Thursday, January 03, 2008

Quiet Maputo over Xmas

Christmas Eve, I walk down (and then up again – Maputo is quite hilly) to the Revolution and Art Museums.

They’re both closed. The revolution can wait a couple of days. I pass by several kids dancing crazy moves in the street outside a music shop. The city has a festive mood to it, despite the roasting temperatures. Some people are wearing Santa hats. Soaks up the sweat I suppose.

Edma picks me up in her sister’s car then we drive around together doing some errands, taking empty beer bottles to exchange for beers (and presumably some money). This is the simple concept employed behind buying beers (and other drinks) here – if you don’t bring your empties back, it costs more. Effective, eh? It would seem that Maputo has just about run out of beers though, I notice a couple of days later that the Fatima bar only has cans rather than the cheaper bottles. A capital city running out of beer before Xmas!

Next we drive down to a new shopping mall, randomly passing Irene sitting in a restaurant, who spots me and yells out hello. Small world. Maputo, like London, is a big city with a small centre, and an even smaller sphere for expats or those with money, so you do tend to meet people quite often. Anyway, I had passed by this mall near the waterfront before without noticing it, but it’s probably the nicest newest development in Maputo. Shame I only discover it now! Inside, we go to the large supermarket (HyperMaputo), to buy bits and pieces. Interestingly there are special queues just for eggs, potatoes and chicken, presumably because they are the staple foods here. I think they are rationing them to a certain amount per customer – 2 chickens and a dozen eggs.

Back at Edma’s house, I meet her Mother, Grandmother, Sisters, Nephew, Nieces, and daughter, Chantelle. Lots of female hormones in this house! They’re very welcoming though, and I pass Christmas Eve in their home, with music, lots of delicious food – a very nice potato fish dish, meats, tuna wraps and other things. My lowly contribution was a panettone cake which I had found in one of the supermarkets. In my enthusiasm to try everything I pick up too much food, and guiltily leave some!

They ply me with cold beers from the fridge, before it cools down enough for me to switch to wine. I should explain that the heat and humidity, even in the evening, is such that the slightest exertion, particularly for me with my warm blood, leads to perspiration, hence my attempts to do as little as possible!

After eating, rather than waiting for midnight, it is time for everyone to open their presents, especially of course the children. Everyone seems happy with the gifts passed round.

Soon it’s midnight, we fail to go to midnight mass because we’ve run on so late and furthermore we can’t find any confirmed services, and so as we sit outside the house in the cooler air, we wish each other Feliz Natal. What a pleasant evening.

A Short but Sweet Christmas
Next day, Christmas Day, Dad calls first, when I’m just contemplating getting up. Edma collects me for lunch at hers, only leftovers but it still tastes good! In the afternoon, Edma’s sister drives me around town, giving me a tour whilst also showing me the route she jogs. We stop off to have a look at Coconut Lounge, the cheesily-named best club in Maputo. It just sounds so bad, and yet it looks so cool! I won’t get to see it though, as I’m off soon.

They drop me back at my hotel to use Skype to make a few Xmas phone calls. It’s been such a hard day that I have a late afternoon snooze which over-runs into evening and, errr, night! Merry Xmas!!

Boxing Day, things open and return to normal, though I’m surprised to see Mimmo’s Restaurant still closed. I try calling Fatima’s Backpackers to ask about their shuttle to Tofo, but run out of credit, so I walk over there. No one is about. I wait a while. Still no one. Is it slightly unreasonable to assume that there should be someone on reception during the day? I head off, but later call them, and speak to the person who should have been there. I’m told to go back, and before 5pm or they won’t book it for me. Arrogant sods. I decide I’ll walk down to the closer Base Backpackers and see if they do a shuttle too. Later.

Next I meet Irene at the Polana Centre, and we take a cab to Costa do Sol restaurant, which takes some negotiation to get down to the 200M it should cost. By this stage the clouds have rolled back and my goodness, it is corking hot! It’s unbearable being anywhere without AC or a good breeze, and this taxi seems to fulfil neither requirement.

Happy now food is on the way

At Costa do Sol, we take a seat inside (outside is full), and order prawns and a Greek salad. The prawns are, as usual, delicious, and the salad works well with them, as do the potatoes soaking up the buttery sauce the prawns have been dressed with!


I am a little jealous of the next table where they have king prawns, but it’s too hot to be eating lots, and really it’s too hot for anything but cold drinks and iced tea sipped from the comfort of a nice swimming pool.

Back in town, I accompany Irene to the bank across the road, which may have something to do with the insides being air-conditioned, then we retire to the even better AC in my room.

The Eve of Christmas


When she heads off, I discover that the internet is not working (and worse, will not work again until after I’ve left, sob!), so I walk down to Base Backpackers to confirm the shuttle. They use the same one as Fatima’s apparently, and all I need to do is come down to Base at 5:30am. It all seems a bit too easy, and certainly shows that there was no need for me to go to Fatima’s to book the damn thing.

In the evening I meet Edma, who as usual makes me wait whilst she gets ready.

Maputo by night

I get to say goodbye to lovely four-year-old Chantelle, who gives me a big kiss goodbye, woo!

Chantelle and Edma

Edma and I go to her German friend Daniela’s house, who is hosting a surprise goodbye party for Leonie, who is off the following day to Namibia. Lots of people leaving the following day, the 27th, I think it’s the “respectable time after Xmas” date.

Like sisterrrrs

Dinner is nice, with rice, a salsa-tuna dish and a passion fruit dessert. Some at the party do not want alcohol, so for some fresh air I volunteer to go out to the petrol station nearby to buy some coke and fanta. Amusingly, they won’t sell me any, as I don’t have empty bottles to swap out. I resort to a few expensive cans of Diet Coke instead. When I return, Edma asks me why I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to buy without empties. BECAUSE I’M A TOURIST!!!

Interestingly, a couple of the guys at the party are working on a project with the British Council to write poetry, both in Portuguese and in English – one of them will be going to the UK shortly as part of this project.

Poetry in style

It’s still too damn hot, and the beers are barely keeping me comfortable, until suddenly the temperature drops. It starts to rain, gently, then heavily, then settles down to drizzle. The rain is like a circle for Edma and myself – it was rain that first brought us together, as we were stuck under a shelter in Fatima’s. It’s sad to say goodbye, she’s a very lovely person who has taken good care of me in Maputo. I hope she’ll visit me in London one day.

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