"Very nice, I think you should give her to me."

I soon found the days merging into the first fortnight of my three months stay in Morrumbala, Mozambique, before returning to work in England in the New Year.
My Portuguese was slowly improving, as much to my delight; I discovered some really good web-sites that offered free lessons. Logging on to them has become part of my daily routine, – if the Internet is working, – before settling down to writing my 1000 words a day. (This has not been very difficult to carry out. There are not many distractions here.)
The Shanty-Town at the foot of my garden.
My lap-top was set up the next day of my arrival on the table in the lounge/dining room which is the coolest place in the house where there is an air-conditioner and a ceiling fan. Both of them work 24/7, pushing the heavy air around.
My new Home
Pedro had cleaned the dust and grease off all the surfaces in the house and kitchen, laundered the shower curtain that surprisingly turned out to be white and not brown in colour, and had got used to the idea that sheets on our bed had to be washed and changed once a week.
The gardens in the OLAM complex had been sorely neglected for two years since the present management take-over and to alleviate total boredom, I happily became involved with revamping them. After all, there is a gardener allocated to each of the five staff houses, and two at the company office block. The only gardens that looked as if they had been cared for when I first arrived appeared to be the one surrounding the offices. The rest were swept yards with a vegetable garden in ours that Graham had started in anticipation of my arrival, (he knows I love eating salads, and leafy green stuff!)
On occasion, when Graham does not have to take one of his cotton supervisors with him on his trips to the peasant farmer cotton out-growers in the Zambezia Province areas, he phones me and asks “Fancy a road tip today?”
Always happy at a foray out of the confines of the OLAM complex, and excited about seeing a new area which may reveal good photo opportunities, I never turn the offer down. So, I quickly put a bag together with my cameras, a couple of bottles of water and make up filled rolls for a picnic lunch.
An OLAM Bush Station
Some of the places Graham has to visit are as much as two hours’ drive away from Morrumbala, making the round trip a good four hours. This excludes the stops at the OLAM cotton stations and the peasant farm smallholdings. It is a long day in the hot sun and the bush roads are like rusty old roller-coasters that rattle one’s bones and teeth!
On our first trip together, we went to an area called Lipembe.
En route we were stuck behind a funeral procession. It was interesting to see that all the mourners on the road and surrounding our pick-up were men. The vehicle carrying the coffin had women sitting around it, keening and howling. They sounded like very sad banshees.
Women Mourners
One of the men stopped us and warned us to go very slowly. So Graham slowed right down, (when in Mozambique, or any African country for that matter, listen to the man on the street, it can save you a great deal of mis-understandng and trouble!) The men swarmed around our truck and we kept a respectable speed.
Rolling down his window, Graham asked the man who was walking next to us in his local African language, who the person in the coffin in front of us had been, “Businessman, big businessman. Many wives, many goats, many children” was the answer.
The Funeral Procession
Eventually the procession pulled off into the entrance of the local school and we were able to proceed. It was good to get away from such a woeful crowd.
Soon after leaving the funeral, we saw a truck bumping along the track towards us. It had a load of people sitting in the back, clinging on for their dear lives. “Ah, that’s one of my more wealthy farmers” said Graham, slowing down.
“Hello Patrick” Graham greeted the man driving the overloaded vehicle. Patrick stopped his transport, jumped out the door and rushed over to greet Graham enthusiastically.
I was duly introduced, “Patrick, this is my wife.”
Patrick’s Passengers
He looked me over, “Very nice, I think you should give her to me. She can come and live in my house and stay with me.”
He and my husband continued to discuss this idea for a while. From what I understood, Graham thought it better that I came home with him as I was far too cheeky for Patrick.
Graham winked at me and we drove off.
I think Graham knew that I’d be very cheeky towards him if I’d been handed over to Patrick. I am used to “living it rough” in the bush, but I have no intention of going to live in some mud hut and have the lesser status of a minor tenth wife!
Graham with his Station Managers
What impressed me on that road trip and with other trips that have followed is the affection all the OLAM station managers and the farmers appear to have for Graham. He has a way of encouraging the African people to be more productive. Also the fact that he speaks three of their languages goes a long way to good communication and understanding. Since he has been working for OLAM the ammount of
cotton planted by the outgrowers have increased from 600 hectares to an expected 6000 hectares in six months, something the company has
never seen before.
Late that afternoon, upon return to Morrembala, Graham stopped off at a house in the town. Asking him where were, he told me he wanted me to see some of the staff houses that had been built for “upper” Mozambican staff working for OLAM. There was a street of small brick homes with corrugated roofing, each with about a ¼ acre of garden and fenced.
“Very nice”, I remarked, “the people must be thrilled to have homes like this.”
“Yes and no.” Was Graham’s answer, “The houses have been here for a couple of years, equipped for running water, but never had it connected. The workers have to come into the OLAM complex every day and collect water in drums from our borehole there.”
Shocked, I said to him, “But what about sanitation?”
I was well aware that the huge mud hut village that has evolved on the outskirts of Morrembala and stops at the borders of the OLAM security fencing is pretty “rough and ready”. They have to go to the toilet in the bush on the outskirts of the village, but the basic infrastructure of the actual town of Morrumbala was created in the Portuguese era, with proper buildings, houses and sanitation.
These houses were built in this part of the town and should have all the luxuries of the senior management houses and offices have within the complex.
Shanty-Town Children and Guinea Fowl.
With a huge sigh, Graham said to me “My immediate boss seems unwilling to fork out and get a decent borehole dug to service the houses. But I am working on it even although housing is not my department.” He went on to say, “There is an Indian company here with borehole rigs and I aim to get one sunk as soon as I can convince the OLAM powers that be in Beira to part with some funds.”
This was two months ago and I’m proud to say that the bore-hole is now sunk and as of a fortnight ago, the houses have running water. Graham tells me he was very touched when he walked into the OLAM offices and received a standing ovation from the staff. They were very grateful that someone had cared enough about their personal welfare.
I have started to see a pattern here with OLAM. It appears to me, (and this is a personal observation) that they think that if you are working for them and they supply a house to live in, you should be overwhelmed with having a roof over your head. No matter what the condition. Also, if terms are not met in a workers contract, such as a company vehicle that is meant to be supplied and does not materialize, the worker/s should still carry on, making no complaints because they have a house, with or without lights and running water!  
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I think I should call myself Robinson Crusoe.

