Three Months In

Time for a quick review of life as a Diplomatic Spouse in Luanda. It’s not without its drawbacks and we’ve had to make sacrifices and allowances in our lifestyle in order to adapt, and of course we miss friends and family back home, but overall things are going pretty well.

It took us around two months to get the car on the road, but it was worth it because now we’re a lot more independent. Having said that, I don’t go out driving myself on weekdays and would never attempt driving after dark. I leave all that to Dino. The only time I get behind the wheel is during the day on weekends, when Luanda’s roads are simply busy rather than their usual state of either teeming with life like a busy ant farm or stationary like a busy ant farm after a gas attack.

Supermarket shopping continues to amuse and shock. In general the products and produce on sale resemble those in the UK/US, but their poorer cousins. The cereal box has slightly thinner cardboard, the four-pack of yoghurts has had rather less attention paid to the packaging, the fresh tomatoes have slightly more worms in them (OK that was a joke). Almost everything is lower quality, higher priced, and in totally unpredictable states of supply. One day you’ll go in and an entire shelf will be empty, the next there’s a pyramid of toothpaste taller than you in the middle of an aisle. You have to pick your times too because it can get very busy. When you live in a city built for 500,000 inhabitants but with a population of 5 million, Everything’s busy pretty much all the time. The other two regular supermarket occurrences are power cuts and non-working conveyor belts at the checkout. We almost always have to team up at the checkout: one person bagging while the other pushes the remaining items toward the checkout operator along a conveyor belt that doesn’t move, either because it’s broken down or because the operator doesn’t know how to switch it on, or perhaps even because they overload the circuits. Three times now we’ve been queueing at a checkout and all the power’s gone off, leaving staff and shoppers alike standing and looking around in a strangely darkened retail space. It reminds me of Dawn Of The Dead and Zombieland. I think our record so far is ten minutes.

We are fortunate to live close to the Ilha. This 7km-long promontory continues to impress with its beaches, bars and restaurants. All the restaurants are open-air, and it’s lovely to sit next to a sandy beach and have a romantic dinner for two to the sound of the waves lapping the shore in the darkness just beyond the illumination of the restaurant. It’s very nice — until you get the bill. I’ve driven onto the Ilha myself once so far and although it’s easier traffic-wise than the rest of the city it’s still a bit dodgy for parking, car security etc. You usually find a local urchin who wants to guide you to a parking spot and then mind your car for a modest fee. That’s fine as far as it goes but part of me suspects his big brother is lurking behind a bush to mug us when we come out. I’m probably wrong though.

Oh dear this is turning into another epic post. I tend to get carried away to make up for neglecting the blog for a few days. I haven’t yet mentioned the language difficulties, friends we’ve met, life on the Embassy compound, internet and phone situation, home entertainment, the airport, or the TWO choirs I’ve just joined.

Guess they’ll have to wait for another day.


About Chris Neal

Personal Technology Consultant. Tailored services and advice for people who want more from their technology.
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