A Travellerspoint blog

Serenity and Solitude

Chidenguele, Mozambique

As many of you no doubt guessed, my first experience driving on the left side of the road was not all that I had hoped for. Since I believe in getting back on the horse, or the left side of the road in this case, I decided to rent a car and head up the Northern Mozambican coast to the small town of Chidenguele. My roommate, Susanna, and I each had a bit of trepidation about my driving skills, but we set some ground rules, and everything went smoothly at first. Since the resort we were going to was a bit isolated, we had to drive the last 7 kilometers off road which the website said was "suitable for all cars."

Just stay on the left

Just stay on the left

The website apparently didn't know that you could put four wheels on a toaster and call it a car because that's essentially what we were driving. As we turned off road, we felt ourselves start to get stuck time after time and then I would rev the engine as the locals watched amused, come out of the ditch, and wave while exclaiming "Boa tarde!" to the onlookers. Susanna decided to make fun of me for the rest of the trip about this whenever I would get stuck doing something - a joke that never seemed to get old to either of us. We made it all the way to the last hill and then finally got stuck in the sand for good. I tried to use a cereal box under the wheel to give it some traction, and that was bad idea if you hadn't already guessed. Susanna finally decided to walk down the hill and get some help for us, and with 3 very patient members of the hotel staff, we were able to complete the last 200 meters of the journey.

The hotel we stayed at was amazing. We had essentially a house on a cliff with a porch that overlooked the ocean. We dropped our stuff and walked on a beach where one could see about 5 miles on all sides of the cliffs, and there wasn't a soul to be found. We hiked until the sun decided that it had had enough for the day, and adjourned to our separate rooms for the evening.

I was having trouble sleeping that night, so I decided to get up early and watch the sunrise. I hadn't planned on running, but the sunrise was so beautiful that I decided to run barefoot along the waves for as long as I could and enjoy it. As was the case the day before, there was absolutely no one to be seen. I have seen many a sunrise in my life, and I can honestly say that it was the most beautiful one I have ever seen. With the perfection of the moment, the lack of anyone around and my fatigued state, I thought for a second that I might be dead and I had somehow arrived in Valhalla. Then I thought about it a little more, weighed my chances of going somewhere good in death, and reasoned that it was probably just a really nice day.

A piece of peace

A piece of peace

A little awe

A little awe


And a lot of humility

And a lot of humility


Alone

Alone


Mr. Miyagi not pictured

Mr. Miyagi not pictured

Susanna got up a bit later and we decided to walk South for as far as our legs could take us. We stopped periodically to examine the treasure trove of shells that washed up on the beach and took a few suitable souvenirs. We tried to walk up to a lighthouse but a few directional disagreements only got us a view of it. We read for the rest of the day and watched the humpback whales swim by from the porch. I had some really good prawns for dinner and was actually starting to relax. This whole concept of relaxation has not classically been part of my personality, but I'm starting to see the appeal.

Show me your surfer pose

Show me your surfer pose


Let me hear your war cry

Let me hear your war cry


Lighthouse overlooking the cliffs of Chidenguele

Lighthouse overlooking the cliffs of Chidenguele


Humpback whale in the yonder

Humpback whale in the yonder

I don't like it when my food looks at me

I don't like it when my food looks at me

The next day we swam a bit, and I got to feel like a kid again. I body surfed until it felt like I couldn't lift my arms, and we headed back down South to Maputo. Susanna drove this time, and we definitely had an easier time getting through the sand. The only event of import was a speed trap that we were caught in just outside Maputo. All I can say is that diplomatic passports are a thing of beauty...

Posted by mbeymer 09:58 Comments (0)

Marooned

Inhaca Island, Mozambique

Inhaca is an island of 6,000 about 2 hours ferry ride from Mozambique. It is very small, measuring only 7.5 miles in length and 4 miles across. My journey to the island was pleasant, aside from the sporadic turbulence, and I struck up a conversation with a nice French expat currently living in the United States. He said that he was taking a tour of the lighthouse on the Northeastern tip of the island and asked if I would like to tag alone.

