Friday, August 31, 2012

Excuse me, where does the line start?

Having experienced the extremes of Canadian and Mozambican government offices in the last two months, I still do not know which is more efficient.  Is it the one with the number system, absolute silence, and lingering feeling that you are about to be scolded for not bringing the correct document?  Or is it the one where the directions for finding the office include the “place where there are too many people waiting”, where you walk into a horde of people pushing towards the front desk, and hand over your passport photocopy in random order with the hope that the floating hand grabbing it and your money knows what you want? 

Riaz, Ashlea, and I finally organized notarized copies of our passports and visas as the Mozambican police force is notorious for detaining you to see documentation and cushion their salaries.  In our first direct experience with the Mozambican bureaucracy, we were polite Canadians looking for the end of the line to stand in.  But we relented to the jostling crowd and tried to find some logic in the mayhem, a frequent activity here. We watched the photocopies make their way from one woman who took the money, to another woman who stapled the papers together, to another desk where it was given a stamp, finally to a man who signed it, and then put in one of the many stacks of paper leaning haphazardly on the counter.  At that stage, you wait for your name to be called and then grab your stamped paper.  You better hope you are paying attention and do not miss your name being called.  At one point, three staff members were calling out names but luckily Elisabeth Hamilton is easy to pick out of the Ricardinhas, Bernardos, Fatimas, Manuelas, and Fernandos. 

At the end of our visit, I think it actually might have been quicker than the Canadian government system, although because of my height, there was a lot more of my head in people’s armpits-not the most pleasant after waiting in a crowded non air-conditioned office for 30 minutes in tropical mid-day heat.  But like many other things that do not seem to make sense initially, there was a system and we ended up with what we needed which will hopefully avoid any run-ins with the police and a blog post about the inefficiency of the Mozambican prison system. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Feet in Solidarity

You know when you buy something new and all of a sudden, it is all you can see?  Same with a mataquenha or invasive mango worm (please note the correct spelling).  All of a sudden, I feel like I discuss mataquenha on a daily basis including an article in the national newspaper today that specifically discussed the plague of mataquenha afflicting the population of Pemba!  It was not just me!  The health sector of Aga Khan Foundation Mozambique is offering its support in the campaign and if they need a spokeswoman, I am happy to oblige. 

La famosa mataquenha

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

That's One Way to Spend a Sunday

Our private courtyard
On Sunday, Ashlea and I were invited to accompany Riaz and another bank staff on a day trip to Montepuez while they met with a client.  Always keen for a road trip, we jumped in the pick up with dreams of hidden arts and crafts markets to keep us busy.  Montepuez is one of the further points west of Cabo Delgado province and is essentially run by the ruby mines and cotton company.

After a busy Friday and Saturday night, by the time we got to Montepuez, the two of us ended up having coffee in a giant courtyard with a tiny church, playground and abandoned plane, all of which looked like it had last been touched up in the 1960s.  In usual Mozambican fashion, we had a photo shoot around these random objects while we worked up the energy to find the markets.

Realizing that Montepuez was not the craft mecca I had built up in my head, we still browsed through the market and received the usual chorus of "hey sista, hey mama, hey tia" or the more direct kissign and whistling sound that accompany us without Riaz.  With a thick layer of dust covering us, we met up with Riaz and his colleague at another outdoor restaurant which also featured an abandoned pool.  Wanting to continue our theme of non functional things in Montepuez, we jumped at the chance to lie in an abandoned pool together, however our creative vision was lost in translation and not quite captured by the photographer.  At least we have some group photos and the knowledge that all three of us are willing to basically do anything!  Some of our photo shoot gems...

No explanation for the abandoned airplane sponspored
by a local cellphone company that is
lying in the playground and church yard

When in Montepuez...

Totally up to playground safety standards

When our photographic vision actually made sense
But just looks like we are lying on concrete

Two people who also thought it would be cool to lie in an abandoned pool

Monday, August 27, 2012

Oh, that's why you keep the door closed

I always wondered why the glass doors connecting our office to the patio overlooking the ocean were closed and why I was told to be careful if I left them open.

This is why:

Vervet monkeys, with the infamous electric blue testicles, hang out around the office compound and sometimes venture on the railing of our balcony.  An unexpected workplace hazard...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Salaama, salaama sana

Heading out
My badge of honour of getting a matakenya (the mango worm that declared squatter's rights on my baby toe) did not stop me from finally getting into the field and on Wednesday afternoon, we were on our crowded way in the Foundation truck for the 3 hour drive to Macomia district.  We changed from a coastal landscape to a more inland setting with thicker trees and brush and mountains in the distance.  With the sun setting rapidly behind us, fires began dotting the night as houses began preparing dinner.       

