Reading Signs

I like to read the signs of the changing seasons and I had a lot to read when we resumed our Miradouro walks.

Even though there are many reasons explaining why we stopped, somehow, in that particular afternoon, we decided to blame it on the Mundial. Football is one of our favourite scapegoats.

And here are the signs read during that first walk:

Two Guitar Players
As soon as the first hot breezes blow, new guitar-players show up. It’s case to wonder if they are planted and nurtured during cold, blossoming at the first signs of summer.

A Different Palette
Colors are in the process of changing from the soft, pale shades of winter to the striking blues, reds and oranges of summer. As we don’t have a regular spring or autumn, such sudden changes must be a sort of substitute.

Over Are the Tender Ways
The sea is no longer a mere mirror of winter quietness, since even in the still cold afternoons it’s possible to feel promises of the coming suladas. Those south winds unexpectedly rising during the afternoons will last until October.

Do You Summer Dream?
Summer dreams rise just like suladas. Mine include a visit to Pomene for a swim with the peaceful, gigantic sea turtles. Need to say more?

Advertisements

A Different Walk

______________________________________________________________

 

Paul and I are the most faithful walking duo in this town. Our walking days are Thursday, Friday and Saturday and our favorite walking place still is Miradouro. Last Thursday, when we arrived at Miradouro for our usual walk, we were greeted by stunning pinks and blues on the horizon. Lately, these two soft tones are substituting the usual end of afternoon reds and oranges. It is no longer summer and the best way to feel that it is looking at the bay.

 

There are less people on the streets, but it is possible to find other groups of walking aficionados. As a result of less people, business is slow for some. We found a curious meeting going on at one of Miradouro benches. Five street vendors decided to get together and discuss with enthusiasm their common concerns. It was really interesting watching them, especially because they had put on the ground, all around the bench, the rectangular cartoons where they carry chips, chocolate and a few other things that they sell from one extreme of Miradouro to the other. It was like saying: “This is a private meeting!” I had never seen such curious professional gathering.

 

During the same walk we had the surprise of crossing with one of the finest bachelors I know in this town: Andy! Perhaps due to the cold weather, he decided to be active and is biking almost at the same time as we walk. It was nice to see him doing some exercise too.

 

Our walks last usually a little more than one hour. When we leave Miradouro, the battle of pinks and blues in the sky is already won by the blues. To our left side, where the bay lies, it is only possible to see shades of blue wrapped on some grey mist. The moon shines very bright on the sky and designs a perfect silvery path on the water. The bay is turning into a gigantic silver mirror reflecting the small lights coming from numerous charming fishing boats.

 

Vigilantes

______________________________________________________________

 

I truly wasn’t aware of the risks of walking on the Marginal. Chez nous the boys talk between them. As I am the only girl around here, they spare me of some topics. I am thankful for that because most of the conversations are about cars. Violence is another subject I avoid. Let me tell that I avoid anything that depresses me. Only after my camera was stolen, I was inside a series of disturbing accounts of violence taking place near the same spot. Situations involving people that we know are enough to give me the authority to ask: why can’t someone do something about it?

 

Andy told me about all the tourists that stop their cars on the Marginal for photos, just like me unaware of the risks, and end up facing a knife or a pistol and loosing most of their possessions.

 

From all the episodes Andy told me, I must write about one of them because it involves one of my seven divers. He was mugged twice in the same place, forced to leave behind everything he was carrying. I think that the first time he reported the robbery, but let me tell you that crime here pays off. Criminals are seldom caught and victims never get their things back. Why complain then?

 

I think my diver friend thought the same. He was so furious that he decided to take charge of the situation. He knew that he would never get his belongings back but he just wanted to make them sweat with fear, just make them taste a little of what they were forcing upon their victims.

 

He took a legal gun and asked for the company of a friend. They started the same path where the two other assaults had happened. Less than five minutes later, one of the bandits appeared in front of them waving a knife in a very menacing way. My diver friend warned: ‘Get lost or I’ll shoot you!’

 

Instead of disappearing, five other scoundrels came from the flanks and behind with the intention of closing a circle around the two of them. My diver reached for his gun and shoot twice in the air. I think that the vision of such despicable people running like rats between the foliage was enough to pacify my friend’s need of retaliation.

 

For nine months I have been reporting most of the time “marvels” about this country. Maybe it’s time to give birth to the truth: Mozambique is not safe and authorities are very far from being prepared to guarantee the safety of citizens and tourists. This is a far west where we are forced to live in.

 

 

To be continued

Hell

______________________________________________________________

 

Last Saturday I was so glad to return to the Marginal! Everything was working for me: good plans, good mood, good everything… Even though I couldn’t see a single cloud over my head, they were steadily gathering.

 

As I have more than one reason to celebrate, we had decided to go to a tapas bar after the walk. I was carrying my camera to capture a few precious last moments of the afternoon. Usually, we have a rule: Paul walks behind me for protection. Sometimes it is a little funny, because he looks to be a bodyguard. Unfortunately, I stopped to take a picture of one of the “traineiras” (fishing boats) against the pinkish sky while Paul walked just 15 to 20 meters ahead of me. That was enough for disaster.

 

From my back came a strong young individual, I would say with 18 years old. He gave me a blow on the kidney area and almost at once tried to grab the camera. I think I have done all that I could to stop him. When you have tae bo classes, it is almost instinctive. The camera went to the ground with an unpleasant crack. It hurt just to hear it. It was a Cyber-shot DSC V1. Paul brought it 5 years ago in Singapore but I was only using it since last year. In reality, I was starting to learn how to use it with a “how to clean it” first lesson.

