Archive for the ‘Mozambique’ Category

Goodbye Morrumbala, Goodbye Jack
February 21, 2012

Me ‘n Jack

My last morning walk with Jack started around the usual time, 6 am.
He was waiting for me outside the kitchen door and gave me his usual talkative “Hello!”
I felt sad as I could not tell him that this would be the last time we would be taking our tour around the OLAM cotton complex here in Morrumbala.

Tomorrow, Graham and I shall be leaving early for Quelimane, where I shall say goodbye to him at the airport.
My first leg of the trip back to South Africa, via the Mozambique capital, Maputo.

At least this time I can understand most Portuguese and am able to make myself understood. Coming here three months ago was different, I had no idea what anyone was saying to me!

Getting back to Jack, he has been my friend, I shall be sorry to not have him around as he’s a great conversationalist. But at least he will be here to keep Graham company.

Next posting shall be from England. What a contrast it shall be, – from the extreme heat of Central Africa to the icy cold of Europe!

Thanks everyone, for sharing my early morning walks here in Mozambique, it’s been great to know you have been tagging along with me in cyber-space.

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Don’t Pay the Ferry Man…
February 20, 2012

For the best part of the last six weeks Internet here in Morrumbala has been intermittent.
I have realized just how frustrating it is without this luxury when living in the back of beyond in a third world country.
Without Internet, there is no knowledge of what is happening in the lives of beloved family and friends. One cannot catch up and read current affairs, world events and news. There is no ability to carry out scheduled work loads, uploads, downloads or phone conferences via applications such as Skype, Google or other IM’s.
Checking on bank balances, making transfers, booking tickets for bus, rail or air does not happen.
Without modern technology, upon which we are fully dependent, we have allowed ourselves to become totally castrated when it fails.
There is no longer a post office in most villages.
Even if there was, they are not able to function without Internet.
No more is there the luxury of purchasing a stamp, licking it and placing it on the top right hand corner, (as straight as you can) of an envelope that has your hand written letter specially scribed and securely sealed inside, the address of the intended destination written in the middle with at least a one inch surrounding border.
On the back of the envelope, your return address, in case of no delivery.
Or if you needed a message to get somewhere in a hurry, the logical thing to do was to send a telegram.
It had to be carefully written as you had to pay for each word:
“Arriving Wednesday Stop Please meet me airport Stop 18.30 Stop Susan”
A specially trained telegraph operator would decipher your words into code and send it off with a series of dots and dashes.
Miraculously your message would arrive at its destination within 24 to 48 hours!
Two cyclones have been whizzing around the Mozambique Channel.
Buffeting the Island of Madagascar and the coastal towns of Mozambique. Bringing with it torrential rain storms that have besieged Morrumbala on and off since early December last year.
This interferes with cell phone connections and often we have been without the ability to make calls or send text messages.
Again, isolating us from the outside world.
There are not many land lines here in Mozambique. The twenty year civil war put paid to any developments like that. So the country relies on cell phone companies to put in place huge masts along the main roads that link major towns and cities. But, they are not immune to extreme weather or vandalism.
It is so exciting when you hear the “beep” of your mobile coming to life again when connections recommence.
When that happens, you immediately send off quick text messages to people as soon as possible in case everything shuts down again, letting them know you are thinking of them and still alive!
I could go on about the lack of electricity and television, but then I’d never get this Blog out to you.
(I have to transfer it to a memory stick and take it down to Graham’s office where they are lucky enough to have a weak Internet link. The inclination to do this is not huge, as it’s raining cats and dogs today.)
A few weeks ago Graham and I took the two hour trip to the ShireRiver as he had to talk to the ferry man about his ferry which was stuck in huge banks of floating reeds and was not working. OLAM needed to get a truck load of supplies to one of the farmers on the other side of the river and the truck had been stuck for a couple of days on the river bank.