Although it was pitch black, you could still see outlines of houses in the light of the fires and I finally was part of what I had seen on maps as Nancy explained that the forks in the road could take you south to Maputo or north to Tanzania.  Tima also answered the stupid question I was afraid to ask about elephants and lions roaming in the bush as we were in Quirimbas National Park.  Finally out of Pemba... 
Take away with galinha Makua
We wove through the small villages of houses constructed with carefully thatched stick frames, mud bricks to fill in the holes, and woven grass roofs.  Along the road, giant bags of charcoal were for sale as all cooking is done in outdoor cooking fires in front of the house.  When we got to the lights of the big city of Macomia, we headed straight for the Foundation guesthouse and then to the one takeaway spot where I had my first taste of galinha Makua or the local free range chicken with xima (Mozambique's version of pap which is the maize based polenta-esque staple) and a tomato chutney.  An early bedtime in anticipation of our early morning and still more driving into Guludo village. 

Guesthouse camping

Breakfast - fried dough is delicious anywhere in the world
The next morning broke bright and early for the first of two days of training.  Getting ready involved me learning the intricate system of which bucket of water was meant for what, whether for flushing the toilet, washing yourself in the tub, or rinsing yourself after.  At one point, I wasn’t sure if it I would be cleaner to wash myself in this water or just take a hiatus from showering!  At 6am, Senor Alfandiga and Nancy came in with a thermos of tea and bag of steaming apas, which are layers of fried dough that were so fresh and hot that I burned my fingers and tongue while stuffing my face.
Which bucket do I use?

Containers for bathing, toilets, rinsing food, washing cars...

Guludo village
Back in the truck and this road was much rougher but in daylight I got to see more of the houses and life around them with their machambas (home gardens) and rows of drying corn racks.  I was impressed with Senhor Alfandiga’s driving.  Although the terrain changed, his speed of 110km/hour did not which meant many moments of flying completely off the seat (I was in the middle) and head smashing on the ceiling.  Maybe I should have been scared, but it just made me giggle as we caught eyes in the rearview mirror and I tried to stop laughing.

We navigated the busy roads and passed rundown trucks absolutely packed with people and goods as well as bicycles.  I could not believe the number of bicycles and what people could carry on them.  For example, try carrying a 20 kilo bag of rice on your bike or what about a family of four all on one bike through sand?  We hit the end of the road and were on deeper sand to Guludo village where Associação Unidade is based, an artisan group working in pottery and weaving. 

Training venue with Ashlea, Nancy, and Tima

When we arrived, there was no one at the centre where Tima (a crafts facilitator) would hold the trainings.  It was still Ramadan and women were busy with chores like collecting firewood and water, but we waited patiently until women began to slowly trickle in, with babies and baskets in hand.  The training was two parts; to hold an election for positions in the artisan group and a refresher course in each person’s role and responsibilities so as to shake up the current leadership style. 

They're here! Salaama, salaama sana
Our presence drew attention (especially when recess started and we were swarmed by young children) and we quickly learned the various words for white person in a handful of languages; branca in Portuguese, mzungu in kiMwani, and kunya in eMakua.  But we also learned salaama, salaaama sana as the greeting of hello which I probably said 500 times although, as usual, it caused laughs and some sense of acceptance.  The trainings were a mixture of Portuguese and kiMwani  so I caught bits and pieces but I was fixated on the layers of fabrics on the women, all of the babies and children that were also in the meeting, and what daily life looks like in rural Mozambique.  

The new leadership-
only one male member in the
group of 30 women artisans
and he's president
Throughout the solemn proceedings of elections, babies were crying and breastfed, a few peed on the ground and it was refreshing to see how plans must adapt to the daily life.  I also found it quite telling about levels of literacy when many of those nominated for positions for the open voting process were selected mainly because they could read or write.  For some, writing and signing their names on the attendance register was done with their finger and an ink pad. 

Macacu - local pest

We also learned about universal causes for laughter.  When someone is explaining the responsibilities of a treasurer and monkeys start falling out of trees and hooting, people laugh. When someone is explaining how to fill out a sales record and someone in the crowd lets out two loud farts, people laugh. Especially when the sound comes from near the strange white woman and I’m quite sure Guludo village is still convinced I let one rip during their meeting!  

