Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Internship Update

Hello everyone, I think I've already broken my New Year's resolution of trying to update my blog more often. I realized I haven't posted anything since the end of February. My intership has been extended so I'm going to be with MEDA at least until the end of April. There's also an opportunity for another extension but the job is in Nampula. I've been considering it because Northern Mozambique is really different than the south and I think it would be a really great experience to go up there. I'm also trying to look for something more permanent so I can stay for a while. I decided I'm not ready to go back to Canada. I figure I've been wanting to come to Africa and work for so long, it seems like a shame to pack up and go home after I've only been here for 7 months.

I'm really excited because my parents are coming for a visit. They arrive on Thursday afternoon and I think right about now as I'm typing this, they are at the airport in Edmonton to head out on their journey. It's a pretty long trip, I think my trip here was about 30 hours, including all the airport stops etc. My parents were smart though, they're heading to Atlanta today then will stay overnight and fly out to Maputo tomorrow morning. I think that's definitely a better route to go, get a bit of a break in Atlanta. I've put together a jam packed itinerary, including heading up to Tofo, snorkelling with whalesharks, hanging out on the beach, going to Kruger Park in S. Africa, and spending some time around Maputo. Plus we're going to take a couple of days in the countryside looking at the agriculture and stay in a village. I was hoping to get a bit more time in the villages but we've only got two weeks. We'll get lots of village experience driving around Southern Mozambique anyway, so they'll at least get an idea about the state of things. I should have lots of pictures and things to post after we get back from our trip so I promise I'll put some up!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Living In Paradise: Part II

Paulo and I decided to go to Tofo for the long weekend in February. His boss has a house there and she offered it to us for free so we figured we couldn't pass up the chance. Tofo is one of the many beautiful beaches around the city of Inhambane. The area is considered to be one of the last "untouched" paradises left in the world. I have heard so much about it since I arrived in Mozambique so I was really excited about going!!

We left early on Friday morning, around 7 o'clock am, to a bit of drizzle in Maputo. It wasn't looking super great for the weekend but it didn't stop us. We headed out of town knowing that although the distance from Maputo to Inhambane City is only about 460 km, due to the road conditions after Xai-Xai, it can take upwards of 7 or 8 hours to get to Inhambane City. The projects to improve the road system in Mozambique are ongoing but unfortunately many of the roads, especially as you head further north, are still in a sorry state. This is not helped by the fact that there always seems to be some sort of disaster that people are trying to clean up after. This year there was a lot of flooding around Inhambane which wreaked havoc on the highway. We cruised until about an hour after we passed Xai-Xai then it really slowed down until at some points, we had to drive beside the highway in the dirt because the holes in the road were so big they could swallow the car!! And although not always posted, the speed limit through the villages is 40km/hr and the police are always there to stricly enforce the rules. It's a bit unfortunate because there's no such thing as a freeway here and there are villages all along the highway so every five minutes, you have to slow down to 40.


Needless to say, we got to Tofo with plenty of time to get settled in and go to the beach for the afternoon. The weather was beautiful and the beach was just incredible. The sand was really fine and soft but the best part was that the water was a nice temperature and the waves were just big enough so you could bob around a bit but you didn't have to worry about getting smashed into the sand (this has happened to me before and let me tell you, it is not fun). We had a great time swimming and lounging around. This time of year is the lowest season so the beach was pretty empty except for a few backpackers and some locals. We brought some food but we decided to support the locals so we bought some fruits and vegetables, things like that. Things are a bit pricier because it is such a tourist area but we managed to get some good deals. There are also some restaurants around, one in particular that we passed on our way to and from the beach that always smelled delicious, but they were a bit expensive and we were trying to economize so we just passed by. If I go again, I'm definitely going to stop in.
Since we were only in Inhambane for the weekend, we didn't bother going to any other beaches but there are lots to chose from. There's even a place near Tofo where you can snorkel right off the beach, which I plan to do with my parents when they come to visit. There are also a few companies located in Tofo that offer deep sea snorkelling and diving. Or if you prefer, there are a number of beachside huts that serve cheap Mozambican beer and liquor. There's basically something for everyone.

We also took some time to visit Inhambane city. Paulo has two half-brothers from his father's second marriage so we went to visit them and look around a bit. In typical Mozambican fashion, when we arrived there was a bit of commotion but soon we were sitting in front of a huge plate of fresh steaming butter prawns with Matapa and rice. Let me tell you, I stuffed myself that night. The city gives the impression of being a very quiet, laid-back place. It has the feel of a beach city without the huge numbers of tourists and tacky motels that you generally see in places like Florida. I really liked it. I don't think I would suffer if I was to end up doing some field work in Inhambane.

