Mozambique #25 Local Language Fun


One of my new interests and hobbies has been learning the local dialect of Changana, which is a language in the Bantu family and is related to Zulu, Ronga, Machope, Tsonga and a few other obscure dialects. This language group generally covers the north eastern corner of South Africa, southern Mozambique, including the capital of Maputo, and up into Zimbabwe. When the European colonizers divided up Africa they had no regards for cultural or linguistic ties, but made arbitrary lines on the map; hence the wide spread of these languages across borders. It is also interesting to encounter words that sound awfully similar to their English equivalents. A watch in Changana is watchy,a book is booky, a teacher is teacha, to read is the same as the Portuguese verb, ler. I think this is evidence that throughout the evolution of the language and hence the culture, these words and ideas were not originally developed here, but instead were imported from foreign exposure.


I would never say that I am fluent in Changana, but I have learned enough to have basic conversations, greet people, do all of my market business, talk scatology and very importantly, insult people. Do not underestimate the importance of insulting people, it has saved me many times from being ripped off. In passing people I can understand the gist of peoples conversations, but certainly not in its entirety.  I have discovered how incredibly valuable and entertaining it is to understand a language that nobody expects you to understand. My teachers are the women who sell vegetables in the market, and other friends in the community. Usually I spend thirty minutes per day in the market just chatting with the women, and when I come across a word I don’t know, or something I want to say, but don’t know how, I ask them and write it down in a notebook. They are used to this little routine by now, but found it incredibly funny at first.


Being a bantu language, Changana is totally different than any language spoken in the west. There are an assortment of interesting sounds that don’t exist in my previous linguistic repertoire such as grunting, whistling between the teeth and sounds that are normally reserved for throat clearing, hissing and clearing out boogers. Except these sounds are mixed into the middle of words, which makes for some funny sounding conversations to the untrained ears. Every language in the world has its own characteristic patterns of sounds, pitches, textures, and rhythms that our lips, tongues, teeth and breath have learned how to make. In order to learn Changana I literally had to retrain my mouth to make sounds that previously I did not have the capacity to do. When writing down words in my notebook I get right up in the face of the speaker and watch how their mouth moves when they make the word. My women teachers like this as well, and have learned to face me and speak slowly as they repeat new words. They probably think I am quite dumb, but when it comes to Changana I am but a child learning for the first time. Imagine a mother standing in front of a baby saying ma – ma, ma – ma very slowly. Except now it’s a little more complicated “swa-nan-zia, swa–nan–zia”.


There are three large factors that have contributed to my learning Changana with relative ease, and none of them are because I am amazing at learning languages. Languages are like math problems, once you figure out the pattern and the formula, it’s a simple task of applying the rules and memorizing vocabulary. The first factor is that grammatically speaking, Changana is a very simple language. There are three verb tenses; past present and future and the verb stems don’t conjugate like they do in Portuguese or English. I will give a small example to demonstrate. Here is the verb to like. Ku Randza.


Mena Ni randza – I like


Wena U randza – you like


Yena A randza – he/she likes


Hena Hi randza – we like


Vona Va randza – they like




And in order to make the sentence negative you simply add a in front.




So I don’t like becomes:


A ni randza.



For the past tense you simply add ili to each verb stem :


Mena Ni randzili – I liked


Wena U randzili – you liked ………etc



For the future tense you add in front – ta – :


Mena ni ta randza – I will like


Wena u ta randza – you will like …. Etc


So, the general structure of Changana is very simple, although there are certain irregulars and special cases, like any language.


The second factor is that the general level of conversation that people have in Changana is very simple. In casual conversation most people are not delving into abstract philosophy or engaging in work that requires a highly specialized vocabulary. The basic level of conversation I hear around town is mostly related to daily chores, eating, cooking, selling or buying things, relationships and family. Lucky for me, James Joyce did not speak Changana, hence the vocabulary is quite simple and repetitive. Also there are many verbs that have double meaning, which simplifies things even more. For example the verb to want and to need are the same.


The third contributing factor is the fact that I am immersed in Changana. In the larger cities in Mozambique, Portuguese is the primary language heard in the streets, but in the villages and smaller communities such as Manjacaze its usually only dialect that is spoken. So just by hearing a thousand times the same greetings, chitchat and market gossip, my brain has just passively absorbed the language like a sponge. It has been quite fun going from hearing strange mouth noises to actually understanding the meaning associated with those funky noises. This is a double edged sword however as not understanding anything usually made for the perception of quiet and solitude, even amongst bustling markets and crowded taxis. However now I hear words and meaning, my brain latches on, and markets become noisy and distracting places. Understanding is not a conscious choice, it either happens or it doesn’t, and once you cross that barrier into understanding you cannot easily go back.


The real fun in speaking Changana however is playing around with people. As I said before, everybody assumes I don’t speak and so they will openly gossip about me, thinking I don’t understand a word they are saying. My strategy for maximizing the fun is to let them speak, gossip, discuss my appearance, the fact that I am not married or whatever it is they are talking about, and then confront them, in Changana. One time in a taxi the women were talking about how they saw me riding my bike way outside of town, and that they thought my cycling clothing looked funny. I turned around and told them that I love riding my bike and that I thought their cloth headwraps looked strange. The looks on their faces were absolutely priceless and they began apologizing profusely for talking about me.


Oftentimes people will refer to me by the term “mulungo” which literally means white man, and is borderline offensive, sort of like the South American gringo equivalent. Usually in groups of men, there is always one obnoxious idiot that wants to show off in front of his friends and make some derogatory comment about me as I pass, always using this term mulungo. He will usually ask me, “hey white man, where are you going?” however using the diminutive form of the word in order to be insulting. I like to respond in Changana, “Thank you for asking black man, I am going to your house to visit your wife, play with your kids and eat all your food”. I haven’t been beat up yet, and the obnoxious men are rightly put in their place.


The best is speaking Changana in Maputo, as white people are fairly common, however white people speaking Changana are very rare. I make friends incredibly easy when speaking Changana, as people tell me that it demonstrates that I relate well with the people and have an interest in the culture. I have gotten loads of discounts and free stuff in the markets just by speaking, and its really too easy to make people laugh. I just start talking about bathroom humor, the swear words that I learned or harmless little insults and I immediately have a crowd around me listening and laughing. People tell me all the time that when I go back to the US I must teach people to speak Changana. I try to explain the futility as obviously nobody speaks it, nor probably has ever heard of it.



In front of my office there is a nice old cashew tree that people are accustomed to sitting in the shade and getting absolutely hammered on the locally brewed corn beer. They usually yell things at me and I yell back. This day there was a guy playing the guitar, and actually quite well, so I went over and danced around a bit with them. The guitar player stopped playing because he said he was tired. So I bought him more beer to energize him. The song is about trying to cross the border into South Africa.



Mozambique #24 One Year Thoughts

One year thoughts…

Time is relative. If a strategy to measure the passing of time is simply to count the number of novel events that can be crammed into a designated interval, to make time seem relatively slow one could stuff it full of novel experience.  Habit, routine and conservative expectations seem to make time fly. Moving to another environment, speaking a foreign language, being immersed in a foreign culture and constructing a life and routine completely from scratch in this new context has seen the past year absolutely stuffed with novelty. The relative effects being that I feel like I have been in Mozambique FOREVER! I feel like I have lived an entire lifetime here; my infantile first trips to the well, honing my daily routine and habituating to living conditions and of course the first failures, successes and realizations I have had about working in international development. Here are a few realizations I have had in the past year living in Mozambique. These are inspired only from getting out of my home culture and experiencing life from the Mozambican perspective.

A question I asked myself was if I had not come to Mozambique, but instead stayed at home working the job I was working, earning about $20,000 a year, would that money bring me the amount of happiness and exploration that this past year has provided to me? For me, obviously not. Money is good, but only as a means to an end, and the best things in my life right now are absolutely priceless. Living simply is a virtue. I live an extremely Spartan lifestyle by western standards, however I can honestly say that I am not lacking in anything of necessity. Sure there are things that would make my life more comfortable, or add some novel excitement, but there really is nothing uncomfortable about pooping in a hole every day.

The effects of culture are stronger than I had ever imagined. I am so conditioned to see the world in a certain way, thanks to the cultural, educational and terrestrial environment that I was formed in. The Mozambicans are ridiculously conditioned as well. When I observe other people’s conditioning that is so foreign from my own it makes it easier to realize my own, just from the contrast.

Needs and wants are totally relative. Human beings need very little to be happy in general. The fact that I can go 300km into the interior of Mozambique and find relatively happy people living an extremely harsh lifestyle brought this to my attention. This lifestyle would never make ME happy, but to each his own. In my experience it seems that the thing that most people need in some form is love. Whether its family, community or other social groups, people want to be loved and accepted in the way that only human relationships can provide.

People everywhere are generally the same. This is the most cliché travel related statement and I didn’t even want to mention it, but it is so true. However to continue on this theme, the fact that people are generally the same has made me very pessimistic about the fate of the human race. This thought comes from traveling in other parts of the world as well, but in general, most people are very ignorant about the ecological effects their lifestyles have upon the Earth. Trash is thrown in the street or burned, no thoughts are given about cutting down forests or preserving animal species, there is very little respect for life in general and most people are frighteningly short-sighted when it comes to their health and the health of their immediate environment. History is a race between education and planetary ecological disaster. Only time will tell which side will win, but I am not optimistic.

