8th May 2007 - It was 8am’ish – we were peering out of the window – looked a lot like landing in Bangalore … reddish-brown and green … sprinkled with small settlements. The flight landed and took a quick sharp turn and parked – this is an aero-plane mind you – and we waited in the “alley” to allow a flight to take off ... less than 30 seconds after we stopped and parked … a few yards away from us … rumble, shake and all – and then 3 more took off before we started cruising to the terminal! We had reached Angola!
They tell me that Luanda was planned for 400,000 folks and as it usually happens in cities … there are about 4 million folks living in the city today! Of course we expats don’t help the situation either!
The airport brought back memories of landing in Chennai – on a hot summer night in 2002 – no a/c, no escalators, stagnant water … and in the international terminal! There was no stagnant water here … and no escalators either :) - but it was hot and humid and we were enjoying everything.
Onto the Parking lot - Pleasantly surprised to see Mitsubishi Pajero’s, Lexus SUV’s and juiced-up BMW X5’s and H2’s – of course this is the airport of the capital of Angola! You can imagine how surprised I was when the same sights continued all the way from the airport to our apartment – no we do NOT live by the airport like some people I know in Bombay!
Hello Luanda … You see the cars on the road and you get the feeling that you’re in the US … all the above luxury vehicles seen regularly in between the usual suspect Rav4's and Nissans or Mitsubishi trucks/SUV's ... and then you look a few feet below and realize that there is no “road” to speak of! It’s a mesh of potholes and tar and mud - like in apna 3rd world India! Actually I take that back - I've been around the city a bit and now the roads in Bombay seem like freeways in comparison! Old jungle saying - "One man's Bombay is another man's Los Angeles!"
Mostly SUV’s on the road … of course that is because the roads are not good – never mind the lack of space! Not only are these really expensive cars by any stretch of imagination – BUT – none of them have stock parts on them … Hello Enkei, Hello Turbochargers, whats the fuss about alloy-wheels – do they sell cars without them in other parts of the world? … something doesn’t fit – I did not see so many expensive cars even in Salt Lake City! (Utah not Calcutta! Sorry Sumona - couldn't resist that one ;) )
That’s Luanda (for me) – where the really (and I mean REALLY) rich live side by side to the really (and I mean REALLY REALLY) poor. No middle-class to speak of – at least none that I have seen. Kinda begin to understand why everyone and their grandmoms in India are feverishly gyrating about the fact that India has such a large “middle-class” population!
Have been to the shopping mall in Luanda – yes there is just one (so far) – Belas shopping. Nice place. Ample parking and very professional looking. A simple cotton shirt made by the famous ChipChip brand (or something like that) costs approximately 180 bucks … oh yes – the green ones – 180 American dollars! (and oh - about the famous brand – I was being sarcastic!). Of course gas is cheap – approximately 50 cents a litre (they use litres here – yaaay) … or about 1.5 USD for a gallon … and of course bottled water is about 2 dollars for 1.5 litres … or about 4+ USD for a gallon … I wont be surprised if some folks consume gas instead!
And people are always well dressed out here … not that it’s a bad thing – but you would think that they are on their way to a party … nevermind the time of the day. Very interesting I tell you - you see color coordinated Gucci's, Prada's and the likes ...
The beaches here are really clean and nice … have been to a couple of them so far – very nice. The weather is very good – so far – they tell me that I came at the perfect time – monsoon is over and winter is setting in – so looking forward to more fabulous days – its really pretty – when you look beyond the heavy lifting cranes and construction equipment hammering away incessantly!
The people – very nice – like they usually are. Of course we are experiencing more of a cultural shock out here than we have ever faced (and we have traveled a bit) – more on that later – maybe Soumya will explain better! There is another huge problem with body-odour at work ... but I will not get into that right now!
We seem to have bonded instantly with the country … the sights … the smells … very much like des. On closer examination there are some startling differences – not that we never expected to see any … its been fun so far.
Keep checking this spot for more updates, experiences and learnings!
before I go - I was trying to solve the mystery of body-odour and I stumbled onto this interesting read on Angola . I liked the title that the author has used.
More to come -
1. Expat community
2. Culture shock
3. Body Odour
4. The Party scene
5. Wind Surfing
6. Thank You England
7. Lucky India with Congress