Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I think I should call myself Robinson Crusoe.

I think I should call myself Robinson Crusoe. 
Better still, Rosina Creusa seeing as I am not the male writer, Robert Lewis Stevenson.
I could be shipwrecked on a tropical Island waiting for My Man Friday to be washed up on shore.
Or perhaps I could turn things into an “All Girl Cast” and have a Girl Freya wash up on the white coral sands of my Island as a companion. I suppose it would all depend on the type of book I was writing and in what genre.
Whichever way, I shall endeavour to crawl out of my day time reveille and admit withdrawal symptoms from civilized society and its mod-cons. I am referring to the luxury of logging on to the Internet at random, or using a telephone or cell phone to reach the rest of the world.
We are continuously beset with torrential tropical downpours, everything is humid and damp. Apparently parts of Mozambique are in flood.
Worse still, we are again without Internet.
5am and out on a walk!

Today, as I write this draft, it is 20 January. Let’s see what day it will be when I post it.
On the positive side of things, we still have electricity and long may that last, as the last storms caused the power to black out for more than a day. At least if that happens again we have a supply of candles. The last time there weren’t any and we found ourselves peering at each other over the gas cooker like two large moths.
As you can tell, I have settled into life here in Morrumbala and am able to write every day without many distractions, apart from things like the pig that is being slaughtered right now in the village that surrounds the OLAM complex. It’s squealing has been quite dreadful.
There are no coffee shops or cafĂ©’s where I can escape my daily 1000 words and procrastinate over an aromatic cuppa. I miss the “buzz” that you find in a first world city. I miss London!
In fact, here, the coffee has to be locked away in our pantry because soon after my first day here I discovered Pedro the houseman allocated to our house has very light fingers. He blatantly took my sunglasses. When confronted, he said nothing. Two days later he walked into the kitchen, brandishing them in the air and saying he had found them under a mango tree in the back yard. I was astounded as I had never been near any mango tree, let alone that particular one. 

Grass that grows 7ft tall!
It is a norm to have domestic help here in Africa and I am no longer used to this luxury. The last person I had working in my home was in 2009. I had put her through Cookery College in Harare, Zimbabwe. Paid for her little daughter’s school fees and gave her rent free housing.  She decided to “remove” the teaspoons from the beautiful set of silver cutlery I inherited from my Grandmother. When I discovered this, I was devastated and even more so when I was told they had been sold.
This started a new era in my life when I discovered doing my own housework was jolly good exercise!
So here I am in Mozambique with Pedro, a rogue who has been used to working mainly for bachelors. He has two wives and nine children.
The other day Graham forgot to lock the pantry. When he went to get a bottle of vodka to pour himself an evening drink, he was furious as he discovered Pedro had procured not just one, but three unopened bottles of Graham’s precious stash which can only be bought in Quelimane.
A variety of flowers bloom after the rains

Pedro apparently is a 7th Day Adventist and does not drink alcohol. I guess he sold the bottles of vodka to make a bit of extra cash. But then, on the other hand, if I had two wives and nine children, I would have drunk the contents of the bottles, no matter what my religion!
Yesterday a little girl no older than six arrived at our gate. She was clutching a tiny baby to her chest and holding a toddler’s hand. I gauged the age of the toddler at about two and the baby was new-born.
Curious as to how, (what I thought were) beggars managed to get past OLAM security, I went outside.
Illoma the gardener and Fernanda the house-keeper from the OLAM Guest house next door were all in animated conversation with Pedro. Two other gardeners from the staff houses were looking on. All of them, except Pedro and Fernanda, were laughing. The little girls were standing their ground in front of Pedro.  They wanted money to buy food and books for school.
Pedro came to me and said they were from the village, he did not know who they were. We sent them off with a bag of fruit and vegetables.
Later I discovered that Graham had spoken to them before they left. The poor little things had apparently been sent by Pedro’s wife number two, asking him to give them money. She had obviously got fed up with him.
I was interested at how the men were all laughing at Pedro’s situation and interested to see Fernanda was not amused. I do not think she likes Pedro very much.