When we got there, we realized that the ferry man was not going to do anything about clearing the reeds unless he was bribed into doing so.
I watched Graham approach the operator and then settle down on a bench outside a hut under the shade of a large old mango tree.
It looked as if he would be there a long time negotiating and cajoling, so I threw the strap of my camera over my shoulder and went in search of photo opportunities.
Soon a group of children swarmed around me and followed me, stopping every time I stopped and keeping a respectful distance as I snapped away.
After a while I tired of taking pictures of people being shipped across the river in huge dug-out canoes with their goods that ranged from chickens, luggage bundles, bicycles and even motor-bikes.
Focusing on a child wearing flip-flops many sizes too big, I felt a tug on my skirt.
Looking down I saw a smiling little girl who had been encouraged to approach me by her friends. They signalled me to follow them, which I did. They stopped on the river-bank and pointed towards a group of happy youngsters splashing in the water, their swimming companion an albino hippo.
“Delightful” I thought.
They all shouted her name, but to this day, I am not sure what it was.
Secretly I wondered if they were teasing me and saying that I had the same colour skin as their animal friend.
Hopefully that was all, and not saying I was the same size as the creature.
The elders from the village decided to join us and much to my amazement, some of the men shared their beers with her.
Goodness, a friendly white hippo that was a beer guzzler!
I am not sure if it was from drinking beer in the full sun, but she eventually tired of swimming and beached herself on the bank, dropping into a deep sleep.
Graham had come to the end of his indaba (meeting) under the mango tree.
I made my way back to the pick-up truck feeling like the Pied Piper of Hamlin with all the village children in tow.
Stopping on my way, I decided to show my group of followers video footage I had taken of them with my camera.
They were soon intrigued and fighting over prime viewing positions, laughing and pointing at themselves on the screen.
It dawned on me that they had never seen television, let alone play-back images of themselves.
Who am I to complain about lack of modern technology like Internet, cell/mobile phones and the like?
My three months stay ends on Wednesday morning at 4.30 am when we have to make the drive from Morrumbala to Quelimane. I dread the first two hours of back breaking bush track to the main road to Quelimane which is a further 3-4 hours, (all depending on what happens on the road with it’s bicycles, people, goats, long haul trucks and other vehicles.)
Although my first leg of air travel to Maputo only starts at 14.30, I have been warned to get to the airport by midday. Even although I am booked on the flight, it is a case of first come, first served on LAM – the Mozambique Airline.
I shall be biting my nails that we take off in time as I only have an hour in Maputo to check in to my International flight to Johannesburg and I now have the knowledge and experience of how long the customs and immigration can be in Mozambique.
So fingers crossed for me everyone!
Once in Johannesburg I look forward to spending a couple of nights with my cousin before leaving Africa for England on Friday evening.
Saturday will see me rejoining my daughters, son-in-law and grandson for a week before I start work again for a few months.
I am so excited to see them and already wondering if my grandson will remember me after a five month break.
The sad part is I leave Graham to return to work at OLAM in Morrumbala on his own.
I often found the place lonely and remote, even with his company after work. How will he feel when I am gone with no one to come home to in the evenings?
A few years ago when Graham and I were working on cruise liners together as art auctioneers, I mentioned to him that I felt so sorry for couples who had to live apart for months on end like many of the crew had to.
Little did I know that the world recession would affect tourism to South Africa and thus leave our little bed and breakfast empty more often than not.
Africa is a place of contrasts, and with the way things have been in South Africa, we have been forced to take jobs where we can find them.
The distance between Mozambique and England will not be so huge, just so long as the Internet works!
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Mud Abstract
February 13, 2012

When the sun comes out after torrential tropical downpours here in Morrumbala, Mozambique, the earth cracks into dry geometrical shapes.
Here is a digital abstract I created from one of my photo’s:




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Chicken in Paradise
February 7, 2012