Two years is a really long time. Before I moved to Mozambique I naively assumed that after my two years was up I would just move back to the US and continue with my plan for the future that I had before leaving. I totally discounted what the effects of living in Mozambique would do to my worldview, values and future plans. There are a lot of question marks right now and I foresee acculturating to the US again as being very difficult.

I have learned a lot about foreign aid and working in the development industry. Through my own experiences I have seen how difficult it is to bring about behavior change and I have become quite skeptical of large aid organizations and mega projects. There are definitely success stories, mostly in immediate impact health related aid, however many programs I have seen are not accomplishing their goals. Why? A lot of reasons, but from what I can tell, lack of interest amongst the target populations and approaching the information to be taught from a western perspective rather than contextualizing it. The aid industry is well aware of these problems, but that still doesn’t explain the ridiculous sums of money being dumped into Mozambique each year with dubious results. Another foreigner working at an NGO recently said to me “if you work in development and don’t have an existential crisis about your work at least once a year you are quite abnormal”. I am not criticizing without reason and I have ideas that I think would work better, however that right there would be a whole separate post.

Nothing worthwhile or truly beautiful happens overnight. Gardens take time to grow, relationships need time to build rapport, projects need careful planning and follow up. The local Mozambican man who taught me how to graft fruit trees told me “before you do anything in life, you must learn patience; without patience you will never accomplish anything grand because you will have already moved on to the next thing”. Mozambique has taught me patience and will continue to do so. Living here is a roller coaster of emotion and patience is my mantra as it all passes by.

The honey moon phase is over. I would never say that I have exhausted anything about this wonderful country, but the novelty factor for many experiences is gone. This has contributed to my recent blogging silence. Its not that fun things aren’t happening, or that I don’t have stories to tell, its just that I have gotten so used to the lifestyle here that things westerners would find story worthy are commonplace and slip right under my radar. I will think hard, stay open and write more stories when I dedicate time.

Photos: Family comes to Mozambique! We toured around and had a great time, good food and lots of laughter. I love you guys.

Good food pictures as well. Those dried insects were delicious, they had a taste sort of like nutritional yeast.

Saw dust cook stove that ive been obsessed with lately. All my beans get cooked like this now. Cooking wood is expensive, produces a lot of smoke and doesn’t last long, not to mention the trees that had to be cut down. These sawdust stoves burn for 5-6 hours, are really cheap to make (sawdust is practically free) and produces no smoke. The trouble for me in sharing this idea is finding someone who is willing to try it in their home. Oh well. Patience.

Mozambique #23 The Bush Perspective

The Bush Perspective

Before delving into the real subject of this entry I would like to expound on the theme of consumption. It is so easy to just live a lifestyle of consumption; not even in the sense of overconsumption, just consumption in general. Every day I consume things that I had no part in producing. Ideas, food items, stories, music, books, etc. The scales of production versus consumption are tipped much towards the side of intake. In thinking about this I realized that to produce original ideas and novelty is quite difficult, yet obviously it happens every day, every second on this planet; the development of the world and all its facets is the obvious proof of the interjection of novelty. I realize that in writing I can do my part in the production of originality to share with my community and maybe even give inspiration to some to produce originality as well. My father once said to me (although he may not remember) “Evan, people relate to the world like they relate to trees, they are either picking the fruits off of them, or they are planting them.” I like planting trees.

I recently spent a week doing conservation agriculture and nutrition training in a rural community in Inhambane province. There is no formal transport to reach this community and due to the circumstances and timing of other work I was doing outside of Manjacaze, my transport was my faithful bicycle. So I rode out 100km into the African bush on an epic journey that took me across rivers, massive savannahs and forests and passing through tiny communities long ago forgotten by globalization and the developing world. No cell phones, no cars, very few people, very little infrastructure or governmental presence, it is a totally different world out there. I stayed at a campsite that my organization has on the banks of a swampy river, with a productive agricultural zone and intact forested areas nearby.

This community is about 25km from the nearest population center and so lacks the basic medical and secondary school facilities only found in areas of greater population density. The town is comprised of maybe 100 households spread out along the main road, with a few shops selling the very basics (soap, rice, corn flour, gin) all clustered around the newly installed cellphone tower. There is no electricity aside from a few solar panels, and one communal well where the village fulfills their water needs. There is very little economic movement in the town, no real means of production, people mainly rely on their farming capacity and cutting and selling wood and reeds for building materials. The region is susceptible to periodic droughts and there are constant food shortages; however this has a lot to do with the agricultural practices and the lack of knowledge about conservation, food preservation and nutrition, rather than overall harshness of the environment. The people in general seemed content with their lives, although depending on their level of exposure and education, I received many different perspectives when I began to investigate the private lives and ideas of the villagers.

The first day of the seminar (as we always do when we first meet with a community) we talked extensively about their problems, their production methods, the crops they grow, and their methods of problem solving; all trying to gauge their level of motivation for change and their baseline knowledge of conservation agriculture. We had 25 women from the community (and 1 man) participate. While we were waiting to start, my Mozambican co-worker, friend and professional agriculture technician translated a conversation that two older women were having.

Woman 1 – “ha, they are going to teach us how to plant trees? I am too old to plant trees, planting trees is only for young people”

Woman 2 – “ya, but there will be other stuff too, you should stay, you may learn something new”

Woman 1 – “ha, im out of here.

She promptly left. Not a good start. In a community that suffers from food shortages, and has very few fruit trees planted, you would think there may be more interest. Additionally, if there actually is an age limit to tree planting we are in real trouble. After asking around why there were so few fruit trees (there are no climatic limitations in this area), people responded by saying that it just wasn’t in their tradition to plant fruit trees. Is it in your tradition to go hungry and suffer from malnourishment for 3-4 months out of the year? I would always respond. My question was met with blank stares. Perhaps they didn’t understand the question, or were too embarrassed to answer. I don’t know.

The seminar continued without the old woman, and was actually a great success. We distributed lots of varieties, set up a demonstration plot, visited farmer’s fields, advised about solutions to common problems and taught nutrition and hygiene.  In each community we work in, we try to identify at least 2-3 people out of the 30 in attendance, who are actually motivated to try the techniques that we are teaching. We then focus our extra attention and advice for these individuals, knowing that in the future, after they have experienced success, they will be the exemplars and the teachers for the rest of the community. The hope is for a snowball effect of change, that starts with concentrating efforts on a few individuals. So many agriculture NGO’s work on “training” hundreds of farmers each year, in huge seminars, pouring in tons of money, technical equipment and expertise, without doing any actual follow up to see if their methods are producing results. But at the end of the year they can check off their list that they “trained” X amount of people and spent X amount of money on agriculture training. Sorry folks, but it just doesn’t work like that. Examine the word Agriculture and you notice “culture” right there in the middle. In my experience it is very difficult to change practices and methods that have been culturally ingrained since birth, especially related to food and methods of tilling the Earth. Change doest come easily, especially only because some white dude shows up once a year and starts handing out advice. And of course the advice is good advice that will almost certainly have a positive effect, but that is totally beside the point.

If real change is to happen, that change must be valued in the minds at the individual level of the person. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of people you train, if the individual does not value the training you will not see change. I think it is an unconscious assumption and thought tendency of the western ideals of mass production and homogeneity that gives aid organizations the idea that behavior change can also be mass produced, like some commodity. One must simply train the people using a prepackaged formula for change; this formula being cooked up in the basement of some academic institution, based on theory and never on practice, with the result that the people will all immediately value the change and implement it. But from personal experience and given the complicated nature of human beings, cultural relativity and the inexhaustible variety of lifestyles and worldviews, this idea of mass produced behavior change is absolutely absurd. To see the proof of the absurdity simply look at the amount of aid Money that is poured into the developing world each year, yet with the result of sinking standards of living, continued lack of opportunities for education and development, corruption and economic decline and stagnation. I am now a firm believer in grassroots change, which is a delicate and tedious process, as being the biggest hope for salvation of our perilous global cultural and environmental crisis that we are in the midst of. Human history is the race between personal education and systemic destruction. So find your one farmer, and walk with her until she is ready to walk with others.

Culture is the mental prison that we all must free ourselves from. This is not a new idea for me, however every trip I take out into the rural African bush acts to reinforce this idea. Culture is the collective mental framework of interlocking beliefs, conventions, practices and assumptions associated with a social group in a particular place and time. The diversity of human cultures on Earth is amazingly beautiful, with each culture occupying a unique location in the plethora of experiences an individual human being can have. Culture is wonderful, and as any curious anthropologists will tell you, almost inexhaustible in the potentialities of study and novel comparison making. However these statements are being made from a perspective as objective and removed from one individual culture as possible. Cultures are beautiful, except when one is totally and inexorably captive in the mindstate of one particular culture. Then, culture becomes the great limiting force. In rural Africa I see culture, habit and tradition as the destructive mental force that keeps people scratching at dry earth, barely eeking out a living under mostly self-inflicted conditions harsh enough to keep the life expectancy at around 45 years old. Culture promotes the subjugation of women and the relegation of children to bearing the brunt of the household duties to the exclusion of attending school. Nobody is thriving out there. This is not a culture that will be developing sophisticated technologies, hurling their instruments to the stars, or exploring the inner depths of the spiritual world. This is survival, and the cultural traditions and practices almost guarantee that it will continue to be survival for many generations to come. Culture deludes people into feeling pride for their cultural heritage as well, such that to even question the cultural heritage or practices are taboo. Nobody seems to know why they do things in the way that they do them, nor do they question themselves about their own practices.

