21 July 2008

Welcome to Luanda

I arrived in Luanda today around 7am after a fairly uneventful 2-day trip from DC. Flights ran as scheduled (a rarity lately) but one of my bags did not make the trip. I wasn't alone, and after wading my way through the long line of other bag-less travelers to file my claim we were met by one of the current MBA volunteers to escort us to the apartment where we may or may not be living permanently (more than a few details are still up in the air). We were also met by Fernando, a representative from BP who escorted us through customs and arranged our transportation. Evidently he's also the lucky guy in charge of checking on my bag, which may or may not arrive on tomorrow's flight from Lisbon. I'm learning to temper my expectations regarding airline competency lately; the good news is that I'm in possession of all my clothes and short-term toiletries (including anti-malarials), so things could be worse.

Burch (a major Clemson fan and a colleague traveling with me) and I cleaned up at the apartment, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out had hot water, cable TV, air conditioning, a modern kitchen, and mosquito nets over the beds. Our only venture out today involved a tour of the local outdoor market where we picked up some vegetables, followed by a visit to the local "supermarket" for bottled water and really bad instant coffee.

It was evident from this brief exposure that life here is tough. And expensive. In fact, some sources claim Luanda is the most expensive city in the world, with "modern" apartments in downtown going for upwards of $8,000 per month. I'm sure the facts will change daily but so far it's clear that watching pennies (or kwanzas, as the local currency is called) will be required.

Although the apartment isn't in a great part of town (there really isn't anything to do nearby) it's close to the airport which could come in handy on travel days given that traffic in Luanda is also notoriously horrible. We have access to a car service which theoretically takes us wherever we want to go for free, but I'm waiting until tomorrow to give that a shot.

There have been a few "what the hell am I doing here" and "why on earth did I want to do this?" moments, but I think that's normal. We're here for two more days before heading to another coastal town (Benguela) for a month or so of language training and living with a local family. Fingers crossed the missing bag shows up before it's time to travel again...

No comments: