeks sightseeing the country from North to South before heading to The Big Apple - New York.
In New York they visited all the usual tourist spots including the Empire State Building, The World Trade Center, Manhattan island and the Rockefeller Center. They stayed in Connecticut the home of the famous Stamford University which they visited.
From New York they flew to Los Angeles and obviously Disneyland was the destination. During the three days that they spent at Disneyland they went on as many rides as humanly possible and had a great deal of fun meeting all the characters that make Disneyland famous: Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Pluto, Donald Duck and many others. The next stop in this world tour was Honolulu where they spent two days relaxing and having fun in the sun before heading back to Nauru.
Rita playing with the octopus in our pool
With Erica on the left and Catherine on the right
Another highlight in Fernando's life while in Nauru was when he and his wife received an invitation from the President of Nauru for a garden party in honor of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip. Fernando, Betty and Phil shared a few beers together and afterwards headed to the Britannia for after dinner mints. After spending five years in Nauru, Fernando decided to try to get a job somewhere in Australia. /
The first thing the family had said before moving to Australia was that they were never going to live in Tasmania.
They had heard lots of stories about Tasmanians and some of them not very flattering. When Fernando and family arrived in Australia they went to Melbourne were stayed with friends until he found a job and somewhere to live. He applied for many jobs around Australia, even in Tasmania.
One night he got a phone call from a Tasmanian paper making company called APPM. They asked him to meet them in Melbourne for an interview. They seemed to be impressed with Fernando and offered him a job in the Burnie Mill. So, Fernando and his wife Filomena decided to go to Tasmania and see what the place was really like. After looking around the city they had soon fallen in love with Tasmania and decided that this was where they were going to live for the next couple of years.
Just before they left Filomena had to ask one simple question: did it ever snow in Burnie? They told her that it had not snowed in Burnie for 64 years. So Fernando and Filomena returned to Melbourne and collected their children and belongings and moved to Burnie.
The day that the Costa family arrived in Burnie believe it or not, it snowed heavily! It was not a very nice way to start the new life in Tasmania, but because they had never really seen snow before it was kind of fun. They went and had dinner at a friends house who lived in Ridgley. After dinner all of the family went outside at about 10 o'clock and played with snow.
For the next eight years the Costa's lived in Burnie and traveled almost everywhere in Tasmania. Couta Rocks in the West Coast is their favorite hideaway where they go fishing, diving, bike riding and exploring.
From the description above one can see that the Life of Nhamalanda is not what one could call boring.
Her Majesty the Queen in Nauru
The Britannia where the after dinner mints business took place
The abalones of Cuta Rocks west coast of Tasmania
The giant crabs of the west coast of Tasmania