I look at African rural culture and find it beautiful in many ways, and absolutely absurd in many ways. I look at my own western cultural heritage, and with a faint smugness think to myself how much more advanced we are today than our simple minded predecessors. How we know so much more about the universe thanks to our sciences, our open minded ness, our exploration of the material world and our ingenuity. My cultural conditioning tells me that clearly in our position of scientific enlightenment we are at the cutting edge of discovery and cultural advancement. However in this judgment I would be a fool to not make the leap of logic and reasoning by realizing that perhaps in some future generation in some other “cultural now”, the people (or human-machine symbiots) will find my CURRENT position absurd and primitive! So all cultural positions are absurd! Phew! thank god (if your culture believes in one, or multiple), because this realization of the absurdity of my own position grants me the wonderful freedom to simply walk away from it. If you know that your beliefs are baseless and adolescent in their scope, you are faced with the hard choice of acknowledging the gross imperfections in cultural practices and taking steps to either leave them or salvage them, or simply ignoring the dilemma and plowing the course ahead with denial and false justifications leading the way.  Once the awareness of the cultural conditioning is obtained, there are hard choices to be made, and these choices will steer our cultural evolution with purpose and collective intention, or maintaining the status quo. It really is an individual choice. I am going to get off my soap box now and go enjoy some of the finer aspects of Mozambican culture.

Photos: The bike ride, and arrival

Ag seminar demo plot and group photos

Community scenery

We also set up an irrigation system for 80 cashew trees that we are planting to start an income generating project for this community.

Mozambique #22 The Ripped Pants Story

A few months ago I was invited to a party at my friend’s house in town. Mozambicans like to host parties for practically any reason; birthday, public holiday, whatever. This was a birthday celebration for my friend’s daughter. Before we jump into the story ide like to describe a typical Mozambican house party, as in my experience they are all so similar that I feel confident in making generalizations in order to describe them.

The party typically takes place at someone’s home, but never inside the actual house. Chairs and tables are spread out within the yard and clustered into groups according to their respective occupants. Men all sit clustered together looking angry, generally not talking, women sit on their reed mats in another corner chatting away and children play in their own area; the segregation is obvious and predictable. There is also usually a group of young men messing with electronic stereo equipment and playing obnoxious music much too loud.

And of course it isn’t a Mozambican party without food; there is always a large group of women in one corner of the yard working over several simultaneous fires to cook the copious amounts of food needed to satisfy the guests. For a “lunch” party they start cooking at 5am in order to finish all the preparations. The menu at these parties is always the same; rice, xima (corn mush), cow, grilled chicken, a mayonnaise laden cabbage salad, French fries and beans. There is usually soda and beer, and if it’s a really good party perhaps some hard alcohol as well. After attending many parties, it still amazes me how inflexible and uncreative this menu is. It also amazes me how much food a person can eat at one of these gatherings. It is as if everyone tries to take advantage of an opportunity for free food with demonstrations of unbridled gluttony all around.

The typical party will “start” at noon, with the guests still filtering in throughout the afternoon. The food is usually served on platters and set on the table at around 2pm, as everyone stares in hunger and eager anticipation. Then, the plates of food are wrapped in plastic and left to cool and attract flies while everyone goes back to standing around doing nothing. The concept of enjoying your food hot does not apply at these gatherings. So at this point, everyone is ravaged by hunger, not having eaten since breakfast and expecting a “lunch”, yet nobody ever takes control of the situation and orders that people start eating. So people sit around, suffering privately in their hunger until finally someone suggests the wild idea of actually eating all that food piled on the table. By now it is close to 4pm, when the food is finally served. Everything is quite formal, with the cooking ladies coming around to wash everyone’s hands, then serving the food, then cleaning up after the tables. After the meal there are speeches given by the host family, a cake cutting and gift giving. Then the music starts and the dancing commences.

So this is where my story begins, with the prior events described occurring more or less in the exact order as above. After eating an unappetizing meal of bland party fare I was sitting around digesting when the music started. Mozambican music is actually quite good, with a wide variety of traditional styles as well as modern electronic house music. Imagine melodic electronic house music mixed with indigenous African languages, chanting and drumming. In general, Mozambicans are fantastic dancers and love a good dance party. They just have a fluid rhythm to their movements and a certain grace while dancing that makes it look natural and easy. I have seen women do things with their hips that would surely be illegal in certain Midwestern US states. There is also this very fun dance game that is played at events like this where two lines are formed, facing eachother. The dancers do a sort of catwalk like dance off, meeting in a center area and strutting their stuff in front of the crowd trying to out-do the other dancer. Its loads of fun and people get very creative.

So at around sundown I finally felt the pumping African house music pulling me towards the dance area. Being the only white man at this party I immediately attracted attention and had a crowd of young kids dancing around me, imitating my moves while giggling and laughing hysterically. Nothing out of the ordinary. I began to really warm up, feel good and let the music get inside of me. At this time the line up game started and I entered one of the lines. I was dancing alone, in my own little world, waiting my turn to strut my stuff on the catwalk when I glanced up and saw in the opposite line a young girl of maybe eighteen years old staring hard and pointing directly at me. She was dancing in place, a concentrated look on her face, boring a hole into me with this precocious, provocative “come get me” type of expression. I was a bit taken aback by this look she was giving me as so I decided to ignore it and just continued dancing.

On my turn to do the catwalk, as I displayed my best impression of a dancing prowling lion, this young temptress butted  herself to the front of the other group and entered into the communal space to challenge my moves. She approached me, imitating me to perfection, before improvising on my moves with the imagination and bodily flexibility that only an eighteen year old African girl could do. She absolutely shamed me with her improvisations, and to top it off, as we returned to our respective lines she glanced back over her shoulder and called out “é só isso mulungo?” (“Is that all you got white boy”?) The crowd of dancers and surrounding kids exploded into laughter. What I did to deserve the challenge of this little provocateur I had no idea, but clearly, between me and her, it was on.

I embraced this challenge for the pure sake of my dance floor pride. I felt that I had the duty to defend the dance moves of white men everywhere. And so round after round of the catwalk game we met on the stage and went toe to toe in one of the most epic dance-offs ever. I pulled out all the stops, the praying mantis, the zombie man, the kayaker, the hitchhiker, all the classic dance moves I could think of. But it just simply wasn’t enough to top her skills. She imitated me and styled on me with such grace and facility that often I just stopped dancing in order to fully appreciate how creative she could be with my original moves. During the intervals, while others were catwalking we would make faces back and forth, shit talking and provoking the other. The crowd was growing and buzzing with excitement as word spread at the party of this conflict on the catwalk.

The next time we would meet I knew I had to do something drastic. She was taking to me town out there and I was losing face in the eyes of the exceptionally critical peanut gallery of onlookers. Her strengths were obviously her fluidity, flexibility, rhythm and grace; I had to attack her where she was weakest. Just then, as the music changed, the idea came to me; but of course, the Robot! Every white boy’s fallback dance move! In order to counter her strengths I had to perfectly execute the exact opposite of her skills. I had to be rigid, inflexible, stiff and disjointed, while maintaining the rhythm and flow of the music. She wouldn’t stand a chance. Just then my favorite song in all of Mozambique came over the speakers, and I knew the gods were smiling upon me, offering me this chance of redemption.

In my opinion, good music is one of the most interesting things in the world. Obviously “good music” is relative to personal tastes, but whatever your musical attraction may be, the pleasure of listening is unrivaled. We humans seem to be hardwired to enjoy music. The way music can inspire emotion and energy or change the mood of a situation is fantastic. Dancing, just letting the music control the movements of my body, feeling the music within me and letting the rhythm guide me  as my body and the music fuse. In this state there is no listener and there is no thought, there is only the song.

And so my song played on the stereo, the red sun sank into the horizon, the birds flew overhead destined for their roost, the crowd gyrated and pullulated, and this little catwalk contest approached its inevitable climax. We strutted out onto the dance floor, I think both of us sensing that this would be the final round of battle, winner takes all. She started this round, doing a wonderfully tactful interpretation of a reed dancing in the breeze. A reed with curves that is. To top off her display, in one final fluid movement she dropped her butt and hips almost to the ground, raising slowly and slinking off to the edge of the ring. She had set the bar quite high. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, felt the music begin to move me and slid into the center of the ring. I started by imitating her moves, achieving the approval of the crowd, and checking with a quick glance, her approval as well, before revealing my secret weapon. The robot developed itself slowly; popping, locking and mechanically shifting to the music in perfect fashion. The crowd went nuts, just  loving it; as the girl sulked in the corner, obviously aware of her impending defeat at the hands of an inexperienced white boy. The house music was coming to the big time climax where the beat builds and then breaks down and I positioned myself to put the nail in the coffin of this dance off. The music built and built and just as it climaxed and the beat broke, I dropped my butt to the ground in a final imitation of her and the final conquering display. Except something went totally awry. At the bottom of my descent I heard the sickening sound of tearing fabric, and suddenly felt a blast of fresh air against my rear. I knew immediately; I had ripped my pants.

