Water, Air, Wind and Fire – Five days in Vilanculos.

Vilanculos – a town in South-Eastern Mozambique, located in a district that goes by the same name, at the coast of the Indian Ocean. This is where you find  the white beaches, the palm trees, colourful fisherboats, and a sea that incorporates (at least) fifty shades of turquoise, corresponding to thosse iconic images of Mozambique on tourism sites and homepages of exclusive lodges. But you don’t have to wander around, searching for hidden magical spots. They are simply there, everywhere, because this is what the region looks like.

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Vilanculos town, December 2015

This is where my 2015 ended and my 2016 kicked off. Together with my Significant Other, we got out of Beira for a few days and headed down South by bus. Some travel tips and recommendations, collected during the trip, can be found in an extra post.

Without hesitation, I dare say that we picked the finest accomodation place one can even dream of – Marimba Secret Gardens, a Budget Lodge about 20 km North of Vilanculos town, created and ran by a young Swiss family, that attracts the most diverse types of travellers in a way that the combination of people that gather there is always unique, and always interesting.

Even though our main purpose was to chill out, relax and just enjoy life, we ended up doing and discovering plenty of things.

10 Things you can do while staying at Marimba Secret Gardens:

  • Go to Bazaruto Archipelago for a day. It’s an untouched paradise, as beautiful as can be and yet neither overran by masses of tourists, nor crowded with infrastructure, shops or bars. It’s just a combination of sand, sea, desert-like dune landscapes and, unfortunately for some of us, jellyfish.
  • Embark on a tiny boat into the open ocean – because that’s what you have to do in order to get to Bazaruto. It is shaky, it is wet, it is windy and, honestly, painful and scary at times – and yet, it was there in the “washing machine” when I felt like looking at myself from an outside perspective, thinking “What an awesome finish of an incredible, shaky, windy year.”
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Bazaruto Archipelago – December 31st, 2015

  • Get up at 4:30am for a sunrise at the beach, knowing that you can crawl under the blankets and the mosquito net in your bungalow afterwards to process the beauty you just experienced.
  • Sit at the bonfire after dark – because yes, even African summers can have some chilly-ish nights – look above and realise that the sky and the stars are different in Southern hemisphere. You are looking at them from a new location and perspective.
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From Dawn till Dusk at Marimba

  • Enjoy the home-made “Dinner of the Day” – be it crab, calamari, tuna fish fingers, or shrimps, depending on the daily catch of local fishermen, but always fresh from the sea.
  • Learn about the local communities Macunhe and Chipongo by socializing with the staff at the lodge, all of them part of the Marimba team since the very beginning when construction started from scratch.
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It’s a hard knock life…

  • Spend afternoons lying on a straw mat underneath your bungalow.
  • Go for a walk on the ocean’s territory during low tide.
  • Admire giant blue starfish on a snorkelling trip around the islands of Bazaruto.
  • Welcome the New Year in a random group of people from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Israel and Sweden – talking about the Eurovision Song Contest.
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Beach at Marimba Secret Gardens, Low Tide, December 2015

Congratulations, Isabelle and Marcel and the whole team, on the great project of Marimba, on your fantastic way of hosting people – and thank you so much for everything! 

P.S.: Since it took me some time to figure out a good way of getting to Vilanculos and back from Beira, I have shared our experiences and recommendations in a separate blog post, “Beira – Vilanculos by bus”.

 

From Beira to Vilanculos by bus

Planning our trip to Vilanculos for New Year’s Eve, I realized that there was not much up-to-date information around about getting there by public transport – so here is a detailed description of our bus trip from Beira to Vilanculos and back (travel dates December 2015/January 2016).

Vilanculos is a coastal town in the province of Inhambane and is located approximately halfway between Beira and Maputo. It is not directly located on the N1 – the main national road that connects the capital with the Zambezi valley in the North – , and buses going to Maputo will usually drop passengers for Vilanculos at Pambarra, where you can catch a Chapa to Vilanculos.

Many companies are serving the route Beira – Maputo. Usually, the easiest way to get information about departure times and ticket purchase would be to go to their local office in Beira in person. However, it was Christmas period, so I needed to find a way to arrange everything online – and LTM (Linhas Terrestres de Moçambique, the national bus company) offers such an option. However, you can only purchase tickets for the entire journey (Beira – Maputo) and tell the bus driver to drop you off in Pambarra. A single ticket cost about 30 Euros – there are certainly cheaper options, but given the comfort and the efficient organisation provided by LTM, I would say it is more than worth the price for a 500 km bus trip.

The bus departs at 3:55AM from the Petromoz petrol station on the Major Serpa Rua in Beira, but you have to be there one hour in advance. As safe as Beira is during the day, it’s out of question walking around in the middle of night, no matter how close you live. Make sure to arrange a taxi or Choupela to pick you up in front of your house. (The Choupela drivers usually know exactly where the LTM-buses depart and will drop you off without further explanation.)

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Departure point LTM bus to Maputo: Petromoz petrol station Rua Major Serpa

Boarding started on time. I hadn’t been able to print the tickets, but the PDF on my mobile phone was absolutely fine. Upon check-in, I simply told the guy that was in charge of checking the tickets, that we would like to get off in Pambarra, he told us it was no problem and simply put a note about our drop-off destination on the passenger list.

The ride was very pleasant. Working air condition and toilets on board, and there was even a small breakfast package provided, including 500 ml of water.

