Monday, August 28, 2006

Luanda: The only city with more Hummers than Houston

I have arrived safe and sound in Luanda, after a 30 hour journey. It was quite long and included an 8 hour stay in Terminal 4 of Heathrow airport. The only thing for me to do was walk the length of the terminal; in all I probably walked 5 miles that day. I hoped the walking would help me sleep on the plane, but no such luck. On the flight there were several foreigners, mostly European (Portuguese, English, and Norwegian) and employees of oil companies. When we got to the immigration area, we had to get our health cards, complete with Yellow Fever vaccination, stamped by an official. The lines were extremely long- except if you were an oil company employee. Those lucky few just presented their cards and said, “Chevron” or “Total” and were directed to shorter, quicker lines.

I am still a bit jet-lagged (ready for bed at 6 pm). The staff here has been very nice; coming in on their days off to take me out to eat and make sure I am adjusting well. I have gotten two driving tours of Luanda so far; not sure what to think so far. Some parts could pass for Brazil- colonial buildings along palm-lined, waterfront streets. Most of it, however, is a reminder that this is one of the poorest countries in the world. Actually, that’s not quite accurate; there’s plenty of money, it’s just in the hands of a select few. For example, one notable thing about this city is the number of luxury cars. Perhaps it’s just the contrast against the jalopies, but there are tremendous numbers of fancy cars: BMWs, Hummers (I've seen 5 so far, oncluding one decorated with the image of the 2006 Angolan World Cup team), Mercedes, Audis, and Porsches. I’ve never seen anything like it in the developing world.

The saddest thing about these expensive cars- and the junky ones, too- is that no one knows how to drive them. In the three days that I have been here, a car I have been in has been hit twice (minor hits, thankfully) and witnessed two other hits. Meu Deus! Driving in this city is truly an adventure- one I hope to never undertake.


Miss Liz said...

Hummers! Can you teach me how to curse at them in Portuguese? I'm running out of ways to be self-righteous in English.
So who is it that's got the cash? Are they European oil employees or locals?
Can't wait to hear more.

Scottish Missy said...

Glad to hear that you made it in one piece. I have to go through Heathrow (and even worse, LAX in Los Angeles) on my way to Australia in October and am not looking forward to it.

No Hummers here - too expensive to drive one when petrol costs more than $5 a gallon. LandRovers are as posh as we get up in Scotland.


Victoria said...

I love your blog and can't wait to hear more especially about your job!!