Two weeks in Mozambique

It’s been a bit more than two weeks now since I arrived in Mozambique, and it feels much, much longer. The amount of impressions and experiences has been nothing less than overwhelming. I’ve found myself in countless hilarous, breathtakingly beautiful, emotional, frustrating, motivating, purely awkward, purely satisfying situations that, spread out over 6 months, would still be hell of a ride.

I am far from having established an “everyday life” or even a daily routine. To give an impression, I will simply report what I’ve been doing from day to day since September 24th, the day I arrived at Beira International Airport. All the anecdotes, excursions, encounters, thoughts and ideas that are connected to it will be saved for later.
Thursday, September 24:
The journey from Vienna to Beira took longer than expected – due to the cancellation of my flight from Paris to Johannesburg, I spent a night in a hotel in France and another one in South Africa, had Air France rebook my connecting flight to Beira, used up all my phone credits, and at some point felt nothing but exhausted.
But now I am in Beira. Lydia, the country director of HORIZONT3000 Mozambique, her colleague and accountant Rui and my Technical Advisor colleague Jan pick me up at the airport. We drive directly to the building of the Universidade Católica de Mocambique (UCM) where my apartment and also the HORIZONT3000-office are located. The apartment is spatious, pretty, cosy and fully equipped. We have a quick meeting at the office where I also meet Rosa, the third TA on site. Jan drives me to a supermarket to stock up on food and water, because the following day will be a public holiday.
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My bedroom

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View from my bathroom window

Friday, September 25:
The 25th of September is the Revolution Day, a public holiday in Mozambique. I go for a walk through the neighbourhood. The municipal district is called Ponta Gea. The weather is hot, but not annoyingly hot, and dry. Even though I saw it on the map, I am surprised how close my apartment is to the beach – 10 minutes walking distance max. I also pass by the Grande Hotel Beira, and then simply wander around the streets, observing and trying to get a sense of orientation, distances and directions.
Big concert on the Revolution Day

Big concert on the Revolution Day

In the evening, there is a big “Espectáculo” at the Campo de Estrela in Beira. Jan and his family pick me to take me there. A lot of musicians are performing- among others Thomas Mapfumo, the great guitarist also known as “The Lion of Zimbabwe” (read more about him here), and the Angolan artists Bruna Tatiana and Landrick. When we get home, it’s almost 5am and dawn is already in the air.
Morning is breaking

Morning is breaking

Saturday, September 26:
Mission of the day: Find Beira’s Shoprite, the local outlet of the South African supermarket chain. Basically everyone I’ve spoken to about Beira had showed me on the map: “And here, you have the Shoprite.” It seems to be an important landmark, plus I need a thousand things – aluminium foil, coffee, toilet paper, spices, shower gel, a pencil sharpener. It turns out that Beira is very nicely structured, at least Ponta Gea, the City Center and the seaside. It seems hard to get lost or lose orientation – and walking to the Shoprite takes only 20 minutes. Daily mission succesful. I decide to avoid the Shoprite in the future, though – it’s big, stressful, expensive, and I bet the products from the local markets are better anyway. However, for now it’s good to know where I can get basically anything I might need.
The streets of Beira

The streets of Beira

Sunday, September 27:
Nothing. I simply do nothing. Stay inside, read, upload some pictures, process everything I’ve seen and learned so far.
Monday, September 28:
The first “working day” in Beira. First challenge: I have to register at the migration office. Rui takes me there. At the third attempt, we have all necessary documents on us and I get my preliminary residence title.
Tuesday, September 29:
We meet at Lydia’s place in the morning and talk about some administrative aspects and security issues of living and working in Mozambique. In the afternoon, Lydia and me have an appointment at the Centro de Ensino a Distancia (CED), the Distance Learning Center at UCM – my future work place, to get to know my counterparts, the directors of the center. I am a bit nervous – but I bravely make it through the whole meeting in Portuguese, and I’m very curious to start working there.
Fresh Granadillas for dinner

Fresh Granadillas for dinner

Wednesday, September 30:
For the rest of the week, we will be on an excursion to the province of Manica to visit various former and current project partners of HORIZONT3000. We leave around 13:00, later than expected, have late lunch at “… Africa”, drive through the inland, pass by Gorongosa, Gondola, Chimoio – and finally, finally arrive at our Lodge, Casa Msika, long after dark. Everybody gets their own small cabana, but unfortunately, it’s too dark to get any idea of what the place looks like.
On the road - again

On the road – again

Thursday, October 1:
I wake up in the middle of a beautiful African landscape. The owners of the lodge breed crocodiles, giraffes and zebras – the latter two are out in the wild and can be seen during safaris, but the crocodiles – approximately 20 – are in a pool directly behind the cabanas.
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At Casa Msika, Manica

We drive to the town of Manica to visit a small local NGO, AKSM. Then we are taken to the rural communities AKSM is working with to see some of the power stations based on water energy that provide electricity for the people in the area, and also stop at a primary school. After a delicious lunch at Vumba Lodge – named after mount Vumba – and a short visit through Manica, we visit the Salvatorian Center of Alternative Therapy, where I purchase some of the best teas and natural cosmetic products I’ve ever had.

