Saturday, June 23, 2007

Last Moz post - Pemba/Quirimba montage

I finally got around to throwing together some of the clips I took as I was leaving Pemba and arriving in and touring around the coconunt plantation, village and beaches of Quirimba Island for the first time. You'll have to excuse the sometimes rough, shaky video in there, often because of the bumpy roads and/or my incompetence...and unfortunately due to some software bug that I can't figure out the first minute and a half is only sound, so you can either skip ahead or sit back and listen to one of the most famous songs to come out of Mozambique. In English it's called "Nightbird" and is by an artist called Wazimbo. The first time my TechnoServe friend Tricia played it for me, it really did give me the chills, and that haunting melody stayed in my head for days after. I guess I'm not the only one who liked it--the song was also featured in a movie directed by Sean Penn, The Pledge, and even in a Microsoft commercial. Anyway, this is clearly no Sean Penn movie or Microsoft commercial, but here you go:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


My last week in Africa was spent in Johannesburg and Pretoria to visit my client one last time. Below-left a view from the TechnoServe office of the Joburg skyline, and below-right a picture of the outside of my friend's cottage where I stayed. Very typical sight--it's really true what they say about all the streets in Joburg being lined by walls and all the security homes have to have because of the enormous crime problem they have there. The city is quite attractive, lots of hills and trees, nice neighborhoods, etc...which is why it felt so weird that you had to be so cautious all the time. i.e. I'm used to cities where crime is a big concern like say Sao Paulo or Phnom Penh...but there it seems more natural that there would be crime because things just kind of look more destitute. In Joburg you'll have these really nice housing communities close to quaint coffee shops/bars/restaurants/etc. and yet you feel the same tension as if you were in Harlem in the 80's. Crime simply isn't limited to the poor parts of town in South Africa.

My second to last day in Africa, I had a bit of time for one last touristy thing so I decided to do a tour of Soweto, the largest urban black settlement in Africa with over 3 million people. Unlike Joburg, Soweto apparently has much less violent crime because the local community have a kind of vigilante mentality...which can always be a dangerous thing, but then again if you can't rely on the police--which one report said was understaffed by 50%--I guess you gotta what you gotta do. Below-left entering Soweto through one of the nicer areas. Below-right a cluster of the quintessential "matchbox" houses built by the government for Soweto residents:

Below, a couple scenes from one particular township, Embizweni, that we got to see up close:

Below-left, Nelson Mandela's former house, which is now a museum. Below-right a sign for Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to house two Nobel laureates (Mandela and Desmond Tutu):

Weekend in Swazi

Okay...I admit I'm back in the States now, but have a few more posts that I had meaning to put up but didn't have a connection or enough time I'll just pretend like I'm still blogging from the bush....

My last weekend in Africa, a few of us decided to take a road trip from Johannesburg to Swaziland. We all had friends living in the capital, Mbabane, and it was just a 3.5 hr drive on good roads, so was a pretty easy trip to do, and glad we did because Swazi has definitely a very different feel from what I became used to in Mozambique and from what you'd typically think of Africa. Mostly the reason for this is because it's mountainous and generally a lot cooler--in fact it was downright freezing when we were there. It's a monarchy, and has some interesting customs associated with the king and royal family. It also has an astounding 40%+ HIV/AIDS infection of the highest in the world.

We only had two full days there--the first evening we went to a brai (African barbecue) and then to one of the only big music/night clubs around, House on Fire. It's a really cool place with multiple levels, sections and great live entertainment. The night we were there they had a Brazilian samba/dance band and one of the top DJs in southern Africa, DJ Fresh, so practically all the nightlife seekers in Swazi and even some from South Africa come out that night to check it out. A sidenote--every patron had to buy two packs of condoms to gain admission. Although Swaziland has a big AIDS problem, there is a pretty good effort to raise awareness and address the issue, which hasn't always been the case for other countries in the region.

The next day, we did a bit of touristy stuff--had a traditional Swazi lunch at Matenga falls...

...and checked out a cheesy but entertaining tribal song & dance routine, including a rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, I kid you not:

Before we knew it, time to drive back to Joburg--the Swazi road trip crew from left to right...Tiffany (American TechnoServe Joburg-based volunteer), Sbonelo (friend living and working in Joburg; schooled in Swaziland and New Mexico through an Int'l Baccalaureate program), Me, Eneza (friend living and working in Tanzania; also schooled in IB programs w/ Sbo), Brian (American TNS Mbabane-based volunteer consultant), Tiffany again, Me again:

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Meu Despedida do Maputo

...meaning 'my Maputo farewell.' Some pics of me enjoying my last days in Mozambique with some friends.