On Sunday morning, we met up with Paulo's brothers again and enjoyed some final hours on the beach before heading back to Maputo. I had been eyeing up some skirts that a few guys were selling so I decided to stop and find out how much they were. Of course the price quoted was ridiculous so I bargained hard until I got the price I wanted. As I was paying, the guys said to Paulo a bit grudgingly, You'll never have to worry about this one, that's for sure!! We just chuckled. I thought it was a testament to my bargaining skills, although a tad chauvanistic. We packed up our stuff and headed into Inhambane to drop off Paulo's brothers. Their mom had prepared another delicious meal of chicken, matapa, coconut rice, and a really nice avocado dessert that I don't know the name of but is very popular here. We didn't end up leaving until almost 2 pm, which wasn't the best planning because it's not very safe to drive after dark, but we managed to get past Xai-Xai to the good highway before the sun went down so the drive back to Maputo was pretty uneventful. We arrived tired and a bit sunburned but all in all, it was a really terrific weekend. I would recommend Tofo to anyone who is visiting Mozambique.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Living In Paradise: Part I

The last two weekends, Paulo and I have visited some of the popular beaches in the area. I haven't had a chance to get away from the city much so I was really excited. Last weekend we went to Macaneta, which is about 45 min. from Maputo. In order to get to the beach, we had to drive through the village of Marracuene to a ferry dock. From there, if you have a 4X4, you can take the ferry across then drive the 10 or so miles to the beach. If you don't have a 4X4, you can take a small boat down the river to the beach. Unfortunately due to some mixed information, we thought we could take the ferry across and walk to the beach. We started walking and realized quickly that we were nowhere near the beach but luckily some kind Mozambicans stopped and offered us a ride. The road was pretty rough but we finally got to Macaneta Lodge, which is a really neat little place with a restaurant and a number of cottages right on the dunes next to the beach. We walked over the dunes and the view was one of the most spectacular I've ever seen. The beach was absolutely stunning. There is a river that runs on one side and the ocean is on the other side so the scenery is really beautiful. It was pretty empty, with only a few families here and there. We found some nice shade under some trees and laid out the mats and our snacks. The sand was so hot we almost burned our feet when we tried walking barefoot.
The water was really nice too, but I found the waves were a bit large, especially for Paulo's daughter Shelly. We had a really good time though, playing in the waves and snacking all day. I got a bit of a sunburn but I try to be really diligent with the sunscreen because I burn so easily and I look like a lobster afterwards and I'm not sure what's worse, being pasty white or lobster red. Maybe one of these days I'll actually get a tan...



Monday, January 23, 2006

Reflections

I've been in Mozambique for 5 months now and I can hardly believe how fast the time has gone by. For the most part, I've really enjoyed living here. I think Mozambique is a beautiful country with a lot of potential. The city of Maputo is pretty run down and dirty but the wide boulevards and beautiful coastline provide for some spectacular scenery. It is easy to imagaine how it looked in the hey days of colonialism, before Independence and civil war ravaged through the country.

I've also realized just how good life in Canada really is (I mean, I already knew that, but really, the gap between a country like Mozambique and Canada is absolutely gigantic). To many people living in Mozambique, even in Maputo, running water and electricity are luxuries that are simply inaccessible. Stuff like piles of garbage in the streets and potholes the size of small cars, things that Canadians would be screaming about, are a reality of life here. I think most people figure, What's the point in complaining, nobody will listen. But there are also smaller things that really improve the quality of life in Canada that I didn't even think about before I came here. For example, pretty much every city in Canada has a Parks and Recreation department that manages public facilities like swimming pools, parks, tennis courts etc. which are available to anyone. There are bike paths and playgrounds for children which provide an opportunity for people to get out and enjoy themselves. Here in Mozambique, the majority of facilities are found at hotels and private clubs, which makes them out of reach for many Mozambicans. There are no public parks to spend time in, at least not any that are really safe and clean. I didn't realize how much of an impact stuff like that has on a person's quality of life until I came to a place that doesn't have it.

