This morning I woke up to the sun rising over the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean; the one you study in grade school but never give much thought to because it’s so far away and you doubt you’ll ever see it, smell it, or hear it. I walked onto the sandy shore and dipped my fingers in the water. The Indian Ocean is very different from her sister. She is calm and tamed, placid like a lake. The seaweed is grated like sprinkled cheese and the sand is fine like brown sugar. The rest of Mozambique, Maputo, anyway, is not as lovely. I don’t think it’s really the fault of the people, but the motto of Mozambique seems to be “let it be.”
Once you cross the boarder from South Africa, the drive into Mozambique is like witnessing the progression of time. It begins with nothing but open, lush landscape dotted with trees and shrubs. About thirty minutes in you see the first house; a little hut made of mud and branches, I’d guess. A large spanse of land passes before you see another straw house and it continues like that for quite some time. Some places have multiple huts and I saw a few people mosing about the land, hanging laundry or doing other chores that we, as Americans, have never had to bother with. People sit on the side of the road selling bags of coal and other goods. Some people walk down the road and they must have been walking for miles, but of course that’s no big deal to them. And then, scattered between a few miles, are the thumb prints civilization tried to imprint, but the naturalness of the place rejected it. And so empty brick buildings perhaps built as houses stand roofless and crumbling in the middle of nowhere. Eventually you come to a hill where civilization meets you head on. Bright yellow and blue cell phone advertisements are painted on buildings and walls all over the place. Old and new clash everywhere. There are no shacks in Mozambique. Just the little straw huts and clay-covered brick buildings. And the huts are built right up agains the walls of factories or other modern buildings. It’s almost as if the country couldn’t make up its mind to join the 20th century or not. I have a photo, but unfortunately it’s not uploading. It’s very tricky to get photos up here so I apologize for that.
Maputo is a large city with tall buildings that someone built many years ago and then abandoned it. The people walk around, skipping over potholes, crumbling sidewalks, and heaps of garbage as if it isn’t there. Bars are on every door and window, laundry hangs on every balcony, and you could walk around all year and not find something new. It is, truly, a city falling apart.
As Jen wrote, we didn’t end up having much luck when it came to journalistic stories, but at least it was an adventure – and another stamp on my passport. We got lost leaving Johannesburg so it took us 11 hours to get to the hotel, killing half a day we thought we’d have to report. On the way, we side-swiped another car and broke off the side view mirror (and kept going), turned into the right lane rather than the left, evaded a speeding ticket, and got lost. But hey, we survived and had a good laugh about it! Last night we had a fantastic dinner at the restaurant; wine, appetizers, roast rump or seafood, and dessert – our first dessert since we’ve been in Africa!
Anyway, we didn’t get any stories, but we certainly learned a lot about networking, reporting in foreign countries, and being sure to arrange things concerning government officials way in advance. I guess someday we’ll just have to return and do it right!