I think I should call myself Robinson Crusoe. 
Better still, Rosina Creusa seeing as I am not the male writer, Robert Lewis Stevenson.
I could be shipwrecked on a tropical Island waiting for My Man Friday to be washed up on shore.
Or perhaps I could turn things into an “All Girl Cast” and have a Girl Freya wash up on the white coral sands of my Island as a companion. I suppose it would all depend on the type of book I was writing and in what genre.
Whichever way, I shall endeavour to crawl out of my day time reveille and admit withdrawal symptoms from civilized society and its mod-cons. I am referring to the luxury of logging on to the Internet at random, or using a telephone or cell phone to reach the rest of the world.
We are continuously beset with torrential tropical downpours, everything is humid and damp. Apparently parts of Mozambique are in flood.
Worse still, we are again without Internet.
5am and out on a walk!
Today, as I write this draft, it is 20 January. Let’s see what day it will be when I post it.
On the positive side of things, we still have electricity and long may that last, as the last storms caused the power to black out for more than a day. At least if that happens again we have a supply of candles. The last time there weren’t any and we found ourselves peering at each other over the gas cooker like two large moths.
As you can tell, I have settled into life here in Morrumbala and am able to write every day without many distractions, apart from things like the pig that is being slaughtered right now in the village that surrounds the OLAM complex. It’s squealing has been quite dreadful.
There are no coffee shops or café’s where I can escape my daily 1000 words and procrastinate over an aromatic cuppa. I miss the “buzz” that you find in a first world city. I miss London!
In fact, here, the coffee has to be locked away in our pantry because soon after my first day here I discovered Pedro the houseman allocated to our house has very light fingers. He blatantly took my sunglasses. When confronted, he said nothing. Two days later he walked into the kitchen, brandishing them in the air and saying he had found them under a mango tree in the back yard. I was astounded as I had never been near any mango tree, let alone that particular one. 
Grass that grows 7ft tall!
It is a norm to have domestic help here in Africa and I am no longer used to this luxury. The last person I had working in my home was in 2009. I had put her through Cookery College in Harare, Zimbabwe. Paid for her little daughter’s school fees and gave her rent free housing.  She decided to “remove” the teaspoons from the beautiful set of silver cutlery I inherited from my Grandmother. When I discovered this, I was devastated and even more so when I was told they had been sold.
This started a new era in my life when I discovered doing my own housework was jolly good exercise!
So here I am in Mozambique with Pedro, a rogue who has been used to working mainly for bachelors. He has two wives and nine children.
The other day Graham forgot to lock the pantry. When he went to get a bottle of vodka to pour himself an evening drink, he was furious as he discovered Pedro had procured not just one, but three unopened bottles of Graham’s precious stash which can only be bought in Quelimane.
A variety of flowers bloom after the rains
Pedro apparently is a 7th Day Adventist and does not drink alcohol. I guess he sold the bottles of vodka to make a bit of extra cash. But then, on the other hand, if I had two wives and nine children, I would have drunk the contents of the bottles, no matter what my religion!
Yesterday a little girl no older than six arrived at our gate. She was clutching a tiny baby to her chest and holding a toddler’s hand. I gauged the age of the toddler at about two and the baby was new-born.
Curious as to how, (what I thought were) beggars managed to get past OLAM security, I went outside.
Illoma the gardener and Fernanda the house-keeper from the OLAM Guest house next door were all in animated conversation with Pedro. Two other gardeners from the staff houses were looking on. All of them, except Pedro and Fernanda, were laughing. The little girls were standing their ground in front of Pedro.  They wanted money to buy food and books for school.
Pedro came to me and said they were from the village, he did not know who they were. We sent them off with a bag of fruit and vegetables.
Later I discovered that Graham had spoken to them before they left. The poor little things had apparently been sent by Pedro’s wife number two, asking him to give them money. She had obviously got fed up with him.
I was interested at how the men were all laughing at Pedro’s situation and interested to see Fernanda was not amused. I do not think she likes Pedro very much.
(PS: today is the 31st January…Internet has not been working for 3 weeks and I have found myself a corner in Graham’s Office to upload this Blog, – Mozambique is a very remote place without the luxury of Internet!)
Wear Sunblock…and a hat!