Another big thing that I've had to get used to is the issue of safety. I can't walk out at night by myself and even in a group, it is not safe to walk out past about 8:00 pm. People do it but most everyone I know has been robbed at least once. The most beautiful areas of the city, down by the marginal along the coast and the beaches near Costa da Sol, are also the most dangerous so it's difficult to enjoy them. During the day, most areas are ok and I've spent a number of Saturdays walking along the beach but to be honest, I wouldn't feel comfortable going down there without a local or a small group. It's really unfortunate because the majority of Mozambicans are just trying to live their lives and I don't think most realize what they are missing in not being able to just head out for a walk along the water or spend an evening hanging out on the beach. For them it's a fact of life but sometimes I get these feelings of claustrophobia and being cooped up because I've never lived somewhere where my movements are so restricted. One thing I consider though, is that if I lived in a big city in the U.S. or even some areas in Canadian cities, I would be faced with the same safety issues. I've just been lucky enough to live in cities where this isn't a big problem.

I've always been an advocate of socialized medicine and my experience here has made my feelings even stronger. In Mozambique, you can get good care but you have to pay for it. Thankfully I have insurance through my job but many people do not. I've had to go to the doctor a number of times for various ailments including food poisoning, drinking bad water, and more recently I had to visit the gynecologist for a problem I developed. Thankfully, all of these things were taken care of but I have spent a lot of money in the process. And let me tell you, it is not fun to go to the doctor feeling really crappy and find out you don't have enough cash to cover the bill so before you can treatment, you have to run to a bank machine to get more because most places run on a cash-only basis. This happened to me once because I didn't anticipate having to get so many tests done (which I still don't think were necessary but I figure the doctor was trying to milk me for more money because he took three vials of blood for a suspected bladder infection, but anyway...). I asked my Mozambican friends, What do people do here when they can't pay? Because the amount I've spent on doctor's visits and tests etc is more than a lot of people here make in a year and believe me, you don't get any service until after you pay. They told me that you can go the the hospital and there's an area for public healthcare but generally people have to wait up to 3 months to see a doctor, regardless of how sick they are, and a lot of times people die before they get in to see the doctor. I don't know how people can try to build any kind of a life and raise a family when something so basic as healthcare is accessible to only a few. My experiences here have re-inforced my opinion that although the Canadian system has its problems that need to be addressed, universal healthcare is something that should be cherished and never taken for granted.

Reading back on what I've written so far, it sounds like I'm complaining a lot but to be honest, most of the stuff I've encountered here hasn't been a surprise to me. I kind of expected it but it still takes some time to adjust to. It hasn't changed my feelings of wanting to stay longer. I can't really explain what the pull is but I've always wanted to come work in Africa. With this internship, I feel like I've just been able to get my feet wet so I hope I will be able to find another job and continue working here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Year's in Mozambique

If there's one thing the Mozambicans know how to do, it's party!! These people, no matter how young or old, know how to whoop it up like it's nobody's business. For New Year's, Paulo and I decided to go to a dinner and dance downtown hosted by the sister of a friend of ours. The tickets were pretty reasonable, 250,000MT which is about $12CDN. This included a meal and dancing, plus fireworks at midnight. Although the tickets said 8:00pm, according to Mozambican time the party didn't really start until around midnight. We arrived at about 10:45pm. There was a band playing traditional songs plus some more modern music and a large buffet with a mix of traditional dishes and a few asian and middle eastern dishes. The crowd was mostly Mozambican but there were a few ex-pats and others so I wasn't the only whitey. I found out that not only are you expected to drink your weight in alcohol, you're expected to stay until the party ends, at around 5am the next morning. Unfortunately, I was not able to hold out for that long so we ended up leaving at around 3am. Even at that time, Paulo was busy sending and receiving text messages and phone calls from friends and family, wishing eachother a Happy New Year. I just had to shake my head in wonder at their stamina!!
I decided to get out of the city for a few days so on New Year's Day I headed to Mbabane, Swaziland. Unfortunately, I missed the last chapa heading across the border so Paulo very generously offered to drive me to the Mozambique/Swazi border and from there I caught a bus to Manzini, which is one of two major centers in Swazi. I had hoped to get a bit of sleep on the way but I don't know what made me think that would be possible. The bus was pretty full and a popular gospel group was blaring from the stero at the front of the bus. Being the only white person, I got a lot of looks and stares and for some reason people couldn't resist sitting beside me and talking to me, even though I had my eyes closed pretending to sleep for most of the journey. One guy in particular sat down, informing me that he was only "half-drunk not full-drunk", then proceeded to talk to me for the next 2.5 hrs. The bus stopped about every 20 minutes to pick people up so what would normally be a 1 hr trip turned into 5 hours. The half-drunk guy told me that his mom was Swazi while his dad was Scottish, so that made him half-white and part of my tribe. I asked him what his last name was and he told me Hamilton. I said, Yes, that's a very Scottish name.

