12 October 2007

US Operations Expand, Housing Futures Fall

As our leave date looms ever nearer, we've been dealing more and more with some of the messy details of moving out of this house and into a new one in a land far, far away. Last week the big mission was storage facilities and, with logistical support from the Rocky Mountain office, we're going to be mooching off of family. The operation is now growing quickly as our international launch date approaches. In addition to the home office in Little Rhody, there are now branch offices in Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia (pet operations management), and Georgia (communications hub) with a warehouse in Maine. We really should talk to management -- everyone here deserves bigger salaries and better titles.

This week the ugly issue of housing is front and center. Things kicked-off ominously with a lovely little piece in the Financial Times entitled Rents rocket in Angola's oil boom and it's been more of the same ever since. It's hard not to be a little dejected when you know that if you're lucky and someone's feeling generous you can find a place for $5500 per month. It's reasonable to blanch after you quickly calculate the amount of cash you'll need in hand to secure said lucky find because the going trend is to pay the first year up front. (That's $66k for those of you counting along at home.)

Why are things so expensive? Well, you'll see different numbers different places, but the city of Luanda was basically built to house about 400,000 under the rule of the Portuguese "settlers". Today, Luanda is home to well over 4,000,000 with little or no new construction through 2002 outside of refugee shanty towns. Add to this a new, huge influx of foreigners because of oil and other financial interests (Angola has the fastest growing economy on the continent as measured by GDP) and you've got a royal mess. (I should mention that housing's not the only expensive thing in Luanda, but that's a post for another time.)

The good news, however, is that we've been speaking all week with the powers that be and they tell us that they're putting pressure on those that can put pressure on those that might be able to talk to the people that might be able to give us more money for our housing allotment. The actual relief comes, though, when you've been a couple times so you're sure you've got somewhere you can stay while you find a place. And, better, when you talk to the friend you've got in Bairro Popular who's been on the ground for a long while now and who knows tons of people (local and ex-pat) to enlist to help you (including Os Cheirosos!).

We're nervous and we've got a lot of other things to worry about, too, but we're confident that things will work out. The most frustrating part is simply that it's impossible to get things set up before we arrive. The friends we can lean on are wonderful and will take care of us, but that doesn't really help make a couple of control freaks feel much better.

Ah, well, I'm sure we'll get a personal email next week from an ambassador begging us to house-sit some swank digs on the Marginal for friends for the next year or so. It could happen... right?

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