Friday, July 27, 2012

Bem Vindo e Pemba

Sunset over Pemba

We landed in the dark so who knew what our first morning would hold when we woke up in the Aga Khan Foundation guesthouse and saw Pemba in sunlight?  Luckily the sun rises at 5am as we had no power or water when we stumbled out of the house, but that became a minor issue as we walked across the road onto Wimbe beach. 

One of the Makonde arts and crafts centres

Sunday beach day
Usually accompanied by intense soccer games
Wimbe beach winds along the giant bay of Pemba and is about 5 kilometres from Pemba town centre. It is a mix of restaurants, beach houses, hotels and a crowd of tourists, expatriate workers, and locals.  Pemba is the capital of Cabo Delgado province (population of about 2 million) which is the most northeasterly province in Mozambique and is situated on a semi enclosed natural harbor and coral reef. 

I have quickly learned how important it will be to become proficient in Portuguese (with 
some of the local eMakua thrown in as well).  I would have loved to have seen Pemba years ago when the buildings were freshly plastered and the painted houses were still brightly coloured as it is now a mix of feeling left behind in time with potholed roads and the ghosts of aging structures, but also an influx of money from oil companies and NGOs. 

During that first day, doing anything but stare was difficult as I was incredibly overstimulated by the ambush of new sights, smells, and sounds. But I also sat staring at familiar labels from South Africa and realized my excitement at being back in the land of imaginary seatbelts, Coke in glass bottles, buying anything on the street, babies on mothers’ backs, and new languages floating above my head. And who knew that I would have the same South African music on my iPod as was being pumped from the cars parked along the beach?

Although we intended to get groceries, our jet lag delayed us and we ended up empty handed, but we did have our first official ride in a chapa. The chapa is similar to the minibus taxi in South Africa except for the fact that they are never full. Even when the door can’t close and the guy collecting money is hanging out the window. At our fullest, Riaz counted around 18 in the van – I couldn’t see because of the small child that got placed on my lap while I balanced myself backward on the front wheel well and tried not to get elbowed in the face or my foot caught in the door that was about to fall off.
Up to the left of the beach and road on our drive to work
Baobab trees in the distance
I may never get used to the number of automatic rifles that just are just hanging around, from police officers to house guards, but I do like the new sights of boys climbing coconut trees, roast chicken and chips, the days when I catch the blink of an eye sunset, having a constant layer of sand and salt on my skin and hair from daily ocean dips, buying beer on the beach, busy Sunday beach days with soccer, vendors selling full Dairy Milk bars, markets selling everything, and women wearing the most beautiful fabric wrapped simply around their waists.

One of the neighbourhoods on our commute

The missionary compound
Young missionaries are everywhere;
do not wear long skirts or you too will be mistaken for one
It is hard not to be relaxed.  Of course there are frequent moments of frustration or homesickness when I wish I was fluent in Portuguese, could find yogurt, or when I sleep under my mosquito net and wonder if that itchy mosquito bite is THE one with malaria.  It is full of ups and downs where the small things can make all the difference.

View from the AKF Boardroom

At the same time, I am thrilled to be in a totally new world and have the opportunity to explore for the next eight months.  Welcome to a world that I have only ever seen on a map and assumed I would be probably never go.  Now any moments of frustration are countered by watching the early sunsets, swimming in the ocean, or feeling more comfortable about life works here. 

Homemade tropical schnapps?

Small baobab tree

My favourite coloured house so far
Its neighbour is tangerine

Winnipeg Jets in Pemba

I can now confirm that clothing you may have donated to the Salvation Army does end up across the ocean.  On our drive to work this morning, I saw a gentleman sporting a vintage Winnipeg Jets t-shirt.  A disappointed fan probably donated this shirt when the Jets seemed to have left the city forever, without thinking they might return.  Or else this man is the president of the Pemba branch of the Winnipeg Jets fan club.  This is just one of many jerseys and t-shirts we have seen over here and if it were polite to ask for a photo, I would love to create a collection of awesome shirts!

I apologize for the lack of photos of people; Riaz, Ashlea, and I are working on actually showing that we are in these places!  Photos of faces will be coming soon....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Beach Yoga

Yoga on the beach does not require much explanation.  Just imagine a dawn wake up call on Sunday morning to the call to prayer on the first day of Ramadan, walking down to a sandbank, and doing salutations with the Mozambican sun beating down on you.  Then, avoiding the fishermen's nets as you dive into the crystal clear ocean.

Only missed about 4 days in the ocean since arriving here.  I think I am permanently covered in a fine layer of sand and salt...

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Morning Commute

Having only ever ridden a school bus
View from the left side of our office balcony
for one year of my life, the novelty of having the Aga Khan
Foundation trucks collect us for work early each morning will not wear off soon.  Nor will our commute with the view of the Indian Ocean as we wrap around Pemba Bay and bounce up the bumpy road lined with colourful stalls and vendors and join the small army of pickup trucks decked out with emblems of other international NGOs and donors.  As we bump along, the ocean is to the right and houses and small shops line the left of the road.  We see fishermen preparing their nets and boats, women setting up their cashew and fruit stands, and children in various stages of being dressed peeking out from doorways.  With the sun rising at about 5:15am, life is in full swing when we're driving to work and even with a week in, I can barely make conversation as I observe all of the life around me.  

View from the right side of our office balcony
Indian Ocean in the background

Monitoria e Avaliação
Although our first day was met with torrential downpour, we arrived at the Foundation compound which is a cluster of small houses and larger complexes on a plot of land.  For those from Maui, it is similar to Haleakala Waldorf School where each department’s office is its own small house with several rooms, a kitchen, and bathroom.  The most wonderful part of the offices is that every house has a large balcony with 180 degree views of Pemba Bay and the beach below, framed by tall trees.  Our office, Monitoria e Avaliação, is housed with the Habitat, Gender, and Civil Society components and after a series of introductions (and futilely trying to remember names) that first morning, it became clear that proficiency in Portuguese is the first goal.  Everyone was very friendly and interested in where we were from and in which department we were working.  It was all a bit overwhelming, but it was so nice to finally be meeting the people and seeing the offices I had imagined so much about in Ottawa.

The "bus"
Ashlea and I are still getting to know our colleagues and the rhythym of the office and how we will be a part of it.  In the meantime, I now wait on our front step for the short honks that let us know it is time for work and I am always a little disappointed when it’s time to get out of the truck.  It has become one of my favourite parts of the day.

Part of the AKF fleet
View looking down from our office

Up the road from our office towards the entrance

View from the side of the office

A few photos

I have to admit that I am a bit overwhelmed by how many photos and descriptions I would like to share about our first week in Pemba!  But let me start with a handful of initial photos from our first day here and prepare myself for more storytelling and photography!
After our first day of work
(just missed the sunset)
Wimbe Beach

Boys walk around with boxes full of chips and chocolate bars

In front of the guesthouse (our temporary home)

Street view from the guesthouse-beach is to your right

Breakfast view - beach just across the street
What happens when you have a camera