Rewind and Play

 

This country has “niceties” that I wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. For instance, it’s curious the way superstition matters are seriously taken after so many years of materialistic socialism. Newspapers are full of stories corroborating the return to old traditions and witchcraft, some of them happening on our doorsteps.

 

An unfortunate whale picked the sands of Inhaca Island to end its days. When the word spread, the hungry population feasted on the huge mammal meat, forgetting Grandpa Nhaca, the traditional chief or king of the island. Old Nhaca didn’t enjoy being marginalized and cursed the abusive people who forgot that royalty has a stomach too. Since then, the islanders have been living in fear for their future. Any accident or misfortune is going to be explained by Nhaca’s unquestionable powers.

 

If that feels strange to you, wrap up another one. Recently, the national airfreight company brought a new Embrair 190. As soon as the plane arrived from Brazil, a goat was sacrificed to bring luck. Hearing that, I corrected: “Do you mean they killed and ate a goat to celebrate…” No way. I was wrong. The goat was slaughtered just to spill blood and please ancestors and traditional divinities. Isn’t this an amazing combination of tech and eek?

Advertisements

Informally Speaking

 

Street commerce has always been important in Mozambique, a country with large Arab influence, but since the turn of this century towns became immense bazaars.

 

Some weeks ago, an international organization accused the informal sector of undermining the economy. That statement struck me as superficial because it doesn’t address issues like: 1) Unemployment in Mozambique grows and is believed to surpass 80%. 2) People sell and buy on the streets because their standard of living is not significantly improving. 3) Accusing the informal sector is ignoring that the majority of commerce is not informal and even so happens outside the control of any Western institution.

 

As it is now, informal commerce is the soul and character of this country and I would openly support it if it only were a little less chaotic. Wherever in the world would you find people selling whatever you can think and a lot more?

 

Unthinkable: I was told that during hard times, when even deodorants were a luxury, it was possible to deo spray just one armpit in the street. I even imagine the deal: “1 armpit: 20 Meticais – 2 armpits: 30 Meticais”.

 

Addiction: There was a time when cigarettes were expensive and difficult to find. It became frequent to see people selling cigarettes from an open pack, but soon the offer included the possibility of the same cigarette being shared by different passersby.

 

Vanity: Young boys not only sell nail lacquer on the streets, but also apply it on request. I suppose this is still happening today and prices are per nail. This is a commercial trick, because in that way they can advertize really low, attractive prices for a very poor clientele.

 

Fashion: Do you fancy big fashion names? Accessories? Sunglasses? Shoes? Bags? You say it and you have it on the streets of this town. Or even on the beaches. And you are welcomed to discuss prices down to much less than 50%.

 

Disgusting: Selling raw meat in a corner of one of the busiest streets, mid summer, flies furiously buzzing around a plastic container. Yuck!

 

Sad: There’s nothing sadder than finding someone on the road selling wildlife, usually monkeys and birds. If I could I would buy and release every single one I have ever seen, but a thought stops me again and again: if I give money, he will keep doing it even more fiercely. So my eyes just remain sad for as long as I remember the sad eyes of any trapped gazelle on the side of the road.

 

Piling: Street vendors solve the measurement question by piling goods or using open cans. If you buy tomatoes on the street, you buy 1 or 2 heaps of tomatoes. But the reality is that after a short discussion you can even pay just half tomato.

 

Mobility: These days street stalls are a bit more solid than they used to be. Before they were really light and precarious, allowing sudden retreats. I saw a couple of police raids against street sellers, because they didn’t want to pay taxes, be it lawful or unlawful ones. I guess those nuances of corruption ended or maybe they got used to pay a more reasonable amount.

 

Caricatural: In the middle of all this I discovered a guy who disguises himself as a walking stall. Merchandise cover his hat, his coat, his trousers, his arms, his hands… Little of him is visible under watches, necklaces and a lot more. I think he is a clever individual who understood that he could earn more from humour and tourists than from street commerce itself.