Last Sunday we decided to go to the local restaurant here in Morrumbala called “Paradisio Resturante”.
The proprietor is a rather paunchy Old Portuguese fellow, married to a local lady who does all the work whilst he looks on and shouts instructions every now and again.
Usually he can be found slouched in his chair at the entrance to the restaurant’s pub, with one of his pet poodles lurking between his ankles.
As you pass by, the poodle makes a rush at you, growling and gnashing his pointy little teeth until his master swats at his backside, shouting “comportar-se voce merda, se comportam!” (“behave you little shyte, behave!”)
Tail between his legs, he slinks back under his boss’ chair and waits for his next victim. 
It is not the cleanest of places and definitely not the best I have ever been to. They serve char-grilled peri-peri chicken and chips and the beer s are ice cold. So, if you ignore the state of the kitchen and make darn sure you do not use their bathroom, eating there can be a reasonably good experience.
Also, if you close your eyes to the t-shirts that the waiters are wearing, and do not allow your imagination to run riot as to whether they really do have AIDS, as broadcast in the slogan stamped in large letters on the front, you can get on with the business of ordering your meal.
It is also a pleasant change to being confined within the OLAM cotton complex compound and Graham was concerned that I was going a little stir-crazy after three weeks lack of Internet and unable to communicate with people on the “out-side world”!
We got there and said hello to the landlord, avoided his poodle and made our way to our usual table in the corner.
Then the noise started.
A high pitched yowl permeated the four corners of the place.

“Wow Babe,” I said to Graham, whilst looking in the direction of the kitchen, “someone must have ordered goat for lunch.”
I visualised a goat being slaughtered outside the kitchen door.
“Nope,” Graham pointed at three men sitting around a table some distance away, “there’s your goat.”
It did not take long for us to realize that one of the men was a very drunk deaf mute.
He was interesting to watch as he acted out what he wanted to do with one of his companions. It was not very friendly. He mimed that he’d slit his throat, stab him in the chest and then every now and then forgot about that and indicated that he was hungry and wanted to eat.
Or perhaps I was being naïve and he wanted to eat his friend after cutting his throat.
Our chicken had arrived and we tucked in, trying to ignore the blood curdling yelps from across the room.
Above us was a pergola with a tangle of creepers covering it,  I looked up, there looking back at me was a large black rat, his beady eyes darting backwards and forwards, looking at our food.
Then the poodle arrived at our table and sidled up to my chair.
“Shoo!” I shouted at him when I saw what he was about to do. He hopped off on three legs, the fourth leg waiving half-cocked in the air.
The cacophony of yelps continued from the drunken man.
“Sounds like a yeti. Well what I think a yeti should sound like,” I mumbled as I tucked into my peri-peri chicken.
“Time to get out of here,” Graham growled, standing up and pushing out his chair.
We returned to our house in the OLAM complex.
The three shebeens (moon-shine bars) in the shanty town were competing with one another for customers and blasting out their loud local music.
“Even they are quieter than that noisy guy in Paradisio,” I remarked.
“Yes,” agreed Graham, “but at least here we can close the doors, shut the windows and turn on the air-conditioner to drown out the noise!”
I am not sure that we will return to Paradise in a hurry.
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Tropical Storms in Mozambique
February 6, 2012

