I have been MIA since about August due to a lack of internet at site and a lack of motivation to go and find it elsewhere. Here's a blog my brave and adventurous mother wrote about her and my stepdad's trip to Maganja. They were troopers, rode in chapas, sat on straw mats, let children ogle them, and tolerated my reverse parenting with the best of em. Most of all I'm glad that I was able to share my Maganja with two people whom I love. Catch up blogs to come..
Reasons to Return
After visiting Cameron in Mozambique in August, we started scheming for a return trip. It was a fantastic journey; Cam was the perfect hostess/guide and gave us a wonderful first hand view of her third world life. Since we don't really want her to extend (unless, of course, she wants to), I've decided to make a list of all of the reasons we'd like to visit Mozambique again:
- Buy more capulanas. To do this, we'd have to learn to speak Portuguese AND figure out the marketplaces. They were a total assault on all senses. The crafts market in Maputo was glorious--chaotic and colorful--and Cam kept us firmly in tow as she expertly haggled for souvenirs. Markets in Maganja, Pebane, and Quelimane were equally vibrant, intense, and stinky--full of new plastic buckets, old repaired electronics, handwoven baskets, bread, tiny tomatoes, second hand clothes, eggs, and fish--but we never really figured out the method to the madness. Armed with language skills, we might try it again.
- Take another chapa ride. Just one more. Our ride from Quelimane to Maganja was fascinating. Cameron made sure that we had front row seats in a ramshackle 18 passenger van crammed with 30 sweaty people ranging in age from 6 months to 60. We had a great view of the surrounding countryside during the dusty 3 hour trip. There were very few other vehicles, but the dirt road was lined with bicycles and pedestrians. We passed lines of women carrying everything imaginable on their heads--buckets, chairs, loads of clothing. Spontaneous "markets" sprung up at each stop, and people milled around holding bananas, wooden spoons, boiled eggs, baskets, and tons of other unrelated items up in our faces. On my next chapa ride, I'd buy more bananas and maybe even volunteer to hold a baby or two in my lap.
- Drink more Manica beer. And eat more of Cameron's delicious coconut curry chicken.
- Ride more bicycle taxis. Cameron waved down a young man on a bike, spoke a few words of Portuguese, and sent him out into the darkness. He returned shortly with two other men, and off we went! Our ride through the streets of Quelimane in the early morning mist was magical. We must have been a sight--three brancos with backpacks balanced on the backs of bikes. I'm not sure who stared more--us cruising through town or the people we passed by....On my next bicycle taxi ride I shall balance better and attempt not to hold my driver in a death grip.
- Visit the gardens. We passed mile upon mile of very carefully tended rows of mandioca root (which seemed to be the only thing capable of growing in the red powder that covers Mozambique. Women and children (no men) toiled in the hot sun with sticks and rusty hoes. I need to learn more--how they coax anything out of that soil--how to pound the mandioca into flour (although Cam says I really wouldn't want to eat much of it)--how to keep it growing when everything seemed so very parched.
- Go hippo hunting. Aside from the requisite dogs and chickens, a large rat on the outside of a refrigerator in a bar, and a squealing pig on the back of a bike (with a large duck hanging from the front), we saw no wildlife in Mozambique. If we traveled 3 hours outside of a city here in Maine, we'd definitely see deer, raccoons, perhaps even a moose. I know the hippos were lurking in the muddy rivers we passed by--I'd like to find them.
- I need to get better at bucket baths. Cameron always looked pretty and tidy, but I never felt clean after my attempts at bucket bathing. It was not an easy process--soak down, soap up, and rinse. And rinse. And rinse. And rinse. Did I mention that the water was cold? And that, while rinsing, I was acutely aware that the water had to be lugged from a nearby well? I have a newfound appreciation for safe tap water (hot and cold!) in general and have been much more conscious about water conservation since our return to the states. In the same vein, I have a new disdain for excess packaging after seeing the amounts of plastic that litters the streets and yards in a country where centralized trash management is virtually non-existent.
- I need to sit on a straw mat and visit people (my husband would need a pillow on his straw mat as his bottom isn't as padded). The Mozambican people were overwhelmingly friendly, curious, and warm. Cam's friends greeted us with genuine enthusiasm, and the children were particularly fun--unabashedly staring at us as we walked around and giggling when Cam stuck out her tongue. I would sit on a straw mat and chat with people, and perhaps color with Cam's neighbors if they were brave enough to approach an old grey-haired white woman.
- Learn Portuguese. Obviously the key to a successful visit, and something that Cam has mastered. It seems like a very expressive language, with lots of "sheeshs" and "yaaas" for emphasis.
- The most important reason to go back? To bring more treats to Peace Corps volunteers (especially Cameron). Life in a fishbowl must be exhausting (we were totally overwhelmed during our brief visit) but Cam goes about her business daily with a grace and spirit that we could never muster.