The training was short and there was no lunch as the village was fasting for Ramadan, so while we were in the meting, Senhor Alfandiga bought two rows of fresh fish which he asked a woman from the village to cook.  We pulled up to her home and snuck in through the bamboo fence where we were greeted with two large woven mats and the invitation to sit down.  A bowl and pitcher of water were passed around and I learned the etiquette of washing your hands before a meal.  The food was served; whole fried fish, boiled fish with tomato and onion and mango, a giant platter of arroz coco (coconut rice), and tomato and onion chutney.  I knew that you typically ate with your hands and I thought it would not be a problem.  I forgot the part about how the right hand is meant for eating and the left hand is meant for other activities (like cleaning yourself after using the washroom).  So, while I had used my left hand the night before with the chicken, I thought I would suck it up and try using my right hand.  Do you know what a left handed Canadian woman looks like eating rice and fish stew with her right hand?  It is what I imagine a baby getting a spoon for the first time looks like.  I think more food would have ended up in my mouth if I had just tied my hands behind my back and stuck my whole face in the bowl.  The hens pecking around us got a solid meal from the sheer amount of food that was flying around me. 
With full stomachs, we drove back to the main village to do some work but also walk around and get stared at a bit more!  The next morning to close up the training was even earlier, but this time the women brought out some of their products so I came home with a big clay cooking bowl and a woven necklace (in addition to the new Tanzanian capulana from the market).

One example of how many people
you can fit in the back of a truck

Centre of Macomia village - bundles of cassava
Our trip back to Pemba was even more eventful than the way there.  We passed by a group of hunter and their dogs with a dead bloody monkey on the ground and one on a hunter's head. It’s disconcerting when a grown man has a monkey tail dangling by the side of his ear, but we were more interested in knowing if it is legal to kill monkeys (which are Mozambique’s raccoon equivalent and ravage the crops) in Quirimbas National Park. We asked a similar question when we were stopped by a man selling a large skinned animal leg. You would think maybe a cow or big goat?  What about an impala? Just an African antelope leg for sale, just another Thursday afternoon.
We stopped at every roadside stand and market and by the time we were dropped off, the back of the truck carried 2 people, a flipchart, 5 duffel bags, 3 woven mats (one was mine!), an industrial sized bag of charcoal, a 20 kilo sack of rice, 2 bundles of cassava, bags of vegetables, and 2 live chickens.  Like the 12 Days of Christmas.  
The trip was a great introduction to another side of Mozambique and something I had been looking forward to since arriving.  It was a chance to see what the projects are actually doing in the communities and what the daily challenges and successes as well as to spend more time with people I work with and practice Portuguese.  I hope it is just one of many trips I am able to be part of.
Associação Unidade

The newly elected secretary
(with the cutest baby in the room)

Associação Unidade
Learning how to register sales
(I was more than happy to be the prospective client)

Recap of the meeting

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Say Hello To My Little Friend

Pemba is full of mysterious things; some which are invisible until you become very intimate with them.  Like the tiny creature that crawled onto my baby toe and decided that building a home underneath would be a good idea. 

I knew something wasn't quite right with my toe over the weekend, but it seems like in this town, everyone has some little complaint and blames it on Pemba.  But when I woke up on Tuesday morning and it hurt to walk, I decided that I should at least look and there was a small brown circle, with rings like a tiny tree trunk.  After a quick consultation with the doctor at the Foundation, I learned that this is a very common occurence in Pemba as certain trees have flowers that are the temporary homes of these insects until they move onto greener pastures, like my foot.
On my second visit to the clinic in two weeks, I again waited for the doctor and exercised my brain to explain in Portuguese what was going on.  He immediately recognized it and explained that these microscopic critters can enter even with closed shoes.  How that is going to work in a world where I spend half my days on the beach is still unclear.

But I was taken into the "operating room" where the head nurse attempted to remove it with a needle, with the helpful advice from two other staff yelling about how to do it and the doctor chiming in. When that didn't work, another doctor came by, along with one of the jack-of-all-trades staff.  I have watched enough medical dramas to know the procedure of preparing your surgeon's table.  So when the man approached me and pulled out his wallet to remove a toothpick and what looked like a deconstructed Swiss Army knife, I began to wonder what was in store.  This was also where I began asking for my mom, yelling out "is it sterile?", and joking that I should have sold tickets to the show. 
They began deliberating the best procedure which seemed to be dig with various instruments but in no language are hearing the words "ay, e muito grande" "hey, it's really big" very reassuring.

But after endless digging and staring the at the ceiling that looked like it was going to collapse in on top of me, it was removed with a lot of fanfare.  I was presented with the piece of gauze as you would show a baby to a new mother and stared face to face with the creature's home, a bit smaller than a kernel of corn.   I was quickly doused with iodine and was assured that it should heal up well. 

I have now made friends at this clinic where they call out "Elisabet, Elisabet" and they loved and were surprised by my Portuguese so I figure friends in the medical field in this area is beneficial!

Now I am one white worm home lighter and hopefully can stay that way for a while!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Best T-shirt Award (so far)

"This Is What A Radical Feminist Looks Like" on a deep purple background sported by a man in his 60s walking through the market holding two live chickens.
Here's hoping nothing was lost in translation.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sandbank Yoga

This was from a more professional photographer following us...
Walking down to the beach

Out to our private studio

Yoga in aviators
Flip dog pose

Hello lululemon


Days in Pemba (courtesy of Ashlea)