Thursday, October 09, 2014

Algiers Life: The People in my Neigborhood

Who needs a gym when you can climb this?
It's hard to believe I've now been in Algiers for two weeks.  Apart from catching the embassy shopping center shuttle a couple times and going to the botanical gardens (that's for another post), we've pretty much haven't left our new neighborhood.  The dog walks gives a nice excuse/motivation to explore our surroundings.

So what is my neighborhood like?  Well, as I mentioned previously, it is hilly.  This fact has not escaped the notice of our toddler, who comments on the embassy car going up and down as it drives her to preschool. The Hydra neighborhood (anyone who knows Algiers can easily guess what neighborhood I'm in) is home to several embassies and is relatively affluent.  That said, we're talking high-density-lack-of-parking-vertical-apartments-with-junk-sitting-on-people's-balconies affluent.  I'm not sure where the uber-rich live, but I doubt it is here.    

We are living on one floor of a building we share with other embassy families.  We don't have a 'yard,'  but we do have a reasonably nice shared tiled terrace with plant boxes and some mosaics on the wall. There are worst views to have from one's living room.  From the kitchen windows, I can even observe the activities on the streets below us.

There are many businesses in our neighborhood--especially on the main plaza, which is nearby.  Bakeries (fresh baguettes, croissants, pastries, etc), florists, produce vendors, gelato shops, pizzarias, fancy salons, shawarma shops, small corner grocery stores, fancy dress shops displaying gowns that defy what I've been told about Algerian modesty norms, travel agencies, school supply shops, tablecloth restaurants, etc.

not a sea view, but not too shabby
Everyone I've met has been very friendly--including the police officers/traffic cops, who seem to be on every corner.  I've even been surprised at the number of shop keepers who have invited me inside even when I had the dog with me (this is common in Paris, but definitely not in the USA).  Despite what I had been warned, I don't think I'm at any risk of feeling trapped inside my house at this post.

My neighborhood is full of life.  In the public spaces one finds boys gathered around foosball tables and groups of old men sitting on paint cans passionately involved in a game of dominos.  School children in their uniforms walk by our house in large numbers multiple times per day (half-day system or long lunches at home?).  Most want to pet our dog when they see him.

There don't appear to be many other dogs in our neighborhood, but there is an abundance of feral cats.  I'm told these are welcome because they keep the rodent population at bay. The levels of litter drive me nuts (especially when the youth hanging out by the convenience store toss trash on our street), but the government pays cleanups crews who occasionally come through and tidy up.    

One thing that has surprised me, though, is how many Algerians in my neighborhood don't speak French. Guess I'd better add Arabic to my growing languages-to-learn list!

In case it wasn't obvious, this is the soundtrack that was playing in my head as I typed this:

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your memoirs they always interesting