The bus takes the standard route to the South – via Dondo to Inchope on the EN6, and then down on the N1. At the boarder between the provinces Sofala and Inhambane, there was a passport control where they also insisted on seeing my residence and work permit (DIRE), so make sure you have all your travel documents with you.

We arrived Pambarra, around 11:00AM – after 7 hours, less than expected. Finding the Chapa to Vilanculos isn’t a big deal – getting off the bus you should already see one or two of them waiting about 50 metres away. The ride is about 20 km, takes 45 minutes and costs us 40 Meticais per person. Be prepared for a real, authentic Chapa ride and don’t expect too much comfort or privacy in a mini-van packed with 25 people, but hey, that’s part of the game called travelling in Africa!

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Inside the Chapa from Pambarra to Vilanculos

The Chapa stops in the center of Vilanculos, opposite the Barcley’s bank which seems to be a popular milestone / meeting point in town. From there, you can easily get around town by foot or Choupela (50 Meticais per ride).

To get back from Vilanculos to Beira, I booked again online on the LTM-site (and once again for the entire route Maputo – Beira) and called their Maputo office up front to let the agent know that we would be boarding in Pambarra. She told us to be there by 11:00, which seemed early, knowing that the bus would leave from Maputo at 3:55AM and the entire trip is said to take 17 hours. However, we did as she said, arrived in Pambarra and decided to simply have a breakfast beer at one of the bancas to keep an eye on the road. Pambarra is very easy-going, we actually enjoyed sitting there, just watching people and their daily routines.

Around 11:30, I received a phone call from the bus, telling us that they would be there in 15 minutes and we should get ready to be picked up – which was probably the most positive surprise of the day. No stressful observation of the road in order not to miss the bus, no worrying if the agent in Maputo had passed on the information correctly – thumbs up, LTM!

We got back to Beira around 19:15 – again almost 2 hours ahead of schedule, which means that the travel times are calculated generously and always leave a comfortable buffer.

All in all: Travelling with LTM – great experience, excellent and reliable organisation, would definitely do it again and can only recommend it. As mentionned above, there are cheaper options for sure, which might be slightly more adventurous at the same time – I may test them out in the future, or simply prefer the lazy, comfortable luxury of LTM.

P.S.: If you’re interested in our stay in Vilanculos, check out my post Water, Air, Wind and Fire.

 

“Yo falo portañais – et vous?” – What I learned about language learning when I learned a language at the age of 34

One very practical impact of living in Mozambique is the presence of the Portuguese language. Mozambique used to be one of the African colonies of Portugal (besides Angola, Guinea-Bissau and the island states of Capo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe). Portuguese is still the (only) official language of Mozambique. However, only half of the population does actually speak it, and only a quarter of that half considers it as their first language. Given the dimensions of the country – its North-South extension is roughly 2.700 km, which is more than the distance from Stockholm to Rome– it does not surprise that the native languages of the country are of an enormous diversity. There is no dominating indigenous language that is understood in wide parts of the country and hence could become a Lingua Franca (as it is the case with Swahili in several Eastern African countries. In fact, Portuguese does fulfill the role of Lingua Franca, the link language that connects the regions and enables communication, and of course language of the national media. In Beira, as in other larger cities, Portuguese is the main language used by locals also among each other.

That means, of course, that I also have to speak Portuguese. And I do admit, that is a daily challenge and gives me the most controversial experiences – from deepest frustration (“I will never be able to get along in that language!”) to highly motivating success stories (“Wow – I just gave an unprepared, spontaneous presentation…in Portuguese!”). For me, it is the first time that I have to “function” in a language that I do not master properly. When I lived in France and the Netherlands, it was different. I knew French profoundly before I got there, and Dutch – well, a German speaker is never an absolute beginner in Dutch.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel

“The Tower of Babel”, painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder

I am definitely a competetive person, which means I do not like doing things I am not already good at…this goes for sports, games, crafts, and definitely for languages. On the other hand side, this challenges me to try to get better every day.

Just as so many other things that I experience here, my process of getting used to the new language is highly interesting to observe.

Here are some of the things that I have discovered about language learning in the last few months:

1. The worst thing of not speaking a language properly is feeling ignorant and incompetent.

And that is a terrible, terrible experience. It is quite normal that passive language skills – understanding – exceed active skills. Hence, in reality I end up in countless situations where I am able follow the course of a conversation, but all I can do to participate is nod or shake my head and express attention and understanding by making big eyes and a friendly face. As soon as a question is directed towards me, I need “special assistance” – someone to repeat the question over and over again, someone who would quickly switch to English for me, someone to help me out with words I am searching for. And that makes me feel so – handicapped, so stupid, so ignorant.

However, it is definitely something to bear in mind in the future when dealing with people who are not fluent in the language they have to function in – maybe they are feeling exactly the same.

2. Paradoxically, the more abstract and specific conversations are, the better I master them in Portuguese.

Conversations that are related to my job, my professional background, my field of expertise are usually the motivating ones, the ones that trigger an adrenaline outburst, when I start babbling about E-Learning Policies, Sustainable Development Goals or Content Management Systems. The conversations that leave me frustrated are usually unexpected everyday encounters – someone addresses me on the street, a question from the cleaning team, administration stuff at the immigration office. The latter ones, however, are the classic “textbook” situations that go as basic language skills, whereas the former are much more specific and usually not even covered in language courses.

