MAIL TO: Kaye Thompson,
St.Rose Health Center,
Saturday, June 26, 2010
MEANDERING TO MOZAMBIQUE
June 7th, 2010
After my final departure from Lesotho, I went directly to Kruger National Park for 3 days. It lives up to its reputation both as being one of the best and easiest ways to see animals (I saw 4 of the Big 5) but also as a place full of cars and mini-traffic jams. But the lions didn’t seem to mind as they romped around and about the cars. The most exciting was the Cheeta with its freshly killed antelope lying in the middle of the road. The park is abundant in rhinos, giraffe, water buffalo and elephants. It is truly a remarkable place.
Bussing from S.Africa into Mozambique was easy enough but at the border, I was caught in the “new computer system” chaos resulting in a 2 ½ hr process to move through the border patrol. The next two days in Maputo (the Capital) were spent trying to arrange the next 12 days. Maputo doesn’t have much charm to it in spite of having waterfront property. I touched base with the Peace Corps office who gave me a helping hand and the names of some volunteers in Moz.
IHLA DE MOCAMBIQUE/PEMBA
First stop was Ihla de Mocambique, the first Portugese settlement dating back to the 1500’s. Although it is a World Heritage Site, there is little to see beyond a half day walk around the Old Fort, chapel and Museum. Happily, I connected with a PC volunteer there who showed me her little island accommodation, a swimming beach, and a nice roof top bar.
My next destination was Pemba, in the far north. It is famous for its archipelago of islands off the coast nearly touching into Tanzania. Each morning I stepped on to a white sand beach, as far as the eye could see. The sea is the life here with fishermen and nets and dhows. I had two days of beach-walking and snorkeling, but the highlight was a deep water dolphin encounter in which we were able to get into the water and swim a little with them. The snorkeling was delightful but a bit freaky as there were billions (no exaggeration) of white fist-sized jelly fish floating about. Fortunately this variety doesn’t sting, but it took some getting used to as they bumped up against my mask and body. Occasionally a brown one floated by and these were the stingers I avoided.
Sadly, there is a sense of desperation as the young men might follow me on the beach saying “Hello Mommy, don’t you want to buy a necklace/shell/bracelet/etc? Can’t you help me? I have no food for tonight?” I say “no” and then go sit and eat my nice fish lunch on the deck of the hotel. Guilt and inner conflict arise. Here, I also met with a PC volunteer who told me about her life in what appears to be a dream come true assignment. She reported that her biggest stress is that she has rich friends there who invite her to their extravagant parties in their huge houses, and she doesn’t quite know how to find the balance with the poverty that surrounds her.
I have found a little chunk of heaven on the Mozambique coastal town of Villanculos. With thousands of miles of white sand beaches, this is a beach combers dream. I am perched on a hillside (about 50 stair-steps) above the beach, overlooking the harbor with a view of the Bazaruto Islands lying in the Indian Ocean. Sunset is glistening through the palm trees that are harboring a melodious bird song. The tide is flowing in, and the tired beached dhows are once again afloat. The men have pulled in their fishing nets for the night and the bargains for fresh fish have been made. The hotel chefs are heating up their grills as the village women stroll home with babies on breasts, wondering what they can afford for dinner tonight.
Whose heaven and whose hell? The man pulling in the nets tonight said “Hello, Sister. You have job for me?” A Zimbabwean hotel employee who has made his own refuge from the unconscionable devastation of his country said of the Mozambiqans - “These people are very poor.” Mozambique had an 18 year war for independence (won in 1974) and then another 18 year civil war with horrible and vicious stories to go with it. They now reside under a one-party system while pretending to be a democracy. But the people seem happy enough that there is peace at last. Foreign investment is coming in and the beach front properties are being sold to foreign corporations. The potential for growth and development is huge but there is fear as to how the corrupt government will handle these opportunities.
On the flight into Villanculos, I sat next to a Japanese consultant hired to work with the Ministry of Tourism in Moz. She said that Japan had promised support to Moz and this was one of the ways they were providing it. After 10 days here, I was delighted to have a place to dump all my opinions and observations about making Moz a more tourist-friendly place. Not the least of these problems being the corrupt pay-off I had to make to the airport security guard or be detained from my flight. The problem was the crystals I had brought from the States, given by a friend to plant around Africa. The guards claimed I needed a certificate for the stones. So not only did they take the stones but I had to pay a $30 “fine” which went from one pocket to an under-the-table hand-off. All of this transpired from the policeman, who only spoke Portugese, to the baggage handler who spoke very broken English. In my most indignant American fashion, I proclaimed very loudly “This is corruption. This is very bad for Mozambique. We don’t do this in America.” As it turns out, this flight was delayed by 6 hours. So I should have challenged the “fine” and seen where it would have taken me. What does the inside of a Mozambique police station look like, I wonder?
Villanculos is a sleepy town with lovely beach resorts and plenty of activities. I enjoyed horseback riding on the beach (with horses rescued from Zimbabwe), a dhow ride to a reef for swimming and snorkeling, and an absolutely outstanding time at the 2 Mile Reef. This is one of the top 10 spots in the world for snorkeling and it was stunning. I also indulged in great seafood and a couple of massages. It was the ultimate in rejuvenation before my Long Journey Home.
June 22nd, 2010
After 30 hours of travel from Villanculos to Johannesburg to Atlanta to Minneapolis,, I arrived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It is lush and green and gorgeous and peaceful. I am surrounded by family who love me. All is well.
Since returning from Cameroon in Dec. 2011, I have been living in San Diego with my dog, brother and sis-in-law. Still hunting for more international work. But enjoying continuing travel to Cambodia and Korea.