So, we loaded ourselves back into the car just 30 minutes after Andy’s graduation and drove ourselves home… we arrived around midnight- packed up a new bag and got ready to leave Sunday morning for our Angola visit. Before they will move us to Angola Jeff and I are required to visit, see the house, the school and make sure that I won’t freak out and change my mind. My mom was going to come stay with the girls, but schedules happened and my cousin, Kacey, was, thankfully, able to come watch the girls.
So, Kacey arrived around 10 AM and we “oriented” her a little, showed her around the neighborhood and then our car service picked us up. What a sweet way to ride to the airport!
When we got to the airport we saw an enormous line… unfortunately there was only one flight to Denver- which was where we were catching our connection to Houston- and it was over 2 hours late, so most everyone on the plane, including us, was missing a connection. So we waited in an enormous (2 hour) line until they finally re-booked us on a flight. The new flight was out of SFO- so we had to take a stinky shuttle to San Francisco and catch a new plane that flew directly to Houston. Sounds decent, until you hear that our new flight was over 45 minutes late. It ended with us getting to Houston at 2 AM… and we were supposed to check into our Angola flight around 7:30 Monday morning. We slept for a little bit and then dragged all our stuff (2 carry on sized bags, 2 actual carry ons and 3 boxes weighing 50 pounds each) up to the terminal. Luckily, once we checked in for Angola we got to hang out in the first class lounge. You could tell that we were new-be’s… we took pictures and were geeking out a little about all the perks… we are nerds like that. But it was the way you want to fly: business class, 2 meals and a snack, drinks throughout, and several movie choices (our own TVs) and seats that reclined to flat. Not too shabby.
The flight was as good as it could be… unfortunately we didn’t sleep all that well, which would have made a huge difference. We arrived in Angola at 7:30 AM Tuesday morning… and had appointments all day long. So sleep would have made the day a little more bearable. But it is hard to fall asleep at 1 in the afternoon for more than a cat nap- so 5 movies and 13 hours later we arrived in our future country. A manager met us at the airport and helped us find our driver for the visit. Thank goodness he was there, it would have been really hard to figure out where we were going and what we were supposed to be doing. Also, thank heavens we had a driver, we had heard about how crazy the traffic was in Angola- it lived up to and surpassed what we had heard… see below picture, that is not a parking lot, that is a major road near the airport. Surprisingly little honking though, everyone is pretty chill and not in a hurry.
Jeff says that he got a similar feeling to entering a Latin American country… there were slums/trash heaps right next to nice buildings and rich homes… but you can see all the construction happening, there are so many buildings covered in scaffolding- and it was a common theme while talking to people who had been there for a little while- progress is happening in Angola, and improvements are occurring at a regular pace.
After we checked into our hotel (which was luckily right next to the office… walking distance, which made morning meetings easier) we cleaned up a little, tried not to fall asleep and walked over for a security briefing. Then we had our first of many meals with other ex-pats and people Jeff would be working with. It was a chance to ask a lot of questions and address concerns regarding living in a new country. It also was a chance for most of the people eating with us to eat out. I think I mentioned that Luanda is the most expensive city in the world… and the price of food reflects that. On average our meals cost no less than 50 dollars (US). For dinner one night my appetizer Caesar Salad cost 25$. Even crazier is that one US dollar is worth 100 Kwanzaas (the monetary unit of Angola). So when you look at the menu your salad is listed as costing 2500.00. That is an interesting thing to see on a menu, super hard to get used to. Another interesting aside, meals never took less than 2 hours. It took at least an hour after ordering to get your meal… nice and leisurely, the general pace of Angola.
The next stop was the school. Sophie will be going to an international school, not an American school. There are around 54 different countries represented in the student body, about 20% Angolan, 20% American and then 52 other countries… a lot of the staff seems to be from Britain, Australia or Canada, but I could be totally wrong about that… they use something called the International Baccalaureate program. Basically you have a topic to learn about, say Shelter. Then everything would kind of revolve around that… you would draw different homes, sing songs about igloos, learn about homes around the world… etc. The school seems to have a pretty good art program (it is what most moms love about the school), so that is exciting. They also have music and Portuguese classes, as well as swimming at least 1 time a week.
Then we headed to the housing development to see a house. All the houses have the same floor plan, but different sized yards… we hoped that we could request a certain house… but it sounds like that isn’t how it works… bummer. The houses have 4 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms. The downstairs is all pretty open, and the kitchen is so much bigger than what I have here… I am excited about that! The rec center opened up last September. There is a pool, tennis courts, a soccer field and 2 playgrounds. Sorry for all the pictures, they really are for the grandparents.
The next few days were full of more meetings with general managers and then we got to see the shopping centers and go out to lunch with some wives. We ate a lot- that first day we ate around 6 meals without sleeping (2 days worth of time, just no sleep in the middle). By the time we went to Jeff’s BIG boss’ home for a dinner we barely ate anything (good thing it was passed appetizers, no one knew how much we were eating). Thursday we had a few appointments in the morning and then arrived at the airport around 5 pm for an 10 pm flight. It might seem kind of crazy- but it took us a LONG time to get through all the different stations. Our bags were checked about 5 times, passports checked almost as many, and then a VERY thorough pat down before we could board the shuttle to the plane. We had no problem sleeping on the way home. We were exhausted and ready to get home. (We won’t discuss the fact that I had the YW/YM fundraiser the day we came back).
It was a whirlwind of a trip, it was so nice that we could see everything before we officially move. We both came home excited for our new adventure- maybe we will have a move date sometime soon!