After a two month hiatus, I am finally back to blogging. My time in Houston was the usual “running behind the train” kind of craziness, with little time for writing. I don’t know whether this trip home was particularly busy, or maybe I have lost all time-management skills, but I found myself in a constant panic to get everything done. Multiple doctor and dentist visits, car repairs, flying and driving to visit family and friends, shopping, and visiting the hairdresser have been part of every home visit since becoming an expat in 2011. Why visit the hairdresser, you may wonder? It took me over two years to work up the nerve to have my hair cut while living in London, which is arguably one of the most fashionable places on earth. Allowing an Angolan hairdresser to chop away at my tresses will not happen anytime soon!
This being my first trip home since moving to Luanda, I also added buy supplies for any possible unforeseen situation to my to-do list. You think I am kidding? I collected a vast array of items over the course of two months, and then on my very last day in Houston, I went to no less than seven stores. On that day alone, I filled up an extra suitcase – probably as my driver was on his way to take me to the airport. The idea that I would have to live for four months without taco seasoning or A1 Steak Sauce was just too horrible to bear. And forget about living without my favorite shampoo. That thought actually kept me awake at night! So I crammed a small grocery and beauty supply store into four very heavy bags. Truth be told, I am not alone in this compulsion. Every expat gal I know does the same thing, and most of us arrive back on foreign soil to find plenty of taco seasoning – and at least four bottles of A1 Steak Sauce – hiding in the back of the cupboard. Just par for the course, I’m afraid.
My solo trip back to Luanda required two overnight flights and an eight hour layover in London. I’m proud to say, I put that eight hours to good use, visiting the shower and spa facilities in the lounge, taking a nice little nap, and grazing my way through the airport. Not a bad day, really. On both flights, I watched every movie I had not already seen and managed to get a few hours of sleep. Once I finally arrived in Luanda, at 4:30 am, I learned the hard way that luggage trolleys are a hot commodity in the baggage claim area. After securing a spot in the queue, I waited patiently for more carts to be brought in. Apparently, the line was only for beginners. As a few carts were brought in, people rushed from everywhere to snatch them up. Tossing my southern manners aside, I joined in the melee and wrestled a cart away from a weaker fellow passenger. Don’t judge. Okay, so she was old – but my bags were much heavier. Here in Africa, it’s survival of the fittest, you know.
Once outside of baggage claim, my sweet husband’s smiling face was a very welcome sight in the even-more-chaotic scene. Hordes of jet-lagged people searched frantically for their drivers, while struggling to maneuver their luggage carts through the crowd. I followed glassy-eyed as Hubby took charge, found our driver, and lead me to the car. On the way to our apartment in the early morning light, I was overcome with the sense that I was completely starting over. The hard-won experience and confidence that I had acquired during my previous time here had all but evaporated. I felt like a fresh-off-the-farm newbie once again. This is not an easy place to live, and it takes more than a little hutzpah to survive and thrive here. I am happy to say that, despite four days of jet lag and general disorientation, I am finally back in my groove. Hunting/gathering, disinfecting veggies, cooking – these skills are all slowly coming back to me. I cooked exactly two meals during my two months in Houston, and one of them was Christmas dinner, so I am a little out of practice. The search continues for very basic recipes that a kindergartner could make. If you have any that might fit the bill, please send them along!
The day after I arrived was a clear, warm Sunday morning, and we were awoken by glorious worship music coming from the Marginal. An enormous crowd had gathered under a large white tent. They spent the next several hours listening to a succession of preachers and singing praises to our Lord. Even from a distance, we could see they were dressed in their Sunday finest, dancing happily and enjoying the lovely day. What a nice welcome back!
Yes, I was happy to see that the constant stream of entertainment coming from the Marginal had not changed. But other things will be changing around here, thanks to the free-falling price of oil. For one thing, there will be fewer expat ladies for me to pal around with. In a normal oil market, there would be new people moving in as others move away, but not with the industry struggling as it is. Lower gas prices are a positive switch for most people, but here in the oil patch, they only mean one thing – downsizing. Many of the friends we made are headed home, and I am deeply saddened to see them go.
We’ve been on this Oil Boom & Bust roller coaster for more than 25 years, so we know the drill – pardon the pun. Things will turn around. They always do. Until then, we will dig in and focus on the positive. Case in point: my visa requires me to leave the country every thirty days, and that means we will have several trips to exotic African locales coming up. I wouldn’t want to find myself on the wrong side of the law, after all! Stay tuned to see where we go on our first “forced” vacation…
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