Here the crew I played soccer with on Sundays at Costa do Sol, the main beach in Maputo:

Below-left the TechnoServe Moz coconut team proudly displaying a tree seedling they had just brought back from the field. To the right Tricia (head of coconut team) joking with Sinezia our office receptionist and assistant.

And finally a few photos from my last night out. Appropriately enough we ate dinner at a middle eastern place and then headed to a Maputo mainstay, Africa Bar, which is exactly what I did on my first night out in Moz. From left to right...row 1: Tricia (Louisianian, full-time TechnoServe coconut/biofuels program director), Abe (our Somalian friend starting a business in Moz), Sam (South African TechnoServe volunteer consultant working on coconuts, Me, Anna (German TNS volcon also working on coconuts) ; row 2: Sam again, Fabio (Brazilian TNS volcon working on poultry), Magaya (local Maputo friend, who introduced me to the soccer gang and also works for his father's poultry business), Magaya again, and Arsenio (local Maputo friend currently studying at university):
As you can see, a pretty impressive mix of backgrounds--made for lots of good conversation and debate, often fueled by many Mozambican cervejas. Hope to be back in Moz soon to see some of these folks again and pick up where we left off...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back in Maputo - chat with Jaime

The cool season is upon us--have been enjoying the mild weather back here in Maputo for the past week and a half. This morning, one of my last in the city, I was going to capture some video of the tree-lined streets and the nice sea views we get on the way to the office, but ended up spending most of the time chatting up Jaime, one of the TechnoServe drivers. A good thing, though, because Jaime's had a really fascinating life in Mozambique. This clip definitely doesn't do justice, but still I think some interesting bits to check out:

As you hopefully could make out, Jaime has seen a lot of change in his country. Originally from Xai Xai, in the Gaza province just north of Maputo...Jaime was a young man during colonial times, he fought in the Revolution, he lived through the years of civil war, and since he's found work in South Africa--and thankfully for TechnoServe--in Maputo as well where he's been now for 8 years. When I asked him if it's relatively stable in the country could tell he was thinking "well, yeah maybe to outsiders...but on the other hand there's still some tension under the surface and you never know when things could break down"...which I guess can appreciate better now having lived here a couple months. Still, it's fair to say Mozambique has made a lot of progress on political stability, especially when you compare to some of its neighbors like Zimbabwe where things are really pretty troubling right now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Last day on Quirimba

And so my second and last visit to Quirimba--at least for this project--had to end, but I did get a chance to head back to the beach on the southeast end of the island. This is where I first ran into the two little kids who followed me around several weeks ago. Turns out their names are Manuele and Noventa and their father is a guard for my client's coconut plantation. Sure enough they were hanging around their straw ("macuti" in Moz) home cooking breakfast and playing on the beach when I showed up. They quickly ran over and I gave them a copy of those couple of pictures I had taken last time, which they got a real kick out of. It was fun--they certainly seemed happy, laughing and smiling at the time, but it does make it easy to forget the reality for families like this one in this island community and the neighboring ones where illiteracy is 83%, unemployment is 18% and the poverty index is 68% (compared to single digits or teens for most of the first world). Still, although I believe in Technoserve's private sector/business enterprise's good to once in a while get away from the Excel spreadsheets and business plans and remind yourself where you're hoping to eventually achieve impact with it all...

Finally, a few last images from Quirimba. Below-left the spot where I first met Manuele and Noventa, now at low tide covered with an almost luminescent green seaweed that we're actually hoping to be able to use as coconut tree fertilizer. Below-right the view out from my client's family house, and at the bottom a photo of me with the Gessners themselves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ibo II

...Ibo is also known for its arts and crafts. Below-left, an old man in the shadows sewing capulanas--Mozambican version of a sarong. Right, a silversmith selling jewelry made from old, melted down colonial silver coins:

Below, some photos of the Ibo Island Lodge, also a Technoserve client. They did a nice job retaining the feel of the island, while living up to the high standards of a 4/5 star type place:

And finally a Pimm's on the roof of the lodge with my client, Rainer, and his sister Carola while watching the sunset, and before realizing we had to set sail again to make it back to Quirimba before dark:

Monday, May 21, 2007


I finally got to visit Ibo island--my first trip to Quirimba, the steering cable on the boat broke so we had to abandon ship. This time around we left at high tide so that we could take the boat route through a mangrove forest (below-left). The trees grow essentially half in/half out of the sea and at low tide, you can actually walk on foot to Ibo through the forest. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a rather impressive facade (below-right) of one of the many historic buildings that Ibo is known for:

We disembarked at my client's friend's place where he is building a really tastefully put together guesthouse (below-left). He's one of the ones who has payed ~$50-100K to the government for the right to take over a ruin (similar to the building below-right) and renovate it for tourism or other locally benefical purposes. Technoserve is attempting to encourage investors to do the same thing but on a larger scale on another island down south, Ilha de Mocambique...