(PS: today is the 31st January...Internet has not been working for 3 weeks and I have found myself a corner in Graham's Office to upload this Blog, - Mozambique is a very remote place without the luxury of Internet!)

Wear Sunblock...and a hat!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There's a Lot of Pretty Girls in Mozambique

Tropical storms have done what no man can control. Wrecked communications, determined which power stations may or may not operate and switched off the lights on entire areas in the Zambezia Province of Mozambique.
Fire Beetles arrive with Thunderstorms

As I write the draft on this Blog, the Internet is still not working, it’s stinking hot and there is no air-conditioning keeping me reasonably cool, (and sane) but life continues.
The surrounding village of shanty-houses and open air markets heave with humanity, flies and happy voices. Africans are philosophical and get on with their every-day lives of foraging, digging in their maize fields, swapping stories in the shade of ancient mango trees and zooming about on the main mode of transport in Mozambique, the bicycle.

One positive aspect of a huge voltage shortage is that the four bars in close proximity to my present abode are not beating out loud, conflicting music. I count this as a reprieve, as the music sometimes starts as early as 5am in the morning!

Giant African snails have come out with the rains. I am fascinated to watch them creep up the walls of the house and lodge themselves under the eaves where the little house sparrows angrily dive and swoop at them, possessively guarding their untidy nests in the roofing.
Giant African Snail
The rains have brought with them an array of creepy-crawlies, some of them not so inviting. Big hairy rain spiders as large as a man’s fist scuttle into the house if the door is left ajar. When confronted they raise their front legs and show you they mean business! I normally head off speedily in the opposite direction and leave Graham to deal with the scary beasts.

I was making our bed the other morning, and a scorpion dropped out of the blanket that we had kicked off onto the floor because it is too hot for blankets in this part of the world. Lesson learned, the blanket was folded and stored in a drawer for some insane visitor who may ask to use a blanket.
Our Morrumbala Veggie Patch
To keep myself busy, I have started to develop a garden.
 Illoma the gardener is very confused as he can understand a garden vegetable patch, and is happy to dig and toil over veggies that can be eaten. However, he is still trying to get his head around the fact that I am designing flower beds, planting trees, and striking cuttings. I can see him looking at me side-ways and thinking I am “not very well in my head.”

Graham has offered my landscaping knowledge to the company. His boss, who bases himself in Beira and makes an occasional foray to Morrumbala, said on one of his visits that the OLAM grounds and five staff house yards needed “beautifying”.  So Graham volunteered my expertise.
When I asked him if they were going to give me a budget for the project and if I would be paid for my services, he threw his head back, laughing and said, “Babe, I struggle to get paid monthly, do you honestly believe you would get anything?”
Graham and the accountant-early morning meeting
with OLAM workers

Under these prickly circumstances, I shall keep my council and just get on with the job.
It does give me pleasure and like I said earlier, it keeps me occupied when I am not writing, illustrating or taking photographs.

PS: This Blog was drafted on 16 January, and posted today...there has been no Internet, or mobile phone communications until now!

(All photos on this blog are taken on my morning walk with my cell/mobile phone.)



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Sunday, January 15, 2012

And all the Couples Dancing Cheek to Cheek

Yesterday we had a tropical downpour of torrential rain here in the OLAM cotton complex. 
There was no Internet and in the evening were without lights until about 8pm. Thank goodness for our gas-cooker.
The up-side of this was that the ever constant loud boom-boom of repetitive local music from the surrounding village had stopped.
Silence.
All the villagers went about their business quietly, their voices melding with the night in a humming melody.

