Friday, October 25, 2013

Maputo, Mozambique is incredible

My experiences in Mozambique were so rich it feels odd to read back on my initial post that was filled with wonder and a bit of fear.  The people of Mozambique are very warm.  Most of the people that I actually hung out with were expats who fell in love with Maputo and extended their USG assignments.  I did, however, spend quite a bit of time with my friend’s house help and she was absolutely lovely.

On my second day in Mozambique, Laurinda and I hopped on a chapa and ventured into the city.  The chapa is incredible in a good and a bad way.  A Chapa is essentially a mini van that has 4 rows of seats suitable for 11-12 people.  It costs approximately a quarter (9MT)to take you into the city, however they are not marked well enough for any brazen tourist to actually know where they are headed, so I was very grateful to have Laurinda as my sidekick for the day.

Laurinda and I in the Chapa before the crowd joined us!
Now, whereas the chapa is suitable for 11-12 people, they actually crammed 25 people in our chapa at one point.  There were people squeezed into the seats invading each other’s privacy and everyone was just okay with it.  People were sitting on other people’s laps, standing hunched over in the front and even hanging out the windows.  It was the epitome of a circus clown car, if I’ve ever seen one.  It was amazing and I’m so fortunate to have gotten to experience it.  The locals seemed shocked that I was riding it and I even received a love proposal from the navigator.  Within 2 minutes of boarding, he was telling me he loved me and asked me if I had a husband, yet.  Laurinda loved it.

Since, I don’t speak a lick of Portugese, I can only imagine that all of the passengers and the navigator were loving that there was a cracker on the chapa and that I was wearing a traditional capulana that I borrowed form Shirley.  She was either embarrassed that I was a poser or happy to be out on the town with me rather than cleaning the apartment.  I will pretend that it’s the latter.

The people at the local market loved my capulana.  Everywhere we went, the locals were complimenting me on my local gear and were quite happy that I was making an effort to fit in.  It really made me feel good.  Our first stop was to buy a capulana of my own. I chose 2, one that I picked out and an ugly one that Laurinda picked out.  They were only $5 each, so I purchased both, wore both at different times, then gifted the ugly one to Laurinda upon leaving Mozambique. She was so grateful for the gesture and that made me happy.

Mozambique is so colorful, from the fruit, to the dresses, to the fabrics lining the streets for sale.  The women here are incredible.  They carry the brunt of the work. They spend all earned money on food for the family and quite literally, carry the heavy load in a marriage. They carry baskets and tubs with 20-30 lbs of fruit, water, bundles of sticks and anything else their neck can hold on their heads, with no hands, while them men walk beside them carrying nothing.  I was amazed at every turn, every ounce of my being wanted to photograph each woman I passed. 


However, photography is tricky in Mozambique.  First, it is illegal to photograph any police officers or government building.  Being caught doing so will constitute confiscation of your camera or phone and a hefty fine or more likely, a steep bribe.

I was able to get a couple photos of these female warriors.  Some were incognito photos while driving past and others were granted permission of in lieu of a small sum, about 30 cents.  I was told that some Mozambicans do not like photographs. It’s their belief that a photograph takes away a part of your soul.  They feel like they are being exploited by tourists, but mostly it’s a spiritual superstition, so I was conscious of that and hopefully, respectful mostly.

We had a great time with Shirley’s friends out on the town.  We went to several happy hours, amazing dinners and karaoke. The food in Mozambique is delicious.  It has a large Portuguese influence and beautiful flavors and colors.

Elmer, Shirley and Emily at Dolce Vita Sushi

Live music at Dolce Vita

MaryJane and the charcuterie board at Taverna

Emily, Shirley and Alana...Doesn't this look oddly like a Lesbian adoption poster??

Doug and Elmer at Gil Vicente Karaoke

Elmer and Shirley

Emily and Sebastian

Great Lakes sweatshirt???  A sweet reminder of home.

Elmer, Shirley and Emily, complete with a photo bomb by Doug

Live Band Karaoke at Gil Vicente

Just an amazing tree that I found....