I straightened up quickly, placing my hands over my butt and backed up out of the circle, finding refuge against a nearby wall. I felt around with my hands, afraid to feel how bad the damage really was. It was bad, a tear from the belt loop all the way to the crotch, with a big chunk of fabric hanging loose. An added wrinkle to this story is that growing up in hot humid Florida has habituated me to the joy and freedom of never wearing underwear, and so of course at this party I was also not wearing underwear. I had just ripped my pants wide open, possibly exposing my white ass to at least 50 Mozambicans; kids, fathers, grandmas, everyone!

As I stood against the wall, carefully holding the flaps shut on my ripped pants a crowd began to form. What happened? Why did I stop dancing so suddenly? For those who were behind me, or close enough to hear the sound of the rip, they already knew and the whispers began to circulate around the group as people began pointing at my pants and gesticulating wildly. They knew! Laughter formed and spread like a wildfire on a windy day. Suddenly everyone from the entire party was crowded around me, laughing, pointing and trying to tempt me away from the safety of my wall. For a good five minutes I was a prisoner on display for this entire party unable to leave the wall that was literally covering my ass. Finally a gracious woman brought me a capulana (woven fabric like cloth) to wrap around my waist and with the sounds of laughter echoing in my head, I began the long walk home, my new skirt dangling to my knees. I may have won the battle, but clearly I had lost the war.

The long term ramifications of this fateful event have been a never ending stream of gossip and teasing. I awoke to text messages from colleagues and friends who weren’t even attending the party! I took the ripped pants to the tailor the next day and for twenty cents had the gaping hole mended. I now proudly wear them around town showing the scarred fabric to anyone daring enough to tease me. I don’t even really feel any shame or embarrassment about the situation; it was great fun and clearly makes a good story. As for the rabble-rousing young woman, I occasionally see her around town and we enjoy a good laugh at my expense. I still attend parties occasionally and I still don’t wear underwear, however I do take care to not repeat any type of movement that could lead to another episode like this.

Photos: The pants! as well as the most amazing beach ever for surfing, diving, running, swimming, and all things good.

Mozambique #21 Random anger and frustration at the world in general

What do I really want to do here in Moçambique? I want to make people think. I want to make people question the world around them. I want to force people out of their tiny cultural bubble in order to consider and experience novelty. When dealing with village people this is not a difficult task. The second objective of the Peace Corps program is to exchange culture and promote a better understanding of Americans. I take my job very seriously. The only problem is that I don’t identify myself as American. Yes I grew up under the influence of and am familiar with the American culture and value systems, but when asked where I come from I identify myself as a citizen of the world. This is a much more accurate statement.

Nationalism is a fools game. I didn’t choose to be born in the US, it just happened. Of course I am grateful for the opportunities that this chance occurrence has afforded me, but to say that I am proud of this fact doesn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t have any decisions in shaping the value systems or constructing the civilization that I was randomly born into. One can be grateful and appreciative of their cultural heritage, but pride is just inappropriate. Pride is what drives people to make idiotic statements such as saying that “the US is the best country in the world”. In what sense? In producing the most obese population in the world? Yes the US is the best. In producing the highest amount of climate change causing pollutants? Yes the US is the best.

Think about it, the average American is still in America, and doesn’t even have a passport to leave the country. The average American would NEVER come to Mozambique for a resort vacation let alone to live for 2 years. There is nothing average, nor very American about what I am doing here in Mozambique. I tell people that if they want to meet an American they have to go to America, because anyone who comes here is already out of the ordinary.

This past weekend I went to Xai Xai, the district capital of Gaza, to do some shopping and check out the big city life. There was a grand opening for a South African grocery store chain that was opening a new store. There was music, speakers, and a festive atmosphere as shoppers clogged the aisles of this first world novelty. Perhaps it is a testament to my new level of deconditioning, because when I entered this home depot like warehouse filled with modern day conveniences and grocery store amenities I actually felt fear and repulsion. I wandered down the aisles stocked with mass produced industrialized products, absolutely blown away by the amount of worthless shit that someone could buy if they so chose. Even more shocking was seeing the Mozambican’s reactions to this monstrosity of a store. They loved it. They lapped it all up; hook, line and sinker.

In the US there is absolutely no excuse for being an ignorant consumer. With the massive amount of information and exposure available about the environmental consequences of buying certain products or their detrimental health effects there is absolutely no excuse for bad health or environmental practices. If you choose to buy and drink 2 liters of coca cola a day YOU are guilty. If you choose to buy a meat product that was produced in a totally inhumane and environmentally polluting way YOU are guilty. The responsibility for ignorant consumerism in the developed world rests squarely on the shoulders of the consumers and the decisions they make.

Here in Mozambique, this is not exactly the case. The general level of exposure to ideas such as ecology, globalism, market economies, nutrition and health is at such a low level that people cannot be held entirely responsible for their culpabilities and vulnerabilities when it comes to advertising and consumerism. Walking down the aisles of this mega store, seeing the products that were being bought it became entirely clear to me just how entirely disordered human value systems can be under the pressure of corporate capitalism. Let me give an example.

In the jam-packed checkout lines I cruised by to see what Mozambicans were buying. To my horror I witnessed a man, maybe 30 years old, dirty, clothes ripped, no shoes, emanating an offensive stench, who was choosing to buy South African beer and 4 miniature plastic chairs for his children to sit in. Even the smallest of adults could not fit into one of these chairs. This was a man who by his appearance was very bad off. If you went to his house you would probably encounter no food, children running around everywhere, poor sanitation and hygiene practices and no mosquito netting. I say this out of experience of visiting homes of people who appeared like this man did. And so here he was, spending probably all the money he had to his name so his kids (who probably couldn’t have cared less) could sit on a worthless plastic piece of shit.

So I decided to investigate a bit, and asked the man why he was buying these chairs, which in relative terms were ridiculously expensive at 70 meticais each. (A 5kg sack of rice that could last a family a week costs 125 meticais) He explained that he wanted his neighbors to see his kids sitting on chairs instead of the ground which would show how well off this family really was. Thank you corporate capitalism for bringing an opportunity for this man to demonstrate his wealth in such a life enriching manner. The other shopping carts were no better off. Probably at least three quarters were filled with only the following products: white bread, soda products and this disgusting South African processed sausage meat. The fruit and vegetable section was pathetic; filled with hydroponically manufactured tomatoes that had the texture of a hockey puck, processed bagged produce that looked old and tasteless. I don’t need to go on, you in the developed world are probably used to this disgusting display of industrially produced vegetable produce and think its normal. The sad thing was that people were so happy to buy these products, just for the novelty and because they could save 1 metical per tomato. The woman selling tomatoes on the corner, who depended on those sales to feed her family was left with no clientele, where as the sales of this corporate giant went to enrich the pockets of some CEO in a far off land.

So in a world where there is a serious lack of exposure and education, who is responsible for this rampant ignorant consumerism. Are the Mozambicans to blame for their terrible choices in consumption, or is it the fault of the corporations who prey on a naïve and vulnerable populace? I think it’s a combination of both, with each side needing to take responsibility for better practices. In my opinion, corporate capitalistic values combined with an uneducated and market naïve population has the unfortunate consequence of producing the disgusting scene that I witnessed. As the developed world encroaches ever more on simpler peoples, I expect these situations and conflicts of values to arise ever more frequently. That is all for now.

Moçambique #20 Shorts

Here is a collection of random short stories and one liners from my daily life around Manjacaze. Some of this doesn’t translate directly and is much funnier and wittier in Portuguese, but we will do our best.

I have become good friends with the ladies who sell vegetables in the market. I know many of them by name and they all know me as “Brother Evan”. They are quite a fickle group and get very offended if I don’t stop by and say hello anytime I am in the market. There is no such thing as a quick trip to the market anymore. Just buying tomatoes involves greeting and chatting with at least 15 women. I occasionally see them around town outside of the market and have even visited some of their homes.

As I am sure nobody is surprised it turns out these sweet, innocent appearing market ladies actually love to talk about sex and gossip. As a man of marriageable age, it is assumed that I have a wife, or at least a girlfriend waiting for me at home. I constantly field questions about sexual practices in the US. On one occasion the women went around and said how many times per night they had sex with their husbands and for how long each session lasted. One woman said 3-4 times per night with an average of 15 minutes per. The next woman said one time lasting one minute. There was laughter and knee slapping all around. I felt bad for this woman who was embarrassed, so I suggested that I could arrange the husband of the first woman to come and teach her husband some techniques that might improve his performance. More laughter.

One woman from the market saw me chopping wood at my neighbor’s house. The next day she asked me “why do you like to chop wood like that? its hard work”. I responded: “you ladies know that I don’t have a girlfriend here in Manjacaze and that I have a lot of energy. So in order to diminish this energy and sleep well at night I like to do work.” The verb used for cutting wood is literally “to beat”, which is also slang to refer to sexual activity, not actually beating. I continued by saying “beating wood is the second best thing to beating a woman in the bed”. This received nods and affirmations all around, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world that a sexually frustrated young man would need to beat on some wood once in a while.

Between themselves the women are ruthless!

One woman said: “Brother Evan I don’t want to have any more children, what can I do?”

Another woman responded: “keep your legs closed you tramp!”

Obviously there was much laughter. I advised about condom use.