I have given some thought to that phenomenon – and after all, it might not be so paradoxal: Whenever I use “language or specific purposes”, I am usually familiar with the purpose, the context, the typical communication patterns. Talking about concepts, aspects, ideas, theories, requires a certain level of abstraction that I had to acquire gradually during my professional development – and it is relatively independant from a specific language, hence quite easily to be transferred from one language to another. On the other hand side, the everyday encounters are unanticipated. I have no frame of reference about the subject, the content, the purpose of the question someone addresses to me on the street or in a restaurant, neither about the attitude or expectation of the other person…and that makes it way harder to decode and react to.

Source: http://www.archdaily.com.br/br/01-73879/cinema-e-arquitetura-encontros-e-desencontros-lost-in-translation/73879_73882

Scene from “Lost in Translation”

I always thought the urban legends about scientists who give a highly complex speech at a conference in a foreign language and then, during lunch break, don’t manage to order coffee at the bar, are highly exaggerated. I don’t really think so any more.

3. “Conquering” a language on Duolingo does not automatically qualifiy you to “function” in that language

However, neither do several years in high school or even a university degree in the respective language. Duolingo, in any case, is a great starting point, and an even better means to keep me motivated – and now, that I am learning new words, expressions, structures mainly “in the field”, it is a wonderful platform to every now and then monitor how much I have actually progressed. Unless another revolutionary platform appears on the horizon soon, I assume Duolingo will remain my favourite and most recommendable language learning app for quite some more time. Even more since they are currently working on Swahili.

Source: www.duolingo.com

August 10, 2015 – The Day I conquered the Portugues skill tree

4. Latin languages are sexy.

The more Latin a language looks and feels, the sexier it is. And Portuguese, which has conserved a lot of conjugation, does look and feel very Latin, at least to me. And Latin is pretty awesome.

Source: http://thebigbookoflatin.github.io/

Keep calm and love Latin

 

5. My requirements for grammar do not follow a linear pattern

To give you an example: In reality, I do not have the time to first learn to conjugate all irregular verbs correctly in present tense before putting myself in a situation where I need to refer to a past event. Similarily, I cannot wait to get started with adverbs only after knowing everything about adjectives by heart, and at times, a badly formed conjunctive, that nevertheless obviously is a conjunctive and hence fits the politeness requirements in a given situation, is more appropriate than a well formed indicative.

“I would likes a Pizza Margarita” is definitely more appropriate than “I want a Pizza Margarita” when placing an order in a restaurant. Wouldn’t you agree?

6. Talking to people I know is often easier thantalking to strangers

It probably has a lot to do with habits. If I know someone’s way of speaking, their specific accent, their mimics and gestures, their individual tone and melody, it is much easier to focus on the actual content of what they are saying. Also, it probably is related to trust. So, to my Portuguese speaking friends and acquaintances out there…if I dare to speak Portugues with you, it probably means that I trust you.

7. Learning a language is definitely an excellent excuse to re-read all Harry Potter novels.

No further explanation needed. It just is.
Source. http://mentalfloss.com/article/58137/magical-origins-harry-potter-words

8. “Yo falo Portanais, et vous…”

The anti-phrase I used in the title was a special creation, born during lunch break in the international language school in Lisbon where I studied Portuguese for three weeks last summer. At some point, me and some colleagues got hopelessly lost in translation and mixed up all fragments of all Latin languages we knew, ending up with an Esperanto-ish dialect that sounded strangely like the Minion language without the extensive use of Bananaaaaa.

Source: http://www.minionsipsum.com/

The magnificent Minions-themed Lore Ipsum Generator, to be found under http://www.minionsipsum.com/

9. Moçambicanismos are a thing

And finally, of course, Mozambican Portuguese is neither European Portuguese, nor Brazilian Portuguese. Like every variety of a language, it does dispose of some very specific elements, mainly on vocabulary level. Find here is a list of some of my favourite Moçambicanismos:

matabicho: breakfast; also comes in the shape of a verb, matabichar (eating breakfast). Nobody uses pequeno-almoco (Portugal) or café de manha (Brasil) here.

machamba: farm, agricultural space. Borrowed from Kiswaheli shamba(ma) and widely used.

tchungamoio: informal market, mainly used in central Mozambique. It derives from the Cindau language where it literally means “open heart“, and figuratively refers to being courageous.

tuga: Informal, pejorative expression to refer to the Portuguese (as a noun and an adjective), people from “Tugalândia” (Portugal)

txapo-txapo: means “fast, quickly”, derives from the (Pidgin-)English expression “chop chop” that itself was imported from China and probably also forms the origin of chopsticks.

xingumbungumbu: Unsurprisingly, this is an onomatopoeia that originates from the sound of hitting a plastic can and hence refers to exactly that kind of container.

muito-muito: Portuguese muito means much; many; a lot. The doubled expression in Mozambique means mainly and is influenced by the common construction principle of Bantu Languages to intensify the meaning of a word by repeating it.

gangsters paradise: Playful reference to cars with the letters GP on their licence plates that appear in large quantities in Maputo and the Southern coastal region, mainly during South African holidays. GP (in reality) stands for Gauteng Province, the South African province where Johannesburg is located.