Sunglasses Urgently Needed

 

Men like to stare. It’s in their nature. I can’t find a better explanation. When a discreet look turns into staring, politeness goes on holidays and an awkward situation is created.

 

I think men have two staring processes: 1) The quick general check up. 2) The aimed look.

 

Days ago I was caught by surprise while walking my dogs. A man coming from the opposite direction frontally looked into my eyes. I think I never had the experience of having a completely strange looking deep into my eyes and that upset me.

 

At the same time, I was surprised to feel so exposed until I realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses. I never leave the house without them, mainly to protect me from dust. Wearing contact lenses turns eyes sensitive to dust and light.

 

I never thought about other kind of exterior aggressions. I never thought of wearing sunglasses to protect me from eye to eye contacts, but now I think I found another good reason for not forgetting them in the future.

Keket Strikes Again

 

My puppy Keket completed four months yesterday. She is an interesting case. For a start, she is the first verbalizing dog I ever met. She is capable of articulating a few sounds and it’s quite amusing (and amazing) to witness her unique efforts to communicate with us. Our guards prodigiously laugh about the way Thoth’s head puzzles listening to her. Secondly, she is far more energetic than an average dog. I guess nature provided Keket with such energy and acute need to communicate so that she could survive in a litter where she was the only female.

 

She used to bite us (particularly me) and destroy everything, except for her toys, but her negative behavior changed when we decided that it was time to let her be with Thoth during the day.

 

Thoth showed his affection for her from the first moment. He is such a good guy that accepts her leadership most of the time. We were terribly upset when we discovered that she was biting his cheeks. We took care of the wounds and it stopped. Thoth had to learn a defense move with his front paws to avoid her fast attacks. We breathed with relief.

 

A few days ago I commented: “It seems Keket’s aggressiveness is over. Thoth’s cheeks are okay since some time.”

 

“No way.” Andy replied. “She only stopped biting his cheeks because she found a nastier place to bite: his balls. She charges, she bites and she takes refuge under a car…”

 

It would be hard to believe if I didn’t witness it. She comes from behind and malevolently strikes. I am not sure if he is going to learn a new defense move, but for sure he is learning to be more alert. I learned something too: it must be excruciating painful because he reacts as if an electrical shock hit him or as if he was a kicking horse, when all indicates that Thoth’s anatomy shouldn’t lend itself to kicking.

 

If you still need a proof of how hard love can be, welcome to my backyard

Arrogance vs Aggressiveness

 

A powerful country decided to bring 40 doctors to work in Mozambique. There’s no question they are needed. For reasons that only the reason knows, the Ministra do Trabalho (labour minister) decided to impose a few conditions. Being one of them the proof of their qualifications, I think Mozambican authorities suspect they could be only basic technicians, cashing most of the promised aid as if they were real doctors. Whatever the motives, the storm is over our heads.

 

The other part didn’t like and has been producing all sorts of menaces. The debate is on fire. That powerful country is threatening to cut all the aid (USD300 millions-year), while most Mozambicans are taking the minister side with two arguments: 1) They are sick and tired to be told. 2) It’s time Mozambique stops begging and starts to live on the existing resources. I kind of agree, but I’m afraid there’s more arrogance in such declarations than feasibility.

 

Nobody knows how animosities could escalate to such extremes or when they are going to end. And I won’t give you a genial insight (I don’t have one, anyway), except for the above title and maybe tell you something less political and hopefully more entertaining.

 

Over the years I could feel a big difference between Northern and Southern mentality. Maybe because of the weather, Northern people tend to be more active and aggressive. I don’t think they are well aware of that aggressiveness and I even believe most of them regard it as a quality. On the other side, people living in regions where the weather is less severe seem to develop equal doses of laziness and gentleness. It should be good if both parts could take those differences in consideration. At least I try.