On one occasion while explaining my lack of marital commitment I translated and told them the phrase “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”. After literally 20 minutes of explaining what this meant, a few women understood, others remained baffled by the metaphor. One woman looked at me and said suddenly, “wait, you mean in America people have sex with cows?” I just let it sit at that.


One of my favorite activities to do here in Manjacaze is to help the women pound their corn for making porridge in a giant wooden mortar. (Always the woman’s job) Its fantastic exercise, you really have to pound this corn, so much so in fact that I would be willing to bet that the actual quantity of energy used to make the corn porridge is more than one would receive from eating a bowl. And so usually 3-4 times per week in the afternoon I schedule with a woman beforehand to go to her house and pound her corn for her. Four to five pm is standard corn pounding time, probably in all of Moçambique, where you can walk around the village and from all sides here the melodic “whomp, whomp, whomp” of wood pounding earth. The process is actually a bit more complex than just pounding, and involves several steps. First we pound the whole grains with a little bit of water to remove the tough outer kernel. This is my job. Then we take out the split grains and separate the kernels from the grains using a very shallow woven basket. This is the women’s job as its requires a lot of skill and practice to shake the basket in a such a way as to separate the particles without spilling. Then we put the kernels back in the mortar and pound them again. Afterward they go back into the basket where they are sorted again. The waste kernels are fed to the chickens and pigs and the edible grains are put in a pot with water to ferment for 2-3 days. After 3 days, after having softened, the split grain pieces are taken out and using a giant clay basin and wooden mallet, mashed into a paste. This process is fun and physical as well. Using a circular motion you rub the grains on the rough clay siding of the basin, effectively acting as a food processor and producing a thick corn paste. The paste is boiled with water to produce the corn porridge which is then eaten with any type of meat or leafy dish.

I love pounding the corn and making the porridge because each step requires some methodical, endlessly repetitive step in which it is very easy to enter into a meditative state and just work. I take out my frustrations and angst on that corn. Additionally I am spending at least 2 hours in some different woman’s home, talking with her, her neighbors, her kids, etc, just soaking up the ambiance of village life. I always ask the women “so is this the first time a white man has come to your house and pounded your corn for you?” It always is, and I am learning that the women are actually proud to have a visiting white man doing this. Such an honor this is in fact that their neighbors notice and want it too. I am now receiving invitations to go to women’s houses and perform my porridge making duties. I have literally had to turn women down because I already had someone planned for that day.

In conversation with my closest neighbors, where I started this tradition of pounding corn, it came out that I was visiting other houses to pound their corn too. Jealous looks all around and exclamations of surprise and deceit! I felt a twinge of guilt, as if I were an unfaithful adulterer sticking my pestle in any old mortar! But then I reminded them that I like to float like the wind and converse with everyone, and that my duty here is to exchange culture and experience, and that it wasn’t fair to expect me to only pound their corn. They agreed and my neighbor said “Evan, in Manjacaze you are just free to roam” (translated). Yup, it’s true; I have very little fear when it comes to talking to people or asking questions about culture. When I see something I’ve never seen before I just walk right in and start asking questions. Life is just more fun that way.

Whenever I am at these houses pounding corn I always insist that we name the mortar and the wooden pestle. I always insist that the mortar is a female and the pestle a male. The women usually ask why. “Think about it…” I say. They always get it. These things are just universal!


While wandering around town, people often come up to me and walk with me, looking for a quick chat. The men and boys will usually greet me, taking my hand in a warm and firm handshake. But then something happens that I was totally unprepared for, but now have grown to like. Instead of releasing my hand as is customary in western style handshakes, the men perform a sliding maneuver, changing the positioning of the hand and letting the clasped hands fall, as in the style of a couple out for a stroll. Then we continue to walk together, holding hands. At first I was a bit uncomfortable with this tradition given my cultural conditioning. It just felt uncomfortable to hold hands with a strange man walking down the street. However with time comes habituation, and now I actually enjoy this mannerism. I ask people why they perform this shameless little act of affection, and most say that it is simply to demonstrate friendship and companionship.

So as we are strolling about town, hand in hand, I usually like to throw a bit of perspective into the conversation by telling the men what the hand holding practice signifies in American culture. They all look at me with intrigue, “yes, tell me!” maybe even giving an affirmative squeeze on our clasped hands. I respond, “Well my friend, if you see two men walking down the street holding hands in America, it usually means only one thing; they are gay.” The most common reaction is for the men to immediately drop my hand, usually with a look of surprise and disgust on their faces. I have been told multiple times here that homosexuality does not exist in Mozambique, it is not culturally acceptable. The men then emphatically defend their strictly platonic intentions while now maintaining a safe and secure distance. They want no confusion about their sexual orientations. I usually feel badly at this point to have burst their bubble on this innocent and actually enjoyable cultural practice of hand holding. So I retake their hand and we continue on to our respective destinations, like a couple out for a stroll.


The first month I lived in Manjacaze my gut was still in a state of shock with the new bacteria living in the water and just exposure to foreign bacteria and foods in general. Needless to say I was a bit more flatulent than usual. One day I was walking around, tooting away freely in the fresh open air of the streets when I came across a large group of young kids, maybe age 6-13 walking back from school. Being a new white man in town they all just stopped to gawk at me. I felt a rumble in my gut and thought about performing a suppression maneuver as I did not want to scare these poor children. However in a brief moment of clarity I had a great idea! I quickly glanced around to make sure there were no adults in sight, which there weren’t. I turned to the group of children and whispered “Escuta!!” (“Listen!!”)…. they all leaned in with ears attuned, seeking something, anything that might make a sound worthy of the white man ordering them to listen. At that very moment I relaxed my grip on that uncomfortable pressure built up within my bowels. Like the sound made by crumpling a cellophane wrapper, the sound ripped through the silent still air, lasting at least 3 noxious seconds. If I had a picture of the look on these children’s’ faces it would be cover story of National Geographic, hands down. Shock, disgust, humor, all emotions were present. They all exploded with laughter, rolling on the ground, mimicking the sounds, just loving it! I laughed with them, and just kept walking. Apparently a bit of scatology is one the those universal human comedies.

To this very day, whenever I see any of the kids that were in that initial group they scream at me “escuta!!” followed by quite accurate imitations of those corporeal tones. I can only imagine what they went home and told their parents and siblings that fateful day.

This story does actually have consequences however. About a month after, I was walking around town with one of the government administrators who I had met in his office when first arriving in Manjacaze. Of course fate would have it that this day we ran across the group of younglings as they returned from school. “Escuta”!!  rung out followed by the obligatory lewd mouth noises. The startled administrator looked at me and asked me why these children were performing this silly little game that seemed to be directed at me. “I haven’t the faintest idea Sir” I quickly responded, “come quickly, let’s go down this other road over here….”.

Many more little blurbs to come.

Photos: Fun with some of the market ladies.

Roasting cashew nuts with my favorite woman in Manjacaze. This woman never stops smiling. She is like my mom here and we have a real relationship, she scolds me and makes me wash my hands again, just like a real mom. I love her.

I went to a Muslim Mozambican party which included some dirty dancing by the women, seriously they were getting down. The ducks saw this and were performing their own little dance. I think theirs was for real though.

Mozambique #19 Fast and the Furious…Manjacaze

The other day I witnessed a traffic jam on my street. I must tell you that maybe on a busy day 2 cars will pass in front of my house, so this is actually a very rare and special event. Let me describe what I witnessed. It was a sunny, sultry afternoon; I was seated outside on my veranda reading, a nice cup of fresh lemongrass tea in hand, when I heard the sounds of an approaching vehicle from the left. Not all that unusual, however I did look up to see the make and model of the vehicle. Perhaps it was UPS coming to deliver me some unexpected package! (yeah right) At this very moment I also began to hear sounds of a vehicle coming from the right. Now my interest was piqued. Two cars on the road simultaneously? What did the gods have in store? From my perspective I began to see the tail end of a black truck emerging from a shady turnoff on my right just as the front of a white taxi appeared on my left. My mind immediately raced to the obvious conclusion that these vehicles were going to collide! While driving on streets where there is never other traffic I would imagine that one habituates to these road conditions and begins to dismiss the possibility of seeing other vehicles. Therefore the thought of an impending collision was in all probability far from the realm of possibility in the minds of each respective driver. I watched the unfolding situation with a mix of horror, curiosity and that primeval animalistic feeling of wanting to see violence, like asteroids colliding or big things burning.

One important factor in this story that up to this point I have omitted to mention, is the fact that my street is very sandy, think beach, which makes for difficult driving conditions permitting a car to only travel very slowly. So taking this into account now, our story appears even more absurd, because this situation is unfolding in slow motion. Accidents usually happen in the snap of a finger. A wrong step leads to a fall, too fast on a corner leads to a skid; speed is usually present in many accidents. So therefore to watch an accident unfold in slow motion is a real treat for the curious mind. The mind has time to contemplate all possible options, make predictions, develop expectations and just generally watch the accident unfold with a level of awareness not usually experienced.

