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

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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

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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