You may or may not wonder about Seabell, The Dancer. The answer is simple: she has not been dancing for a long time. The reason? Her gentle teacher is expecting a baby.


You may or may not wonder about Seabell, The Fighter. The answer is not so simple, because she cannot be sure (just suspect) that her enthusiastic tae bo teacher might be expecting too.


Meanwhile, Seabell got herself a new tae teacher with a mind set on two things: “Higher! Stronger!” No need to say what his philosophy has done to Seabell throughout winter 2009! It was a bit too much and, except for exhaustion, she is not sure of short or medium term benefits.


You may or may not wonder about Seabell, The Quester. She still has her dreams. They never end. But dreams exist inside a larger spectrum called day-to-day reality. That’s why, instead of pursuing adventures, Seabell has sometimes to settle for kitchen and house quests. When she has to deal with other people’s problems, what else can she do other than that?


Tieta, Seabell’s chef, is a mother of three and a grandmother of one. She is single but not entirely alone. She is involved in one of those relationships just underlining the playful side of nature. She recently revealed: “I may or may not be pregnant…”


The rate world population grows is a serious concern. Not for Seabell’s acquaintances and friends, though. They don’t give a fig about it. Obviously…


House Shadows


Having an idea that a problem exists is totally different from facing it. I heard countless times people complaining about how difficult is to find a decent place in Maputo, but that was just an information until it became a close reality when my divers decided to find cribs of their own.


The first diver to show signs of independence was NB. Mostly, he has been sharing houses and moving from one roof to the other. Now he settled down in Catembe, on the other side of the bay, a spot so remote and depending on moody ferryboats that I cannot think of a worse place to live.


During the last seven months, Andy and JP divided their time between home and a place they used to call “House 2”, a sort of garage without the minimum requirements, but where they had the privacy they need.


They moved recently to a new place they call “The Beach House”, due to the fact of being situated at Bairro do Triunfo, a sea front neighbourhood. In reality they moved from hell to half-hell. Besides the four main roads composing that residential area, the rest is genuine chaos.


If we compare what they pay with what they get, there we have a notion of the big issue housing is. That house is a typical Mozambican construction, all about paying and no niceties. Before Andy and JP, it was rented by an Italian lady who recently left the country.


We worried because they live a very different reality, but at the same time we try to understand their need of space and the consequent process of slowly improving their living conditions.


They are lucky young ones because they can afford a house when the great majority cannot dream of a place at all. And some, like diver Jo, insisting in a proper house, work hard just to pay their rent.

Bright Ideas


Our neighbours had the bright nice idea of gardening part of an empty field not far from where we live. Our first reaction was congratulating them, but in just a couple of weeks the rubbish, once difficult to spot, started to stand out against the green of the immaculately tended grass.


Rubbish is like a malign flu affecting this town. Let’s see. It’s now 34 years since independence. I know (we all know) that there are endless issues to be addressed, some of them very important and difficult to solve due to the lack of resources. That’s no excuse because, meantime, there’s a lot to be done depending more on work and enthusiasm than budgets.


Talk with anyone and you’ll hear the same complain: “We pay a tax for the rubbish to be collected, but it’s no use. They just don’t care.”


I know that it’s not possible to face all the questions this town and this country still have, but at least two should top the national agenda: 1) Rubbish. 2) Organizing Marginal and Costa do Sol.


The two of them should have been regarded a long ago as relevant for tourism, a fundamental sector to the management of a country.

A Bad Patient


Some people are more inclined to sickness than others. I mean the concept per se, not genuine sickness. That I concluded by hearing people given to: 1) Talk about health issues. 2) Complain all the time about health issues. 3) Use health issues as an excuse.


You may think that I am not being kind towards sick people, but that is not my intention. Health obsessed people are not usually sick.


During the last weeks I’ve been attending tae bo classes almost alone since my colleagues constantly alleged flu. Two weeks ago I started to feel a strange pain in my legs. First I suspected flu, but kept quiet and followed the tae routine. It took me days to discover that a nasty pair of sneakers I only wore for three consecutive days had injured my muscles.


How often does such thing happen and how irresponsible manufacturers are to do such awful thing? I have completely normal feet and even so I can’t wear a well know label without hurting myself. And when I talked about this matter with my teacher, she reported a similar experience (different model, same label).


Though the pain was almost paralyzing, and sometimes it felt like electricity running up and down my legs, it never crossed my mind to skip classes. Contrary to Paul’s advice and insistence, I didn’t miss a single one.