 

The moment I saw the camera down I knew it was lost. The strength used to take it away from me was too strong. My reaction could only stop the criminal from taking it with him. Between two opposite forces, the camera ended up on the ground. I saw the open lenses breaking with the impact and a couple of components fly away.

 

The robber run from me, to find himself between Paul and I. He stopped for a moment and decided to turn back in my direction. By now I was leaning over the broken camera. He approached and tried to grab the iPod without success. He left the phones white cord and turned to the broken camera, escaping with it through the traffic and then up the hills. This all happened in less than two minutes.

 

The result of such dramatic and risky situation was: a bitter feeling about a lot of things, numerous bruises on my arms, pain on my back (how could I dance the next day?) and 4 injuries: two on my left hand and one in each knee, three of them from last week previous accident – now open and soar again.

 

When I told Andy about this sad episode, he just looked at me and said: ‘You are very lucky to be alive.’ He also told me about a couple of violent incidents that took place in the same area.

 

I don’t now why but I just couldn’t feel lucky that day. At least one feeling stood out: bitterness against institutions that should be working to avoid this kind of danger against peaceful citizens. I wonder if there is a true will of writing the name of Mozambique in the tourism map. I wonder if there is a will at all. Authority around here, most of the times, is only felt against decent working people.

 

The result of the incapacity of putting some order in the society is the killing spree of criminals in the poorest areas around Maputo or other kind of vigilant groups.

 

Can you believe that from now on I can only photograph in Maputo near someone carrying a gun as if I was living in Irak? I truly hope that someone comfortably sitting on the “power chair” reads this and feels really bad. Actually, I hope that he or she, or they, can’t sleep well at night and wake up with all the pain I felt and still feel.

 

 

To be continued

Paradise

______________________________________________________________

 

Mozambique reminds me of a puzzle with numerous pieces, some of them being small slices of paradise. Take for instance the Marginal in Maputo. Any first timer can’t help to marvel at the sight. It is impossible to feel indifferent.

 

A week ago we went there and were captivated at once by the intriguing quietness of the bay and the soft colors of the new season. It wasn’t only us. In fact, the place was crowded with excited fishermen expecting a lot from this new face of the bay. Actually, the sea has been so peaceful – the so called “mar espelho” or mirror like sea – that some decided to adventure into places where usually nobody dares.

 

Well, the good news from Marginal is not only this good mood of the sea and the pastel colors on the horizon but also witnessing the new drive of fishermen and a few other changes. Now we have space to walk because cars can’t park any longer near the sea. Parking cars was one of the reasons appointed to explain the big holes opening all long the Marginal. Bad news for cars, good news for people.

 

We left Marginal with the intention of returning soon. Despite all the good, there were also upsetting aspects revealed by the cold weather, the quiet sea and the absence of wind, like pollution in the water and in the air, especially on the horizon, near Matola, where the factories are situated.

 

 

To be continued

War Without Enemy

______________________________________________________________

 

A journalist I know said today: “As if it weren’t enough the floods and the dry season, we now have to face a war without enemy.” In fact, what happened yesterday in Maputo was truly a war. Due to the hot weather and the humidity, the local military deposit situated 10km far from the centre of Maputo exploded. The blasts started around 3pm, local time, and the moment I write these words (8pm) they are still heard.

 

Inside our house, around 4pm, the sound was very similar to a thunderstorm. “Today we have to hurry or we are going to face bad weather,” I remember to have said. It was guarda George who told us that the storm was actually bombs exploding since 3pm.

 

First we went to the fish market, returned home and then to our daily walk in Miradouro. When we arrived at Miradouro the explosions were at full strength. I couldn’t hear clearly because of the tunes, but less then 10 steps walked and I saw Paul ducking into a defensive position. He told me it wasn’t only for the noise, he also had seen some missile or projectile passing over our heads. As you may guess, today’s walk was pretty short.

 

During our trip back home we could see people standing on the streets, most of them running scared of any possible effect of the explosions. At that time cell phones were out of service. Many parked cars were with the alarms on and some windows broke right in front of us due to the impacts.

 

Only later the television showed the devastating extend of 20 tons of ammunition exploding: mushroom type clouds on the sky, north horizon on fire, tens of thousand of people from 4 or 5 neighbourhoods wondering through the streets, wounded and dead arriving at the hospitals…

 

The present day had the sour taste of past. Years ago, when civil war was still ravaging Mozambique, a similar situation happened. The difference is that back then we were all convinced that Maputo was under attack. I had a friend at home and eight children. We took a telephone line and sought refuge under a bed from where we only left when the situation was cleared. War is a tragedy. Suddenly being forced to remember it is quite upsetting.

 

Monday

______________________________________________________________

At least for me, Mondays have always a special “taste” of beginnings. Yesterday that “taste” was particularly strong. As soon as I was aware of that sensation, the lines of a Portuguese song came to my mind: “This is the first day/Of what is left of my life”.

 

We returned from the street at the same time Andy was returning from his cooking classes. (I wonder if after cooking he would like dancing classes too?) He seems happy because his solitude has been compensated with a brand new silvery speed toy. I can’t complain myself either, because I have new things too.

 

The best thing is to be fit again. JP told me that I would sleep a lot because of muscle growing and that has been happening lately. It is enough to read two lines of a book or massage a little of moisturizing cream to put me “snoozing” for hours and hours, at any time of the day. With my new sleeping regime and all the plans I have for the next months, I’ll need a very strong will to write. Nevertheless, a daily post is just another way of keeping my mind as busy as my body.