 

 

 

Thinking of Europe

Mozambican newspaper, November 17th, copyright: Sophie Lenz
Something strange is going on. Something is wrong.
Right now, I am living far away from home. Far enough to clearly see what “home” is to me. I have lived in so many different places that I always found it difficult to identify with one place, one town, one region in particular. But from the distance, I understand that my home is Europe.
I am European, always have been. Hopping between various countries in Europe felt likea big pleasure, never like a contradiction, and I think one of the first lessons I learned through travelling and moving places was that deviations in culture, habits, food, daily routines, education system etc. are interesting, but in the end of the day, they are overruled by the enormous amount of ideas, desires, needs, values that we all have in common.
Google image search for [Beautiful Europe], source: Google

Beautiful Europe

And btw, I still strongly believe this is true -beyond Europe as well. People strive for fulfillment of their basic needs, we seek for people we feel comfortable with because they give us safety, security, pleasure and meaning, and as long as we have means and freedom (given we are lucky enough not to permanently struggle for our next meal or next month’s rent), we are likely to try to improve our personal situation, be it by educating ourselves, founding a family, building a house, or looking for better opportunities somewhere else. And no, I am not exclusively talking about people from the Southern and Eastern parts of the globe who come to Europe, hoping to find a future here. I am also talking about thousands of “Western” pre- and post-docs who migrate to wherever they get an interesting research position, I am talking about Society Dropouts who migrate to India or to an Israelian Kibbutz searching for a cheap, non-capitalist life, I am talking about all the women and men I keep meeting everywhere who followed their partners on expat assignments, trying to “figure out something for themselves”, and I am talking about people myself, bored and exhausted by European city life at the same time by the life, acceppting any opportunity to do something else.
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Beautiful Europe

So now I am here in beautiful Mozambique, missing Europe sometimes, like a good friend – with no regrets about leaving her behind, because I know she will always be there for me, as she always has.

A lot of people back home in Europe keep in touch with me, follow my life here, develop interest for Mozambique in particular and Africa, African matters, in general, and I am happy and proud about that. Some people are also  worried about me, keep asking me if I am safe here. But the inconvenient truth seems to be: It should be the other way round. I got worried about friends and acquaintances in Europe last weekend, desperately waited for news from Paris, to finally learn with an immense relief that all of them are safe. Mozambique is poor, that is a fact, and there is some political tension going on. But – civilians are not assassinated strategically here, no explosives are planted in public transport, and the government is not thinking about bombing Syria. (Sidenote: I am talking explicitely about Mozambique now – Africa is not a country…)
I am not trying to say that Africa is a harmonious paradise on earth. Of course it is not. Nigeria and Kenya, among others, suffered terrorist attacks in recent times, and they are reminding the world now that they didn’t get Facebook Apps to mark people as safe, profile pictures or urban monuments weren’t adopting their flags, and all in all they did not receive even a fragment of the current attention for Paris – observations that are not entirely untrue. A potential ethic conflict is silently building up in Burundi (a country many people don’t even know exists), and the daily killings in Eritrea, Somalia or Darfur are not reported anywhere anymore. However, my intention is not to compare “who is worse off”. It is nothing but a report of what I am feeling these days when I think of Europe, my home.
So I am sitting here, far away. The attacks in Paris, at places I am familiar with, La Stade de France, les bars du 11e arrondissement, it all seems so unreal and I am trying to understand that they really happened. Ever since I arrived in Mozambique, I have been asked more than once if it’s true that Europe is doing terribly, terribly wrong on all
levels. That might be a simplified impression, spread by the media (and who could blame them – the average European magazine does not exactly depict a very sophisticated image of Africa – poor, dark and pretty far away).
Also, there are very different reports about Europe as well, praising her openness towards Syrian refugees, keeping up the idea of a European Community (btw – did you know about the EU’s Southern counterpart, the African Union?).
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Beautiful Europe

But still…the glimpses about Europe I get on TV, Facebook pages, randomly overheard conversations…they are dominated by crisis, swing to the right, an out of control refugee situation, bankrupt nation, countries blaming each other, pushing off accountability instead of working on hands-on solutions, borders, fences, walls, and terrorism.
As narcisstic and self-centered it may sound – but it hurts to see my home depicted in such a way. It hurts to see a great continent, the great idea of Europe that has overcome walls and cold war being reduced to a pathetic picture of misery. But what hurts most is that I am not so sure any longer if it is really just an image distorted by the media – or rather close to reality.
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Here are some recent publications from African media about Paris / European affairs:
Namibians react on Paris AttacksArticle in The Namibian, expressing partly harsh critisicm on the ignorance of the Western world towards African issues
Africa must learn from Europe’s structural failuresNew African, September 2015. Not related to the Paris attacks, yet very interesting read about Africa’s perception of Europe

Let’s talk about food, baby

Food is one of the first, most obvious elements you get in touch with in a new country. Traditional recipies, eating habits, even the way markets and supermarkets are outlined and designed – these components of culture are relatively effortless to observe and grasp, hard to overlook and often particularly easy to remember…(“Beijing…oh yeah, that’s where we had that enormous tray of wonderfully greasy prawns in that unimposing backyard inn”).

