People

5 08 2010
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Mozambique

5 07 2010

Gilberto’s head swung to one side, bounced off this shoulder and then reversed itself quickly to arrange its collision with the other shoulder.  It looked like an upside down pendelum, marking the ridiculous rhythm of the Mozambiquan road.

Mozambique is regarded to have one of the highest number of undetonated land mines in the world.  From my vantage point, huddled on a dingy mattress in the dark corner of a bunk bed in the back of a rattling lorry, it seemed I was in a bunker in the middle of a war.  Each pothole reverberated through the truck, shaking my entire body and occasionally bouncing me completely into the air.  Every shock was fully accompanied by a thunderous blast that one would think could only come from an explosion. 

Despite this, I considered the trip a great success. 

Life moves at a different pace in Mozam.  Usually, this is a blessing, but when you need to get somewhere, it can be a frustrating endeavour.  Movement is a time-consuming process.  Our decision to hole up in a restaurant to watch the Argentina-Germany World Cup quarterfinal (mistake) cost us the only schedule bus of the evening (which was to arrive sometime betwen 5:00 and 8:00).  Determined, we regrouped, and began flagging trucks on the side of the road.  Thanks to the help of our new friend Samuel, a soldier/teacher/bartender/student from a nearby town and smoothed along by a bag of kudu biltong, we caught a ride about an hour later.  In reality, the transport was far more comfortable than any of the cramped mini-buses of past and future trips.

The truck dropped us at an intersection in the middle of nowhere  at 1:30 in the morning.  Not the original plan, we began to prepare for our second hitch of the night, when a bakkie full of timber pulled alongside.  I chuckled when I realized that they were serious about giving us a lift.  Two guys from the cab hopped out to tie our bags with string to the 45 degree slope of the wood, and then seated themselves onto the back between our packs and the tailgate.  The bakkie itself sounded like it was running on a mixture of porridge and gravel, sputtering forward with great effort as I tried to avoid the gear shift from my slot in the middle of the bench seat.

Mozambique has been a wonderfully interesting contrast from South Africa.  It is a wildly evocative country, deriving its accents from Arabic traders and Portuguese colonialism, strongly distinct from the staid British influence of much of the rest of southern Africa.

A Collage of Mozambique:

Women skillfully balancing buckets on their heads as they walk down a winding path, occasionally sending text messages as they go.  Young boys peddling plastic bags of bagels or rolls through bus windows.  Large tubs of even larger tiger shrimp.  Well-maintained and attractive thath huts neighboring decrepit colonial buildings of concrete and mortar.  The graceful, gradual arching of coconut palms surrounded by a deep blue sea and alight blue sky.  The gawdy yellow of M-Cel adverts painted over entire buildings.  The caress of the hot sun after an eternity of harsh South African winter.