For the past three weeks there has been no Internet due to tropical storms in the region.
As there are no land-line telecoms here, everyone relies on cell/mobile phones.
Again, with the adverse weather, they do not work well all the time.
To top all of this, power cuts are frequent and we often find ourselves sitting in the dark.
On the positive side of this state of affairs, the incessant music that plays without respite from the shanty-town that pushes itself up against the OLAM cotton complex’s security fencing stops with lack of electricity feeding the huge speakers and there is a welcome silence for a while.
However, living in such a remote part of Mozambique Internet is paramount to keeping sane. The lack of it for a writer such as me brings on withdrawal symptoms similar to when I try to cut down on my coffee intake!
 No complaints though, the three weeks gave me time to update my work resume’s, rewrite articles I had been procrastinating about sorting out, and time to catalogue photographs that had been backed up on my external hard-drive for months.
Further to this, my knowledge of garden landscaping and design had been offered by Graham to the OLAM senior management prior to my arrival in Morrembala. This has kept me busy during the days when Graham is at work.
His immediate boss had mentioned to Graham that the cotton complex needed what he called “beautifying” and when my husband heard that, he said I was the person to fit the job description. When I asked Graham if this would be a paid job, and if OLAM would supply a budget for me to get a plant nursery going, to purchase plants and so forth, all I got was a huge belly laugh from him, “Babe,” he said, shaking his head, “I have been fighting with them to honour my salary payments for the past three months, which have not been forthcoming. I doubt you would get paid or any financial support. If you take the job on, you will have to improvise.”
Astounded at the news that Graham was fighting to get paid monthly by what is one of the world’s largest commodity broker companies, I was more interested in why he was prepared to continue working for them. From what I was told then made me shake my head in astonishment.
Apparently the last email sent  by Graham to his immediate boss asking for what is legally his had a return response to the effect that OLAM Mozambique were trying to make a plan to pay him, but they could not make any promises.
“Goodness Babe” I exploded, “Why on earth are we still here? It’s not as if this is the best place in the world to live with amazing attractions,” with that, the high shrieking of a pig that was having his throat slit in the village that surrounds the OLAM complex covered an un-lady like expletive I had made after my question.
That was just before the Christmas holiday, the particular boss who promised to “sort something” eventually organised to pay Graham what he was owed, but only after he had handed in his resignation.
When the boss phoned Graham and asked him to withdraw his resignation, he refused as there has been no solution made as to where the money from January 2012 and onwards was going to come from. Considering OLAM is a huge International company with their main offices bases in Singapore, I find all of this amazing. Only in an African country does this sort of abuse of work ethic seem to take place.
The end of this month is coming up and I am sitting on the side-lines watching the whole issue play out with interest.
My flight out of Mozambique to Johannesburg is in seventeen days, where I look forward to spending a couple of days with my Uncle and cousins before flying to UK to work for a couple of months.
Fingers crossed something really positive happens for Graham before then… 
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The village has woken for the day here in Morrumbala…
February 2, 2012

Boom, boom, boom!
At 2 am in the early hours of this morning, the proprietor of the shebeen situated closest to our bed-room window decided to play his latest music. The speakers on full blast, we sit bolt upright in our bed and listen to him drunkenly sing along to some incomprehensible lyrics from an artist that has likely had his music pirated. 
“Eu gostaria que a sua parte inferior grande em minha embreagem”
Translated into English, I think the words are: “I would like your big bottom in my clutch,” or something like that. 
But pardon my ability to understand or speak Portuguese at that time of the morning!

We drift back into a light sleep and then Graham’s alarm screeches at 4.30am. It is time to start the day here in Morrumbala, Mozambique.

It’s my birthday today and I wonder if my husband has remembered, after all I did say something about it yesterday.
Just before he goes to work, “Sorry Babe, almost forgot, happy birthday!”
OK, he’s forgiven, he remembered.
My day continues the same as any day here in the lost wilderness in the back of beyond. If it’s not raining, I get out for my early morning walk around the OLAM cotton gin and factory before it gets too hot.
I spot something lying on the side of the road. It’s Johnny the crow who has been grounded for three weeks with a broken wing and I have made friends with him.
For weeks I have watched him survive, with his other crow buddies looking after him. He hops along on the ground and his buddies perch on branches in close by trees or on the factory roof tops, swooping closely over the heads of anyone or thing that gets too close to him. They even drop scraps of food to help him survive.
Johnny Crow
I once tried to get close enough to catch him in order that I could set his wing with a brace, but he hopped off into the tall grass before I had to crouch low because of the flurry of wings over my head from his protectors.  I decided that he would be fine and live out a reasonable life with the way his Karma had fallen.

Johnny did not mind me.  I often brought him stale bread which I’d scatter on the ground for him. I just was not to get too close to him, that’s all.
I walk over to the side of the road and take a look.
Johnny is dead. One of the factory workers has broken his neck and left him lying there. 
Poor Johnny, life is cheap here in Mozambique.

There is a horrendous stench as I approach a section of the complex. Huge piles of cotton waste and seed have been burning for days in an attempt to clean up the grounds. Everyone has been running around sorting the place out because the very big OLAM bosses are arriving for a few days. They hail from Beira and Maputo.

I wonder to myself why the place cannot always be so tidy.
When I return to our house, I hear the loud music of the other bars competing with the one that started up with the 2 am enthusiast.

The village has woken for the day here in Morrumbala …














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"Very nice, I think you should give her to me."
January 31, 2012

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.
January 31, 2012

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
January 18, 2012

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
January 16, 2012

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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