Three friends, two weeks, one journey. Swaziland – Mozambique 2016

Just a few facts to resume a trip worth tens of thousands of pictures and a million memories: Two weeks on the road from Johannesburg via Swaziland, Maputo, Tofo and Vilankulos up to Beira.

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Competitive itinerary for less than 2 weeks. First etape was taken by plane, though (Beira – Johannesburg)

  • We met at Johannesburg Tambo Airport on a Friday morning. One came via Paris from Amsterdam. One came via Dubai from Vienna. One came directly from Beira. Two of them had never met before. Then we got on a Minibus that took us to Swaziland. The journey had begun.
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MTN Bushfire Swaziland. That’s what one would call a perfectly chilled festival

  • We travelled with pickups, private cars, ferry boats, Txoupelas (Tuk Tuks), Chapas, overland buses, sail boats, 4×4, and by foot.
  • Rhinos, elephants and lions – they were so extremly peaceful and incredibly close at Hlane National Park, Swaziland. 

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    Hlane Royal National Park – so many wonders of nature on just 22.000 hectares

  • We harvested fresh spinach for dinner, watched a breathtaking sunset and sung Austrian songs with orphans at Shewula Mountain Camp, Swaziland.

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    On top of Swaziland: Shewula Mountain Camp

  • In Maputo, we (re-)discovered all the pleasures that Mozambique has to offer: Txoupela, Manica, Capulana and many more. We invented games with three Mozambican friends over fantastic seafood dinner and got an exclusive late-night sightseeing tour through one of the most intersting African capital cities.

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    Samora Machel and some more impressions from the capital of Mozambique, Maputo

  • Further up North, Tofo and Vilankulos spoilt us with some of the most cliché Mozambique images one can imagine: snow white sand, the sea shimmering in 50 shades of Turquoise, black sailing boats with black sails, palm trees that we even try to climb, and fresh seafood everywhere.
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Mix of Tofo and Vilankulos, Mozambique. If paradise is half as nice..

  • We had taylored Capulana-dresses in Beira and watched the opening game of the EURO 2016 at Biques Restaurante.

Over the next few weeks, I will post more stories, pictures, anecdotes and reviews about our journey through Swaziland and Southern Mozambique. But for now: Thank you so much to the awesome travelling sisters, and to everyone we met along the way for an unforgettable trip!

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“Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

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11 things I am glad I brought to Mozambique

It is exciting to live abroad, to get to know a new environment, to adjust to local food, customs, and traditions. And yet, at times, it also can be just terrifying and exhausting. It’s part of the game, and instead of trying to avoid these negative streaks (because that won’t work), I find it more effective to develop strategies to deal with them. One of my strategies is to have my own little comfort goodies with me. I could definitely find replacements here or simply live without them – but that makes them so particularly valuable.

#1: My allround entertainment center aka Tablet

My Sony Xperia Z…every Sunday morning, I get the new weekly profil, every Thursday Die Zeit e-Paper, and once a month the New African. I have a Kindle-App on it and a UB E-Reader, I can spend weekend afternoons on my balcony playing video games. It is great to play Deezer music, to watch movies and series downloaded or directly in the ORF Mediathek, and when something important happens – like Austrian elections or soon the Football EC – I can even try streaming online.

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Personalized multimedia & entertainment center

#2: My media libraries – music, books, movies

Oh gosh – thinking of the boxes full of books, CDs and DVDs that I had to somehow transport back to Austria after five years in the Netherlands. What I nightmare.

These days, the collection of reading material, music, films and series is infintely larger that in used to be back in the days…and yet it weighs less than a pound.

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From left to right: 10.000 songs, 1.500 books, 500 movies & series

By the way: In January, Netflix was launched in Mozambique recently, as it was in most other African countries. However, for now I don’t have the broadband connection I’d need to netflix and chill.

#3: Robust, high quality sandals

I walk a lot; it’s always hot; and I am not allowed to wear flip-flots at work. Best compromise: one pair of really good, comfortable yet robust sandals, a stock of cheap ballerinas and one pair of hiking shoes (although I haven’t used mine so far). Needless to mention my variety of flip-flops for home, beach, weekends, balcony etc.

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These sandals were made for walking – and that’s what they do

But my favourites are definitely these sandals, model “28er” (named after the Steyr 28 tractor) from GEA.