Now with both cars in view, one in reverse, the other moving in a forward direction, it would seem obvious that someone would stop to let the other pass. As we learned in my last blog entry, nothing is obvious anymore. Having become habituated to low traffic volumes, the drivers were probably doing everything except actually paying attention to the road; eating lunch, braiding their hair, talking on their cell phones, messing with their radios etc. So both vehicles continue in their slow motion descent into the basin of attraction that is their impending collision. I had time to set my book and tea down, stand up and walk to the other side of the veranda to get a better view. Ten meters, eight meters…both vehicles still moving unperturbed and apparently unconscious….six meters….four meters…..”Yes! do it, DO IT!” I thought to myself…three meters!… two meters!… when suddenly, both vehicles abruptly stopped. In an indulgence of some violence craving sadistic part of my being, I felt my heart sink in disappointment. They had seen each other, there would be no collision, everyone go home, the party has been canceled.

If you were thinking the story ended here, you are quite wrong, however, as the gods were in quite a playful mood on this afternoon. The vehicles stopped in such a way that neither one could pass without the other giving up some ground and reversing direction; the tail end of the black truck blocking the passage of the taxi, and the taxi blocking the reverse trajectory of the truck. And so they sat like this for perhaps ten to fifteen seconds, waiting for the other to reverse directions and let the other pass. I witnessed frantic gestures being made through the windshields and heard muffled shouts as the heated negotiation raged in the street. Like two New York City taxi cab drivers performing their own village version of Times Square gridlock the drivers refused to give up their positions.

Ide like to interrupt this tragic comedy to say that the male ego was clearly at work here, impeding any type of agreement that would allow for safe passage of either vehicle. I could just imagine the enraged drivers cursing the other in resolute stubbornness to heed way to the other vehicle. It struck me as a grand metaphor for much of the problems that we face in the world today. The drivers each clearly wanted to just arrive safely at their destinations yet their egos impeded a utilitarian solution that would allow for this to happen smoothly. They each had to maintain this big man dominator status and in turn each driver lost. It was easy for me to sit on the sidelines and see the absurdity of the situation, but how many times in my own life have I surrendered to passion and ego indulgence? It takes a real bodhisattva to turn the other cheek in the heat of the moment. Thanks to the chemical nature of our physiologies, when those fight hormones are dumped into the blood, reason and rational thinking are quite effectively mitigated against, and in a split second, actions can be carried out that under normal conditions are unthinkable.

Compounding the matter of ego is that I actually knew each driver to be from a different tribal background as the truck driver was my neighbor and native to northern Moçambique. I could imagine the taxi driver spewing all sorts of racial slurs and stereotypes in his ego driven attempt to assert himself. “I am a changana!, it is my right to drive here! I am from so and so clan, the first people! I am a Christian! Etc and so forth”… being his imaginary internal dialogue. The same for the driver of the truck, as his ego built up by years of cultural and religious conditioning asserted its false self-identity in the face of this challenge. “I am a Muslim! Allah made this street for true believers and the Macua clan to pass safely!… again more imaginary dialogue.  Of course these illusory false identities are concealing the brute fact that we are all human beings and that we all just want to be happy. We all want to be satisfied, however our current social organization mandates that we try to make ourselves happy by standing on each other’s shoulders and kicking each other’s teeth in. Our egos simply facilitate this societal organization by providing rationalizations for our actions built up by false identities and self-defined boundaries that isolate and alienate ourselves from achieving any peace of mind and sane civilization. Look at Israel and Palestine, those people are still killing themselves and each other for an insane culturally conditioned ideal. A problem in the world today is ego. There is just too damn much of it. But back to our story.

Finally, I heard the clunk of gears switching, as someone finally took a huge evolutionary leap and had the utilitarian idea to just reverse and get it over with. The egos had been dismantled! Or so it appeared, as simultaneously, both vehicles began to reverse direction, yielding the right of way to the other. “A giant step for mankind” I thought, now absolutely fully engaged in the drama unfolding in front of the house. However to my horror and disappointment, each driver, seeing the other begin to yield way, quickly switched tactics, and gears, and commenced to take advantage of the others good will. The taxi was thrown back into forward, tires spinning in the traction less sand, while the truck hastily resumed its reversal out of the driveway.

At this point I was in a state of emotional confusion. Insights into the ego and pondering the tragic comedy of mankind on the one hand, conflicting with my own self-admitted desire to vicariously see destruction! There was still hope of senseless violence as the drivers now desired to exploit the other, demonstrating that the ego had in fact not been vanquished. And so the cars lurched towards each other, in slow motion, only to reach less than a meter of separation before coming to an abrupt sand sliding halt into their prior gridlock position. I was foiled again.

At this point I became worried that this situation was going to escalate out of control. The egos were just too strong, the positions too far entrenched. I prepared for the worst, already mentally thinking how I was going to separate and calm two large, enraged black men trying to kill each other. The tension hung in the hot, stagnant, humid afternoon air. Not a papaya leaf moved, as each driver no doubt contemplated his next course of action. Then, as if it were his intention all along, the driver of the truck smiled and gave a friendly wave, before putting his vehicle in forward, entering back into the driveway and pulling out of the street. The driver of the taxi smiled, waved back and continued on in his intended forward direction until he slid out of sight behind the hedge. The truck reversed, entered the street and was gone. And just like that it was over. A situation that had built up over a period of minutes and appeared to be a freight train headed for brick wall at 100km/hr simply diffused itself in the span of 10 seconds.

Why? The minds, intentions and will behind the physical actions made a decision to diffuse. And so it was. We can drop our egos at any time, we can change our civilizations at any time, simply by changing our mind, we have that power once the power of the mind is recognized in its role in shaping reality.

My recipe for a human reality is this; take a raw and clean human mind directly from birth and begin to sprinkle with a dash of language, while constantly mixing in culture, tradition, habit and a variable ambient terrestrial environment. Throw in some genetically inherited physical realities complete with all of their bodily vicissitudes, strange secretions and fickle pains, while remembering to continuously keep mixing in culture and conditioning. Depending on what recipe book you use, and the local availability of your spiritual ingredients, put a dollop of religious or spiritual belief into the mix. Now set the whole conglomeration of humanness into the cultural incubator for about 17-21 years, constantly adding information about the world and personal experiences that will serve to leaven and form the growing mass. The cultural incubator, with its stratified levels, tightly regulated temperature and pressure controls, and well defined insulated boundaries serves to guard the gestating human spirit from existential angst and rampant questioning while at the same time inculcating the forming pupae with a value system that serves to maintain the security and promulgation of the incubator at all cost, even to the detriment of the individual. Depending on the unique composition of each human reality within the cultural incubator, at some point the human mass may achieve a terminal state in which the incubator can no longer provide the necessary nutrients for satisfaction and the amorphous mixture will forcefully explode from the ontologically secure, insulated cocoon of the incubator. In human culinary terminology this end state is called self-realization, which is an irreversible process. Once the mind, body, soul interphase of a human being has exploded from the boundaries of the cultural incubator it can never fully envelope itself back within the sedative, larval state of incubator being. Like caterpillars contemplating pupation, no longer satisfied to chew on the undersides of leaves, the humans emerge from the incubator in new form, seeking to establish a personal value system usually far different from the conditioned incubator reality. Although possibly physically appearing similar to the prior form, this new, self-realized form brings with it a universe of possibility, as the limitations and barriers put forth by the incubator have been dissolved. (Note from the chef: this process of self-realization could take anywhere from on average 16-86 years, with the very real possibility of the material body expiring before leaving the cultural incubator.)

This self-realized form of humanness has the possibility of shaping reality to conform to the will and intention of the mind, because this form fully realizes the power contained in the mental perspective. The simplest example of this power being “the glass is half full, or half empty” analogy. Obviously not a perfect form, the self-realized individual is not an omnipotent faultless being, but when mistakes are made and passions indulged, this form of humanity has the equanimity, patience and discipline to deal with situations in a manner much different from those human lumps still contained within the cultural incubator. This self-realized human form is the necessary ingredient in the larger recipe of planetary salvation, without which, will never occur, as the cultural incubators will eventually consume all available resources and leave an environment degraded and devoid of life sustaining diversity.

To return to where we began with this story, I was left standing on the veranda stunned. “Did that really just happen?” I asked myself. To this day I question myself about the events that unfolded that day. Did these men really have this flagrant outburst of ego, or was it a simple misunderstanding with neither one taking it personally nor really giving it any thought at all. Is it simply my own desire to sensationalize a rare and unusual Manjacaze traffic jam and bestow profound philosophical and metaphorical significance on an otherwise mundane event? I quote my favorite author Aldous Huxley as saying “a thrilling falsehood always trumps a mundane truth”. As I never talked to either driver about the occurrence, nor obviously did I hear the internal dialogue of each, I don’t think I will ever know the answer. But what I do know to be true is that this traffic jam inspired something inside of me. Something that needed to come out. So, reader I ask you, have you been inspired by a traffic jam lately?

Photos: Recent trip to the beach with some great South African visitors.

Mozambique #18 Agriculture seminar and other thoughts

My apologies for the long delay between entries. I have been occupied with work and travel, and doing a lot of reading rather than writing. Briefly I will talk about work.

Three weeks ago MOZaic hosted a week long agricultural seminar. Using our network of churches in rural Gaza and Inhambane we invited 45 people from rural communities and Manjacaze to stay at our conference center. Throughout the week we talked about conservation agriculture techniques, fruit crops, animals, bee keeping, perennials, simple technologies, food processing, seed selection, medicinal plants, nutrition, hygiene and composting. I taught many of the lessons and facilitated many of the sessions, which was a lot of fun, albeit a large responsibility.

