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Luanda

Two weeks have passed since I arrived in Luanda.  In Benguela, the words most commonly used to describe this city were: “full of confusion” and “gangster”.  The previous MBA consultants complained about the hours spent sitting in traffic and the constant outages of water and electricity in their apartment (aka, my new digs for the next year).  I was told it would be too dangerous to walk around outside, any jewelry worn would be ripped right off of me and that a burger and fries would cost upwards of $70.  Needless to say, Luanda sounded like Gotham City.  Not even my 6 ½ years of mastering the city that Gotham City was based on would prepare me for the picture I had in my head.

As I learned in one of the numerous personality tests in business school, I am a “Reflector.”  This means that when presented with a new situation or idea, I tend to absorb/soak in information; my brain needs to process this new information for me to come up with a well-thought out argument.  After 2 weeks of soaking in new information, my brain started working in overdrive today spitting out new thoughts in a thousand different directions.  I wanted to find the off button, but I settled for calling my car to pick me up at 4pm and in effect cancelling all my plans for the rest of the evening to give me time to “organize”.

Since arriving I can say I have experienced some of the hype.  It took me close to 2 hours to get to the gym twice last week, coming home sweaty one of the nights only  to find that the water was out.  But, in general it only takes 30 minutes to get from place to place and the water comes back on after an hour or so.  If I pretend that Luanda is a lot bigger than it is and that the distance traveled is greater, then really, 30 minutes isn’t an unreasonable daily commute.  It’s just those 2 hour days that kill ya!  Sometimes I have to give myself pep talks to calm down a wave of irritation; luckily, they never last that long.   Shopping in the grocery stores also isn’t as expensive as I had heard.  I was told an average weekly shopping bill was around $200.  It will probably take me 3 weeks to hit that amount.   My friends and I did grab lunch before grocery shopping at the food court in the mall where there is a Shop-Rite.  Typical food court Chinese food: $35.  I will be eating a lot of ham & cheese sandwiches.

My apartment in Cassenda (neighborhood in Luanda) is nice enough.  Sure, it’s not luxury, but it’s much better than I had envisioned.  I haven’t noticed any power outages since we’ve been here, but the water does seem to come and go at sporadic moments.  Good thing I’m used to the bucket bath!!!  I like my roomies/colleagues/only 2 friends in Angola.  However, after spending about 24/7 with the same 2 people for 8 weeks, I think we all are in need of some time spent apart, or at least to meet some new people.  And that we have!  Last weekend, we went on a beach camping trip to a pristine U-shaped beach 1 ½ hours outside of Luanda.  It was a fun trip organized by Kelse, a cool Angolan guy who knows just about everybody in Luanda, and 30 of his closest friends – a mix of locals and expats from all over (US, UK, Belgium, Brazil, Netherlands).   Since that trip, we’ve received an invitation to some sort of event almost every night of the week!  There has been no want of social activities.  I definitely plan to partake in this fun group of expats working at embassies, NGOs and the oil companies.   But I also want to make it a priority to improve my Portuguese and I need Portuguese-only speaking friends to do that.  I need to find THAT group who is going to welcome me with open arms into their already established social network.  Hmmm….

And lastly, a word about starting work.  I’ll be writing a lot more later about my work at CAE and the role they play in developing the local Angolan economy.  But for now, the biggest take-away from the past 2 weeks was how hard it was to “work” after what amounted to a 6-month hiatus from having any deliverables due or real responsibility to speak of.  The first week was spent putting together strategy presentations for each of the functional areas at CAE while also trying to understand our individual responsibilities and get to know the consultants.  We had a very important visitor from CDS, CAE’s project implementer based out of Washington, DC, all of last week.  Each area was responsible for presenting our processes and priorities through the end of CAE’s contract.  It was definitely a great way to learn not only what CAE does, but why they do things a certain way.  Plus, we got to work right away with the team to pinpoint areas for improvement.  Needless to say, we got a crash course in all of the different areas we can add value and the projects we can spearhead.  There’s a lot of work to be done and I’m excited to get started!

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jim
    November 23, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Anneliese,

    Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts through these posts. I am enjoying hearing from you and even in this odd way staying connected. Keep them coming.

    Jim

  2. Reza
    December 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Annaliese!

    I’m still waiting for an update, it’s been almost a month….!!

    Anyway hope you had a chance to check out the Luanda Nightlife blog now. Let me know what you think of it.

    Take care,

    Reza

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