Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 1 in Algeria: Arrival at the airport

Algiers' airport (image pulled from
As many of my readers (i.e. Facebook friends) know, this past Thursday my hubby and I arrived in Algiers, Algeria with our daughter and dog in tow.  I wasn't sure what to expect, so I was pleasantly surprised to step off the plane into a modern and efficient airport--several leagues away from anything else I've seen in Africa except, perhaps, Johannesburg--complete with fancy watch shops and a gleaming new car on display.

Driving from the airport to the apartment our embassy has assigned to us for the next two years, I noticed several things.

  1. This is clearly not the Africa I know.   (one of the reasons that, while on the continent of Africa, Algeria does not fall under the Africa division at the US Dept of State) 
  2. Algiers is a big crowded city that is a fascinating mix (collision?) of modern and historic buildings and infrastructure. 
  3. Fast-moving multi-lane roads with big overpasses and such become narrow crowded labyrinth-like streets as you approach our new neighborhood.  The traffic moves so slowly during business hours that is possibly faster to walk to one's destination at times. (example: it took me 30 minutes to go a distance of about 2 miles in an embassy car yesterday) I heard someone today compare driving in Algiers to driving in high-density old towns in Italy; sounds about right.
  4. Most Algerians seem to have a skin tone and hair color fairly close to mine.  I'm told that my facial structure would give me away as not of Algerian decent, but in general I could walk down the street and blend in with the crowd reasonably well. This is a very strange feeling for me, and I may (or may not) decide to write a blog post about the self-examination this has triggered for me as I reflect upon if I am interacting with the Algerians I've been meeting differently than the local residents I have met in the previous places I've lived in Africa (and what cues I may be subconsciously responding to: appearing 'Western'? appearing to be of a similar socio-economic status?) I also realized that although I had (incorrectly) thought there weren't many Algerians living in the USA, this is probably only because when I met them I would have assumed based on their accent and physical appearance that they were eastern european or middle eastern.   
  5. The streets in Algiers--or at least my neighborhood--are on quite steep inclines. Dogwalking here is going to do wonders for my thighs or kill my knees--probably both. Sidewalks are too narrow or (more often) non-existent, so I'm questioning whether I'll bother with using a stroller.  I'm dreading the one mile walk to my daughter's preschool (which would make 4 miles of hill climbing per day if I don't buy a car soon or get a carpooling solution).
  6. On the plus side, it is a very short walk to neighborhood grocery markets, a bakery, restaurants, etc. 
  7. While we were hoping we'd score an apartment with a stunning view overlooking the city and harbor (yes, some colleagues have this), we do at least get an attractive balcony view of a semi-private tiled courtyard with some nice mosaic accents.  Our apartment's ceiling have fabulous decorative molding in every room, our kitchen has a dishwashing machine (yeah!!!), our bathrooms are reasonably attractive (yeah!!!), and we have what appears to be veined white marble tile flooring throughout. It also has a long balcony, which I pray Evelyn never attempts to climb on. On the disappointing side, there is literally (not just figuratively) not a single closet in our apartment. To compensate for this, the embassy provided us a few armoires, but clearly our 3rd bedroom is going to have to function as storage room and we'll probably have to buy some shelving units or creatively repurpose our moving crates.  Don't worry, though: I'm planning to use our bookshelves to visually divide the room so when you come visit us it won't feel too much like you are sleeping in a storeroom. ;) 

So there are some of my initial thoughts.  More tomorrow--if I have time-- It turns out that preschool is only 2.5 hours long on Tuesdays---apparently it's a French school thing.

Algiers' airport (image pulled from thread on

Apparently this is the VIP lounge at the Algiers airport, although I wouldn't know (image pulled from thread on

road in Algiers (image pulled from

a street in my neighborhood (image pulled from

a scenic view in my new neighborhood (image pulled from

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