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There’s a Lot of Pretty Girls in Mozambique

Tropical storms have done what no man can control. Wrecked communications, determined which power stations may or may not operate and switched off the lights on entire areas in the Zambezia Province of Mozambique.
Fire Beetles arrive with Thunderstorms
As I write the draft on this Blog, the Internet is still not working, it’s stinking hot and there is no air-conditioning keeping me reasonably cool, (and sane) but life continues.
The surrounding village of shanty-houses and open air markets heave with humanity, flies and happy voices. Africans are philosophical and get on with their every-day lives of foraging, digging in their maize fields, swapping stories in the shade of ancient mango trees and zooming about on the main mode of transport in Mozambique, the bicycle.
One positive aspect of a huge voltage shortage is that the four bars in close proximity to my present abode are not beating out loud, conflicting music. I count this as a reprieve, as the music sometimes starts as early as 5am in the morning!
Giant African snails have come out with the rains. I am fascinated to watch them creep up the walls of the house and lodge themselves under the eaves where the little house sparrows angrily dive and swoop at them, possessively guarding their untidy nests in the roofing.
Giant African Snail
The rains have brought with them an array of creepy-crawlies, some of them not so inviting. Big hairy rain spiders as large as a man’s fist scuttle into the house if the door is left ajar. When confronted they raise their front legs and show you they mean business! I normally head off speedily in the opposite direction and leave Graham to deal with the scary beasts.
I was making our bed the other morning, and a scorpion dropped out of the blanket that we had kicked off onto the floor because it is too hot for blankets in this part of the world. Lesson learned, the blanket was folded and stored in a drawer for some insane visitor who may ask to use a blanket.
Our Morrumbala Veggie Patch
To keep myself busy, I have started to develop a garden.
 Illoma the gardener is very confused as he can understand a garden vegetable patch, and is happy to dig and toil over veggies that can be eaten. However, he is still trying to get his head around the fact that I am designing flower beds, planting trees, and striking cuttings. I can see him looking at me side-ways and thinking I am “not very well in my head.”
Graham has offered my landscaping knowledge to the company. His boss, who bases himself in Beira and makes an occasional foray to Morrumbala, said on one of his visits that the OLAM grounds and five staff house yards needed “beautifying”.  So Graham volunteered my expertise.
When I asked him if they were going to give me a budget for the project and if I would be paid for my services, he threw his head back, laughing and said, “Babe, I struggle to get paid monthly, do you honestly believe you would get anything?”
Graham and the accountant-early morning meeting
with OLAM workers
Under these prickly circumstances, I shall keep my council and just get on with the job.
It does give me pleasure and like I said earlier, it keeps me occupied when I am not writing, illustrating or taking photographs.
PS: This Blog was drafted on 16 January, and posted today…there has been no Internet, or mobile phone communications until now!
(All photos on this blog are taken on my morning walk with my cell/mobile phone.)



