A couple of weeks ago I moved out of the temporary 5th floor flat (no lift) where I’d parked myself and bags and sharing with others while waiting for my ‘permanent’ flat to be fixed up. It has taken me time to sort out internet access, and I’m not confident of the connection I have using a dongle widget. It’s already a struggle to do this posting, especially uploading photos.
I’m sharing with a Canadian woman volunteer from CUSO. Our flat is on Avenida Eduardo Mondlane, a main road that bisects the whole city, and takes its name from the father of Frelimo and Mozambique’s independence movement.
All accommodation is really expensive in Maputo, and the two of us (and the odd temporary who uses the third bedroom), have quite a big space and nice wooden parquet floors. Otherwise it’s noisy at the front and there is a dark staircase where people (including us) have loud clanging metal gates with clunky bolts that close over the main wooden doors. No hot water and some ugly old furniture, bars on the windows and a concrete sink on the back balcony for doing laundry (by hand). Views at the back are of rusting old cars and junk, rubble piles and wet sheets and laundry hanging down from the flat upstairs. There’s a mosque opposite (quite silent so far!) but a church hall next door where exuberant singing and preaching often start at 0600. We contribute to a smiling security guard aptly named Confianca (confidence!) who seems to live 24/7 in the doorway outside with a battered chair. He also sells top up cards for mobile phones (including to us).
The UN and embassy people tend to live in big villas with gardens near the Avenida Marginal that runs parallel to the sea. They live behind high walls with razor wire running through the bougainvilla and armed guards sitting outside looking lackadaisical. You can see from higher up that these houses have gorgeous ocean views from their roof terraces.
As I have explored around the city, I have seen that most of the streets are named after erstwhile socialist and communist revolutionaries. The main avenues bear the names of Mao Tse Tung, Vladimir Lenine, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Ho Chi Minh and of course Mozambique’s own Av Samora Machel.
There are also roads named after leaders that Frelimo may feel less proud of today: Av Ahmed Sekou Toure (Guinea’s notorious dictator), Mohamed Siad Barre (Somalia’s former dictator), Praca Roberto Mugabe (Zimbabwe) – also known as Robber Mugabe Square due to the pickpockets around there.
African freedom fighters are remembered with Av Amilcar Cabral (Guinea Bissau), Av Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Av Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Av Agostinho Neto (Angola), and statesmen such as Av Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Rua Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Av Albert Luthuli (South Africa).
There’s even Av Kim Il Sung (North Korea), Salvador Allende (Chile) and Av Olof Palme (Sweden)… Interestingly Av Fidel Castro is consipicuous by its absence… but it’s probably a posthumous honour and no doubt the location has already been decided.
Meanwhile the market (capitalist) economy proceeds apace while these guys turn in their graves and the street signs rust. Hawkers and vendors fill every pavement (together with cars, lovingly soaped over every day), so that pedestrians usually have to walk on the roadway. This is actually better as the walk ways are full of holes of different depths and treachery, that are often hidden in the shade of the flowering flame trees that line most streets and provide welcome relief from the heat.
I’m starting to get into work, but more of that in another posting.