I have to say that the journey was very interesting and allowed me to see a lot of Swaziland, which is an absolutely beautiful place. Swaziland only has about 1 million people and is run by a traditional monarchy that is very oppressive and totalitarian. The aids rate is shockingly high, around 50% in some areas. In terms of infrastructure and cleanliness, however, it was like night and day crossing the border. The public transit system is in much better condition and even though the big buses are old, they can still go down the highway at a regular speed without looking like the whole thing is going to split in two or one of the axles is going to fall off at any moment. Many of the chapas, or combis as they're called, are new and in excellent condition. I thought I was in heaven when I caught the combi from Manzini to Mbabane. The cities are much cleaner and it is visible that the poverty isn't nearly as great as it is in Mozambique.

I stayed at Grifters Lodge, which was run by two guys who mostly spent their days smoking pot as well as the girlfriend of one of the guys. The place was really clean and everyone was helpful in showing me where to go and what places to check out. What I really wanted to do was a bit of hiking because most of Swazi is just huge lush hills (everyone calls them mountains but after living 1 hr away from the Rockies, I can't bring myself to call them mountains...) with villages carved into the hillsides. I was pared up with an older englishman who spends 3-4 months out of the year travelling and the rest of the time teaching primary school in England. He has been to all but 6 countries in Africa so we had a really interesting visit on our hike. He told me lots of stories and had some good advice about being in Africa. I was happy to have met him because in general, I met a lot of younger people who were backpacking around Southern Africa who I found spent a lot of time trying really hard to be these "really cool backpacker types". Everyone spent a lot of time trying to one-up eachother on where they've travelled etc. I always find that kind of thing a bit silly.

Note to my parents, please don't let this next paragraph influence your decision to come visit me...

Unfortunately, I only had a couple of days in Swazi before I had to head back to Mozambique and start work again. I caught a chapa in Manzini that was headed for Maputo and reality set in really quickly. The chapa we were riding in didn't look too bad from the outside but I realized when we had to get a push-start out of the parking lot that it was going to be a long day. I was riding in the front with a Scottish guy and the first thing we noticed was that there was no dash underneath so the whole ride we were blasted with hot air coming from the engine, as well as what I'm sure was an unhealthy amount of carbon monoxide. It was a bit torturous, considering that it was almost 40 degrees outside. The other thing I quickly discovered was that every time we went over a bump, the front passenger side door would scrape on the road. This was a bit unnerving, especially considering sometimes we hit bumps at speeds well over 100km/hr. As I mentioned before, Swazi is a very hilly country so our journey consisted of heading breakneck speed down the hills and then chugging up the other side, at some points almost coming to a stop at the top. Sometimes the driver would pull over and get out his wrench to adjust something on the passenger side and give it a kick. The Scotsman and I were not able to figure out what he was doing and I think the Scotsman was a bit terrified. He had spent his time so far travelling around S. Africa and Swazi and was headed up to Mozambique then to Malawi. I asked him why he didn't leave S. Africa and Swazi until the last arm of his trip? He said he was starting to realize that maybe he should have done that. Haa haa, I just told him a bit smugly, Welcome to Africa!! Needless to say, we arrived safe and sound in downtown Maputo, hot and a bit high from all the engine fumes. I plan to head over to Swazi again when I have a few more days to do some more hiking and take in some of the shopping. Although I think I might try to arrange a different mode of transport for the trip back...

Christmas in Mozambique

This is the first year that I wasn't able to make it home for Christmas. I knew that I would feel pretty homesick being away from my family because for me, Christmas is one of the best times of the year. My family is fairly low-key when it comes to gifts and all the hoopla that surrounds the season but we always have a really great time. Although the gifts are always good, it's more about spending time together, eating a lot, playing board games, and generally just relaxing and enjoying each other's company. This year, my family planned a trip to Big White, which is a ski resort near Kelowna, B.C., and the first thing my sister said to me when I told her in July that I was moving to Mozambique was "You're going to miss Christmas!!"

