Thursday, October 14, 2010

In the Land of Moz

Hey y’all! It’s only been two weeks since I last wrote my blog... see? I’m getting better! It’s also Thanksgiving Monday in Canada (obviously there’s a few days between when I wrote this and when it was posted), which has got me thinking about what I’m thankful for. This year I’m especially thankful for many things, including my amazing supportive family and friends back in Canada, and my built-in family of WUSC volunteers and friends here in Bots. And of course, we had to have a super-Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday to commemorate the occasion. There were about 8 people in the kitchen from 3 pm onwards, and dinner preparations included a pretty epic food fight (luckily, I was spared). We made roasted chicken (since you can’t buy turkey here), mashed potatoes, stuffing, multiple pies and tarts and lots of other delicious goodness. I even busted out my polar bear sweater, even though it was like, 30 degrees outside :). It was actually the first time I’ve had a real Thanksgiving dinner, but I could definitely see myself doing it more often!

About 2 weeks back, I went on my second big trip since I got here, this time to Mozambique. Like I said in my last post, we had a long weekend for the Independence holiday, and figured I’d need to make the most of it. While everyone else went to Victoria Falls (which I’ve already been to—see my July entry), one of my housemates and I began the 16-hour bus ride to the capital, Maputo. Even though it was divided into a 6-hour ride to Johannesburg another 10-hour bus to Maputo, it was a hell of a long time. We JUST made our connecting bus, since the South African border was super busy because of the holiday. I can’t complain too much though, because living in Bots gives me the opportunity to travel to faraway places pretty cheaply. So anyways, we arrived at our hostel in Maputo early on a Thursday, giving us 4 whole days of sun, sand and whatever else we wanted to do. Living in Gabs, with a population of 200,000 for (at the time) 3 ½ months made me forget about certain big-city things. The big buildings, the paved sidewalks even on small roads, the perpendicular streets with street signs, the people everywhere… things that I was used to in Toronto. So although Maputo is far from the level of development of Canada, it was interesting to see.

What can I say about Maputo? It’s a neat city. A lot of the streets are named after either Communist leaders/thinkers or important days in Mozambican history. Our hostel was on Mao Tse Tong Avenue, and we frequented streets like Vladimir Lenin Street and Karl Marx Avenue. That was pretty funny. Another thing is that, as Portuguese is the dominant language in Moz, our English didn’t help a whole lot. I eventually picked up a few Portuguese words like “hello”, “thank you”, “water” and “eggs” (all of which were really useful). We hadn’t really made a game plan before going, except for hitting the beach. So literally half an hour after we arrived, we were on our way there. From the Maputo port, there is a 5-10 minute ferry that takes you to this island. It wasn’t the beach ever (better than Toronto’s beaches, worse than a white sand beach), but it was cool because you could see the Maputo skyline just across the way. Pretty much what I imagine Miami to be. Did a little bit of swimming, and a lot of tanning on my roommate’s part while I heavily applied SPF 50 sunscreen to prevent getting dark. Good times. Then we walked quite a bit around the city, had dinner, and called it an early night. The next day, we tried to hit up the Revolution Museum and walked over half an hour in the sweltering heat to get there, but it’s been closed and under construction for quite some time. Boo. Instead, we ventured out to the market. Luckily, souvenirs (and just the cost of living in general) are a lot cheaper in Mozambique than they are in Botswana. Even Botswana baskets are cheaper. Needless to say, we bought lots of paintings, jewellery, and little trinkets. We also hit up the train station and some other Maputo landmarks. And THEN (one of my favourite parts), we went to the massage parlour across from our hostel and got a full hour Chinese body massage. It was fantastic, and only cost about 20 bucks Canadian. I just chilled at our hostel after that, reading in a hammock and meeting the people we were sharing our big dorm room with. It’s always interesting to me to find out what brings foreigners to Africa. There were people from Israel, Germany, Holland and even Canada (represent!), all ages and colours of the rainbow.

Now our third day there was freaking awesome. We decided to hit up a real beach (Mozambique is famous for them) with some of the people from hostel on the Inhaca island, a 2 ½ hour ferry ride from Maputo and in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Now, I’d say I have a pretty strong stomach, but that ride wasn’t very pleasant. People were hurling left and right, and I was fortunate enough to have a girl vomit on my leg. Just great. Plus, I had forgotten to bring Immodium. But worry not, my friends— the ferry had Telenovelas to entertain me! Once we made it to Inhaca, I was blown away. I wouldn’t really consider myself a big beach person (haven’t even been to many), but there’s nothing like seeing white sand and palm trees everywhere. After a quick brunch (and me buying more souvenirs), we set off to go snorkelling! We rented a boat and went out into the middle of the ocean. Now, I haven’t had a good swim in years, and have never snorkelled but never really “got” the idea of breathing underwater. Needless to say, I spent the first little while holding on to the boat. Once I gathered enough courage to actually snorkel, I would come up for air after a couple of seconds… which defeats the whole purpose of snorkelling, since breathing underwater is the point. But eventually I relaxed and got into it, and it was spectacular! There was lot of coral and HUNDREDS of fish to see. Definitely an experience that was well worth it. Then more lying on the beach, and a less-treacherous ferry ride back. A delicious Indian dinner and night out later, our last day was upon us. And take a wild guess at what we did? Hit up the market and the beach. Again. Although we did also take in a football match, taking this awesome big scooter-looking thing called a tuk tuk. Then alas, the time to go was upon us, but it was a memorable trip. Definitely of a different calibre than Victoria Falls, but we actually took time to relax. I would definitely recommend Mozambique to anyone who wants to travel.

Well this is winding down but I’ll leave you with some final Yasmin-worthy moments:

1) As we were approaching the Mozambique border at 5-something in the morning, I woke up and could see a tiny sliver of the sun and the sky beginning to turn a brilliant pink. I thought “this is awesome, I’m totally going to watch an African sunrise!”. So I watched it for a good 20 minutes, but it wasn’t really moving, even though the sky was getting lighter. Turns out the sun was on the other side of the bus, and I had been looking at a lit streetlamp the whole time. Fail.

2) I’m apparently allergic to sandfly bites. Which I learned after being bitten about 30 times. They suck.

- Your homegirl Yaz

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