Friday, January 2, 2009

Inspiring Worlds

My latest trip was to the land bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. It is a land still in recovery from the civil war that ended 16 years ago. It was colonized by the Portuguese which is the official language. In the district of Maputo where I visited, the locals spoke Shangaan.

It is a beautiful country with white sand beaches and river valleys under a sun you want to bask in forever. The prawns are fantastic and the people are welcoming. The country is making great steps in development and a South African I met in the travel industry said that Mozambique may surpass South Africa in tourism.

Unfortunately it is a country being ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic with 25% of persons infected. As mentioned in a previous posting, there are only about 700 physicians in the entire country of approx. 21 million people. Here are the highlights from my first visit to Manhica, Mozambique about 1 hour and 20 min from the capital Maputo's airport:
  • My stories from abroad can be funny but not really bizarre. I usually hear bizarre stories from my fellow coworkers. This trip I was presented with my own crazy and somewhat disturbing tale. During my second morning in Manhica, I decided to walk around this small town to take pictures and see what there was to see. I was strolling down the sandy road when I caught sight of an expansive valley with a river flowing through--a perfect picture. To obtain a better shot I moved closer onto a grassy ledge. Hearing something behind me, I turned around and saw a young man about 6 feet away saying something in Portuguese or maybe Shangaan. I gave him quite a quizzical look and indicated I didn't understand. He then moved to remove his penis from his pants and wave it at me. To this I was quite taken aback and firmly said "Nao...Nao...Nao!" He then shrugged and walked away. I am thinking he was asking for sexual favors and saw a young woman and thought he would give it a try. It was just fortunate that he turned away because I was debating what to do. Travelling alone as a woman is quite different and we have to take more precautions than men. It is not a gender equal world. A bit of advice: A friend of mine said that she watched a show with a prominent doctor that indicated that if you are attacked by a man to grab him firmly by the testicles and yank with all your might. It will instantly paralyze him.
  • The rest of my trip was not as eventful but a wonderful experience. If you remember my post on South Africa, I met a physician from Barcelona working in Mozambique, so I finally made a visit to the research center where he worked, CISM (Centro de InvestigaƧao em Saude de ManhiƧa). CISM was set up by researchers from Spain about 7 years ago and works to not only create a quality center to conduct research, but provides health care to the largest district hospital and trains locals to take on various leadership positions.
  • One interesting symbol of waste and gross mismanagement was a concrete stage built in the middle of a large grassy area. This large field was used by the townspeople for soccer games. The president was schedule to come to Manhica and speak but wanted to do so on a concrete stage. The large stage was built; the president came for 1 hour; and the large concrete stage remains. There are no more soccer games there and no where else to play.
  • Here in this country, the head has great utility to carry a variety of items some that are quite heavy. Our scull and spine are quite strong.
  • Working with the staff all week, I had not seen much of Mozambique and wanted to see at least one beach. Because my host could not take me because of his clinical obligations, he allowed me to use his car to go to Beline about an hour away. Mozambique has left side driving as was the case in South Africa as well (where I had my first experience in international driving). The main roads in Mozambique are good and similar to South Africa. It was smooth although the you must pass a lot which can be tricky. When I reached Beline, it was paradise on earth. It is a lagoon and I stayed at a lodge where you took a speed boat across the water. The lodge consisted of little cottages which were divine. In the morning after sunrise (which I missed since it was at 4:30 a.m. in the morning), I took at 20 min walk to the Indian Ocean where there was a beach undisturbed with crabs at play in the waves. It was a restful and lovely time and a wonderful gift. Interestingly, this was not the best beach. There is still much to see.
This was another one of those tastes of a culture where you want to experience more. Hopefully I can do so this coming year. Mozambique inspires verse and song so I leave you with both.

The World I Offer You
The world I offer you, sweetheart,
has the beauty of an assembled dream.
Here men are believers -
not in gods and other things without sense
but in truths which are pure
and revolutionary,
so beautiful and so humane
that men accept
to die
for these truths to live.
It is this belief, it is these truths
that I have
to offer you.
Here tenderness is not conceived
in bed chambers.
It is a hard, violent, bitter tenderness
born in the tough harshness of the struggle,
in the long marches,
in the waiting days.
It is this tenderness, harsh and bitter
that I have
to offer you.
Here do not grow roses.
The weight of boots crushed the flowers
along the paths.
Here grow maize, cassava, beans
born of men’s efforts
to forestall hunger.
It is this absence of roses,
this effort, this hunger
that I have
to offer you.
Here children don’t grow old,
their smile is eternal,
they play with the sun, the wind,
with the rain and grasshoppers,
with real guns
with bits of grenades.
It is this child’s eternal smile, this sun,
these real guns
(with which I also played)
that I have
to offer you.
The world in which I fight
has the beauty of an assembled dream.
It is this fight, sweetheart, this dream
that I have
to offer you.
Jorge Rebelo (1967)

A Song for Mozambique/Poem Sea of Faces