The World Around Us

I Remember Now

Country: Mozambique by Marlowe


Helpful map

I don’t mean to make my first post on this blog a rant. While I am currently a bit frustrated about my afternoon, this post is meant to speak of lessons forgotten.

Things have gone well since landing in Mozambique: we’ve found ourselves in a beautiful and spacious apartment, made contact with our employers and learnt a smidgeon of Portuguese to boot.

With the equipment grant, it seemed there would be more than enough money to make it through the month. Time for a treat: the Apple keyboard I’ve always wanted.

Having scoped out several stores in Maputo, I decided to buy the Apple wireless and did so at Minerva Central in Baixa. Turns out though that this smaller keyboard doesn’t have certain keys I need to work effectively. After a long walk with receipt in hand, I return to Minerva for a refund or at least an exchange for the full USB keyboard. Return: no dice, it’s been opened. Exchange: permitted but they don’t have any other Apple keyboards. First I play the squeaky wheel, then the “I’m a newcomer” sympathy card. Neither work; enjoy your keyboard.

At this point I look at the map to another store that should have the USB version and set off just to look at prices. The guy who had previously drawn it for me had been so helpful! Following the map I find that the street it’s near (Av. Amacar Cabral) isn’t there. Each person asked (in broken Portuguese) places the street somewhere else. I finally realize that the map has transplanted the key landmark, the main city hospital, to another intersection entirely. A couple of computer stores that could be the one are, it being Saturday, already closed. Two hours of unsatisfying shopping on foot is enough.

Who’s fault is this runaround? Mine of course. Here are the lessons I forgot:

  1. Always ask what the store’s return / exchange policy is. Don’t assume customer service is the same in every country; even if it’s a corporate store like Minerva.
  2. Corroborate directions with a few other locals before heading off. This goes for anywhere. I remember once having swapped Bloor and Queen Street when telling this guy how to find a bar in Toronto; a city I’ve lived in for decades.
  3. Sometimes buying close to you is worth paying a little extra.
  4. Learn the local language. The situation might have been better resolved or avoided entirely had my Portuguese been better.

Follow up

Casquinha, our VSO Office and Persons Coordinator and local Mozambican, has confirmed that businesses do¬†not give refunds here. She says it is a custom to believe that if you give money back, you’re inviting money to leave your business. Basically, bad luck. It’s also a convenient excuse not to give refunds. Here’s some egg on my face.