So what about food in Mozambique? Let me introduce you to some of the eating habits that I have developed in the past few weeks.
Grocery shopping, Mozambique style

Grocery shopping, Mozambique style

FRUITS FROM HEAVEN

The backbone of my diet definitely consists of fruit. With summer just around the corner, new sorts appear on the markets in abundance on a weekly basis. Apples, oranges, bananas, papaya, pineapple, various types of melons, and the objects of my current addictions: mangos (in all shapes and shades) and lychees (yes, they are of Asian origin, but also cultivated in Mozambique, namely in the province of Manica). Addiction is the right term, given that I regularly stray around shortly before dusk, desperately on the lookout for someone to sell me some lychees, and the sudden relief when I finally find an old lady by the side of the road or two young guys in a Chupela to purchase two quarter-kilo-bags of fresh, round, rosy delicacies from – for 50 Meticais.
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PRAWN, CASHEW, PIRI PIRI

There are some foods that are specifically Mozambican. Introducing all of them would be quite a task, and unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to try them all – but an entertaining overview by another Mozambique-Blogger can be found here.
It appears obvious that seafood plays an important role on the stoves and BBQs of Mozambique, considering the country’s 2000 km coastline. The amount and quality of prawn and shrimp that is available everywhere, fresh from the Indian Ocean, easily compensates for the lack of other types of meat. And prawns are so universal – they taste great in curries, or simply fried with garlic and lime juice, with my home-made mango chutney (recipe see below) and couscous, or as Shrimp Mozambique, a recipe particularly popular in Portugal, that has potential to be prommoted to this year’s Christmas dinner.
Prawn, mango chutney, couscous

Prawn, mango chutney, couscous

One of the main export goods of Mozambique are Cashews (Funfact: Biologically speaking, they are seed, not nuts). I am sure there are a lot of brilliant recipes of what to make of Cashews. So far, I didn’t feel the need for any of them – because cashews as they are, as you can buy them everywhere on the streets here, are fantastic as they are. And apart from their looks they have barely anything in common with the small, tasteless, overpriced and over-salted cashews I know from European supermarkets. Cashews, baby!
Another product you might know without knowing its connection with Mozambique is Piri Piri – a red hot chili pepper, also known as African bird’s eye chili, that comes in the shape of powder or sauce. Piri Piri is not exclusively Mozambican, but also produced and enjoyed in many other African countries, and Piri-Piri Chicken is claimed to be one of Mozambique’s national dishes. On a sidenote: It gained world-wide fame thanks to the South African, Mozambique-themed restaurant chain Nando’s (that does not have any outlets in Mozambique, by the way).
Piri Piri chicken - unfortunately not made by me

Piri Piri chicken – unfortunately not made by me

WANT SOMETHING? MAKE IT YOURSELF!

Vienna has spoilt me. Having lived in 4th, 5th and 6th district for years, I am used to having at least one Thai snack bar, two Vietnamese Pho restaurants, three juice- and smoothie bars, four Indian diners, five coffee-take-aways and countless pizzerias in a radius of 300 metres from my place.
I don’t have that here. But what I have rediscovered is the fact that food and drinks are made from basic ingredients – which means, they are not so difficult to replicate. If I want pizza, I buy flour, yeast and some garnishes at Melhor supermarket and make my own at home, following recipe for pizza dough and pizza sauce (the dough is nothing special, but the tomato sauce in the recipe is simply fantastic).
Believe it or not - you can have pizza without having it delivered to your flat

Believe it or not – you can have pizza without having it delivered to your flat

If I miss Fruchtikus, the fruit snack to be found in every Austrian supermarket, I analyse what a Fruchtikus actually is: Fruit in a glass, easy to transport and to eat in the office as a delicious energy snack. Cutting some of my lovely mangos and stuffing them into an empty baby food container really is not a big deal – and tastes times more natural and healthier than the original Fruchtikus. And Vanilla Custard (that is, naturally, available at the South African supermarket Shoprite) tastes great with fresh mangos, too. Remember? I mentioned that fruit are the backbone of my nutrition plan.
Drinking tap-water is a no-go. At some point, I got a bit tired of carrying three litres of water back home from the supermarket every day, so I had another idea of how to stock up on refreshing, clean and healthy drinks: Using boiled tap-water to brew tea, letting it cool down and filling it in empty plastic bottles guarantees a calorie-free variety of refreshments, and tea can be seasoned – with lemon, with ginger, with cinnamon, vanillia, orange juice…you name it, there are countless combinations, even based on a rather restricted selection of available teas (in my case, mainly Rooibos, Lime Tree and some fruity blends).
One of my favourites: A pineapple-mint-flavoured tea with ginger and cinnamon.
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My stock of ice tea and fruit snacks for the office. Looks: D-, taste: A++

WHAT I REALLY MISS

And yet, there is something that no do-it-yourself-strategy, and not even the most savoury mango-prawn-cashew-piri-piri-curry in the world could compensate for. I am suffering from the possibly most common disease among Austrian expats worldwide: A severe Lattella-withdrawal. The refreshing whey drink sometimes even stars in my dreams at night, and I spend so much time thinking about it that I already created two new sorts in my mind: a winter special “Plum flavour” and an Abricot-Elderberry-Blend.
Lattella - as Austrian as can be