I decided that even though I'm in Mozambique and away from my family, I have to make the best of it. After all, how often do you get to spend a christmas holiday in a beautiful, tropical country? Unfortunately, my stomach felt differently and I ended up getting sick the whole week leading up to Christmas. Somehow I had managed to drink some bad water which left quite an impression on my intestines. I had planned to buy a christmas tree and decorate the apartment a bit but spent most of the week running to the bathroom so when Christmas Eve came, there wasn't a decoration in sight around our apartment. On the streets of Maputo, there was a bit of display here and there (like the Christmas elephant/festive safari scene in the Polana Shopping Center) but in general, you wouldn't know by looking that it was Christmas. Here in Mozambique, although there are a lot of christians and Christmas is celebrated by many, there just isn't money for the massive displays of consumerism that you see in North America. My parents told me they had seen on the news it was estimated that Canadians were going to spend about 14 billion dollars this Christmas season. I'm pretty sure that's bigger than the budget for the entire Mozambican government!!

Thankfully my stomach started to feel better by Christmas Eve so Jared and I decided to have a small Christmas dinner. We headed to Shoprite, which is one of the S. African grocery chains here in Maputo, but were downright shocked at the huge lineups and people trying to push their way around the packed store. I thought, aaahhh, finally the sounds of Christmas. Since at that time we had not discovered yet how to turn on our oven, (it's a gas oven and a bit tricky, the landlady just showed us how it worked last week...) I had to think of something that could be cooked on the stove that we could also find the ingredients for at the last minute. I decided on a Middle Eastern theme, well, sort of Middle Eastern. I made butter chicken, a lebanese beef dish, taboulee salad, cous cous, garlic pita, and for desert, I splurged and bought a giant chocolate cake at the super-expensive ex-pat grocery store down near the beach. We invited Josie, a friend of Jared's who is travelling around Mozambique, my friend Paulo (who is absent in the picture because he often runs on Mozambican time...), and the guard for our aparment, Alexis.

In order to celebrate the season, Jared, Paulo, and I decided to go to the huge Catholic Cathedral in Maputo on Christmas Eve. I was in the mood for some caroling and was also curious about the type of service that would be held here in Mozambique. The cathedral was full of people and I think Jared and I were the only molungos in the whole place. It was really hot so we sweated through the service. Thank goodness for the fans placed throughout the church!! The service was a mix of portuguese and shangana, which is one of the local Mozambican dialects. We heard some classics, including Hark the Harold Angels Sing and Angels We Have Heard on High, as well as a lot songs in shangana. Although I didn't really understand the service, it was still a really nice way to spend Christmas Eve.

I was also invited to a Christmas lunch at Paulo's house. His mom was hosting a lunch and she made tons of food, mostly traditional Mozambican cuisine. We had salads, some fish dishes, Mathapa, and a bunch of different stews. There were lots of people there but the conversation was mostly in portuguese so I tried my best to follow. The food was delicious and I appreciated being included in the celebration.

I have to admit, on Christmas Day I was a bit of a sorry sight and when someone put on the cd White Christmas, I got a bit teary-eyed. Jared and I were both feeling a bit sorry for ourselves but tried our best to be cheery. We were practically dumbfounded when we found out that Paulo has never heard Jingle Bells!! We were both like What! You've NEVER heard Jingle Bells!! So of course we had to sing it for him, really loudly, in our kitchen. All-in-all, we had a nice Christmas but I think we were both thinking about our families and Christmas in Canada. It just didn't feel the same without snow and cheesy remakes of christmas classics by pop stars playing on the radio. I think that next year, no matter where I am in the world, I'm going to try my hardest to make it home for Christmas!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Village Life: Part 4

I went up to Inhambane to look at the VETAID projects and get a general idea about the type of work being done. I visited the Maxixe office and met the VETAID project staff. It was a bit difficult due to my lack of portuguese and their lack of english but we were able to communicate well enough that I got a good introduction to the projects. I spent about three days touring around to different project areas and talking to local farmers. Two major initiatives are vaccinations and improving agriculture production so we visited some sites where corrals have been build to pen cattle for vaccinations and other treatments. We also visited some large community gardens and it was really fun because I found the farmers were very proud to show me around and explain what they were growing and what kinds of problems they were experiencing.


I went to one community garden project which was being managed by a woman, I think the only one as of yet. Although she didn't speak much portuguese and no english, for some reason we really hit it off. It turned out that we have the same name, Catherine, pronounced Katereen in Portuguese. She introduced me to other ladies living in the village and showed me around her gardens. Before I left, she dug up a cassava tree and gave me a huge bunch of cassava. We also shared the traditional Mozambican handshake where you shake once, then change your hand position in a sort of embrace, then shake again. I think if we would have been able to communicate better, we would have had a nice chat.



