I just couldn’t believe my eyes. A box of quail eggs only KZ 270? That’s only US$ 3? There must be a catch. Then I looked at the expiry date and they’d expire the day after. Yay, they’re still edible. So, I grabbed them and cooked them for dinner.
In the two year plus I lived here, that was the first time they had quail eggs on promotion (meaning that they’d expire most probably the day after). Usually, us ladies, would go to the store, stare at those boxes and make excuses on why we shouldn’t purchase them. From the high cholesterol to “my kids don’t like them” excuse. But we knew what stopped us from grabbing those little birdie eggs. There’s no way on earth we’re paying US$ 25 for 12 miniscule eggs.
There are many things that I can’t get out of though. Being Indonesian, gingers are like onions to me. I just have to have them in my kitchen. Though my heart bleeds seeing the US$ 12/kg price tag, they’re always in my cart. Just like the US$ 11 loaf of bread, US$ 40/kg meat and US$ 3/mini carton of my daughter’s strawberry milk.
When my husband’s company first informed us that he’d be transferred here, we asked the same question. Luanda – Angola? Where’s that? It was there on Google Earth, but there was very limited information online. All that was emphasized that everything was expensive here.
Now that we’re actually living here, there are more to Luanda than just being “The Most Expensive City for Expatriates 2010” (Mercer). The city is just so vibrant that it’s really hard to describe. The million-dollar question that people often ask me is, “What city in Indonesia it most resembles of?”
Luanda is the capital city of Angola and it’s the home for almost one third (though the precise number is always a moving target) of the country population. This Portuguese speaking country is one of the highest oil producers in Africa and with Angolan Civil War just ended in 2002, the development of this country is really in high speed mode. New buildings pop up everyday, old trees chopped down and replaced by Miami grown palm trees, sea reclamation project. It’s truly like playing Civilization II in fast forward. And just like any other (high speed) developing country, the gap between the rich and the poor is still very wide. Luxurious apartments and old wrecked buildings with cloth lines hanging out from the window are standing side by side. With the kind of traffic here sometimes I wonder what’s the point of having those latest Cayenne, Porsche or Hummer going around the city, if you cannot even go beyond third gear.
Then why we decided to extend our 4th year here? The money for one, but once you get to know the country, the city and the people, it’s pretty okay. Sound as cliché as it might, but it’s all “in your head”. Where else can you see driving school cars with two steering wheels? Or people cheering and clapping their hands whenever the plane safely lands? I thought at first, having a plane landed safely was a rare occasion in the country, but then I was told it was the passengers’ way to say thank you to the pilot. Not to mention the absolutely gorgeous (empty and pristine white sand) beaches only within an hour drive? Just make sure you pack up the car with enough cold drinks though, as there’s always patrols that just want to check your paper, your Portuguese comprehension or simply your guts.
Once a friend told me, “If you want to feel like home then stay at home”. If you’re up to be an expat (especially in countries “deemed difficult”), having an open mind is your biggest capital. Here, the smallest things get me psyched. Like finding a certain kid magazine for USD 6. Or when once every blue moon, they’re selling Indomie (for USD 5 a pack) in the local stores. A Scottish friend of mine once called me and literally screaming on the phone, “You’ll not believe what I found, it’s Heinz’s Baked Beans. Yea, it’s three times the price, but finally normal familiar baked beans”.
If you’re a big fan of fruits, there’s no lack of them here. Pineapples are always in season, and they’re huge in size. The mangoes are red and sweet. Everybody will have home made maracuja-mousse for dessert when passion fruits in season.
Jakarta may have sale season all the time, but here we have whale season for about 6 weeks in August-September. Just take one hour boat ride off the shore, then wait, and the next thing you know you’ll be surrounded by families of humpbacks making the giggly noises, flipping through the water, swimming under your boat.
I still cannot answer the million-dollar question though. I truly believe that there’s no place like this. You can find anything here, though they come with hefty price tags. And as for the quail eggs, three of them were already bad (they did not sink in my water bowl), but it was one of the best dinners ever served on our table.