Luanda – The Concrete Jungle…

There is always something interesting to see in Luanda. The landscape of the city is changing rapidly, with huge skyscrapers going up everywhere you look. Ten years from now, Luanda will be unrecognizable. I won’t be here to see it, of course. My days in Angola are limited, and that is why I look around with such interest. That, and the fact that it is so very different from any place I have been before.

To that end, Hubby and I enjoy walking along the Marginal on the weekend. Despite the occasional waft of cringe-inducing odors from the bay, it is a great place for people-watching and helps alleviate the claustrophobia caused by living within eye-shot of the office. Currently, there are dozens of photographs from around the world displayed along the walkway. This may seem like no big deal, but this city only has three or four museums. They are all focused on Angolan history and not readily accessible to the average Joe. One of them that I visited, the Natural History Museum, is locked behind tall iron gates. It is only open occasionally and rarely has electricity. It is very good to see something available to the average citizen free of charge, that also offers a bit of education about the rest of the world.

Luanda Marginal
Luanda Marginal – Lovely photo display from around the world.
Luanda Marginal
Luanda Marginal – Local ladies enjoying the day out.
Luanda Marginal
A building frenzy! Skyscrapers are popping up like mushrooms in this city.
Luanda Marginal.
The bay, although terribly polluted, is full of small fish and turtles. The bird population has a ready source of food here. The section of the Marginal walkway seen in the background has been completed for many months, but has not been opened yet. Once opened, it will add at least a mile to the path.

Today, my driver Jesus and I headed up to one of my favorite grocery stores, called Valoeste. It is in a higher-income part of the city, where many of the embassies are also located. Most of the people who shop at Valoeste are wealthy Angolans and diplomats, so the store has a very extensive selection of imported and hard-to-find items. I am always amused at the behavior of some of the wealthier fellow shoppers I come across. Invariably, if I am bagging up a larger than normal amount of something – anything – it always attracts a crowd. Before I know it, I will be pushed aside as three or four other ladies will suddenly decide they need the item too, despite the fact that they had ignored it a few moments before.

It happened again today. I was bagging up sixteen apples to take to the orphanage tomorrow for my students. All of a sudden, another woman nearly knocked me over in her quest to get the apples first! I just laughed and held my ground until I had finished bagging up what I needed. It has happened so many times, I’ve come to expect it now. Besides, I was younger than she was, so I was pretty sure I could win in a fight, if it came to that.

As I was checking out, the cashier began to fuss, speaking quickly to another cashier and pointing at her screen, obviously aghast at the price for one of my items. When I looked at the screen, I saw that my little four-pack of yogurt was 2,000 kwanzas – about fifteen dollars! I needed yogurt, but not that badly! I quickly pulled out the item and thanked the cashier for the heads-up. Just then, the crazy apple lady appeared behind me in the line. Again, she shoved her items nearly on top of mine and almost pushed me over. Elbows are great in situations like that. I just turned my body and stuck out my elbow to prevent her from going any further. Like I said in my last blog. Luanda is full of combat shopping…

Luanda
Luanda – one of the nicer parts of town. Lots of fancy cars to be seen here…
Luanda
DeBeers Building – a reminder of the wealth in this country. Of course, there is a luxury car dealership next door, in case a diamond merchant needs to buy a new car on his lunch hour.
Luanda
The government buildings here are all quite fancy and ornate. Meanwhile, the city is surrounded by an enormous shanty town.
Luanda
One of my favorites, Albuquerque. It reminds me of Tuesday Morning. You never know what they will have, from sewing notions to kitchen items.

Now that I have been here for almost a year (can’t believe it has been this long!), I feel much more comfortable making my way through this concrete jungle. It does get exhausting at times, fighting for survival (and apples), but what a great experience it has been! Seeing another side of the world, so very different from the US, has opened my eyes in a way I never thought possible. I’ve learned some valuable survival skills, too.  The next time someone tries to steal my produce in a supermarket, they might just find themselves taken down. Hakuna Matata, my arse. That’s only for Disney movies!

6 thoughts on “Luanda – The Concrete Jungle…”

  1. Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experiences in Luanda. I have been twice and your pictures and insight allow me to reminisce! If you get a chance to go to Malanje – the Kalaundula Falls and Black Rocks are breathtaking!

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  2. Lani, Thanks so much for reading my blog! I am so glad it has been a walk down memory lane for you. I did go to Malange, and I agree, it is gorgeous! My blog about it is called “The Road Warriors of Pungo Andongo”. Check it out!

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  3. Enjoyed the blog. We will be moving there in September for a 3 year posting, so I love learning everything I can about the area:) Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Holly, Glad you enjoyed the blog! Good luck with your upcoming move. If you have any questions about Luanda, please feel free to email me at lassoluandablog@gmail.com. Alway happy to pass along some of this hard-won knowledge that I have acquired in the past year 🙂

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  5. Hi Cheryl, I’ve been scouring the web for information on Angola for the past few weeks. I’ve come across a few other blogs but none that paint a picture the way you have.
    We will be moving to Luanda probably by years end from Houston area. I’m itching to go for our pre assignment visit so I have a better idea of what I need to pack in suitcases and what I can ship.
    I see you are a fan of Tex Mex. Are there any restaurants that serve anything close to what we are accustomed to? If not, can I get corn tortillas? If not I’ll have to pack those too.
    Looking forward to your next post.

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  6. Hi Summer! So glad you have enjoyed my blog! I hope to have another post for you soon.
    There is one Tex Mex place here called Sabor de Tejas (sp?) and people say it is good. I have not been there yet but my husband has. There are no corn tortillas here, but occasionally you can find flour tortillas. I typically bring both in with me, along with Rotel, Velveeta, Tortilla chips, and other healthy stuff like that 🙂
    If you have any more questions, feel free to email me at lassoluandablog@gmail.com. Happy Packing!

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