It appears that VSO volunteers are stereotyped to some extent here and in other countries. We are a varied bunch but have several things in common: always ready to make something out of nothing, looking to grab a challenge or opportunity, and always pretty skint…. The latter point is about managing the monthly allowance we get to live on.
Maputo is quite expensive, so the money doesn’t stretch far, especially as we tend to forget (as we order another cold beer or select something a bit pricier on the restaurant menu), that there’s still the electricity and water to pay for, the (pretty much obligatory) cleaning lady, as well as our share of the (totally obligatory) security guard’s pay…
But it seems that we are a British government (DFID) sponsored group that is excluded from the formal British invitation lists – here at least. However, VSO now recruits volunteers in many other countries – Holland, India, Philippines, Uganda, Canada – countries whose relations with volunteers can be quite different.
For example, our Dutch volunteer colleagues were all cordially invited to the annual celebration of their late Queen Beatrix’s birthday (the night before the royal wedding in UK)…. so they each informally brought along one or two English colleagues. We were then able to enjoy the fun dancing party that followed the speeches and singing of national anthems (not to mention the tasty Dutch cheese, herring, eel and other snacks). At this party we bumped into the British High Commissioner, who was suddenly prompted by a fellow Dutch diplomat into inviting a few of us vols to the royal wedding celebration to be held the following day in Maputo.
So just when I thought I had totally escaped the royal hype, there was the possibility of going into that gorgeous British High Commission garden with its massive mango trees and white colonial mansion that I had seen many times from the street (Avenida Vladimir Lenine, corner with Avenida Ho Chi Minh). However, the following day after the Dutch party I had the worst hangover in 20 years, and thought I would give it a miss, until peer pressure got me and my banging head up from a supine position and into some presentable gladrags by noon.
So I ended up seeing (some of) the royal wedding ceremony on the screens set up under said mango trees, together with a few hundred other guests, hearing the formal speeches and partaking of the rare beef cooked to perfection on huge spits. There was also (oh memory of school lunches!) bread & butter pudding and apple crumble & custard to pour over it all. A truly English gastronomic memory trip.
So in true VSO style the royal wedding opportunity was grabbed and maybe as a result a few more positive international relations fostered – albeit at an informal and individual level!