Lattella – as Austrian as can be

MY VERY OWN MANGO CHUTNEY

What would a food blog post be without at least one recipe? When I ended up unexpectedly with 33 mangos a few weeks ago, I searched for the perfect recipe to process them into chutney, and ended up creating my own variation, strongly inspired by this recipe by Alton Brown. What I really like about it is the extreme contrast – while the very ripe mangos and the pineapple juice are almost sinfully sweet, it allows me to be really, really generous with the Piri Piri and the curry powder.
Ingredients (for a reasonable amout to be deep-freezed and kept for less fruity times:
12 – 15 small, sweet, yellow mangos (peeled and chopped)
1 onion
2-3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Piri Piri powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3-4 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
250 ml pineapple juice
120 ml white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cashews (roasted or plain, unsalted)
1.5 tablespoons curry powder
Instructions:
Heat the oil in a pan, add the Piri Piri powder and shortly after the onions and sweat until soft. Add the ginger and bell pepper (both finely chopped) and finally the mangos and the cashews and cook for 2-3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, and curry powder and add the mix to the pan. Bring the mixture briefly to cook and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
The chutney is delicious with almost anything – I tried it with prawns, chicken, on plain rice, couscous and pasta so far – it all worked well.
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The Discovery of Simplicity

Beira Bar. Wednesday Evening.

Beira Bar. Wednesday Evening.

Moving abroad. Changing places and exploring a new environment. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in this situation, and I daresay that I never experienced it in the intensity I do now. Moving to Mozambique is different from moving to Hungary, France, Netherlands or back to Austria. I know that I will be going through several stages, as everyone does and as I’ve done before. In a couple of weeks, for example, I will have settled and got relatively used to my daily life, and reality will start to kick in. There will be moments of unpleasant weather, and frustrating appointments, and days with headache or simply a bad night of sleep, and I will be very likely to blame it on the city, the country, the decision I made to leave Vienna. Because in those very moments, I will not remember the bad, frustrating, aching moments in Vienna where I just wished that I had had stayed in Eindhoven instead, because everything would have been so much better there.

Been there, done that. And there are a couple of highly recommendable articles that describe these and similar feelings in a very authentic way, e.g. The Thing that Really Sucks About Living Abroad, What Happens When You Live Abroad – and some of my own thoughts.

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But for now, I realize a certain simplification of everything, compared to the last few breathtaking and breathless years in Vienna. I experience so many “Firsts”. The first grocery shopping at the local market in Beira (where I accidentally bought 33 instead of a handful of mangos and hence processed them into a stock of delicious chutney), the first Chupela-ride on my own (the auto-rikshas on the streets that I am a bit traumatized by from Mumbai where I was permanently ripped off and had to get into endless discussions about broken meters – now I know that here in Beira, they are as uncomplicated as could be and every ride simply costs 50 Meticais), the first rain (that started without any warning signs, gave the impression that the world might have come to an end for five minutes, and then stopped as abruptely as it started).

First Choupela Ride

First Choupela Ride

First 1000 Meticais bill

First 1000 Meticais bill

I also feel that I have more time now. Why? I guess it’s a couple of factors playing together. I have less choices here than I was used to in Eindhoven and Vienna – on many levels…grocery shopping, leisure activities, priotities at work. I don’t have Netflix neither an internet connection stable enough to watch long movies on Youtube. I have a limited amount of books and just a few CDs and downloaded music on Deezer. Turns out, the lack of choices allows me to focus much more on what I am doing – reading what I am reading, spending an afternoon at the Culture Center taking African Dance Classes, not just browsing through articles at work but reading them thoroughly. Cooking things from scratch, preparing litres of cooled down, fresh Rooibos Tea and storing it as alternative to drinking water. And I start to understand that this focus, without the permanent thought of what all the other things that I could just as well do at a given moment makes every moment longer, more intense, and simply more pleasant.

And I experience so many “success stories” – discoveries and incidents that seem so insignificant and ridiculous and yet add value or comfort to my life: Finding a thermos cup in a Chinese shop that finally allows me to take my own, home-made coffee to the office. Basically any conversation that I master in Portuguese. Figuring out how to find the guy who sells newspapers every Thursday when the new Zambeze is out. Discovering that I can receive FM-radio (that is, independent from Internet connection) on my tablet by simply attaching headphones as antenna. Opening my bathroom window at 5:30pm, realizing that I can watch the perfect sunset from there.

None of these things would have had any chance of making my day back in Vienna, or Eindhoven. But here they do. And that feels comforting, and relieving. Knowing that it was absolutely worth getting up in the morning just because of a sunset or a sunrise or a nice converstaion I had.

I call it the Discovery of Simplicity.

Sunset as I see it from my bathroom window

Sunset as I see it from my bathroom window

And the same spot at 5:15am

And the same spot at 5:15am

“The Role of University in Society” – Multidisciplinary at its best @ UCM Chimoio

Last week, I was invited to visit a conference in Chimoio where my university, UCM, has a local site. Chimoio is currently listed as Mozambique’s fifth largest towns and the capital of the province Manica, about 200 km inland from Beira towards the Zimbabwean border. The conference – Jornadas Ciêntificas, roughly translated to Research Days or Science Days – was organised by four different faculties: Economy & Management, Health Sciences, Engineering, and “my” faculty, the Distance Learning Center. The high level theme of the conference: The Role of University in Society.

UCM's Faculty of Engineering in Chimoio, Province Manica

UCM’s Faculty of Engineering in Chimoio, Province Manica

During themed panels, researchers got the chance to pitch objectives and results of their own research projects and reply to questions and suggestions from the audience. Due to the diversity of disciplines and subjects, the conference unfolded a multidisciplinary spirit that I have rarely experienced in Europe, where I am rather used to nerds losing themselves in details: Political philosophers asking questions about biomass generated from sugar cane, medical doctors and engineers discussing civil participation in rural communities and many more fantastic cross-field debates.