 

From time to time I have to read texts coming from people not aware that their words can offend people with a different sensibility. I always try to soften the edges, because I do believe that we can say what we have to say with politeness and diplomacy. Recently, I had to change the words of someone in a way to fit the local mentality. We all know that people are poor, naked and starving, but they don’t need or want an outsider pointing at it. They know too. We all know that governments perform badly, but they don’t want to hear it from an outsider. The same way Europeans wouldn’t like to hear a visiting African criticizing their endless social and political problems, come to that, environmental too.

 

As soon as I finished reading that text I send it to the author saying: “I respected the original, as usual, and only introduced a few subtle changes.” For an average intelligent person I wouldn’t have to explain that, besides mistakes and inappropriate language, I had to soften the criticism. Instead of pointing the finger at this and that, why not just say that there are pressing questions to be addressed – especially when the publishing objective is neither social nor political?

 

I suppose you are guessing what happened next. That person sent back the text reintroducing all the negativity I had erased. I cannot tell you how furious I was… In my opinion, there’s only one thing as bad as aggressiveness: stupid arrogance. Not knowing your own place is a sad way to be.

 

Yes, I protested. Paul advice was: “Chill out and stop worrying… You know what happened when that person was working on a project in Mozambique? One day, tired of demands and aggressiveness, Mozambican workers locked that person in a room and told they would only open the door when good mood and manners returned…” Imagine how I laughed!

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.

The Mechanism of Treason

 

This is an adult theme. Don’t read it if you are not interested in my own opinion.

 

I don’t intend to bore you or myself to death with a long dissertation on treason. Since someone was betrayed because of 30 coins it has become clear that treason is nothing but a sort of commercial operation. We betray because we get something out of it, either 30 coins or something less metallic. In the end we get what we need, we miss or we never had.

 

Believing in Literature, what we get never compensates what we lose. You never come out as a winner. Reality seems to point to a different direction.

 

Instead of staying in the domain of theoretical considerations, I decided to mix this theme with the approaching Mozambican Women’s Day and see what comes out of this partnership theme-event.

 

First of all I have to inform that we are about to celebrate Mozambican Women’s Day (April 7), one of the main festivities around here. Secondly, I have to underline that I respect and admire immensely the role of women in this country. They struggle against daily want and unfairness. They are the main existing social structure.

 

Having said that, I start to talk about a different category of women locally engineered. The last two generations of Mozambican women were composed of fighters: first freedom fighters and then fighters against the hardship of the first two decades of independence. We are starting to know about a third generation, born and raised during peace and better times. Though this is not a hat fitting all heads, this new breed doesn’t seem to have the same aura and stamina of the first two.

 

Young women are doing the same mistakes previous generations have done, but they don’t accept the inherent responsibilities, maybe because they still have some heroic mother at their side, eager to do all sacrifices so that her children have a better life than they had. I am referring to my cook Tieta, who is raising 3 children and a grandchild too – so that her own daughter keeps partying with boyfriends. I could name a few other cases with the same contours, but I stick to the one I’ve been following more closely. But this is just one side of the story.

 

When I started this blog I was willingly defending the women known as sugar daddies. I thought the hardship of this society could justify their actions. I am no longer so understanding since I realized that sugar girls are not truly needed, but a trend in this society – a materialist trend very unpleasant to witness. They usually come from middle class families and have as a motto: “Why work or bother if it’s so good the way it is?”

 

My mind changed after closely witnessing how a sugar girl acts. I decided to tell about my own experience so that my words can alert you against this new specimen: sugar daddies.

 

Contrary to JP wild options, Andy is the kind of person who likes to be in a steady relationship. I realized how he suffered during years because he couldn’t find someone he really liked. When he found a Mozambican girl he seemed more attached to, we investigated a bit about her and she seemed okay. Her family is middle class, her mother works in the local court, her sister a lawyer and herself having a couple of years studying at the university. We closed our investigation and let their relationship sail fine weather.

 

Unfortunately, two or three months later, a series of incidents led me to the sad conclusion that she wasn’t a suitable partner for Andy. However, I kept quiet. I couldn’t interfere. I just turned to Paul and mentioned: “Andy’s girlfriend is no good. She is capable of selling herself.” And I rested my case.