I’ve been slowly coming out of pain, still furious with the sneakers manufacturer. And at the same time I have to admit that my last two weeks were difficult to the point of almost surrendering, I am equally glad to say that I am too rebel to be a good patient.

Learning from Keket


Ever since I picked my pup Keket, I’ve been worried with her behavior. She was defenseless in her bare one month of existence, so I mothered her.


The first worrying sign came when she refused to be fed by Paul. There was no comprehensive reason, but when I tried to feed her she accepted. Instead of submitting to her demand, we insisted by making her morning meal more attractive. As I’m used to sleep until late hours, I would never be a good early hours mother.


There were other signs of attachment, like when she begged to stay on my lap to be cuddled and groomed. That wasn’t always a good experience for me because, as soon as I started, she insistently bit me, first with tenderness and finally with rage. It was only after weeks of misunderstanding that I learned what she was telling me: “That is not the proper way of doing it. You have to use your mouth and bite me like this…” For her I was being a clumsy mother. I couldn’t bite her, as evident, so I started to use a wet comb and pinch her now and then. She likes it rough and seemed thankful with the change.


The last period of mothering Keket was marked by her general troubled behavior. Despite having almost twenty toys to play with, she kept destroying anything but them. From electrical cords to furniture, I had to cover everything with Tabasco. But at the same time I was doing such hot job, I realized I was punishing and not addressing the root of her dissatisfaction. Knowing that there is another dog in the house, she wanted to play with him. I was aware of it from the beginning but I started by protecting her and then I was protecting him from her ferocious teeth. Since she has been spending most of the day with Thoth her destructive behavior changed positively.


Contrary to other dogs I closely knew, Keket shows signs of truly aggressiveness. She brought them from the place I went to pick her. When we thought things were satisfactory progressing, we discovered that she has been badly biting Thoth’s cheeks. He is such a good chap and likes her company so much that he has been submitting to her unfair punishment.


Our first reaction was getting a muzzle, but Andy and I are against such extreme measures. After a conversation we concluded that her aggressiveness towards Thoth is stronger when I am around. She is making clear that I am her business, not his. From now on I cannot be in the same place with both. If by chance that happens and Keket shows signs of aggressive behavior, I know I’ll have to punish her. I like a dog to be playful and meek. Aggressiveness is not acceptable. I learned from Keket. Now it’s Keket’s turn to learn from me.

I Don’t Like It


Sometimes one has to say: “I don’t like it”. Plain and simply. That’s what I’m doing today.


The intention was noble: a mural dedicated to the first president this country ever had. Samora Machel was indubitably popular but he died during a plane crash and left behind a few unfinished businesses.


The mural I am referring to is in front of Clube Naval. It’s not the place, the idea or the art that are wrong but the dispersion and the feeling that the work is incomplete. What should be pleasant to watch has been transformed into something trivial and pointless.


I think the gigantic prevailed over wisdom and good taste. Why not occupy only a few meters in front of Naval or just the last part of the wall at the start of the road up to Polana? It would look complete, nicer and easier to maintain tidy as any monument to the memory of a loved one should.


Some days, when I look at the rubbish spread all over the road and the flashes of color plastered in the old stonewall, I just wonder if it would be possible to undone it. That’s not a way to pay respect to someone’s memory!

Have You Ever…?


“Have you ever been lobolada?” I asked chef Tieta shortly after Mozambican Women’s Day. Lobolo is a traditional ceremony during which the man pays to the woman’s family an amount previously agreed, in money or other specimens, so that he can take her home with him. In reality, the same word lobolo is also used as a verb and as a noun to refer the payment to the bride’s family.


The existence of women who wouldn’t mind to be treated as merchandise could be a strong argument against their cleverness. I cannot see a single vantage in lobolo for two main reasons: 1) Lobolo implies submission to the rules created by men and their families, a dangerous situation in a society where law is weak and expensive, beyond reach for the majority of women. 2) If women are not happy lobolo becomes serfdom, once the traditional law says a woman can only be free if she or her family is able to pay the lobolo back, something unlikely to happen due to the extreme poverty people live in. Women are forced  to stay and digest their unhappiness. Just tell me who would like to live like that?


So I asked Tieta if someone ever paid lobolo for her.


“Never,” she answered.


“And would you like it to have happened?”


“Yeesss!” she replied in a way that left no doubts about her choice.


No use to discuss with a set mind. For a little of appreciation (or something wrongly translated into appreciation), women seem capable of accepting anything. I mean some women, thankfully.