Sundowners at Hotel Cardoso
Mozambican Cappuccino

Doah Cafe

As I mentioned in my previous post about Mozambique, it is not particularly safe to walk around solo, so I found a fellow solo traveler, Sebastian, who was visiting some of Shirley’s friends, Doug and Elmer.  Sebastian and I decided to do a walking tour of downtown as recommended by the Brandt guide of Mozambique.  We started on the Avenue 25 de Setembro, walked through the Central Market (that I visited with Laurinda), around the CMF Railway Station that was designed by Gustave Eiffel (famous for designing Paris’ Eiffel Tower), down the street of trouble,  Rue do Bagamoyo (where the sailors of days past used to hang and is now riddled with “sex workers” at night, to the Fortress “Our Lady of Conception, up Avenue Karl Marx past the Tunduru Botanical Gardens (which would be beautiful if it wasn’t riddled with litter, urine, vagrants and most likely, tweekers), past the Iron House (also designed by Eiffel) to the City Council building and Catholic Cathedral.  It was a lovely walking tour that ended with “Sundowners” (Happy Hour) at the Hotel Cardoso with Doug, Elmer and Shirley.

Statue outside of the train station

CFM station designed by Gustave Eiffle

Rue Do Bagamovo balconies look very French Quarter

Street of Trouble named for the pesky sailors that used to frequent this street for the bars, brothels and sex workers

Our Lady of Conception Fortress wall

Giant horse statue
All the statues are huge in Mozambique!

Sebastian, my city walk buddy

Mozambican head wrap #3, plus cannons
This Catholic Cathedral was built by alleged prostitutes in lieu of accepting large finds or jail time for indiscretions

Another giant statue in front of City Hall

Having my wits about me, the following day, I decided to venture out on my own to the Faime (craft market).  This market was amazing.  It was filled with batik paintings, wood carvings, beaded creations, purses, capulana goods, and leather goods.  It was amazing.  The stall owners were sufficiently eager to have you look at their booths, but were gracious when you moved on.  Everything was marvelous, the colors, the goods, the people.  I wanted to buy so much stuff, but being a turtle, carrying my home on my back, that was impossible.  Plus, it also didn’t help that my ATM card was eaten by a Standard Bank ATM machine in Komatipoort, South Africa, so I had limited cash that I had borrowed from Shirley.

Batik tapestries

Hand crafted beaded safari heads - OMG, I wish I had a baby's room to decorate...

Hand-made woodwork, jewelry and crafts

Weaved bags and Capulana purses!

A purse tree....every girl's dream!!

More artwork
I ended up purchasing small things for my future home, some art, some small gifts for family and a leather bag made by a disabled woman at the very end of the market.  She was skilled and pleasant and I was happy to purchase her goods.

Purse lady hard at work

Amazing leather bag for only $40!
My last day in Maputo, I ventured out solo again.  I had Shirley drop me off at the Natural History Museum on her way to work.  It opened at 8:30, so I killed time at a local coffee shop prior to going in.  Once inside, I contributed 50MTs ($1.80) to the cause and walked through the door.  It was incredible.  It was a taxidermist’s wet dream…Impala, Kudu, lions, tigers, zebras, porcupines, rabbits, antelope and dozens of other stuffed game.  There were life-sized replicas of giraffes, hippos, rhinos and elephants too. 
Hippo skeleton

Again, it looks much larger in real life than in photos

Some of the work was quite graphic and gross

Upstairs, there was an entire marine section with crocodiles, starfish, shrimp, fish, reefs and turtles.  There was an entire room dedicated to creepy ass bugs and butterflies that were caught, preserved, labeled and pinned to boards for the sole purpose of education.  Gross.  There were bugs the size of my fist.  Fuck me if I ever see one of those in person.

Prior to leaving, I went down to the back of the museum, the sole purpose for my visit.  Mozambique has the only elephant fetus exhibit in the world.  During the war, thousands of elephants were slaughtered.  One scientist was smart enough to use that evil for good and collect elephant fetuses in each stage of gestation for learning purposes.  It was amazing; a baby elephant takes 22 months to gestate inside its mother.  It actually looks like an elephant at only 3 months.  I kind of hate that it was so fascinating, but given that their mother’s were killed anyway, I’m glad that they produce some sort of education out of horror.

Stages of Elephant gestation

My favorite part of Mozambique, aside from my new friends, were the children.  Shirley lived on a street that was the primary route for the school kids to pass.  The schools are over-populated, so children attend in shifts offering me the joy of laughter and play 3 times a day! I loved them.  1:30 was my favorite time of day as a group of 4 girls would come home from school twirling and singing until they fell down....every day!

Thank you Shirley, Laurinda, Beverly, Ayanna, Elmer, Doug and Sebastian for such a lovely stay.

1 comment:

  1. So enjoyed reading your post on your time here with us in Moz!! Lovely pics and description of all that you got to see and experience. Esp loved the part about the craft market. Got to find that leather purse lady!!