Comprehensive school in the province of Manica

Friday, October 2:
We drive to Chimoio, where he have an appointment at the local site of UCM. The Faculty of Engineering is located in Chimoio, as well as a Reginal “Centro de Recurso” that belongs to “my” department, the Distance Learning Center. Therefore, the appointment is particularly interesting for me to get a first insight into the practice of tertiary distance education in Mozambique.
UCM Chimoio - Faculty of Engineering

UCM Chimoio – Faculty of Engineering

After the appointment, we decide to skip the sightseeing in Chimoio since all of us have either already been there or will be back there soon and go back to Beira.
Chimoio

Chimoio

Saturday, October 3:
Day at home – night out. Rosa, the Technical Adivsor from Portugal, invited me to an Internations meeting. And I’m enjoying it immensly. It’s nice to speak English and Dutch – to be able to express any nuance of what I want to say without efforts. And the international communities somehow seem to function according to the same mechanism everywhere in the world. Babylonian language mix, paying rounds of beer, cracking politically incorrect jokes referring to stereotypes, making plans (“We should absolutely go to Vic Falls! Let’s organise an excursion!”). However, the breeze from the Indian Ocean and the smell of fresh Braai in the air make sure I don’t forget where I am.
Beira Beach

Beira Beach

Sunday, October 4:
Nothing. I simply do nothing. Stay inside, read, upload some pictures, process everything I’ve seen and learned so far.
And some more pictures, this time from Manica and Chimoio, can be found on Facebook.
Monday, October 5:
Was supposed to be my first day at work at the Centre de Ensino a Distancia, but it is – surprise, surprise – a public holiday, the Day of Peace and Reconciliation. To be precise, the actual holiday would have been on the fourth, but usually when a holiday falls on a Saturday or a Sunday in Mozambique, the Monday afterwards is declared a bank holiday instead. So I go for a long walk at the beach. Walking back, a Choupela (Auto-Riksha) stops next to me. Two guys from Internations recognized me and try to convince me to join them for a drink. But I am strong and refuse. I have to prepare for my, finally really, first working day.
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The Department of Quality at UCM – Center for Distance Education where my future office is located

Tuesday, October 6:
My project counterpart, Dr. Brito, Pedagogical Director of the CED, shows me around the office. There are about 80 people working there, I have the feeling that I get introduced to at least two thirds of them. A lot of names, faces, places to remember. My desk is almost ready. But I won’t need it this week, because we are going directly to Chimoio again to attend a conference. So a few hours later, my bagpack is in the back of a minivan again and we are driving inland. We arrive at the Lodge close to Manica in the late afternoon. There is no more program scheduled except a – really exceptionally tasty – dinner, where I get to meet a bunch of researchers from the Faculty of Economy and Management in Beira who are staying at the same lodge and will give presentations at the conference.
Welcome to UCM Chimoio - Jornadas Ciêntificas Outubro 2015

Welcome to UCM Chimoio – Jornadas Ciêntificas Outubro 2015

Wednesday, October 7 & Thursday, October 8:
The title of the conference in Chimoio is “The Role of University in Society”, and it is truly interdisciplinary, organised by the Faculties of Engineering, Economy & Management, Agricultural & Nutritional Sciences and the Center of Distance Learning. The program is immensly diverse, and, en bref, feels like the perfect introduction to Mozambique for me. A broad variety of subjects is covered – HIV prevention, sustainable agriculture techniques, the learning culture at Mozambican universities, Entrepreneurship among young Mozambicans, Nutritional habits in the city of Chimoio and so many, many more. I will dedicate a seperate posting to the conference and also publish the translated program there. For now, I am just saying: I have seen, heard, learned so much, met so many people, had so much delicious food, felt so welcome – and am highly motivated, and in the purest sense of the word, proud to belong to the UCM, the Universidade Católica de Mocambique soon.
The conference room at UCM Chimoio

The conference room at UCM Chimoio

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Lunchtime, UCM Chimoio

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2 thoughts on “Two weeks in Mozambique

  1. Hallo Sophie, danke für diesen interessanten Bericht der ersten Zeit. Ich bin beeindruckt, und ich bin auch stolz auf dich, dass du Teil dieser Organisation bist. Wünsch dir weiterhin viele schöne, gute Erfahrungen, Magreth

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  2. Schon zu hören, dass es dir gefällt. Ich kann mir dich richtig gut in Moz vorstellen! Du wirst dich sicherlich bald pudelwohl fühlen. Kleiner Tipp für einen Wochenendausflug: Fahre zu den Wasserfällen bei Mount Gorongoza. Schwimmsachen nicht vergessen! Im Nationalpark werden sie dir vll. sagen, dass es aus Sicherheitsgründen nicht geht aber die Lodge am Parkeingang kann dass ohne Probleme organisieren. Im Gegensatz zum NP haben die gute Beziehungen zu den ‘locals’ und zu FRELIMO und von daher ist Sicherheit kein Problem. Hier der Link: http://bit.ly/1OwyiEF

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