It was definitely a PLUS to be able to wait for my Mozambique visa while visiting Imran and Mikaela – of musiccycles.wordpress.com- in Bamako, Mali, where I worked way back in the 1980s. As well as the capital, there was time for revisiting magical medieval Djenne, hectic Mopti on the Niger river and to trek under the relentless sun in the Dogon country (by night under a canopy of stars on a flat mud roof). Bamako was unrecogniseable, it has grown so big, including a government administration ‘city’ in the impressive soudanese style of architecture, bankrolled by Ghadaffi’s Libya….. hmmm
Back to London for a day’s turnaround and, six or so weeks late, airbourne to Maputo at last. Now I’ve been here for a week and notice that my walking pace has already reduced in speed by at least fifty percent! By contrast my beer drinking capacity has increased by at least half, as I don’t like soft drinks, the filtered water tastes like ceramic, and the unseasonal freakish heat creates constant thirst – all meaning that a nice cold beer is the best solution at any time of day and the throng of streetside bars and cafes in the capital is one of the better legacies of the Portuguese.
The colleagues I was to have travelled with in February had all had six weeks of induction and Portuguese language training that ended last week – I only got the tail end of that, but my Portuguese has revived itself quite fast already. I just got to visit (my) Ministry of Youth and Sports for a ceremony for new graduates who had been spending holidays as volunteers cleaning up their districts and trying to develop initiatives in their home areas instead of all pouring into Maputo in search of non-existent jobs. The minister ended the event by breaking into a song of exhortation and getting everyone to join in the chorus! That says something about the spirit of people here.
I may be working some of the time out of the newly build ministry that faces Maputo Bay, and other days at an NGO centre.
There are no clean beaches near town – you can see all the sewage pipes snaking into the deep. But yesterday (Saturday) I got to visit a lovely one. No easy access: train north to Marracuene, 2 km walk to jetty to find ferry broken, so cross to the island of Macaneta by rowing boats, then bump along in a trailer pulled by a massive tractor for 12 km of bird and lilly filled wetlands then deep sand to Jay’s place. Jay is a no-nonsense green eyed South African grandmother who set up a resort in this peaceful spot. Next time it will be to stay the whole weekend and really chill out!
The food we got at Jay’s was brilliant… now she’s working on the provision of digestive hammocks.
So my first impressions of Maputo and Mozambique are of friendly and relaxed people who are quick to laugh and joke. I’m reminded of Brazil, maybe it’s the language, the enjoyment of spontaneous live music, the smell of the ocean.
I’m still settling in, will be moving to another flat on 1 April, and am yet to start work – the above may give the impression I’m on holiday but that was just a Saturday! The internet connection can be bad at times, especially skype, so I’m trying to be patient and making do with email and written skype chat.