The chariot awaits

The chariot awaits

What do you mean I can't name it?

What do you mean I can't name it?

As the open truck surged through the countryside passing under palms and papaya trees, with tecno music blaring to alert unaware pedestrians, I glanced over at my new companion to convey my confirmation that we were finally off the beaten path. There are no paved roads, no ATMs, and the downtown, if one can call it that, is only distinguished from other parts of the island in that the buildings were minutely closer together.

We made it to the lighthouse and dismounted to follow our guides up a steep sand dune. The vista that awaited reminded me of the views that my best friend Ed and I often enjoyed during our long strolls within San Diego's Torrey Pines preserve. This beach was notably different in that the rock formations near the wave break resembled waves themselves. It is almost as if the rocks, tired of the tormenting tides, decided to form an equal and opposing force to counter the ocean's onslaught.

Just like home

Just like home


Lunar pools

Lunar pools

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction


To give them some scale

To give them some scale


A shipwreck off the coast

A shipwreck off the coast


A crab preparing to take cover

A crab preparing to take cover

As we drove back to the Western shores, children would chase after the truck in an effort to become temporary stowaways. Some were even successful and then, realizing that there homes were disappearing in the distance, would jump off into the sandy road and laugh as friends chased after them and congratulated their successful conquest. Every single person we passed smiled and waved at us, some for prolonged periods of time. I brought this trend up to the guide and declared that everyone seemed really nice on the island.

He chuckled softly and said, "No, they are just excited to see white people."

Realizing that my guide had the better hypothesis in mind, I laughed and conceded to this honest observation.

Speedy Stowaways

Speedy Stowaways

The camp that I stayed at is operated by a nice Afrikaner family that offered me a plate of delicious mussels shortly after I arrived. I followed that up with a half of a chicken and then set off on another walk to explore the west coast of the island. To orient myself, I used the arrow that I usually use to find my bearing. The only problem was that the compass seemed backwards.

Based on my map and geographical features, I knew that I was pointed South. But the arrow that I was using said that I was pointed North. I ignored the compass and obstinately set off. Five minutes later, I finally realized that the compass wasn't necessarily wrong. I was on the other sides of the planet and, in the Southern Hemisphere, the poles actually flip. I chuckled to myself, thanked my physics professor silently and continued on down the beach.

I walked until the waves and the rocks were my only companions, about 2 hours due South (or was it North?) from my starting point. I decided that I needed to turn back to beat the darkness and was treated with a show of slow solar retreat, progressing through all shades of crimson until the last sliver dipped under the horizon.

The morning star appeared first into the then purple sky with others slowly making their debut as darkness dawned.

Cupped in the hands of clouds

Cupped in the hands of clouds

As daylight dies

As daylight dies


For all you know, this could be a picture of LA

For all you know, this could be a picture of LA

I arrived back at the camp, just after darkness had completely fallen, and the proprietor incredulously asked, "where have you been?"

"On a walk," I modestly replied.

"For four hours?" He pressed on.

"It was a long walk," I continued.

He, along with everyone else and the bar, looked at me crazy for a second, and I truthfully believed them for a short time since I had pretty much traversed the Western side of the island. As if reading my mind, he said, "well do you want something to drink then?"

I smiled on and nodded and joined them in watching the local rugby match on the television. As I sat there at the bar, me with a coke and a group of Afrikaner men silently gazing at the television beers in hand, I thought to myself, Saturday night really is the same around the world.

The wind kicked up that night and didn't quit until late the next morning. I realized as soon as I awoke that my hopes to go snorkeling were in vain. The white caps marched across the sea and kicked up silt everywhere. I cut my losses and went for another walk before the boat departed.

Since the boat came at low tide, we had to wade out to the boat in order to get back to our point or origin. The boat ride was great on the way back, and with how the light rays reflected off of the water's surface, I was able to take a few photos of downtown Maputo whose impressions seemed to be a harbinger of the apocalypse. I hope that I'm wrong on that one.

