Friday, October 23, 2009

Lobstahh and Former President Chissano

This morning we boarded the plane from Johannesburg, South Africa to Maputo International in Maputo, Mozambique. South African Airlines wanted me to check my North Face hiking back pack because it weighed too much; however, I was pretty sure that meant that I would have to pay extra for checking a second bag. So, I sort of bent the rules and sneaked my backpack in. It all worked out in the end.

Flying over Mozambique is a completely difference experience than flying over South Africa. I was like, "whoa, I'm in Africa" as the plane flew over the coastline in Mozambique and we could see the low tide along the beach. Then, as the plane flew south, we could see the tall skyscrapers that were scattered throughout the downtown area. However, as the plane flew inland and got closer to the ground, it was evident that most of the country is living in less-than-ideal conditions. Instead of South Africa’s lego block homes, the houses in Mozambique looked more like tin cans. I have a feeling that the differences in houses and living conditions are a result of the civil war and fight for independence that Mozambicans had to endure from 1975-1992.

When we landed, we were greeted by the usual customs and passport agents. Then, we met Dr. Reid and Dawit at the airport who took our bags to the hotel and took us to Costo Do Sol, the seafood restaurant that Professor Pitcher suggested that we go to. The journey to the restaurant was pretty eye-opening. We passed through pretty rough neighborhoods, street children playing in the dirt, furniture makers selling carved wooden beds on the sides of the streets, posters of cell phone companies saying “ishh yowe”, Dentyne gum posters, and lots of Frelimo posters. I mean a lot – pretty much the entire city was draped in red Frelimo posters and Guebuza’s face eerily smiling at you. Then, we drove along the coast of the Indian Ocean and saw the incredibly blue water that surrounded this city. I will never be this close to Madagascar probably.
When we go to Costo Do Sol, Dr. Reid had arranged platters of various seafood items to be brought out. There were lobsters, crabs, shrimp, calamari, tuna filets, and much more. I got pretty excited for all the seafood on the table.

Soon after our royal lunch, we were told that our meeting with former President Chissano was going to be in a few hours. Hurriedly, my group and I had to prepare a question related to health care as the entire group brainstormed about various questions that we wanted to ask during the interview. Some included “what Chissano’s opinion was on the declining rate of voter turnout”, “traditional leaders”, “legalizing the multiple languages that are present in the country”, and “health care in Mozambique.” Most of the answers to our questions were well thought out and very politically correct; however, there were some glimpses of answers that were spoken without too much of a barrier.

Meeting Chissano was an exciting way to begin our discovery of Mozambican politics; however, a lot of us can attest to saying that for a man who is so vibrant and powerful on paper, he was pretty mellow and soft-spoken in real life. I was asking myself, was this man really the leader of the strong political party that ruled Mozambique since its independence?

Oh, and our rooms at Girassol Indy Village are pretty nice too…including the two twin beds that Cameron and I (usually) separate each night, haha.

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