Below some more old, Portuguese colonial buildings erected when Ibo was once a bustling capital city of the Cabo Delgado province. Left, the building that is the home of the incumbent FRELIMO political party on Ibo, and right the main church in the town center:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Back to Quirimba Island

My second and last visit for this project was a good one. Weather was a bit cooler than last time. I got to catch up with my client on all the research, analysis and recommendations we have for him so far, and the development opportunities for the island still look really promising. Plus, I got to see some of the neighboring islands and towns on the mainland that I hadn't before.

This time around, we took the mostly-land route from Pemba to get there. Four hour drive on a bumpy, mostly dirt and sometimes flooded road to Quissanga, at which point we met up with my client's boat to take us the rest of the 45 minutes to Quirimba. Quissanga was a really nice little seaside hamlet type place. Hopefully that road gets better in time because the town could be a good stopping off point for tourists heading to the islands, and I'm sure could benefit economically..

We docked at the north end of Quirimba Island where one of the old Catholic church ruins is located (below-left). Later on, I made my way over to the other church ruin on the island to poke around there as well (below-right). Unfortunately, right now we don't know a ton about their history, but there has been some talk of getting an archeologist who's on Ibo Island right now to have a look and try to surface some more info. One thing that was kind of interesting was the tree trunk protruding from the direct center of the main room, right where you'd expect an altar to be. Maybe it was actually planted there, or maybe just a coincidence.

Next post, some pics from my Ibo visit...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ponta d'Ouro

Back to back road trips. Weekend after Inhambane, went down to the very southeastern tip of Mozambique to a place called Ponta d'Ouro. Five of us volunteer consultants from the Maputo Technoserve office plus one from the Joburg office rented a couple cars and did the 3.5 - 4.5 hour drive last Friday to meet four additional people coming from the Swaziland office. We had hoped to get real 4x4s because the road to Ponta gets really sandy closer to the town, but all they had were these Mitsubishi Pajero Juniors. Emphasis on Juniors. They did technically have 4 wheel drive, but their engines and clearance were closer to that of a golf cart than an F-150 I think it's fair to say. Not surprisingly we got stuck in the sand a number of times, having to get passersby to help push and one time to tow us out. Soon we realized the key to driving in sand is to just keep moving or else your tires sink in. This pretty much worked, but basically meant we had to drive at high speed often over 2 feet high bumps and swells in the road. Have to say, though, once I got used to it, it was pretty fun. I felt like a rally car driver. My passengers probably had a slightly less fun experience.

Once we got there, I think we all felt the beach and surroundings of Ponta lived up to the billing. Great beaches, good diving and dolphins about in the water, beautiful roadside scenery coming into and leaving town. It's typically a popular holiday destination for South Africans because it's so near the border, but when we were there it was thankfully not too overrun. We also rented a 10-person house for our group, definitely the way to do it.

Alright...last post for a while. Headed back up to Pemba and the Quirimbas to see my client again and to start getting a little more concrete on the development plan for his concession. This time around, I'm hoping to visit the historic Ibo Island, which is next door to Quirimba. Full report in a week or so...

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Took a road trip a couple provinces to the north of Maputo to Inhambane. Partly on work--I checked out a couple lodges there, and my co-workers toured some coconut factories--but a good part of the time was spent in a really nice beach town called Tofo. Maybe the biggest backpacker destination in Mozambique.

Below-left the southern end of of Tofo's pristine beach. It was off this beach that I went on a little marine safari and got to swim over whale sharks, which are normally rare but were fairly plentiful in these waters. Seeing one is a major box to tick off for serious divers. Below-right, my co-workers and I with two of the managers at our hotel. The one in the middle, Helio, is also a somewhat well known music artist in Mozambique specializing in African/hip-hop fusioney kind of stuff, with a lot of looped vocal percussion. His website:

On the way home from Inhambane, we stopped in another coastal town called Xai Xai where we stumbled upon some festivities celebrating Mozambique's Dia de Trabalhadores (Labor Day). To the left some of the dancers, to the right, me not blending in with the crowd:

Below also a rough clip of one of the dance routines. If you watch closely, the smallest kid who is initially to the left in the blue shorts and white headband was a riot. Biggest crowd pleaser by far: