Escape to Tofo, An Ocean Safari, and a Wild Goose Chase.


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Africa » Mozambique » Southern » Inhambane
July 18th 2015
Published: July 21st 2015
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After my Mukambe feha trip I took three chapas back to CoH and was back by noon on Thursday. Friday wasn’t terribly productive, but it wasn’t terribly unproductive either. THEN CAME SATURDAY. I was damned and determined to get out of CoH and go to the beach, so I had called the night before (actually meaning to stay Fri and Sat night) and had my stuff packed. I finished writing the blog that I posted before I left, and then headed for the chapa out that way.

Of course, it’s never without some issues… I get to Inhambane to get a chapa to tofo and there is space – by any standards – and I get in and sit down by the door. The cobrador says that the chapa is full and makes me get out (it is CLEARLY not full to their standards). I get out and sit on the bench with a crowd of locals staring at me. Another pulls up and is hoarded by locals. Some signal to me to get in, so I clarify that it is going to tofo and then sit in the same jump seat as I had in the other one. (a seat means the chapa DEFINITELY has room). The cobrador tells me he doesn’t have room and wants me to get out. WTF. Thankfully, two of the locals in the chapa argued with him and then I got to sit on the floor behind the passenger’s seat. In effect, by me siting by the door they can’t cram in another 5 people standing up, so they didn’t want me in the chapa. As it was, by me scrunching down to fit in that spot I had a series of either large-breasted women with cleavage in/on my face, or an old man or two that clearly needed a bath. (I’m not trying to be condescending at all here, but I just want to clarify for those with Western media representations of Africa in their minds: Mozambicans are very well dressed and stylish, by any standards.) BUT THEN … I arrived. I walked to Fatima’s Nest (Backpackers’ hostel) and after a while, checked in. Dorms with mosquito nets and such, right on the beach, bar and restaurant available… AND HOT SHOWERS, OMG, HOT SHOWERS! I took my first shower in Mozambique here. AND IT WAS HOT (did I mention that part?)

Beach walks, reading, writing, relaxing – nice. I booked an early morning ocean safari the next morning, so I wasn’t going to stay up all night, and besides, I wasn’t here to party anyway. I just wanted a change of scenery, but not crazy party-like. *sigh* if only… I managed to come for a weekend when several bro-tastic backpacking guys from South Africa, Brazil, and the UK were all colliding at this one place and getting completely and utterly, obnoxiously, disgustingly drunk and letting everyone know about it – all night long. I got about 4 hours of light sleep interspersed with screaming, drinking games, lights on and off and on and off, and other such stupidity. The title of this post should have been “Why I hate stupid drunk white people in other countries”.

No matter, the next morning I got up and had breakfast with the workers in the kitchen area and then went for a walk on the beach before heading into town for the OCEAN SAFARI I booked the day before. I was super hopeful, as Mozabique is one of the few places where whale sharks are regularly seen and where you can snorkel with them. I showed up to the dive shop a bit early and met a SA couple with their teenage daughters who were there as well. They turned out to both be anesthetists and we talked lots of medical stuff. Eventually we got the boat into the water and on our way, but it was super windy and rough that day. In and out and in and out we zig-zagged, but no signs of anything. On our way back we spotted a couple of humpback whales and they swam by the boat a bit, including a mother and a calf. (Mozambican waters are birthing grounds for humpbacks around this time until Octoberish) We got in the water for all of about 10 minutes, but the visibility was about 3-5 ft in front of you, so it was pointless anyway. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. Not that I was convinced I would see a whale shark, but I thought we would have more time in the water and would have better visibility. I would have rathered the dive shop said that the visibility was kind of crap and to wait another day if possible rather than take us out and just waste fuel to feel like we did something. Oh well. At least we saw some humpbacks, and they were really close to shore compared to whale watching in RI and MA.

I spent the rest of the day writing, reading, and eating with a bit of a walk here and there. As a result of not having any sleep the night before, I went to bed even earlier than I did the night before because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. *double sigh* I should have known better. They repeated much of their behavior a second night and I got about the same amount of sleep. I wanted to kill them in their sleep after I got up and was trying to get ready for the day. I had to check out by 10, so I wanted to get up earlyish and go for a walk and use the facilities (read: HOT SHOWER) before I left for home. I did get up, and did get to go for a walk – where I collected lots of really cool shells and found some awesome tidal pools – then made it back about 9:30. When I walked into the room and they were all sleeping soundly without any noise or disturbance, which was the point at which I wanted to throttle them all. -_- ugh.

I had lunch and then took the chapa back to Inhambane. I must say, much like my return to CoH after being in Mukabe feha after a few days and having this feeling of negativity and heaviness weigh on me, once I was on my way back from Tofo and arrived back in Inhambane I felt the same, only it came out as irritation. I went to the Chinese superstore and you must check your bags – you must do this everywhere and it reminds me of going into the Family Dollar in New Orleans where you are greeted with an automatic recording announcing that you are on video camera and that shoplifters will be prosecuted the fullest extent and some other things… - but I did this. I picked up my one item (a plastic container for sorting seashells), paid, and walked back over to the baggage counter. The same guy was there as when I walked in, but also a girl. They were supposed to give me a token or something to get my bag back, but they neither did that, nor even took the bag off the counter as I was shopping, so I grabbed my two bags and was putting the one on my shoulder when the girl started to make a fuss about my receipt and the token. I had already given the receipt to the guy and there was no token, so I tried to explain and she repeated herself. I shouted that I had the receipt and waived it in her face after taking it from the hand of the guy and just left.

I went to the café, had some food, and then hit the pier to get the boat back over to Maxixe. Groceries, and then CoH. When I got home, I started to clean the seashells in the bathroom and shortly thereafter I heard a car pull up and someone got out. There was a woman in the hall announcing herself as I turned around; her name was Clare. Clare is from Zimbabwe and is a 10 week global missionary with the United Methodist Church. In Zimbabwe she is a hospital administrator and is supposed to be doing work on a social justice program for women and kids here in Mozambique. Let me just say that after the first 30 minutes of talking to her I was so happy to meet someone who had all the same initial intentions and who has met all the same frustrations in the process and is able to laugh about it. Plus, she’s only about 4’10” and a firecracker, which makes it all the more entertaining. Sehw ould make a great coxswain.

Tuesday rolled around and they asked me to help write a grant for a maternal child health program they want to do over the course of the next 2-5 years… I said ok and left my project in my room for what I thought was going to be a short while. We sat there all day talking about comments from commenters in the US, of which there were maaaaanny. My biggest concern was that the infrastructure wasn’t there to deal with the increased capacity that any training and education programs would result in. They said that wasn’t a problem since the funding body operates by improving the entire process, infrastructure and all. That’s great, but CoH is not
HaircutHaircutHaircut

Me: "Can you gut mulungo hair?" Them: "What?" Me: "White guys, can you cut white guys' hair..." Them: "Ummm... sure...?" It turned out ok - although I thought I was going to get scalped for sure.
a construction company and is not in the business of contracting such people and managing such projects. *sigh* There is also the “problem” of lay midwives and pathologizing pregnancy and birth such that they want all women who are pregnant to come to the hospital, even if they have to walk for days and bring their own food. Ugh.

That was a wasted day. I eventually left to go to Inhambane to run errands and missed the next big boat on the way back to Maxixe because the ticket guys wanted to argue with me whether it was “full” or not to the point where I wasted enough time and it started to leave. I was determined not to get into a little boat, so I waited. Unfortunately, I didn’t get back to Maxixe until 5:35, and group meeting was supposed to be at 5. It didn’t really matter since the only people that were there were Rose, Elfie, Clare, and two activists. We talked for a bit and then Clare and I took a chapa back to CoH with the activists. Clare and I stayed up talking a while more, and then we called it a night.
Holes!Holes!Holes!

Oh no! my mosquito net has a hole!


Wednesday was a Nhamaxaxa day (I found out the day before). In the morning they asked for more help with the grant, and then we got into a chapa and left for Nhamaxaxa. There are some white people in town from Texas who are funders and/or “missionaries” and are getting carted around and played to in every way. It’s more than a little nauseating. They get driven there in the private vehicle… When we get there they take up a bench to themselves (there are three, an older lady, a middle aged lady, and a late teen/early 20 something) that usually fits 7-8 activists. They help with nothing. Then as the time goes on and we are still waiting for more people to show up, I decide to use the time and go over the stuff I went over in group meeting the night before. I’m interrupted by Arlindo and Olinda several times talking to the activists as if I’m not there, and then finally they say “are you done, can we start?” as if I were the thing they had been waiting on for 45 minutes… Then the real cringe worthy part happens
Moz or SC?Moz or SC?Moz or SC?

Looks like Beaufort
when each of the women gets up and introduces herself and then all the activists say in unison “oh, thank you, welcome, thank you for coming and helping” and other such things . It’s exactly what I’ve been telling them NOT to do and think over the past 9 weeks in reference to problems solving. It just reinforces the idea that they have nothing and will always be poor, sad little African people who need some white westerners to come in and give them stuff. We are there far longer than any other visit with activists that I have seen and it’s getting on in the afternoon. I am looking forward to getting out of there and can totally relate to why anyone would not want to sit and listen to me, or anyone, talk about malaria for the 300th time. Arlindo wants us to go back to CoH and work on the grant again. I’ve definitely been conned.

We need food, but there is none in the budget for discretionary things like this, and even if there is, there is no petty cash kept in the office and everything has to have a check written for it and cashed at some point. Instead, we stop at the market in Chicuque to get some supplies and someone gets a chicken from somewhere. When we get back, Arlindo calls to say he’s not coming and is going home instead, see us tomorrow. -_- We cook, because we already bought the stuff and had planned to stay, then we sit down to edit. We are there until 8:30 at night.

Thursday becomes another grant day and I develop a list of questions for different people that they need to talk to – key informants – and other that should be included – stakeholders – but they aren’t really interested in changing much of anything in this grant… We go to have lunch and then I realize that I have to go to immigration to renew my visa, otherwise I won’t be able to before the deadline. That’s because on Friday they want to actually go to Cambine and do a site visit, as well as talk to the director of the district hospital in Morrumbene. They want me to go. I don’t know why.

I left after lunch at 1 to go to immigration and then got some groceries and returned to CoH. By the time I got back everyone was gone. It was a little strange that everyone was gone since we worked until 8:30 the night before and the grant was due on Monday, but whatever. I went for a run at 5 and then Clare got back. She told me that as soon as I left they quit working and left. Wth. Why am I wasting my time? Why are they wasting their time?

Friday was supposed to happen at 8:00 AM and we were supposed to be back by noon. We didn’t get out until 9:40ish after the driver cancelled and we had to find another driver. Then, no one was around to talk to us at Morrumbene and none of the staff wanted to say anything about anything. Finally, we got someone who called someone who called someone and the director came to the hospital. The line of questioning to each person was literally that – just a list of questions without any context or explanation. It is no wonder we got no real responses from anyone. Well, except we found
What's to eat?What's to eat?What's to eat?

I had matapa. It's casava leaves chopped up really finely with coconut milk and peanuts over rice.
out that to be a certified midwife it only take one 7 day training here and then you get a piece of paper from the government. Weird and dangerous.

At Cambine, we go to the local government office and they don’t have any statistics to describe the area’s population, or even boundaries (They didn’t at Morrumbene either). We then go to the church looking for the pastor, why I don’t know, since he’s not going to be any help either, and then to the hospital. At the hospital Olinda just walks past all the people in line and interrupts all clinical services – the same that had been done at Morrumbene hospital – to start asking questions. Is it any wonder we were getting nowhere? We walked around the campus a bit, then back to the clinic area to interrupt again. I tried explaining what we were doing instead of just asking questions and the head nurse became a whole lot more amicable when she figured out we were trying to get money for them to get supplies and refurb the place. She walked us around personally and showed us each building – 3/5 of which were not
Dive sitesDive sitesDive sites

We went to praia da rocha but didn't stay, then back to clown fish reef, but the visibility was crap. Back to shore shortly after that.
in use and had nothing in them because it had been stolen. The idea is to increase the number of women who come here to give birth, and to do so they need an expectant mother’s home where the women stay for up to two weeks before giving birth. They need a kitchen, and a washing facility, new toilets and showers, and equipment for safer deliveries. They also have a huge building with multiple wards in it and a nurses’ station – that isn’t being used. No beds, no furniture… But not because it never had it, because it got stolen. So what is the point of buying more stuff to put in here if there isn’t the staff to staff the place 24/7 and guard against theft? It’s all a waste of well-intentioned money. As Clare pointed out about her program and this proposed program, people are paying lots of money and thinking good things are coming from it, when there is really no lasting, sustainable change coming from any of it.

At some point I also lost it because it dawned on me as we were sitting in the director’s office of the Morrumbene hospital, and then more so as we drove to Cambine, just how infuriatingly frustrating the lack of support has been. The woman in the office was a director – which meant she was at the meeting in Barra (I asked and confirmed) and saw me give my presentation. This meant that (1) that was her first impression of me and now I was coming in front of her with this group of people demanding information from her and (2) it was a missed opportunity for Arlindo to have met her in another context as the director of CoH and not asking for anything so that later, now, things might have gone more smoothly. Also, after the meeting, during my conversation about how the meeting went, I asked for more open communication and dialog – and was told that, basically, it was none of my business and that they were doing work in Cambine and that was why people were not able to help me. SO, now it comes to this week and only at this point have I realized what has gone on for an entire week – I’ve only been brought in when my “good English” is needed and I’ve wasted
Look at me!Look at me!Look at me!

Oh, there's a South African girl in the background too.
a week of my time not doing my own project, which has precious little time left.

We don’t get back until after 2 and then I have to cancel group meeting because I do not have anything prepared or enough time to gather supplies and make it on time. On top of all that, as the driver is driving me and the new tank of cooking gas back to CoH, he asks me about payment. I tell him that I have to talk to Rose, but that I can pay him today and they can pay me back on Monday. Long story short, they had already made it very clear that he wasn’t getting paid until Monday and he was trying to get paid twice by asking me – I just happened to inadvertently foil that plan by involving Rose. Also, the only way more cooking gas was purchased was after Clare said she was going to purchase it and then, miraculously, money was found in the budget for cooking gas. I’ve gone a month or more without it because they were waiting for me to buy it so they wouldn’t have to. -_-

I spent
Snorkeling...Snorkeling...Snorkeling...

But not terribly interesting things to see.
Saturday working all day to try and make up lost time. I had planned on going to the beach again for two nights, but that got put on hold on Friday when I realized how behind I was. So much for having all the materials digitized and assembled by this weekend.


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resting... tired...
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These little critters apparently sting like wasps - why I didn't get in the water much.


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