I really enjoyed my visit to Maxixe. It's a pretty small place with hardly any services. Most tourists just stop there on the way to some resort or beach so it doesn't have much in terms of entertainment and restaurants but the atmosphere and attitude of the people really gave me a good feeling. I enjoyed talking to people because most were friendly and open, especially in the villages, plus the security issues aren't as great as they are in Maputo. When I walked to and from the hotel during the day, I didn't feel like I had to constantly have my guard up. Not to say that I didn't have to be aware because you should never let your guard down anywhere and even the beaches around there wouldn't be safe for me to go to by myself. But the atmosphere is just more relaxed and it was a nice change from Maputo, plus you can't beat the absolutely beautiful view of the beaches and the city of Inhambane on the other side of the bay. I hope to go up there again and check out the beaches and do some snorkelling. I would also like to visit the projects again before I leave, now that I've been working and have a better understanding about what is going on.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Village Life: Part 3

After getting back from Gaza, I went up to the other VETIAD project area, located in Inhambane. Inhambane is one of the largest and most popular tourist areas in Mozambique and it's a hotspot for South Africans. The beaches are beautiful and there's lots of snorkelling, swimming, diving, all kinds of things to do. The drive up was really beautiful and very different from driving to Massengena. There are a lot more people and villages so it's not nearly as isolated and the highway more or less follows the coast so it's more tropical and fertile. The drive up was fairly uneventful, thank goodness. Although the highways are being improved so there aren't potholes the size of small vehicles everywhere, you still have to watch out for other vehicles, crazy Chappa drivers, and people walking along the highway. It was a bit crazy at first to see so many people, especially small kids, walking along the highway with big trucks whizzing by at 120km/hr. It's not uncommon for people to get hit, especially at night when many vehicles don't have headlights or tail lights. Drivers in Mozambique like to use what I call the "third lane". Generally vehicles don't worry too much about whether or not there is oncoming traffic when they pass on the highway. The oncoming car and the car being passed are expected to move onto the shoulder far enough that the overtaking car has enough room to pass, essentially creating a third lane. You can imagine what happens when one of the cars doesn't move over or there happens to be a pedestrian on the shoulder...

The timing of my visit was really good because VETAID was presenting a bunch of goats to one of the project villages and there was a big promoter graduation so the village had planned a whole day of festivities. District and government officials were scheduled to attend and even the local Mozambican tv station, TVM in Maputo, had sent a crew up to film the event. The host of the event works for the tv station and he grew up in the village so it was a good chance for him to showcase the village and the programs currently operating, like the VETAID project. When I got there in the morning, things were just getting started. I ended up walking around and talking to people (well, more like gesturing) and taking tons of pictures. It was really cool because the women were preparing the meal so they had all their cooking stuff out and were happy to show me around and demonstrate what they were doing. As usual, I was mobbed by tons of kids hoping to get their pictures taken.

One of the main attractions of the day was a showcase of traditional dancing by groups of young boys and men from the village and surrounding areas. It was absolutely incredible dancing, I was just amazed. I can't even describe the style but it was just awesome. I thought it was unfortunate that the women were not included because they had really awesome moves too so I ended up coaxing a group of women to dance and I filmed them with my digital camera. I also tried to join in but I don't think I got it quite right. The women were basically doubled over laughing at my attempt but it was still fun to try. And I ended up sitting in the VIP tent with all the dignitaries and village elders and apparently made it onto the Maputo evening news on TVM. I didn't get to see it but other people in the office did and someone taped it, athough I haven't been able to watch it yet. If I had known I would be making my Mozambique television debut, I would have brushed my hair a bit more and worn someone else other than a grey tanktop that kept shifting around, but oh well, that's the way it goes.

I felt really honored to be part of the festivities. I met lots of people, including the host of the event that works for TVM. He is trying to promote his village and I mentioned that my parents are thinking of coming for a visit in March so he offered to show me around the beaches and sights in the area. The beaches around his village are supposedly some of the best in Mozambique so I might take up his offer some time. I also met some local politicians and government representatives, which is always interesting and useful for the type of work that I'm doing here. I had an opportunity to discuss some of the problems plaguing the agriculture industry in the area and understand more about difficulties facing the villages. This has gone a long way to provide a frame of reference for the research I've done since getting back to Maputo. After a long day of eating, dancing, and laughing, plus finally with a bit of sun on my white "milkshake" skin (as someone referred to it after seeing me in shorts and a bathing suit last weekend), I continued onto Maxixe, tired but extremely satisfied. I think that was one of the most enjoyable days I've had since coming to Mozambique.