#4: Medication for the common cold

I managed to catch my first Malaria two months after I got to Mozambique. However, my most frequent and most annoying health issues have nothing to do with tropical parasites. It’s the common cold that affects me every other month, and given the omnipresence (and inalienability!) of air conditioning in combination with high outside temperatures and unexpected rain showers, that should not even come as a suprise. And even though the pharmacies here are not badly stocked, I think everyone has their own favourite treatments for “Schnupfen, Husten, Heiserkeit” – so make sure you bring them with you!

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Not to fight nasty tropcial parasites. Simply to cure nose, throat, ears.

#5: Immersion Blender

Mozambique is flowing over with wonderful food, vegetables and herbs all year long. And even though I usually find them best to be consumed just as they are, they also keep an enormous potential to be blended into juices, smoothies and soups. It’s not impossible but yet challenging to buy a good blender here – and a compact, high quality immersion blender does not occupy to much luggage space.

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Maracuja-Orange-Avocado Juice, DIY style

#6: Garlic press

It sounds like a very little detail – but since I do cook a lot more “from the scratch” here than I ever did before, for the first time in my life I always have a solid stock of basic products at home – milk, eggs, flour, potatoes, cream, onions, and of course garlic. And we it’s an open secret that processing garlic is so much easier and faster with a press than with a knife. Just like blenders, I am pretty sure that garlic press are not impossible to find here as well. However, until now, I have not come across one so for – and am very happy for my European Ikea one, made in China.

#7: Scented Ikea candles

What I learned pretty fast after my arrival is that one should always have candles at home (and at hand), because power cuts are frequent and unexpected. So when I went back home for a holiday, I brought some of these wonderful scented candles from Ikea with me as a replacement for the normal, long, white candles that are available here. Because the Ikea stuff is wonderful and multifunctional – long lasting, stable flame, reusable glass container, easy to spot and light in the dark when placed at strategic locations in the flat, and as a bonus, they come with a nice scent and do not smell like toilet spray.

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Multifunctional stuff: Scented candles from IKEA

#8: Headlamp

Talking about power cuts…a good quality headlamp is one of the most convenient things at hand, especially when you consider the fact that it gets dark between 5:45pm and 6:pm here all year long.

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Headlamp at its spot – to make sure I find it in the darkness

#9: Razor blades, brushes for electric tooth brush

Just saying. There are some things you’re just so used to that you do not even think much about them. But youo don’t find them everywhere.

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#10: Guilty pleasures

It’s really not difficult to get all kinds of groceries here – fresh fruit, the best seafood, cashews, Piri Piri, herbs, Indian spices…and yet, sometimes it is one of biggest pleasures to make something taste like home.

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Sometimes you just want things to taste like home.

Also – no Haribo here. And sadly, no Haribo left in my personal stock at my flat either to go on the photo.

#11: Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil

One could argue it is incorporated in #10 – something to make stuff taste like home. But pumpkin seed oil is not a guilty pleasure; it’s a necessity to survive anywhere outside Styria.

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Styrian Pumkin Seed Oil provided by my most trusted supplier

Practical Guide to Life in Beira. Pt. 2: Shopping

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Main market in Beira…the corner where they sell chickens

I arrived in Mozambique with three large suitcases full of stuff that I bought in Austria “just in case” I would not be able to find all the basic things I am used to in Beira. Turned out that shopping in a big Mozambican town such as Beira is not only easy and satisfying, it is also fun and omnipresent.

So today, in my mini series “Practical life in Beira”, I will provide some information and tips about what to buy where and how.

On the streets – the First Market and the Second Market

I find it hard to think of goods that I have not yet seen being sold directly on the streets. Clothes, shoes, dairy products, SIM cards, brooms, pillows, furniture, alive chickens and goats – in fact, the streets of Beira are one big market that can be split into two main pillars: We have the aggregated First Market, as in the official market places where farmers from the surrounding areas sell their produce, and outdoor outlets of official shops and – very popular – telecom operators – where you can pick and purchase what you like literally through a car window or from a txoupela. And then there is the Second Marketcountless micro-retailers, individual people that  invest all their “surplus” in various things, purchase them from wholesalers, manufacturers or other individuals, and re-sell them again to people who prefer to get everything in the twinkling of an eye instead of spending time in searching themselves.

From an outside perspective, it is usually hard to distinguish between representants of the first and the second market – I am not even sure if those are “real terms”, I just stumbled upon them somewhere and found them very appropriate. The whole town just appears as a lively, busy place full of business. And even though someone who is familiar with Meditarrenean, Arab or Asian markets would expect it: Stuff is not overpriced here, neither on the first nor on the second market, and bargaining is not common hence not necessary. You just point at what you like, get the price and then decide on a yes/no-basis.