The conference room at UCM Chimoio

The Look & Feel of an African Academic Conference. The beautiful fabric to decorate the stage and panel desk was specifically designed for the 20 Year Anniversary that UCM celebrated in September

Welcome to UCM Chimoio - Jornadas Ciêntificas Outubro 2015

Some of the values the Catholic University of Mozambique stands for: Justice, Tolerance, Faith, Health, Family, Professionalism, and – last but not least – Love and Humor.

But what I enjoyed even more: I couldn’t have expected a more naturalistic, authentic “culture training”. Given the high practical impact of all the presented research projects, I got a priceless insight into the questions and discourses the academic community of Mozambique engages in – and the alignment of the topics with the conference theme put them perfectly into the context of the Mozambican society.

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Recurring topics at the Conference: The fight against Malaria,…

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…HIV…

...and poverty

…and poverty

Below, I am sharing the conference programme with you – knowing that it would be impossible to summarize even the most important research results, I believe that the programme alone already gives a rewarding insight into the reality of the highly interesting, complex, utterly beautiful country I live now.

Research Days of the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Economy and Management, the Faculty of Engineering and the Distance Learning Center

“The Role of University in Society”

October 7 2015 

  • Reception
  • Prayer
  • National Anthem
  • Opening Ceremony
  • Key Note: The Role of the University in Society (Prof. Joao Ferrao)

1st Panel: Economy and Social Sciences

  • Budgetary Policy: An Analysis of the Situation in Mozambique
  • Application of Marketing Strategies by Small Retailers in the Province of Manica
  • Critical Analysis of the Legal Situation, Shortcomings and Gaps in the Mozambican Labour Law
  • Relevance of Structured Accounting for Small Companies
  • Analysis of the Economic and Financial Situation of the Universidade Católica de Moçambique

2nd Panel: Economy and Social Sciences

  • Civil Responsibility of the State in Preventive Detention beyond Legal Terms
  • Repayment Rate at the District Development Fund in the District of Caia
  • Critical Analysis of the Entrepreneur Culture among Youth: A Case Study of the Region of Central Mozambique
  • Development of a Model for Financial Planning of Projects Financed by FDD (Fundo Distrital de Desenvolvimento / District Development Fund)
  • Financial Unsustainability of the Social Security System of Manica

3rd Panel: Health

  • Modelling of the Influence of Climate on the Occurence of Malaria in the Municipality of Chimoio
  • Doctors trained at the Universidade Católica de Mozambique – Their Satisfaction with Curriculum and Professional Education
  • Clinical-Demographical Cases of Epilepsy at the Provincial Hospital of Chimoio (HPC) in 2013 and 2014
  • Clinical and Demographical Profile of Suicidal Patients at the Provincial Hospital of Chimoio (HPC) in 2013 and 2014
  • Mortality Causes in Chimoio in 2013

4th Panel: Health

  • Patients suffering from Schizophrenia at the Provincial Hospital of Chimoio (HPC) in 2013 and 2014
  • Let’s Talk – Let’s Play – Let’s Change. An Experience of Sensibilisation [HIV/AIDS Prevention among Adolescents]
  • HIV/AIDS Prevention among Adolescents: Analysis of Attitudes and Behaviour Towards Sexuality and Relationships
  • Self Evaluation of the Risk of HIV Infection among Adolescents in Beira
  • Spatial Variation and Social-Demographical Characteristics of Malaria Patients in the Municipality of Chimoia
  • Alternative Treatment of Matequenha (Tunga Penetrans / Chigoe Flea): Case Study, City of Chimoio – Bairro 1°de Maio

October 8, 2015

  • Key Note: The Contribution of Scientific Research to Solutions for Disadvantages in the Dynamics of a Society

5th Panel: Agricultural and Nutrionial Sciences  

  • Comparison of Seeding Methods in Microbiological Analysis of Fish
  • The Role of University in Communities and their Rural Development of Sustainable Agriculture in Mucheve, District of Chibabava
  • Evaluation of Alimentation Habits and Implications on the Nutricional State among Adolescent Residents in Urban and Suburban Areas in the City of Beira
  • Use of Biomass gained from Sugar Cane as Source of Renewable Energy. A Case Study in Tongaat Hulett – Mozambica Sugar Basin, District of Dondo
  • Physical-chemical Characteristics of Honey Produced in the Province of Manica
  • Use of Spiders in Agriculture for Biological Pest Control

6th Panel:  Education and Social Sciences

  • Satisfaction Level among Social Media Users
  • Analysis of the Level of Computer Piracy in the City of Chimoio
  • Associativism als Alternative for Local Development: An Investigation of the Cooperative Practice in the Communities of Nhangau
  • Creation of Wealth through Financial Literacy
  • Evaluation of the Usage of Information Management Systems by Managers of Small and Medium-Sized Companies in the City of Chimoio

7th Panel: Education and Social Sciences

  • Strategies for the Development of a Reading and Writing Culture at Mozambican Universities: Case Study at the UCM
  • The Relation Between Education, Politics and Society in the Philosophy of Paulo Freire (1921-97) and their Relevance for Higher Education in Mozambique
  • The Role of the School Council for Democratic Management in Primary Education based on the Examples of the Comprehensive Primary Schools “Amílcar Cabral” and “Nhamaonha” in Chimoio
  • Community Participation in the Local Development Process in the Municipality of Gondola in 2014
  • Relevance of Early Childhood Support for Children with Hearing Impairment

8th Panel: Education and Social Sciences

  • The Role of Universities for the Transformation of Society
  • The Role of UCM for the Development of People and Communities: A Review of the Practice at UCM and other Institutions of Higher Education in Beira
  • The Role of Leadership in Labouring Conflict Management: A Case Study of the City Council in Beira
  • Motivation and Satisfaction of Employees at UCM – Faculty of Engineering

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

The final countdown. Departure scheduled for September 22nd

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Long time no post.