The idea of these seminars is not only to teach people new things that they may not have known, but also to facilitate group conversation and exchange experience. There exists a huge amount of knowledge and experience within the group of farmers themselves, and we are looking to provide a venue in which that knowledge can be shared. It was a lot of fun to talk with the farmers and hear their stories. There is a lot of interesting experience and information out there amongst the farming populace. For example one man shared with the group his experience that when planting a coconut tree, if you sleep next to the coconut tree the day you plant it, it will begin to produce in 3 years. Coconuts usually take 10 years before they start producing coconuts. Do you think the scientific community would be interested in this anecdotal evidence? Can you imagine industrial coconut plantations all over the world now installing bunk beds in their fields to increase production?

At the end of the seminar we distributed seeds and cuttings of plants that we had talked about throughout the week. In sum, the seminar experience was loads of fun and I learned a lot about teaching and facilitating. The goal in the future is to have larger seminars, invite more people and especially invite other NGO’s and agricultural organizations to share the wealth of resources and plants that we have accumulated in Manjacaze. We have already been contacted by other organizations that want us to facilitate trainings and the potential for growth right now is tremendous. We will be visiting rural communities in the coming months and holding agriculture seminars in the field, working in farmers field’s directly as a follow up and extension to our work here in Manjacaze. Now its just a matte of seeing if the seminar attendees will actually apply the techniques they learned.

Outside of the seminars, after submitting a request to the local government, we were awarded a hectare of land outside the village to develop as a proper demonstration farm, where we will utilize all the best techniques of conservation agriculture and silviculture to show that with careful attention to the fertility of the land, a small piece of land can be extremely productive in a completely sustainable manner. In order to develop this land we submitted a grant request to the United Nations small grants program to build the infrastructure and hire an agriculture technician and laborers. There is a good chance we will get the grant, therefore development of this land will become priority.

In the business of changing minds and culturally instilled habits, I have learned that demonstrations are absolutely essential. If the subject of transformation cannot tangibly see the results of this risky business of change, they are obviously very reluctant to adopt new methods. Therefore before we can really influence people to change their techniques, we need to practice them on a large scale with carefully measured results. Talk is cheap, to demonstrate is a much more powerful means of communication.

In my daily experience I am constantly surprised by the resistance to change and close-mindedness when it comes to having new experiences. People will tell me how much they suffer or how poor they are, but when I give suggestions of behavior change or hint at an alternative solution it is usually met with skepticism and fear. Especially so if the solution requires effort. Its even more baffling to me as these suggestions can obviously help people! But something I am learning about culture and humanity is that absolutely nothing is obvious. I have always taken for granted the value of just a standard 12th grade western education, however in instilling basic principles of mathematics, biology, history and critical thinking skills it is very valuable. In speaking with and living amongst largely uneducated people (what we westerners would call education), some of the logic and reasoning that I have observed has just floored me.

For example, I told my 16 year old neighbors that I was going to be traveling to Maputo and I would be gone for a week. When I got back they said to me “Evan, we saw you traveling to Maputo!”. Very unlikely I thought, I was in a private car and we only stopped once, how is it that they saw me. They went on to explain, “we saw an airplane fly overhead and we know that white people only travel by airplane and so we knew that you were on the plane, how was your flight?” I explained to them the obvious fallacy in their reasoning and they were disappointed to learn that it wasn’t me they saw on the airplane. This leads me to the question, are the abilities of rationally and logically constructing arguments and formulating ideas about the world a culturally instilled phenomena? Are certain cultures better at critical thinking skills? I am starting to believe this may be the case. Nothing is obvious anymore.

When it comes to biological and ecological principles that we take for granted as obvious the assumptions and beliefs are even more illogical. Working in agriculture, which has its base in biological principles, people do things on a regular basis that are just unthinkable given a basic understanding of scientific principles. When I talk to people about agriculture, science or anything remotely technical I am never certain if they are understanding me in the way in which I intended. We speak a common language, but due to our educational and cultural backgrounds our contextual framework for this information is so drastically different that perhaps a lot of what I am saying is just words. A lot of my work related to teaching is figuring out the best way to explain technical information to a demographic that lacks the conceptual scientific framework to understand the information in the way that I understand it. I have developed a teaching style that uses a lot of visuals, games and audience participation, which I think is well tailored. Real understanding of a subject necessarily entails proper action, therefore when I visit someone’s home and they have mulched all their trees and are using sunken planting stations I know that my manner of teaching was effective. I also try to get as much feedback as possible. I am very curious how people understand information as I think their responses can ultimately help me in my presentations.

Through my experience of my own mind I am realizing how difficult it is to see the world free from cultural filters and expectations. The human mind seems to be a vacuum for culture. When one set of beliefs and culturally instilled habits leaves, they are filled in by the ambient culture, whatever that may be. To cure oneself from the sickness of culture one would have to live alone in some cave up on a mountain and limit contact with others, probably with lots of meditation and silence. For example, in the US I loved animals, dogs, cats whatever. Here, where animals are not respected and are marginally cared for simply because they have some utility such as guarding the house or eating the rats that live in the kitchen, I find myself also not noticing or paying attention to animals. Simpler things include hygiene and cleanliness habits. Most Mozambicans take at least 2-3 baths per day. When I first arrived I thought this was ridiculous. Now however I am not ashamed to admit that I also bathe frequently. If you are thinking of choosing a new culture to live in, my advice would be to choose carefully. It will get into you in ways that you simply cannot predict, for good or for bad.

I am also learning that much of our personal identities are derived from a cultural context. For example when I was living in the US I loved hiking, camping, mountain climbing, anything outdoors etc. These activities are simply not available in the same organized way due to a complete lack of recreational park infrastructure. Therefore I cannot be this “outdoorsman adventurer” that I may have identified myself as back home. The examples are numerous, as many of the things I used to do are simply not available. This has had the effect of stripping Evan down to the foundations of a core set of values, rather than identifying Evan as a set of actions in the world. I have been able to see what it is that I truly value, and how hard I am willing to work to maintain this set of values living in a cultural context that doesn’t support my beliefs, value systems or preferred hobbies. It has been interesting as well to discover the plasticity and resourcefulness of my own imagination in substituting the wide range of available hobbies and experiences available back in the American context. I have been living in Manjacaze now for 7 months, however it feels like I’ve learned 20 years’ worth of information and experience since first stepping foot in my empty reed house.

I am in the process of preparing a group of very short stories and funny occurrences that have happened to me recently. Hopefully it will be entertaining and shed some light on Mozambican culture.

Photos: The seminar group. A few PC volunteers came along with their Mozambican counterparts as well as  a JICA volunteer (the Japanese version of PC) who spoke about beekeeping.

We had carnival here in Manjacaze in which there was a live DJ downtown with a costume competition and wild dancing. Of course I participated, but it was a lot harder to hide my identity due to my slightly different skin color than everyone else. For two days after carnival my phone was ringing off the hook with text messages of people telling me they saw me dancing. Did I mention that inhibitions are seriously lowered when you dance with a disguise on?

The Kanna flowers that I planted are blooming right now. The women that live around me constantly commented to me with an air of skepticism and disdain, “why do you bother watering a plant that you cant eat?”, I responded by saying, “the body nourishes itself with food, the soul nourishes itself with beauty”. They now frequently stop by to appreciate the beautiful blooms.

Entertainment in Manjacaze

Being that Manjacaze is not exactly a hotspot for nightlife, very often I am left to my own devices for providing nightly entertainment. I have a variety of activities that I like to do; such as wandering aimlessly talking to people in their homes or in the streets, posting up in front of the market to watch the flow of movement, helping my neighbors cook or cut firewood or dancing with my ten year old neighbors to Celine Dion, among others. When an opportunity for adventure calls, I am usually never one to turn it down. This is the story of one strange evening here in Manjacaze.

The week before this special day, I had been working with one of my organizations to visit families living with HIV in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Manjacaze. There is no real boundary to where the village ends and the bush begins, the houses just sort of thin out in random fashion. During this visit I had talked to a woman who was very interested in learning about the plant Chaya. I offered to come to her house the following week in the evening and hold a cooking demonstration. I would bring leaves to cook and plants to distribute if she would invite all of her friends and neighbors and provide the rest of the ingredients. It was a win-win situation for me; I would get to hang out with a bunch of middle aged village women, swapping stories about the weather, explaining for the 500th time why I wasn’t married yet, learning everyone’s family genealogy and best yet I would get a free delicious meal out of the deal. I was congratulating myself for making this arrangement for a stellar dinner all afternoon as I gathered the leaves and began the 30 minute walk out of town to into the bush.

A few dark clouds lay on the horizon and a cool breeze began gusting in an ominous foreshadowing of the events to come. Just then my telephone signaled an incoming message. A sense of confusion and the urge to laugh crept into me as I read the message sent to me by my work colleague whom I had toured with earlier in the week, roughly translated :”DO NOT GO TO ROSAS HOUSE! HER HUSBAND IS VERY ANGRY!”. Not knowing how to respond and already being more than halfway there I decided to just ignore the message and continue. Plus I was hungry and the thought of missing out on some freshly cooked Chaya did not sit well with me. So I continued on, only 5 minutes later to receive another message from the same woman: “TURN AROUND NOW, WHY ARE YOU STILL COMING?”. By now I am starting to feel quite strange about all this. Does this woman have spies in the forest? Is she communicating with the birds or via the bamboo network? What kind of a witch doctor is she? I decided to call Rosa herself to see what was going on. She answered the phone and after I explained the situation she seemed as confused as I was. “We are all waiting for you, all the preparations have been made” was her reply, so I did what any hungry man with a love for the gastronomical arts would do. I went to where the food was!