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The Long and Winding Road from Quelimane to Morrumbala

The turn off from the main road to Morrumbala is at a village named Cero. 
It is a conglomeration of thatched huts and market stalls under huge mango trees.  The branches of the trees are used to display an assortment of brightly coloured second hand clothes, sarongs and shoes, their laces looped together and hanging from branches in chains of assorted sizes.
Suddenly the tar ended, and we were now bouncing and banging about on a bush road full of corrugations, ruts and pot-holes in the truck that OLAM has supplied to Graham as his company vehicle.
I thought gratefully about the sports bra I was wearing. Any woman with breasts larger than walnuts would not be a happy person without the support of a good binding around that area of their anatomy! 
The truck is a working vehicle. Certainly not a luxury one and the ridged shock-absorbers are not kind on one’s back or boobs!
It was now twilight and we still had an hour’s driving to complete before reaching the OLAM cotton complex where the staff houses were safely surrounded by security fencing.
OLAM Offices, Morrumbala
Native houses nestled in the midst of their small patches of maize and manioc, lining the sides of the bush track in an endless seam of humanity. Mozambique boasts a huge population of approximately 24 million people.  I remarked to Graham that I noticed mainly young adults that appeared to be in their twenties, teenagers and infants, only occasionally did I see an old person. (Perhaps they were all sleeping.)
At last we pulled in to the grounds and arrived at the Manager’s house and I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of five well built houses which had been constructed by the company that owned the cotton company before OLAM bought them out two years ago.
Our House
“Welcome home Babe,” Graham said to me as I eased my aching bones out of the truck. It had been a long journey; I was tired, dusty and interested to see the inside of my new abode.
“Not bad”, I thought. Lounge/dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms, bathroom and 2 WC’s. Each house has a house-keeper and a gardener to look after the “Boss” as the managers are called here by the people who work for them. However, the house-keepers, (they are generally men and apparently know basic cooking) are used to working for bachelors and have no idea of cleanliness.
A thick film of grease covered every surface in the kitchen and the furniture was covered in red dust. The gardener’s idea of gardening is to sweep the grounds around the houses with home-made brooms that look as if they escaped a Harry Potter novel, and lay huge importance on vegetable gardens which are well stocked and could supply an army. (Well, actually they do as they gather the veggies in bags before they leave work in the evening. I presume they either take them to sell in the Morrumbala market, or home to their families.)
Shanty-Town Surrounding OLAM Complex
The entire complex is surrounded by a massive shanty-town that has attached itself to the borders of the Morrumbala village, evolving and stretching to the boundaries of security fencing that protects the OLAM cotton gin, ware-houses, offices and staff houses.
There is a constant buzz of people’s voices, loud music, the base on full blast, bellows from huge speakers strategically placed in the door ways of numerous moon-shine bars where people can be seen outside whistling, dancing and gyrating, their bare feet pounding a rhythm on the bare ground, sweeping up swirls of dust whilst slapping clouds of flies off their ebony skins.
Everyone appeared oblivious to the mingled smells of cooking, refuse dumps and night soil. Occasionally the cry of a slaughtered animal entwined itself in the continuous buzz of the human vocal hum.
Graham saw me looking at the state of the kitchen, chuckling to himself more than at me, I heard him say “I warned Pedro to clean the place before you arrived, seems he did not listen.” He then went on to tell me, “These people allocated to the houses do not like to work very much. They always think they can do a chore on another day or at another time.”
Even although it was late evening it was humid and the temperature was 40°Centigrade. 
It was far too late to worry about Pedro and the thought of taking a shower to slake off the dust from our trip, and then imbibing in a nice ice-cold drink and eating a sandwich was more appealing.
Pedro and Illoma
Tomorrow was another day and would be a new challenge.  I had never spoken Portuguese in my life and I was going to have to somehow communicate with not only Pedro the house-man and Illoma the gardener, but with people in general. I would be living in an ex-Portuguese Colony for the next three months.
The Eagle had landed.
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And all the Couples Dancing Cheek to Cheek

Yesterday we had a tropical downpour of torrential rain here in the OLAM cotton complex. 
There was no Internet and in the evening were without lights until about 8pm. Thank goodness for our gas-cooker.
The up-side of this was that the ever constant loud boom-boom of repetitive local music from the surrounding village had stopped.
Silence.
All the villagers went about their business quietly, their voices melding with the night in a humming melody.

