Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Farmer-to-Farmer Program: Day 2-4 (Mozambique)

Bright and early we headed into the interior to Chimoio, about 205 km away from Beira. The EN6 was pretty busy - and potholed - since it links Zimbabwe to the port in Beira. Coastal plains gave way to brushy hillsides and worn mountains. Tiny stands sell hanging bunches of bananas, pyramids of oranges, stalks of sugarcane, or sacks of charcoal roadside.

Chimoio is the capital of Manica province and my base for the assignment. Arriving so close to the weekend, after introductions to my translator and my host organization, as well as a tour of the facilities, the rest of the day was spent settling into the place.

Chimoio's morning chill can sometimes threaten to merge seamlessly into the evening cool. Fighting a cold as I arrived, I finally admitted defeat for the sweater I brought. I had my eye on a used, Quicksilver jacket - which was overpriced for my foreigner looks - in the town's open market, but my translator wisely steered me to another, quite serviceable option... and really, for 50 Meticais (~1.80 USD), who can really complain?

Shoprite, located on the outskirts of town, was another shopping experience. A western-style supermarket, it is probably ten times the size of our local Dia in Barcelona. Advised to stock up on provisions there since it is cheaper than other shops, I was surprised at how expensive many of the items actually were. For example, a box of juice that normally runs me 0.80 euros is 85 Meticais (~ 3 USD).

My translator - and by extension, a couple of his friends and his son- watched out for me on the weekend. In town, we meandered through people's yards, then linking up to the path to nearby Cabeça do Velho (Old Man's Head in Portuguese, the language leftover from its colonial days). The granite mountain is like the profile of a man's face if he was lying down and looking up at the sky. In the rainy season, apparently, the water even streams from his eyes so he appears to be crying. We passed some wandering goats, women doing washing, and scraggly, greyish cacti on the way up. It was really windy at the top - probably a strain for the religious man chanting there-, but the views across the surrounding landscape were great.

Pleasing my mom and taking in the cultural experience, too, I went to church on Sunday. The small cathedral was packed with many overlapping shoulders (Mozambicans seem to worry less about maintaining personal space). I almost missed the offering, which required clambering over my neighbors to drop it in front of the altar. The music was much more enjoyable than in Spain - which leans toward a more unapproachable, operatic and organ-heavy style. The choir had a really nice call-and-response thing going, and drumming and clapping made the mass upbeat and joyous.

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