Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday in Luanda

I've been in Luanda, Angola almost two weeks and rather than try to catch you all up all at once, let me start with telling you about today.

6:30am The man staying in the room next to mine at my guesthouse receives a phonecall. The walls are thin an there is a space where they don't quite meet. He chatter in Portuguese long enough to wake me up.

9am Breakfast. The options are white bread, butter, sliced cheese and sliced ham, juice, instant coffee, tea. I have bread with cheese and my own delicious coffee (hooray for my travel french press). I am eating with one woman from Mozambique and another from Quebec. Over breakfast we discuss the role the Angolan war had in ending apartheid in South Africa, among other things.

11am Walking to a supermarket (Boa Fresca?) which is about 15 minutes away with one lady from Germany and same lady from Quebec. Crossing streets is hazardous to say the least as existing traffic lights rarely work, and when they do people rarely obey them. It is my first visit to Fresca, which must be the fanciest supermarket in the city. Luanda in incredibly expensive for everything, but some prices are just astronomical. For example: about 1 lb of cherries was $27USD, about a quart of white button mushrooms was $12, Marie Bon (or something) jam was $11-18 per jar depending on the flavor. No wonder this is the most expensive city in the world for ex-pats!  I was buying ingredients for pineapple upside down cake (very small bag of flour, very small sugar, baking powder) and a bottle of wine, it was $35. Don't judge my priorities because I spent so much on cake and wine! Just a slice of cake is $8 or 10 at a bakery so it makes sense :) right?

1pm Cake baking in the kitchen of my guesthouse. The woman in charge of the guesthouse has two young children (6 and 1.5 years) who are here now. She is making them lunch while I'm baking. The little girl sits on the floor banging on a plastic bottle with a spoon, the little boy watches his sister and cartoons. They eat chicken and beans and fufu (kind of like ugali or white polenta) on the porch. A new batch of people have arrived to stay from Cameroon and go around making introductions. The languages of the house tend to be French and English at the moment, with Portuguese mixed in when Angolans are around.

2pm I am finally ready to cook my cake. The little girl grabs a box of matches and throws them in the air. I then try to pick them up as she tries to eat them. I go to use the oven, which I've been told works, but to no avail. I have to wait until the ex-boyfriend of the owner (who is not the caretaker) arrives to light it for me. There is no temperature control.

2:20pm My cake looks done but we'll see! Tonight we are having a dinner with about 5 or 6 people staying at the house, so far the menu is guacamole for a starter, thai curry chicken for the main course (I'll steal sauce and rice and mix with beans or tuna) and pineapple cake for dessert! I'm now off to do some data analysis/chart prep for the report for the work I did in the Pacific. No real days off here, but on the other hand I usually get picked up to go to work at 7am, so today feels very lazy.

I hope everyone is well and enjoying summer (it's winter here). More to come on substantive issues as there are many! For instance, the attitude of people here curiously reminds me of New York. Foreigners talk about how rude Angolans are, I assume they're indifferent and, like New Yorkers, would step over you if you fell while crossing the street (not that that ever happened to me in New York...)

(Also, picture taking here is pretty tricky so I've taken zero so far, but I'll work on it!)

More soon!