The light making a cool silhouette of downtown Maputo

The light making a cool silhouette of downtown Maputo

Posted by mbeymer 12:29 Comments (1)

A Note on Purpose

My mission in the Republic of Mozambique

semi-overcast 18 °C

Many people have emailed me saying, "Hey that was great! Wait, why are you in Africa?" In short, I'm glad you asked.

Over 39 million individuals are infected with HIV around the world. This virus has been extremely successful in its survival, adaptation and replication, and represents the most pressing public health and human development issue of the 21st century. Although the whole world is affected, certain populations are at an elevated risk for infection. The epidemic is concentrated in the black and gay communities in the United States, however the prevalence remains low due to heightened awareness. In places like Thailand, the epidemic has been linked heavily to the commercial sex trade. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS has evolved into a female-centered epidemic. I present below a few key statistics regarding the agent and data for human development of my home country with that of my current host country:

A Tale of Two Countries

USA (1,2)
Average per capita income (in US $) = $37,500
HIV prevalence (Men 15 to 49 years) = 0.24%
HIV prevalence (Women 15 to 49 years) = 0.08%
Life Expectancy (Men) = 74.8
Life Expectancy (Women) = 80.1
Human Development Index Rank = 13/177

Mozambique (3,4)
Average per capita income (in US $) = $1,246
HIV prevalence (Men 15 to 49 years) = 9.2%
HIV prevalence (Women 15 to 49 years) = 13.1%
Life Expectancy (Men) = 44.8
Life Expectancy (Women) = 48.6
Human Development Index Rank = 172/177

1Avert.org
2CDC.gov
3“CMI Report: Gender Policies and Feminization of Poverty in Mozambique” (Tvedten, et al.)
4”INSIDA National Report”

I want to highlight two particularly striking statistics revealed by the above numbers. Mozambique has a much greater proportion of its population affected by HIV. Secondly, women represent almost 60% of new and chronic HIV infections within the country.

The strong patriarchical structure in Mozambique has been a major contributor to these disproportionate numbers. Women are not afforded the same educational opportunities and are often relegated to a lower social standing. Domestic violence is a frequent way to resolve disputes, and bride price has played a significant role in early childhood marriages. These practices not only hinder the advancement of women's rights, but deter the progress of the economy since women account for such a large portion of it. Therefore, the inequality of women acts as a social and economic deterrent for a nation. My mission is to reduce, and hopefully one day end, these disparities.

Before you start lauding the progressiveness of the United States, I would caution you to reconsider. A 2009 survey showed that women currently hold approximately 20% of the seats of the 535 seats within the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. In Mozambique, women hold 35% of the parliamentary positions. Therefore, the picture is much more complicated than it initially seems. Suffice it to say that gender issues persist in both cultures, albeit the way the disparities manifest are different.

The purpose of this passage is to provoke you to critically think about your social perceptions and how these biases propagate this inegalitarian way of thinking in our culture. Furthermore, how can you be an advocate for our mothers, sisters, and daughters in your community? We can all do things to ensure that equality is a part of our every day lives and that, before we look down on other cultures, we turn the critical lens on ourselves. This excerpt is meant to stand alone from the blog, but hey, I had to get your attention with that first entry, right? Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Posted by mbeymer 06:46 Comments (0)

Charting New Territory

From the concert halls of Mozambique to the plains of Swaziland

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.

Freshly made humus

Freshly made humus


Saude!

Saude!

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.

Chantal, Cherry and E-z

Chantal, Cherry and E-z


Ghorwane Live

Ghorwane Live


A dance led by the effervescent trumpet player

A dance led by the effervescent trumpet player

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.

Free wicker chairs for the first 500 guests!

Free wicker chairs for the first 500 guests!