We ate roast chicken by candlelight and listened to the scratch-scratch high pitched chirruping of cicadas communicating with each other in the humid night air.
It could have been romantic, but we had to beat off flying-ants that were attracted to the candle flame on our table, making sure none of their discarded wings were deposited in our gravy.

Flying-Ant Wings

The liquid smell from the lemon tree outside our window blended with the night scents that were heightened by the recent rain.
A soft breeze fluttered over us bringing with it an occasional waft of the refuse dumps that the villagers throw in piles up against the security fence.

Morrumbala, Mozambique, the place of great contrasts, my Africa…

Snowball the Ewe

Yesterday was a bad beginning for me, Snowball the sheep was sent off to la-la land. She had a reprieve and was not served up for our Christmas dinner, but yesterday was her time.

Graham has had experience in butchering an animal’s carcass from the days of his youth when he had to put himself through Agricultural College by shooting small game, selling it and using the money to pay for his College fees.
Times were tough for him and his brother Mike as both their parents died when Graham was only seventeen. They became resilient survivors and still are.

Iloma, the gardener and Pedro the houseman were readily available to assist and happily lead poor Snowball off to a place that was out of my sight and hearing where they did “the dirty deed” Halaal style with a knife.
They knew there would be meat for them and their families that night and were excited.
Later the carcass was brought back on their shoulders and Graham professionally cut the sheep up into butchered portions which are now neatly stacked in plastic bags in our deep freeze.
He is very understanding, as I cannot open the freezer without feeling like a murderess.
So he removes whatever I need that had been stored before the “tolling of Snowball’s bell” yesterday.
We have been together a long time and he knows that I shall get over this feeling in about a fortnight, as I am a practical woman, (I mean, let’s face it, meat of any description does not come ready-packed before we find it on the supermarket shelves…)

“The Butchers of Morrumbala”

But I have labelled him and our domestic helpers “The Butchers of Morrumbala”.

All in good humor of course!
(Remember, all photo’s on this blog are taken with my cell/mobile phone)



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Early Morning Walk in Morrumbala, Mozambique

I have decided to attempt uploading pictures on a daily basis taken with my cell/mobile phone.
At present I am in Morrumbala, Mozambique where my husband Graham is working as Agriculture Manager dealing with small holder cotton out growers for a large International company called OLAM
By 8am the heat here is unbearable, so I try to get out for a walk before 6am. That way the swarms of flies are not so bad and I don’t jump around like a deranged rabbit, flapping my hat at them and shouting obscenities that should not emanate from a lady’s mouth! 
Derelict Cotton Furnace

There are five staff houses where the managers, accountants and mechanics live, plus the huge cotton gin and warehouses here in the OLAM complex.

It is security fenced, with a bevy of security guards that pop up from behind trees and bushes and greet me with a cheery “Ola!”
On the fringe of the fence boundaries a massive village has evolved, with a mixture of  thatched mud houses and for the more affluent Mozambican a compact brick abode. 
In between the houses is a huge open market and moonshine bars, each with a music center strategically placed at the doors, their large speakers blasting out local music that thumps loudly with an ear shattering din of base boom-boom. 
It wouldn’t be so bad if there was only one of these bars, but there are three, all within a stones throw of each other and they all have different music blaring, trying to entice customers in to drink. The music starts at about 5am and continues throughout the day into the night until about 11pm.
In desperation I cut 3 CD’s of my music and asked the gardener, Iloma to go and give them to the owners of the bars. Two days later the same loud music was being played and when I asked Iloma where my music was, he looked at me in surprise and told me that he liked it, so he took the CD’s home with him!
(The locals here are delightful, friendly, child-like and see no reason why they should not “take” things.)
Beautiful Flamboyant Tree and Blue Skies
There are so many subjects to photograph, from the people, the old Colonial Portuguese architecture to the lush, tropical flora and fauna.

I have two fantastic cameras that I use for my professional photography, but seeing as I always have my mobile on me, I thought this would be a good way to have you “walk” with me and “see” what I see on a daily basis.

So, enjoy your daily walk…

(Oh, PS: if you like Susan’s Light-Box posts, you may also like to read my longer Bare Foot White African Posts.)