A Travellerspoint blog

December 2009

Mozambique

Adventure and new friends in this pais tropical

sunny 39 °F
View A Backpack, A Bicycle, And a Bonderman Grant to Travel the World on dericvito's travel map.


I went to sleep at a sunny 4am this morning to the sound of the muzzen call to prayer. But I'm not in the middle east anymore, I'm in Mozambique. That, and the best south Indian food I've consumed outside of India are a testament to the diversity of this country. The hour I arrived is a testament to the challenging transportation system and strange time zone that make the sun rise before 4am.

I spent my first week in Maputo, the capital. My first impressions (coming from Beirut) were a slower pace, orderliness (people following traffic laws / waiting patiently in line), and the high numbers of people out on the streets during the day. I hit the ground running with the help of some friends and friends of friends. I had dinner the first night with friend Abdul and his family who I met when he was studying public health at the UW. The next night I connected with a friend of a friend, an American who works at an NGO here.

Maputo is a pleasant city with large street-trees that provide shade from the summer heat. I spent my first days running errands, looking for visas, cooking lunches. I found a street ball organization and watched their tournament, only narrowly deciding against joining the dunk contest in my street shoes and cargo shorts. But I enjoyed Maputo mostly for the nightlife. A fashion show and concert at the french cultural center, live performance by Ladysmith Black Mambazoo and a host of local groups, a private dance party into the early hours. I witnessed the the most creative dancing I've ever seen by four 14-year old boys who role played amongst themselves a teenage romance dance. Oh, and I'm now an incredible dancer too :-) (somehow it's just easier here).

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I spent time with expats in Maputo, because that's who I was connected to. Always an interesting group, most have good intentions and some are doing great work. Unfortunately they 7 we all bring cultural baggage. One woman complained about waiting for a Mozambican room mate to see her flat. "She was late, I couldn't believe it, I mean don't make me prejudice!" My favorite story however was of a raid on expats at their primary hangout, a bar called Mundos. Apparently anyone who didn't have their papers in order where kicked out of the country. I found the idea of immigration raids on white, highly educated folks hilarious, but of course they didn´t think so.

I have also had to confront many of my own prejudices here. Coming to Africa I feel like I got a lot of warning explicitly and inexplicably about danger. I've had to transform my barometer of when I'm really threatened and who I should really fear. In the three weeks I've been here I think I've made a lot a progress at this. I often try to walk towards someone who appears to be a threat (but my instincts tell me otherwise) and start a conservation. Usually these poor, black young men (some holding machetes) were happy to talk and other times they simply shrugged me off. Overall the legacy of oppression here is very tangible in everything. People on the street call me "patrao" or "boss." This is also used for wealthy locals. A friend on staff at the hostel in Maputo would joke with new arrivals that I was his boss. It was awkward.

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After Maputo I spent a week in the beach town of Tofo, pretty much taking it easy. I rode around in the sand. I talked with locals about philosophy and business at restaurants and along the walk from my hut into town. Sometimes I did that walk in the pitch black and couldn´t see the nose on my face (I usually can). And of course there was a beautiful salty ocean.

Most recently I departed Quelimane, the first city I've spent any time in where bicycles outnumber every other form of transportation except feet. All the taxis are bicycles, the only obstacles to a Utopian bicycle society are the potholes and giant white SUV's of the NGO's. Here, on my first night I was lucky to land at my only little "Hidmo" (for those who are familiar), a two week old restaurant / community center run by a woman named Dona Luxa and assisted by three or four friends who welcomed me into their group. There was Mario the drunk and horny man from Beira, Catia a 24 year old who I later discovered had a nine year old and four year at home, who´s husband died from Malaria, and Abelito, the charismatic student who DJ´s at the local nightclub. For the four days I and passed most of my time there chatting, eating and drinking.

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I have a lot to tell, but little time, so I´ll save the rest for the next post and leave you with a few other reflections:

    • People work hard here.
    • Speaking the language well is one advantage that I counted on. My Portuguese is about 80% effective here, but because it´s many people´s second language and it changes from the north to the south, conversation can still be a struggle.
    • I my mp3 player has been mostly dead here, which you would think would be a struggle, especially during the multiple 18 hr journies where I´ve hitched in trucks, caught mini´buses which broke down in the middle of the no-where, and true buses where people stood in the aisles for more than 9 hours on dirt roads. Most of the time I had a child in my lap. But only 14% of people have power here, so music is music is mostly consumed publicly. It´s nice that way.
    • After three months in the middle east I finally got a decent handshake, the Mozambique handshake which involves a little thumb swagger.
    • People eat more rice here, that makes me happy.
    • My bicycle has become a commodity . It is something tangible that Mozambicans can own, which is great, but I've received to many propositions to feel comfortable.
    • It's very hot where I am. Very hot. But still ok.
    • People make requests, strange ones with no apparent justification. A decently dressed teen approaches me at a cafe and "makes a request" that I buy him a sandwich. A server at a restaurant tells me she wants me to "offer her" the change from my meal and hands are constantly extended. But for all the "begging" I've also met many entrepreneurs.
    • The service here is very deliberate and attentive. It make me uncomfortable.

Unfortunately have only a few photos and no video to share due to the fact that: 1) it seems almost absurd to take out my digital camera here 2) there is limited and weak internet here 3) I lost my camera battery charger.

Next week I catch a train to Malawi, then down to Zimbabwe, before entering Johannesburg.

Posted by dericvito 03:15 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

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