Friday, July 27, 2012

Bem Vindo e Pemba

Sunset over Pemba

We landed in the dark so who knew what our first morning would hold when we woke up in the Aga Khan Foundation guesthouse and saw Pemba in sunlight?  Luckily the sun rises at 5am as we had no power or water when we stumbled out of the house, but that became a minor issue as we walked across the road onto Wimbe beach. 

One of the Makonde arts and crafts centres

Sunday beach day
Usually accompanied by intense soccer games
Wimbe beach winds along the giant bay of Pemba and is about 5 kilometres from Pemba town centre. It is a mix of restaurants, beach houses, hotels and a crowd of tourists, expatriate workers, and locals.  Pemba is the capital of Cabo Delgado province (population of about 2 million) which is the most northeasterly province in Mozambique and is situated on a semi enclosed natural harbor and coral reef. 

I have quickly learned how important it will be to become proficient in Portuguese (with 
some of the local eMakua thrown in as well).  I would have loved to have seen Pemba years ago when the buildings were freshly plastered and the painted houses were still brightly coloured as it is now a mix of feeling left behind in time with potholed roads and the ghosts of aging structures, but also an influx of money from oil companies and NGOs. 

During that first day, doing anything but stare was difficult as I was incredibly overstimulated by the ambush of new sights, smells, and sounds. But I also sat staring at familiar labels from South Africa and realized my excitement at being back in the land of imaginary seatbelts, Coke in glass bottles, buying anything on the street, babies on mothers’ backs, and new languages floating above my head. And who knew that I would have the same South African music on my iPod as was being pumped from the cars parked along the beach?

Although we intended to get groceries, our jet lag delayed us and we ended up empty handed, but we did have our first official ride in a chapa. The chapa is similar to the minibus taxi in South Africa except for the fact that they are never full. Even when the door can’t close and the guy collecting money is hanging out the window. At our fullest, Riaz counted around 18 in the van – I couldn’t see because of the small child that got placed on my lap while I balanced myself backward on the front wheel well and tried not to get elbowed in the face or my foot caught in the door that was about to fall off.
Up to the left of the beach and road on our drive to work
Baobab trees in the distance
I may never get used to the number of automatic rifles that just are just hanging around, from police officers to house guards, but I do like the new sights of boys climbing coconut trees, roast chicken and chips, the days when I catch the blink of an eye sunset, having a constant layer of sand and salt on my skin and hair from daily ocean dips, buying beer on the beach, busy Sunday beach days with soccer, vendors selling full Dairy Milk bars, markets selling everything, and women wearing the most beautiful fabric wrapped simply around their waists.

One of the neighbourhoods on our commute

The missionary compound
Young missionaries are everywhere;
do not wear long skirts or you too will be mistaken for one
It is hard not to be relaxed.  Of course there are frequent moments of frustration or homesickness when I wish I was fluent in Portuguese, could find yogurt, or when I sleep under my mosquito net and wonder if that itchy mosquito bite is THE one with malaria.  It is full of ups and downs where the small things can make all the difference.

View from the AKF Boardroom

At the same time, I am thrilled to be in a totally new world and have the opportunity to explore for the next eight months.  Welcome to a world that I have only ever seen on a map and assumed I would be probably never go.  Now any moments of frustration are countered by watching the early sunsets, swimming in the ocean, or feeling more comfortable about life works here. 

Homemade tropical schnapps?

Small baobab tree

My favourite coloured house so far
Its neighbour is tangerine

1 comment:

  1. Glad you are enjoying your self little Hamilton sis. Your beach photos make me jealous! I wish I could capture some Dhaka smog and monsoon, fecal filled mud for you to share in our experience - haha
    Can you make yogurt maybe? xo Mad