My situation here is now more or less settled, but not at all routine. I’ve been doing Portuguese language classes most days (reviving what I’d forgotten from Brazil 20 + years ago – at that time all without books or teacher). Now I’m speaking a fairly easy brasilo-mozambican ‘portugnol’ and can more or less manage anything informal, and mostly OK in work meetings too. I listen to Radio Mozambique and other stations – a lot of phone-ins, pastors saving souls and some great music.
I’m working under the Ministry of Youth and Sports with some youth NGOs with a view to organising systems to enable young people to get vocational training and find paid work or get into self-employment or entrepreneurial activity.
The Ministry has an ambitious national plan for us to implement, starting in Maputo and Beira, and I fear it may be difficult to get funding for most of it. We’ll be setting up a first ‘job centre’ within an arts and crafts establishment where some space has been provided… step by step. Nothing is easy, the Ministry assures us there is money as they are hugely concerned about the youth (a massive % of the national population is under 18). But when will that be? We’ll be going to the commercial companies to ask for donations of computers, furniture, internet wiring – also possibly to the embassies for their locally administered funds.
One thing I’m supposed to do is design a national monitoring and evaluation system for this grand project. That feels like a ‘cloud nine’ idea right now. I’ve never worked directly for ‘the Government’ before, and this was my main apprehension about this job…. But the young people are great and smart and want to go places and make it work.
As everywhere, governments and large organisations move in mysterious ways, and I think over the years I have learnt something about ambiguity. There are many agendas (official/public, national, provincial, unofficial, personal, political, ‘tribal’ and so on) and all these weave into the complex fabric of WORK, where the outsider has to try to pick a trail and contribute to something useful.
As in all the African countries I know first hand, hierarchy is all, and unquestioning obedience and deference are paid to high/er position, irrespective of how the incumbent came to that senior post or her/his in/competence in it. The size of the car, and even the belly in ‘thin’ countries, are also indicators of rank and provoke a similar response .
Taking initiative is a dangerous practice that might upset the balance and even lose you your job. This explains the many employees to be seen at their desks reading and rereading the newspaper all day long, while in the (pretty free) press here, letters to the editor complain about paying salaries to oversized bureaucracies (reminds me of Humphrey’s defence of the payroll in Yes Minister!).
I’m having a fun social life – it’s like being a graduate again! Sharing a flat with two other women, also VSO vols. One will move out soon to escape the all night karaoke bar opposite. There’s not a massive amount of traffic on our main road, but the sound seems to reverberate and amplify around the concrete.
There’s a vibrant cultural life in Maputo – live music, theatre, films, theatre, dance etc. The French cultural centre runs all kinds of things (recently a film festival, art and photo exhibitions, music and dance performances). The Portuguese and Brazilian cultural centres also organise events, but not the Brits, who seem confined to trade and diplomacy.
There are are a lot of affordable (and unaffordable) restaurants and street side cafes to eat, drink beer and chill out. Some favourite bars are ‘barracas’ (revamped shipping containers) that specialise in chilled draught beer and simple food.
Unfortunately clean and swimmable beaches are quite far away, public transport is overcrowded and the roads bad… so there has not been much chance to travel yet (domestic flights are absurdly expensive)… except locally around the province of Maputo that stretches around the city.
Some beach front places right near the city are security risk areas – you have to be in a car to go down there. I long to stroll along the palm fringed shore – but that would be tantamount to inviting a mugging or worse. A few of us have already had phones and wallets grabbed (not me). So the thing is not to carry a handbag, especially after dark, but stuff all essentials (cash, mobile, keys, ID) down the bra. So we girls on foot (including local ladies) sometimes look a bit lumpy front view!
Now I’ve got used to not always having internet…. I don’t have an office base or proper workstation with internet provision (others do), only a dongle I bought that eats up the pre-paid credit quite fast. The connection is also quite unstable, so I prepare emails in Word off line then paste them in fast when I get on line.
The weather here is now like a good English summer – mostly clear blue skies, bright warm sun and chilly after sunset (need a sweater and even socks in bed at night). Of course the local people say they’re frozen in this ‘winter weather’ and some wear balaclavas, woolly scarves and bulky jackets. Most have never felt the real cold of the northern hemisphere.