The 4 Amigos: Alberto, Valente, Lucilio, and Rafael

The 4 Amigos: Alberto, Valente, Lucilio, and Rafael


Aloe plant

Aloe plant


Warthogs having a snack

Warthogs having a snack


Lying in wait

Lying in wait


Relaxing blesbok

Relaxing blesbok


Mountain biking through Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Mountain biking through Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary


Stu presents wildebeest

Stu presents wildebeest


What you should really be afraid of in Africa

What you should really be afraid of in Africa


The March of the Hippos

The March of the Hippos


Reflecting

Reflecting


If you haven't had impala yet, I highly recommend it

If you haven't had impala yet, I highly recommend it


Safari Mosaic

Safari Mosaic

Posted by mbeymer 06:45 Comments (1)

21st Century Shake Down

Maputo, Mozambique

sunny 22 °C

For any of you who have traveled 13,000 miles in less than 48 hours, you know that the process can be a bit draining. Midway through my flight to Johannesburg, the captain crackled over the loudspeaker that we would be 30 minutes later arriving to our destination. I informed the flight attendant that I only had an hour between flights, and she simply stated in a smug Afrikaner accent, “oh, you won’t make it.” I was understandably not elated with this level of customer service and contribution towards solving my predicament. I was later informed by another stewardess that South African air would arrange something else to take me to my final destination once we landed.

Many of you know that I take absolute statements as a challenge. Once the plane landed, I bolted off like the plane was on fire. I ran through the terminal for almost 20 minutes, cutting lines at security checkpoints here and rushing ticketing agents there. In the process, I discovered that there were far to many shops between one side of the airport and the other. When I finally arrived out of breath like a smoker who had decided to get up and run a marathon without training, the flight agent said to me, “where do you think you’re going?”

“Hopefully to Maputo,” I replied.
“You just made it,” she wryly smiled.

Unfortunately, my bags didn’t. I was picked up at the airport, and the driver and I watched the carousel of the Maputo Airport slowly turn without my luggage. I reported the problem, happy that I had studied colors and random airport terms in Portuguese, and my bags were later flown in that night and promptly returned to me.

When I arrived at my new residence in Maputo, I found a palatial estate with 3 stories, a guard, and it even has its own ballroom. How often can one say that they have a ballroom? I met my house mates who are all very cordial and easy going individuals and then promptly passed out from all of the trip exhaustion.

My first day at work was pretty intense. A chauffeur arrived to pick me up at 7:30 AM and took me to the 8 story compound that I will work in for the coming weeks. I had 3 meetings, got a security briefing and all the while people were speaking to me in a combination of acronyms, Portuguese and science. I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn.

Continent 4 of 7

Continent 4 of 7


Have Ticket, Will Travel

Have Ticket, Will Travel


Believe it or not, this was the only channel <br />that worked for the whole 14 hour flight

Believe it or not, this was the only channel
that worked for the whole 14 hour flight


Living Area for my New Residence in Maputo

Living Area for my New Residence in Maputo


It must be cool if it has a mosquito net

It must be cool if it has a mosquito net


The view from my office (you can see the Indian Ocean in the background)

The view from my office (you can see the Indian Ocean in the background)


Practicing what we preach!

Practicing what we preach!


Our esteemed driver, Manuel

Our esteemed driver, Manuel


With my mind on my meticais and my meticais on my mind

With my mind on my meticais and my meticais on my mind

The first big lesson wasn't learned on the job, but right after work. A few house mates and I walked over to the store to get some food shortly after getting off of work. On the way back, I heard someone trying to get our attention from behind. I wasn't taking the bait, but one of my house mates turned around and started talking to one of the individuals. I couldn't make out who he was talking to in the darkness once I finally turned back, but as I walked back towards him, I realized he was talking to two cops. One cop remained silent while the other demanded to see our passports all the while with AK-47s slung over their shoulders. As my colleagues got out their documents, I immediately realized that I didn't have my passport.

Apparently, one of the laws for foreign visitors is that you need to have an authorized copy of your visa and passport at all times. My company failed to tell me this, so I just truthfully informed the guards that the items were back at my residence. I played dumb and pretended that I didn't understand any Portuguese. This just made him lecture my colleagues and I more slowly and clearly. Although I don't speak much Portuguese, the language of BS and "pay me off" is pretty much international. Having had the security briefing at the US embassy earlier that day, I decided to call the proper individual and summon the cavalry.