 

Approximately a month ago, JP and a friend received an alert message from a known friend, calling them to one of the most exclusive places in town, where they would witness that same girl befriending another guy, presumably to get a USD 1.000 worth cell phone.

 

(I don’t know what’s going on with people and tech gadgets… It seems like if they don’t have it they miss a limp or worst. TD’s girlfriend and I have one of those old cell phones I use to call my VW. Every single year the phone operator offers a new model I am always passing to someone else who needs it. I stick to my old one. Maybe if I had to use it frequently I would feel the need to change. I really don’t understand the motives making people want the latest models so badly.)

 

JP wasn’t in Maputo, but when he returned he confirmed that the girl had a new expensive cell phone. He heard the witnesses with more care and alerted Andy to the situation.

 

Instead of investigating, Andy talked with her and embarked in what have been weeks of a second order sitcom: he gathers evidence while she cleverly fights it. I have to admit: either she likes him, despite of all, or she hates to admit the truth about herself. The other guy might have the money, but he surely misses something that Andy possesses or represents.

 

I’ve asked Paul to listen to the witnesses and make up his mind (mine has been set a long ago) and he returned saying: “They sound serious and believable.”

 

“If they like each other… If he likes her, he should stay with her, knowing what she is and maybe including her in a different project… You know what I mean.” I told JP.

 

“No way…” remarked JP. “I cannot agree with you because in the meantime she revealed to be a really bad character. In order to defend herself, she is throwing Andy against the world, including against close friends and me. She has done things like diverting phone calls so that a friend of mine would appear as the instigator of the intrigue about her.”

 

In short, JP is not worried because she was bad, but because she is bad. Cheating is no longer the worst, but things like her aggressive attitude. She invaded that condominium with a well-placed relative (it’s common here the use of a relative to intimidate others), only to hear the witness reconfirming that she was the one.

 

Just like Andy, JP experience difficulties in finding suitable girls, but he is far more realistic and content with short-term relationships. It’s not a surprise they experience such difficulties with the kind of life they have. The main difference is that JP knows. And when I remark: “JP, that girl is no good,” he replies: “Eu sei. Dinheiro na mão, calcinha no chão.” I am not translating due to the bold nature of his comment. You may guess, though.

 

Sugar girls can easily promote group promiscuity. I witnessed a situation of that sort when JP was dating one of them for a week or so and had to leave for a job. The girl automatically turned to someone else in the group. She picked NB (Oh, the irony!), the only married with a child diver, messing with the lives of a few forever.

 

Andy is clearly divided between suspecting and wanting to believe in her excuses. He is like someone about to drown but still believing in miracles. In the middle of the prevailing nonsense, he decided to contact a local investigation team. (Ha, ha, ha!) They are not private detectives, but the only official investigation unit existing in Mozambique capable of tracing phone calls and taking further actions.

 

Andy doesn’t believe in eye witnessing, because of reasons like: 1) People are naturally bad. 2) People envy her because she is with a white boy. 3) There are so many girls that some of them would feel happy with another single guy around. Needless to say, those are her favorite defense arguments too.

 

The investigators said: “We will present a report and if Andy still doesn’t believe in our conclusions, then we will take further measures like investigating phone calls and so on…” For Andy, the phone calls are the ultimate evidence and that’s why he turned his private drama into a public affair.

 

Action seems to have stopped in favor of the two, while the investigators take their time. We all wait. Knowing. There’s not a single friend or soul around here with doubts, except for Andy. We just wait for his reaction when he realizes the truth. If he realizes the truth… If he let us know that he realizes the truth…

 

Treason exists because people do it and survive. Treason exists because there are always people willing to forgive and forget, either because they have a notion that they somehow deserve it or because the infidelity of a partner gives and takes something: more freedom and power to the betrayed, less freedom and power to the betrayer. That’s why people accept treason.