Archive for the ‘OLAM’ Category

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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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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Early Morning Walk in Morrumbala, Mozambique
January 13, 2012

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.)

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