My departure to Mozambique got severly delayed due to some issues with my visa and work permit. That gave me the chance to spend a fabulous summer in Vienna. It prevented me, however, from documenting my daily life and preparations on a regular basis. I found it rather difficult to get involved with my future environment, my future work, my future tasks without knowing when I would finally get started.

But now it is happening. It is happening for real. I am leaving next week Tuesday, leaving from Vienna and flying with Air France via Paris and Johannesburg to finally hit the final destination – Beira. The whole journey will take 24 hours and 50 minutes, but I am not really worried about exhaustion or sleepiness. I can rather anticipate the adrenaline that will pimp my entire system during the transfer in Jo’burg at the latest.

I still have a few days to pack my bags, to meet people I appreciate, and to review the last few months.

I was waiting. But I wasn’t uniquely waiting. I did a lot of things, and I learned even more.

 

I learned a lot about patience and equanimity.

We cannot change the pace and the outcome of things. Sometimes we believe we can, because we feel we have more room for making a personal impact. But in the end, we can never anticipate all the weird turns, legal changes, the human factor, and pure randomness.

Sometimes, things take more time than anticipated. And sometimes, things have to fall apart so that better things can fall together.

I learned a lot about self confidence.

I’ve always identified a lot with my professional functions – paid or unpaid, big or small. I knew that they made me interesting, and valuable, and great for being interviewed, guest blogging, presenting. These past few months, I had nothing to blog about, nothing to present, nothing to be interviewed about. And my friends didn’t give shit. I figured out how to live a pleasant, fulfilled life without a 9 to 9 occupation.

I learned a lot about gratitude.

I am grateful for the time I considered wasted in the first place and that turned out to be time gained. I had the time and chance visit (or re-visit) places that mean a lot to me. Lisbon. St. Veit. Eindhoven. Berlin. I had the time to meet people I care about without subtly scheduling the next appointment. I am grateful for all the quality time I spent. For all the good memories I made in Vienna, Eindhoven and Upper Austria. For all the people I wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for the waiting time. And I am grateful for all the stuff I learned and posted here.

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You have just left the comfort zone. Welcome to Lisbon, and watch out for miracles!

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Walking along the river Tejo, lost in thought and obsessed with finding the perfect perspective to shoot the wonderful twilight scene of the river, the bridge and the Jesus monument, a sudden realization struck me: The reason why I ended up in Lisbon for now was the decision I made months ago to leave my beloved, exciting, promising Vienna-life behind. Lisbon is the first step outside my comfort zone.

And then, in that very moment, I fell on my buttocks. I had stepped on a spot covered in wet and slippery algue and landed on my rear. Not subtly, not gently, and not unnoticed. The next moment, I was surrounded by a group of young Brasilians, staring at me with terrified looks on their faces, followed by several occurences of the highly sophisticated dialogue “Tudo bem?” – “Sim, tudo bem!” Then a hand pulled me up, and we all started laughing and hugging each other, wishing each other a good stay in Lisbon.

Slippery when wet

Slippery when wet

The river, the bridge, the statue

The river, the bridge, the statue

Life outside the comfort zone is not always comfortable. It can be hilarious, absurd, ironic, educational, and sometimes purely magical.

That coincidence by the Tejo was just a hilarious example. But it’s a fact that I am outside my regular, well-known bubble. On Saturday, I will fly back to Austria. However, I do not have a flat there that is “my place”, I don’t have a job where I am required to show up on a regular basis. I don’t know how much time I have left to pack my bags for Mozambique, to organise the last documents I need, to arrange good-bye meetings with all the people that I will miss. I am responsible to find my way around and “my spot” in Lisbon, to make my time here useful and pleasant, and there is absolutely no protocol that I can follow. And then…I have seen amazing sunsets, and dolphins, and the rocky beaches of the Atlantic coast. I have spent two hours running along the coast in pouring rain, and I have experienced the euphory when I finally reached the Cais do Sodre where I could get onto the metro. I found post-its with good-bye-notes on my bunkbed from people I had briefly met at various hostels. I have learned that people in general don’t care who I were and what I had in Vienna, and even less about the reasons why I gave it all up…and that they are still interested in the story I have to tell. And I learned that at times, I misjudge and underestimate people in the most arrogant way. So I make a promise, here and now, that I will do my best to change that. To never judge anyone before listening to their story.

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Message on the running trail between Belém and Algés

Fado feeling

Fado feeling

Good-bye-notes in Hostels

Good-bye-notes in Hostels

Cabo da Roca. Westernmost point of Continental Europe.

Cabo da Roca. Westernmost point of Continental Europe.