What I Love About Maputo: Lisette’s Top Ten
Country: Mozambique by Lisette
We’re three months in Maputo; that calls for a reflective blog post. Or so is my public reasoning for writing a blog article about my newfound love for Mozambique and Maputo. Here’s my Top Ten what I love most about the city and its people.
1. Let’s start with something simple, the weather. As most readers know by now, I dislike winters. I enjoy the red-coloured leaves in the autumn, and perhaps even the first snow. But after that I grumble every time I need to put on a thick sweater, a hat, and an enormous winter coat with scarf, big boots and gloves. The days your nostril hairs freeze are just uncool. Maputo’s weather on the other hand is very sunny, with the ocean breeze picking up every day at 4pm sharp. Rain comes every couple of days to moisten the land and keep it green and lush. With an average temperature of 27 degrees, you just can’t go wrong! I’m told it’s very different up north and inlands, but I can’t speak yet of experience.
2. My reason for being in Maputo is to work with a local, grassroots organization – ARISO. And I must admit, again, that I do love working overseas with passionate colleagues. We are working on an innovative program to support the prison system in Mozambique; it’s just so exciting! I value constant learning, being creative with programs, creating new opportunities and my work, as an Organizational Development Adviser, is just that!
3. Mozambicans love to dance! You hear music, influenced by Latin grooves, everywhere and anytime. In the middle of the street girls will start wiggling their bodies to the rhythm if they fancy the song. Men truly know how to move their bodies on the dance floors. Dancing here is flirtatious; I have seen women practically giving men practically lap dances unabashedly. At other times you can see children performing traditional dance in front of a restaurant. Pedro Sa Da Bandeira has a wonderful gallery online, check it out here.
4. The stands in the street are handy and you are assured of fresh fruit and vegetables at all times. Typically you see a young girl or boy walking around selling peanuts or cashews. Women roast cashews and corn on the street with a tiny charcoal set. Marlowe has run downstairs a few times when we ran out of bananas for his breakfast and was back within 3 minutes. The ladies across the street and around the corner know us and give us a good price.
5. This leads me to my fifth favourite in Maputo: the creative side of people in ways of making a living. If you have an old typewriter and can find a wonky desk somewhere, you have a job. Place it in a neighbourhood where people need letters (for example, in streets with government buildings) and you can make an honest living. We see a man on the corner of our street working hard every day trying to sell pen drives to car drivers.
6. The smells of fresh ‘pão’ (bread) and pastries. Mozambicans have delicious Portuguese-influenced baked goods that are too good to be true for my gluten free diet (which is never truly free!). Marlowe has developed a real addiction to some of the custard-inundated pies. A waft of this in the morning and I suddenly find myself wanting some fresh bread! We recently found a Brazilian pastry shop in our street, and let me warn you they have some dangerous goods…
7. And then there are the chapas. I recently wrote this on my Facebook timeline: “Imagine waiting at the “bus terminal” with hordes of people for just one chapa to go home. Wind is picking up and rain is soon to come. A chapa is a mini-van built for about 10 people plus driver for Western minded people. A chapa in Mozambique is built for about 20 people. Today I sat in a chapa with over 25 people with Bryan Adams asking me if he needed to say the words. Take your imagination a little further, there’s more to it! Now, imagine my face glued to the front window while the rear-view mirror was poking in my back. I was considered lucky, a quarter of my bum found a seat between the driver and the front seat passenger. Whenever the driver needed change he asked me politely to lift up my ass’ quarter. That was my 30-minute chapa drive today. How was yours?”
Afterwards I giggled out loud when I read Wiki Travel’s warning “The chapas themselves, particularly on shorter routes, are generally in shockingly poor condition. Expect seats, doors and interiors falling apart. […] Unregistered chapas are extremely dangerous and overcrowded and should never be used if you can help it.”
8. The sense of community is a wonderful experience. People appreciate our mumblings in Portuguese (though Marlowe is getting very good) and often they smile when we ask an ignorant question. Just last week we went to Xipamanine, which is a local market just outside the city centre. It was dirty, smelly, with butchered animals, huge piles of all sorts of dried beans and a maze of small winding alleys. We had fun figuring out what some vegetables were (see picture with what I call mini-watermelon look-alikes since I forgot the name). So we decided to buy a few and check it out. The fruit lady laughed when asked how to prepare the vegetable and said it was good in salads. Another shopper then mentioned to cook it. How, we weren’t sure.
They’re full of seeds and pretty tasteless. The next day some green ones had turned yellow. Of course we had no clue whether that was good or not. Curiously, I cut one open and found that the white flesh and seeds had turned blood red! Later on Marlowe asked a waitress what to do with this interesting vegetable. She told him to fry it up and that the yellow ones are definitely not good. Chopped some up per instructions, fried it and it was quite bitter. How different our experience was when we tasted passion fruit!
9. I hinted at it earlier when I spoke about dancing – the nightlife in Maputo is good! With a large expat community, tourists and plenty of young Mozambicans (youth aged 10-24 years is 34% of Mozambique’s population), the night scene is well developed. There’s always some music somewhere or a festival going on. The only downside is that it is mighty expensive and so we go out sparingly.
10. And then there is cappuccino, Marlowe’s latest addiction. Regular coffee isn’t good enough anymore. Not only do Maputo’s pastelarias have delicious pastries, they know how to make a good cuppa I hear!