After 20 minutes, none of our allies had arrived and the police were clearly getting inpatient. The officer in charge finally said to us in English, "you need to come with us to the police station, it is time to go."

Fed up with this blatant attempt to extract money from us, I finally decided to respond.

"Let's cut the crap. You speak English, and I'm not going anywhere. She's not going anywhere and he's not going anywhere," I proclaimed as I pointed to my colleagues that were standing on either side of me.

"You can shoot me if you want, but I'm not moving," I concluded.

My room mate jumped in and warned me to watch what I was saying, as police man #2 decided to flash his handcuffs in a show of power. I ignored him and just got back on the phone to the security officer. Finally, a white truck with 8 people pulled up along side us. One of these individuals sauntered over to us in a crisp uniform with more shine on his epaulettes than General Patton. He kindly asked us for our passports again, and we obliged. He took the two other police men to the side and then started ripping them apart for harassing diplomats (one of my house mates had a diplomatic passport). I later found out that he was the sergeant of the Diplomatic Police. The security officer came over to us shortly after with an imposing Afrikaner associate and informed us that we were free to go. As the 4 guards walked us back to the compound, I apologized for the nuisance but had a feeling that that would not be the last time I would have a brush with the local police. What a night.

My house mates blowing off steam after the shake down

My house mates blowing off steam after the shake down

I finally got out to see Maputo in the daylight on Saturday. My housemate, Deb, and I traveled to the huge crafts market that is held near the water front each week. After perusing the wares for a substantial period of time, we spotted what we wanted and started to bargain appropriately. I talked one vendor down from 900 metacais to 600 metacais, or from about $30 to $20, for a cool tapestry and I was pretty proud of myself. The vendors would rarely touch us, but they would cleverly stick out their arm right as you tried to walk past in an effort to divert your attention to their wares. I bargained with about 3 vendors and each was very cordial, although perturbed, throughout the process.

When we decided we had enough stuff to carry/later explain to customs, we toured the city train station as well as the old fort. The train station was built by Gustav Eiffel, an architect most renowned for his construction of the Eiffel tower. If you look in the center, you can see the similarities between this building and the iconic French edifice. The architect also built an all iron house that was intended for use as a presidential residence. However, if you've ever been in an all metal room on a hot summer's day, you know that it's not the most practical material to live in.

We also toured a fort which was built in 1720 by the Dutch East India company and subsequently abandoned 10 years after its construction due to local hostility. This area was highly contested between the Portuguese and the English, but the Portuguese would eventually prevail over 100 years later in obtaining the land until Mozambique's independence in 1975.

O Sabado Mercado

O Sabado Mercado


Mozambican tapestries

Mozambican tapestries


Locals playing fusball

Locals playing fusball


The white man has landed (and then most of them died of malaria)

The white man has landed (and then most of them died of malaria)


A new white man (who hopefully won't die of malaria)

A new white man (who hopefully won't die of malaria)


The Maputo train station

The Maputo train station

I went on an architectural walking/running tour later on in the day with a few coworkers. It was actually a Hash House Harriers event which is a club with chapters all over the world. Their motto is that they're a drinking club with a running problem. I actually trained with a few of their San Diego chapter members when I was preparing for the San Diego Rock N' Roll marathon, and they are a fun if rowdy group to be around. I just never thought my first "hash" would be in Africa.

Hash House Harriers Maputo!

Hash House Harriers Maputo!


Finding beauty in asymmetry, one of the houses on the architectural tour

Finding beauty in asymmetry, one of the houses on the architectural tour



Overall, I'm enjoying my time in Mozambique so far, and I can't wait to explore all of the other sections of Southern Africa. I'm hoping to go to Swaziland, Kruger National Park and Cape Town in South Africa to name a few future weekend destinations. I hope you enjoy the blog, and as with the South America blog, please feel free to send this site to a friend if they are planning a trip to the area. Thanks for tagging along, and ate logo!

Posted by mbeymer 08:49 Comments (2)

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