 

Lojas – small stores, more or less specialized

Beira has a couple of shopping streets, or rather shopping districts – mainly in Baixa and Chaimite, the central districts close to the harbour. In these streets, you find stores – lojas (Portuguese: shop, store) side by side…usually small, often relatively (but not strictly) specialised – for instance in textiles, plastic goods, electrical equipment…you name it. If you are not exactly sure what you are looking for and where to find it, the Lojas Chineses  are always a handy tip, since you can find anything there. They are usually ran by Chinese families, hence the name…however, I have already heard locals use the term for mixed assortment stores that have been in African hands for generations).

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A typical Chinese allround-shop in Beira

 

Bread, Fruit, Fish

Even though shopping is basically always a pleasant experience in Beira and I am sure everyone will find their own way around pretty soon – avoid what I used to do in the beginning: buying vegetables, fruit and bread at the supermarket. Not only is it irrational to buy “imported” mangos from South Africa in a supermarket that is literally located under mango trees in full fruit – you will never get the colors, the smells, the feeling and the taste of buying fresh.

 

For bread, find a local padaria. Their assortment is usually very limited – white bread in two, maybe three shapes, and at times some sweet stuff. But the bread – oh, the bread. If you are lucky enough to see people queuing outside the shop, it usually means that a fresh load is about to get out of the oven. Crusty, golden, and so hot that it feels damp in the plastic bag.

Fruit and vegetables – go to the first paragraph. Everywhere. First Market, Second Market, no matter where, just buy as much as you can, because you might never find that Maracuja guy again, or the lady with those melon-sized avocados that have the perfect consistency for days (yes – I am taking about avocados!). Then again, the longer I live here, the more my favourite sales-people find me instead of me looking for them. Today, the Maracuja guy spotted me and explicitely walked over to tell me that he doesn’t have any today, but tomorrow for sure and if he should keep the usual two kilos for me.

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Fruit from the market – December selection

Fish and seafood – While I never ate much meat, and consume close to none here, I love everything that comes from the sea. Living at the coast of the Indian Ocean is one aspect that I would integrate in my personal concept of “heaven”. Here, you can buy seafood directly from the fisher boats at the coast, which makes freshness or quality concerns redundant.

Supermarkets

And yet, I would be lying if I didn’t admit how happy I am that we also have several big supermarkets here. We have an outlet of the South African Shoprite, and some Mozambican chains, e.g. Melhor Supermercado and Real. Shoprite is a milestone, a reference point in the city’s geography, my trusted dealer for cosmetics, and hideaway at times when I can’t help myself but missing strolling through endless shelves of countless products with a trolley, air condition and background music. Okay – not always the background music. Today, they were shuffling Best of Modern Talking…

 

My Practical Guide to Life in Beira. Part I: Water & Public Transport

All you need is…Water

The most essential need is an aspect that is somewhat overlooked in Europe. I don’t remember ever having spent much thought about the availability of water before I came here.
Beira does have central water supply, and as most flats in the inner parts of town, my place is connected to the water system. FIPAG (Fundo de Investicimento e Património de Abastecimento de Água) is the central supplier of water. Flats that are connected to the system receive bills on a monthly basis. The bills are distributed directly to your door, and you have to go to the main office in Chaimite to pay the bill in cash. There are always long lines, but to be honest, the waiting times I experienced so far were far less than expected (max. 30 minutes). Other ways of paying the bill are being rolled out currently: Payments via the Mobile Money Service by Vodacom, M-Pesa should work already (I will give it a try next month), and transfer via online banking is on its way.
Tap water, however, is not drinkable as in most regions of the world except for blessed Europe. So I have developed the habit of taking some litres of bottled water from the supermarket home on an almost daily basis to maintain at least a modest supply. You can also buy purifier in any supermarket – a few drops of the chloride-based liquid is enough to treat 30 litres of water. I usually have at least one canister of purified water at home to use it to do the dishes, for cooking, washing fruit and salad etc.
And then, of course, there are periods of drought, for example…right now. The rainy season is supposed to occur from December to March, but this year, rain showers were rare, and I experienced monsoon-like rain that goes on for hours, if not days, maybe once or twice. That has a strong impact on the water supply. Moments of splendid, running water in my apartment are the exception, not the rule.
This is something I really had to get used to and prepared for: Having enough empty bottles, buckets and canisters at hand to build up a supply that could last for at least some days, and reacting immediately when you hear water returning to the tubes (you get very, very sensitive and alert to that sound, believe me), be it in the middle of the night or the moment you are about to go out.
The alternative would be finding some “public” water tap, which I am not exactly keen on, given that I live on the 7th floor in a building without elevator.
Then again – I have already learned a few interesting things thanks to the water shortage:
  • I was used to spending ENORMOUS amounts of water without even thinking about it. Now that I have to economize my supply and consumption, I start getting an idea about the quantities for showering, doing dishes, flushing the toilet, washing hair, doing laundry etc.
  • Some things cannot handled by just me, myself and I. People do rely on and help each other dealing with the water shortage. Our janitor is always there to get water from a public water source. My university gave me permission to use their water supply if needed. Neighbours are checking regularly on eacht other, alerting one another when the water is coming. Water is obviously such an essential, collective good that we all work together to cover our needs.

