From the concert halls of Mozambique to the plains of Swaziland
25.07.2010 - 31.07.2010
My second week in the country went a lot smoother than the first. I attended a film at the French Cultural Center, which was produced and directed in Mozambicans, called "Love in the Time of AIDS." The film was preceded by a dance performance and a comedy act where an older man tried to get an unwilling youth to get tested for HIV. The theater was packed, and the event was a big success.
I was also invited to a friend's house for dinner with a few coworkers. We had a great time and had some awesome food. We started off with an excellent homemade humus and pita bread as an appetizer, followed by a delicious shrimp dish mixed with feta cheese. The company was great, and the dinner was fantastic. I joked with the woman who made the humus that I was going to kidnap her and force her to make the recipe round the clock. It's a good thing my boss has a sense of humor.
Later in the week, I was invited by a fellow coworker to see the most famous band in Mozambique. I determined that it would be criminal for an audiophile such as myself to turn down such an offer. Cherry, her husband, friend, and I staked some great seats about 10 rows up and had a fun time listening to the music of Ghorwane. It reminded me of a mix of Cuban and Brazilian music due to the heavy incorporation of percussion and brass. The trumpet player stole the show, periodically breaking out into spontaneous forms of dance with the crowd erupting in applause (video below). Every time the band tried to excuse themselves for the evening, the crowd would not have it. Masses would put there index finger in the air and wag it defiantly to indicate that they wanted to dance just a little bit more. When I recounted the story to my friend after she arrived back from South Africa on Sunday, she was fraught with jealousy as she has been coming to Mozambique for the last 18 years and still has not had an opportunity to see the band.
Don't just stand there...
I got about 5 hours of sleep until it was time to wake up for the next adventure. A coworker of mine had volunteered to take me to Swaziland in response to a mass email that I had previously sent around inquiring if anyone was going. He picked me up, and we drove around Maputo to fetch his three other friends. We exited Mozambique and entered Swaziland smoothly. Although I have enjoyed my time very much so far in Mozambique, I was truthfully happy to be back in a country where the national language was my native tongue.
I found out that the four of them had been friends for about 8 years and got to know each one as the day went on. They showed me pictures of their kids, talked about their political views, and one colleague even told me about his memories as a boy of the civil war in the Gaza province of Mozambique. He recounted how he would run from his village to hide in the fields when the military came and return to find friends dead in the street. It was a somber story, but it was told from the soul and gave me a personal picture on the history of Mozambique. It was great getting to know each of them, and they were a really fun group of guys to be around.
When we finally got to the reserve, they politely offered to go with me on whatever activities I wanted to do, but I could tell that they wanted to relax and imbibe in the lodge. I said that I would meet up with them later and hired a mountain bike and a guide to take me around the park, all for a mere $15. My guide, Stu, was very knowledgeable and showed me wildebeest, blue heron, hippos, impalas, blesbok and many other animals. I learned so much from our ride including how a mother hippo provides sustenance to its child, wildebeest excommunication practices and the attack patterns of a crocodile. When I returned to the lodge, the guys asked to see my pictures and urged me to try a local dish offered by the camp restaurant.
The dish that they wanted me to try was impala, and it was amazing! It doesn't taste like any other meat I have had before, and I loved it so much that I'm surprised I didn't actually swallow the bone in my taste induced euphoric state. As I ate in the lounge, I entertained myself by peering out the bay windows where hippos were playing in a pond only 20 feet from where I was sitting.
On the way back, I offered to drive since they had had a little bit to drink. This was the first time I had driven on the left, and it was a very scary experience for me. After about 40 minutes, and following a group roadside relief, we decided to switch back so that we could make it to the border before it closed that night. Plus, I found out the original driver hadn't been drinking so he was fine to drive, he just wanted to give me a chance to try the left side. We made it to the Swaziland exit border with about 20 minutes to spare, and this time rapidly deteriorated as the border guard unnecessarily questioned us about the ownership of the car. He looked about everywhere you could possibly look to ensure that the VIN number was consistent and finally decided to let us go. This gave us only 4 minutes to make it to the Mozambique entrance border, and the guards joked with us in Portuguese once we got there about how close we were cutting it. They lifted the cross bar to allow us entry with only a minute to spare.
It was certainly a 48 hours of firsts for me, and my final first was seeing the stars of the Southern hemisphere. My attempts to see the stars in South America were either thwarted by cloudy conditions or the glare of the city lights. I had more of the same for the last few weeks in Africa, but as we cruised through the countryside on the way back, I could see them clearly for the first time. I searched around for constellations that I recognized, but it was difficult for me to find familiarity. This lack of recognition was almost a metaphor for my time in Mozambique so far. The people, language, and customs all had the same basic components but were very much not the same. This seemingly simple act of staring at the stars is when it finally hit me - I really am half way around the world.