We ate roast chicken by candlelight and listened to the scratch-scratch high pitched chirruping of cicadas communicating with each other in the humid night air.
It could have been romantic, but we had to beat off flying-ants that were attracted to the candle flame on our table, making sure none of their discarded wings were deposited in our gravy.
Flying-Ant Wings

The liquid smell from the lemon tree outside our window blended with the night scents that were heightened by the recent rain.
A soft breeze fluttered over us bringing with it an occasional waft of the refuse dumps that the villagers throw in piles up against the security fence.

Morrumbala, Mozambique, the place of great contrasts, my Africa...

Snowball the Ewe
Yesterday was a bad beginning for me, Snowball the sheep was sent off to la-la land. She had a reprieve and was not served up for our Christmas dinner, but yesterday was her time.

Graham has had experience in butchering an animal's carcass from the days of his youth when he had to put himself through Agricultural College by shooting small game, selling it and using the money to pay for his College fees.
Times were tough for him and his brother Mike as both their parents died when Graham was only seventeen. They became resilient survivors and still are.

Iloma, the gardener and Pedro the houseman were readily available to assist and happily lead poor Snowball off to a place that was out of my sight and hearing where they did "the dirty deed" Halaal style with a knife.
They knew there would be meat for them and their families that night and were excited.
Later the carcass was brought back on their shoulders and Graham professionally cut the sheep up into butchered portions which are now neatly stacked in plastic bags in our deep freeze.
He is very understanding, as I cannot open the freezer without feeling like a murderess.
So he removes whatever I need that had been stored before the "tolling of Snowball's bell" yesterday.
We have been together a long time and he knows that I shall get over this feeling in about a fortnight, as I am a practical woman, (I mean, let's face it, meat of any description does not come ready-packed before we find it on the supermarket shelves...)
"The Butchers of Morrumbala"



But I have labelled him and our domestic helpers "The Butchers of Morrumbala".

All in good humor of course!
(Remember, all photo's on this blog are taken with my cell/mobile phone)



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Friday, January 13, 2012

Early Morning Walk in Morrumbala, Mozambique

I have decided to attempt uploading pictures on a daily basis taken with my cell/mobile phone.
At present I am in Morrumbala, Mozambique where my husband Graham is working as Agriculture Manager dealing with small holder cotton out growers for a large International company called OLAM
By 8am the heat here is unbearable, so I try to get out for a walk before 6am. That way the swarms of flies are not so bad and I don't jump around like a deranged rabbit, flapping my hat at them and shouting obscenities that should not emanate from a lady's mouth! 
Derelict Cotton Furnace
There are five staff houses where the managers, accountants and mechanics live, plus the huge cotton gin and warehouses here in the OLAM complex.
It is security fenced, with a bevy of security guards that pop up from behind trees and bushes and greet me with a cheery "Ola!"

On the fringe of the fence boundaries a massive village has evolved, with a mixture of  thatched mud houses and for the more affluent Mozambican a compact brick abode. 
In between the houses is a huge open market and moonshine bars, each with a music center strategically placed at the doors, their large speakers blasting out local music that thumps loudly with an ear shattering din of base boom-boom. 
It wouldn't be so bad if there was only one of these bars, but there are three, all within a stones throw of each other and they all have different music blaring, trying to entice customers in to drink. The music starts at about 5am and continues throughout the day into the night until about 11pm.
In desperation I cut 3 CD's of my music and asked the gardener, Iloma to go and give them to the owners of the bars. Two days later the same loud music was being played and when I asked Iloma where my music was, he looked at me in surprise and told me that he liked it, so he took the CD's home with him!
(The locals here are delightful, friendly, child-like and see no reason why they should not "take" things.)
Beautiful Flamboyant Tree and Blue Skies

There are so many subjects to photograph, from the people, the old Colonial Portuguese architecture to the lush, tropical flora and fauna.

I have two fantastic cameras that I use for my professional photography, but seeing as I always have my mobile on me, I thought this would be a good way to have you "walk" with me and "see" what I see on a daily basis.

So, enjoy your daily walk...

(Oh, PS: if you like Susan's Light-Box posts, you may also like to read my longer Bare Foot White African Posts.)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012