Run for your life

I saw the army guys running again the other day…in summer…at the hottest time of day…in the high humidity.  I was just sitting in my car and I was sweating.

My brain was obviously not completely cooking as I came up with a brilliant idea. This looked like the ideal thing to implement in prisons as a punishment system! Every prisoner has to run in the middle of the heat of the day. The worse the crime, the longer you run! That would for sure cut down on crime by a huge amount making this one of the best ideas to come along in the last few years!

A second later I had an “oh, right!” moment. OH, right! There is already a program in place where people have to run in the middle of the heat of the day, some running longer than others.

They call it a marathon and people actually do this for fun!!!

Well, I guess these prison programs could be used to integrate people back into society with a means of making something of themselves. Mozambique could have a ready made athletics team and go round the world competing at events. These people could make money and then they wouldn’t need to commit crimes! And my idea is back to being brilliant again!


Bee-utiful scenery

We sometimes go to a beautiful spot outside of Pemba called Nichol’s Point. This is a point where a river meets with the ocean. We camp out between the 2 and braai (bbq for you non-Afrikaans speakers) while either cooling off on the river side or enjoying the waves on the ocean side.  The place were we park and eat is a sandbar with no vegetation at all.

The last time we went, we were having a great, relaxing time when suddenly a big swarm of bees came out of nowhere to join our picnic. We all panicked and ran and watched in fear as they buzzed around our condiments. Eventually they decided to settle down under the tailgate of one of the trucks. We realised they were not going anywhere so we tentatively came back to our things and the rest of the afternoon was spent in an uneasy truce with us pussy-footing around, trying not to anger them.

The bees around here are a lot scarier than the ones back home. If one stings you, it lets of a pheromone that attracts all the others and they will also come and attack as well. This can be deadly so you can understand our reluctance to get too close.

In order to leave, we had to find someone who would brave the danger in order to shut the tailgate. And then run like…well…killer bees were chasing them! I am happy to say we all survived without a sting.

Driven around the bend

There is a new law that requires us to get Mozambique drivers licenses. That wouldn’t be so bad but they also want to take my Canadian license away! I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around this one! All I can come up with are reasons not to. So here they are:


5. No idea about road rules

When the round-a-bouts were first introduced, the police stood in the middle and made drivers drive the wrong way around them. Thankfully someone figured it out and now it is sorted…sort of. They still have no clue about who yields to who.

4. The clueless driving speeds

There are 2 main types of drivers (yes, there are also some normal ones!).  The over-confident who drive break-neck speed wherever they go. Or the under-confident (is this a word?) who will drive a maximum of 30km on a 50km road. It normally is more like 20km.

3. The mind-boggling and interesting (in a train wreck sort of way) accidents that happen

Words cannot describe! Only in Pemba!!

2. The instructors themselves don’t know how to drive

A man we know went for his motorbike licence. He was told to start from one point and then stop at another. He did this in a very good, controlled fashion. When he was done, the instructor said “No, you did it wrong! You are supposed to skid to a stop!” He then did this and was passed with flying colors.

1. How am I going to be able to renew my Calgary Public Library card?!

The most important thing is to be able to have something to read while stuck in hours-long line-ups!

Down in the Dumps

There are no such things as garbage cans anywhere in Pemba.

There is no garbage collection and so the average person is without a place to put their trash and it ends up on the streets.  There are unofficial dump sites all over town and it is pretty depressing to see the trash piling up daily. The city comes around sometimes and cleans up some of the main streets, but within days the whole process restarts. We are fortunate that we have garbage pick-up weekly and our trash is incinerated.

You can often see children rummaging thru piles trying to find bits and pieces they can fashion into toys and all the animals scavenging for food. I may have mentioned before that the goats in Pemba are the healthiest, most well-fed beings here.

We have one spot that I pass many times daily while doing the school run. It has become a home to a few families of chickens. I will now leave you with a challenge and a new definition of “free range chickens”.

Can you spot them all? There are 5.

Biting the Hand!

Let me set the scene for you.