Getting around: Public Transport in Beira

 
Beira is quite a big town. With a population that is estimated somewhere between 400.000 and 700.000, it would in any case easily qualify as second largest city in Austria. And big towns as we know them usually rely on a versatile, well planned and affordable system of public transport.
However, don’t expect an underground train system or trams in Beira. As a matter of fact, don’t expect them anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, as I discovered in a quick online research. And yet, getting around in Beira (and basically anywhere in Mozambique) is easy and convenient, thanks to the two main pillars of urban public transport: Chapas and Txoupelas.

Txoupelas

 

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Life inside a Txoupela

First of all: I love them.
They are by far not an exclusive feature of Mozambique, but run in many parts of the world and go by almost as many names: Auto-riksha (in India), Three Wheeler or Tuk-Tuk being the most famous ones.
In Mozambique, they are called Txoupelas (sometimes also spelled “Choupela”), and basically function like taxis. If you see one driving by on the street, you just stop it, tell the driver where you want to go – landmarks are usually more common than addresses – and you will enjoy a ride there for 50 Meticais (less than one Euro) to any destination within Beira. If I wanna go further, like e.g. the airport, I tell the driver if he would go there and how much he’d charge, and always got very reasonable prices. I also collected the private phone numbers of some drivers that I can call if I need special transport, e.g. during the night when they usually don’t run. Txoupela rides are comfortable, you enjoy the fresh breeze, they are a great opportunity to record Beira life on video, and usually the best choice to find a specific place since the drivers really know their way around.

Chapas

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Life inside a Chapa

 
Chapas are also well-known in many parts of town, and in Mozambique they do not only cover urban areas, but are usually also a good option for short-distance overland transport. Chapas are mini-buses, like Txoupelas operated on a semi-public basis by private vehicle holders that have to comply to certain official regulations.
I admit that whenever I have the choice, I am posh enough to go for a Txoupela, even though a Chapa ride would cost only a fragment of the price. The main challenge about Chapas is that they are usually hopelessly over-crowded. The driver’s assistent, who is also in charge of informing potential passengers about the destination of the vehicle and collecting the money, manages to fit up to 30 people into a mini-bus that seems to be designed for 10-12 people and their luggage, tools and groceries that might range from furniture to alive chickens.
Every Chapa follows its standard route. Within Beira, they usually rotate between two districts, following main roads, so you should have at least a vague idea of where you want to go before you board one (unless you just do it for the fun of it or the sightseeing). Some standard routes are Baixa to Macuti via Ponta-Gea, Baixa to Macuti via Matambane, Ponta Gea to Munhava and Baixo to the airport. In towns like Beira, chapas usually have their “standard stops” (which are not indicated as such, but a little bit of observation does the trick), however as far as I have experienced it, they usually also stop if you just give them a sign anywhere on the street.

Overland buses

 
For longer distances (and within Mozambique, especially departing from Beira, basically any overland trip is “long distance”), buses do a great job. There are several companies connecting the main towns in the country (Maputo – Chimoio – Beira – Tete – Quelimane – Pemba). More information about how they usually function can be found in my description of a journey from Beira to Vilanculos and back.

Coming soon:  
Practical Guide to Life in Beira, Pt. II: Shopping

My practical guide to Life in Beira

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In the next few weeks, I will write about some aspects of every day life in Mozambique. It might serve as a guide for people who come to live in Beira. At the same time, I hope it is also a way for my friends and followers in other parts of the world to get a lively idea of how things are organised and functioning down here. Everything is based on my own experiences that I made so far. If there is anything to be added, I’ll be happy to read about it in the comments!

The following topics will be covered:

Published May 11, 2016
Published October 20, 2016
Part IV: Other things to do, see, eat, drink and admire in Beira

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.

 

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

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