I have just picked up a reluctant Tiego in a bear hug. He has feline sentiments when it comes to cuddling and kissing. Everything has to be on his terms. If he is not “cool” with it then you can expect a lot of hissing, spitting, hitting, screeching, and flailing.

In anticipation of this and the harsh words that often come out of his mouth at this point, I say:

“Tell me you don’t love me. Tell me you don’t love me!”

He grins his big grin and says: “I love you.”

By this point, I also have a big smile on my face, thinking I have won in a big way, when he drops the first bomb.

“But only a little.”

Followed by bomb number 2:

“I love dad more”

This kitten is growing up and learning how to fight dirty!!

You Beg and I Beg to Differ

I picked up Matteo and Meghan (our neighbor) from school yesterday. As usual there were a line up of vendors scrambling to sell their wares to all the parents pulling up to the school. A man, whom I have purchased from before, came up to my window and started badgering me about buying. To say no one time generally means nothing. You need to say it continuously until the time you are actually driving away. So, he kept telling me that I should buy and I kept refusing. Finally, in desperation, he said “Senhora! I am hungry! You need to buy!”. Meghan burst out laughing beside me. “He is saying he is hungry and he has a big bag of bananas in his hand!! Why doesn’t he eat those?!”

Ah, the wisdom of a child!

It was good for me to be reminded to see the funny side in each and every frustrating situation I find myself in.

Thanks, Megs!

Bank is a four letter word

You hear the expression “laughing all the way to the bank” but you don’t ever know what happens when you actually get there. In Pemba, we call it “Ranting, raving, and sometimes bawling” in the bank. For all you people in Westernized countries that complain about the bank line-ups (What? did you have to wait a whole 10 minutes?) listen up! Being out of the bank within a half hour is a very rare and precious thing that Pembonians (Pembanians? Pembanites?) then feel the need to text, email, and chat about for at least a week.

This is generally what happens. People start lining up in the morning from 7am just to hopefully get near the front of the line. When the bank opens at 8, there is a rush of bodies trying to get in only to line up again inside. It’s not pleasant being pushed and pull and everyone is smelling particularly ripe from standing in the sun for so long. Luckily most of the banks have some sort of aircon so there is a bit of relief from the B.O. Most people then must stand in line for at least 45 mins. I have taken to bringing my e-reader to pass the time. Things may be running smoothly but there is a bad habit where most people come in, look at the line-up and then as someone at the front of the line to do their banking for them. You will start with 10 people in front of you but end up with 30 transactions going on instead and your 45 min. wait turns into an hour and a half. There are no more than 3 tellers at the bank at the most. A lot of times only 1 or 2 will actually be serving customers. There is also the fun of having people bring in huge piles of cash to be counted. There is no special business line so sometimes you are waiting for 15 mins. and the line doesn’t move at all.

The atms sometimes are no better. There are 10 different locations in and around town. Some days I go to almost all of them just to get money out. Near the end of the month, most machines are programmed not to accept foreign bank or credit cards and so you can’t even withdraw. Most times the atm cash is depleated and so there is nothing to take out. You always know which ones are actually working as the lines in front of them are at least 15 people deep. I drive away at that point as I really don’t feel like spending 20 minutes standing in the hot sun.

I do get amused tho, even with all these problems. There is a poster up in our bank that teaches you how to treat your bills when you have them. “No crumpling, tearing, stapling, or putting them in your socks”. I think that last one is being polite as I am sure there are other places worse than that that the money ends up being stored in. While doing the counting of the money, the tellers actually wear masks. So many of the bills are actually disintegrating and still firmly in circulation. You try not to think about it too much when you are handling these bills.

We are moving ahead, tho. We are now getting those new plastic bills. I do think they are the best idea to ever hit Mozambique and hopefully they last longer. The first few times I paid using the new bills, I had a very (not joking!) hard time letting go of them. They were so shiny and smooth! It was close to the shopkeepers having to pry them from my fingers. Thankfully, there are plenty more coming in to circulation so have gotten over that.

Anytime we go back to western civilization, banking is one of those exciting experiences that we go thru. Imagine! You go into a short line-up. You wait for about 5-10 min. max if at all. You have quick service and you leave with a smile on your face. And ATMs on every corner! Bliss!

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