When a white man arrives on foot to a community like this people take notice, especially a white man with long hair carrying enough leaves and plants to feed 20 people. I walked through a forested area and abruptly stepped onto the community football field where close to 50 young men were either playing or lounging around in the shade of the surrounding mango trees. Immediately the game stopped, the conservations hung in mid-sentence, I think even the birds stopped chirping and stared. One hundred eyes turned, ablaze with curiosity and intrigue. I stopped at the edge of the field, my mouth slightly agape and for an eternal four or five seconds everyone just silently stared… until finally one of the footballers closest to me said “u bom mulungo”? are you good white man? Is the literal translation from the Changana dialect. Mulungo is the word that means white skin and is used to refer to white people. It normally doesn’t have a negative connotation in the sense of “gringo” or other derogatory ways to refer to white people in foreign lands. “Mina ni kwatzi mulandi, inkomo” I responded in dialect. “I am great black man, thank you”. I think I heard about twenty jaws just smack the ground as laughter erupted from the entire crowd. The white man speaks dialect! To further test me, the original interrogator, now slightly embarrassed continues; “wena uya kwini?” “where are you going?”. I took a deep breath and delved deep into my memory to find the words and respond: “ni famba kaya ka Rosa, ni lava ku dja matapa namunthla na kaya ka yena. Ni twa nthlala!”  “i am going to rosas house, I want to eat matapa there. I am hungry!”. Which to date was the longest complete sentence I had ever pronounced in Changana. At this point the whole field surrounded me smiling, asking me where I learned to speak dialect and what I was doing. Little do they know that basically my entire repertoire of Changana words had been spent and had they asked me anything else or tried to continue the conversation it would have become quite obvious that I was an imposter. In Manjacaze I have learned enough Changana to say polite greetings, buy things in the market, talk about cooking and ask for drinking water. Beyond this however, my abilities to understand and express myself are quite limited. So basically I can go anywhere in Gaza and I will not die of hunger for lack of the ability to communicate!

Just then two young, muscular men entered the field from the other side. “Are you Evan”? the taller one with tattoos covering one of his arms asked me. I immediately burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the question. Here I stand, probably the only white man within a 40km radius, surrounded by Africans with African names, and the man asks me if I might by chance be that one English sounding name. He did not smile however, and instead repeated the question, this time a bit more forcefully. “Yea, I am” I responded, slightly taken aback by his assertiveness. “Come with us, we have orders to take you to see Dona Azilia, the chief of the community”.

I replied “Listen guys ide really love to come with you, but actually Ive got plans to cook all these leaves here in a cooking class I am instructing.”

Tattoo man said “Dona Azilia knows about this class, and she instructed us not to let you into the community. You must come with us now. She is waiting”.

“How much weirder can this get!” I thought to myself, this is turning into some b line movie script or at least a poorly written short story! “what the hell, lets go talk to Dona Azilia then!” I reply. My mind was racing; How did Azilia know about the class? And how did she know that I was arriving just then? And probably the most pressing of all questions who was this woman and what did she want with me? I just wanted to cook up some leaves, eat them and then go home and go to bed!  At this point I decided to just surrender to the absurdity of the situation and I resigned myself to be led to the village chief.

My guides lead me down a series of sandy paths, zig zagging between houses and fields of corn and mandioca in a manner such that even the most wizened trailblazer would find it difficult to follow. Finally we entered a swept, sandy yard with several thatched roof huts, a few fruit trees and the odd chicken pecking for spilt grains of corn. My guides left me alone in silence after instructing me to sit on a log, my thoughts were swirling as I awaited my fate with the venerable Dona. The woman who I work with appeared out of nowhere and mumbled a greeting. She seemed displeased. A few other women entered the yard and sat down around me, not really saying much to me, but talking softly amongst themselves in Changana.

The women in the yard snapped to attention as the door to one of the huts opened and a dark figure stood in the shadows of the door. Dona Azilia emerged, her tall, extremely fit looking figure clothed in a capulana long skirt and matching headwrap. I stood to greet the chief woman, muttering some simple greetings in Changana, as she scrutinized me up and down as if seeking some flaw or reason to pounce on me. She said some forceful words in Changana and one of the other women leapt up to bring the Dona a chair. After seating herself she turned her attention to me, “Brother Evan, we Africans are crazy people”, was how she opened the conversation. I stared at her blankly and thought to myself “yea, I know ive been observing this for the past 6 months!”. I let her continue. “We Africans are crazy people because we think things and get very jealous about things that aren’t true”, the Dona said. “You cannot go to Rosa’s house because her husband will be extremely upset and jealous if she knows that another man is coming to his house just to see his wife. I don’t want problems here in my neighborhood and this will create a lot of problems and could endanger you. You simply cannot go”

I replied, “yes I understand that this may not be a normal situation, but I can assure you that my intentions are strictly platonic. I am interested in spreading the seeds of a plant, not my own seeds, and besides, she has invited all her neighbors and friends. There will be lots of other people around”. I found it incredibly amusing that the Dona was considering the possibility of me having relations with Rosa. Middle aged African village women just don’t exactly turn me on, although at the time I thought better than to try to translate that thought.

After some conservations in Changana with the other women, the Dona turned to me and basically repeated the same things; “you cannot go”, “we Africans are crazy jealous”, “I don’t want problems” etc. To which I repeated my pleas; “I just want to teach them about this plant”, “I am not interested in Rosa”, “her husband and neighbors are all invited, the more people the better”, etc. Clearly we were at an impasse. This went on for another 30 minutes in which the women would consult each other, then reply to my statements, only to retort back with the same arguments. It was clear to me at this point that to disobey the chief was clearly not an option, and that no amount of reasonable and logical argument would turn them to see my perspective.

So here I sat, having walked over an hour, tired, hungry, frustrated by the illogical arguments of the people I was dealing with and on the verge of leaving when I looked down at the bag filled with leaves. Of course, the leaves! A most genius idea popped into my brain.

“Excuse me, Dona, but we have a serious problem.” I said forcefully. The Dona looked at me surprised, as I began to assert myself in her presence. I continued: “ You see ive got this giant bag of fresh Chaya that I harvested today and that needs to be cooked. Seeing that its dinner time now, and I still haven’t cooked, I am a little bit confused as to what I should do. What do you think we should do about this situation?”

I have learned that people in charge love to think that they are the ones who come up with the good ideas, and so I shamelessly decided to see if this little trick of manipulation would work in my favor.

“Hmm, yes it would be a shame to waste these leaves” Dona replied, still not exactly getting the drift of my idea.

To which I replied “yes, this is very serious, I just wish maybe there was someway to cook them around here, in this neighborhood, maybe have a little class and distribute these plants as well.”

The Dona looked up at me, a little twinkle in her eye “well what if we cooked here at my house? Right now?”

We have a winner! “what a fantastic idea”  I said!, ”but wait, no I think its impossible Dona, we don’t have all the ingredients nor do we have any rice or xima (corn mush) to eat the Chaya with. It was a great idea, but I just don’t think we can do it.” Mozambican women take exceptional pride in their cooking, and so to suggest the impossibility of the feat was a guaranteed way to secure the idea in the minds of the women.

“nonsense  boy! We have 8 women right here, peanuts and coconuts in the kitchen and xima already prepared. We can cook this Chaya right here and we can all learn about it”.

I replied “Wow, what a great idea you have, lets do it!”

And so the cooking force mobilized like soldiers preparing for battle. The Dona barked out orders to her co-chefs, “you two, pound those peanuts”, and “you over there, stop braiding your hair and come scrape up these coconuts”. Within 5 minutes we had 15 women in the yard all working hard on some little task that in the near future would congeal into one delicious meal. I buzzed around to all the ladies, talking to them about Chaya and helping them with their tasks. Being that the jealous husband situation had been averted, the Dona softened up quite a bit and was open and chatty, telling me all about her family and introducing me to everyone.

Everyone expressed surprise at the wonderful taste of Chaya, as we all ate together. After eating I distributed the plants that I had brought, said my farewells and began the long walk back home with a full stomach, chuckling to myself the whole way about the strange circumstances of the evening. Recapping the evening to myself, I managed to score a delicious meal, spread some information about a great plant, avoid being shot by a jealous husband and generally enjoy myself in the company of interesting people. So in the absence of formal “entertainment” these are the types of adventures that I like to have, and I certainly look forward to having more along these same lines.

Photos: My house, complete with a cow skull that I found while in Swaziland. I have told all the kids in my nieghborhood that the cow spirit’s name is Mufassa and if anyone messes with my plants he will get very angry and huant them in their dreams. Needless to say i have not been having problems with little kids lately! Psychological warfare. The food is a local plate called Chiginha, which is made from mandioca, peanut flour, coconut milk and a local weed called cacana. Its amazingly delicious. None of the market women believed that I was actually going to cook this dish, so I brought a tupperware container filled with it to the market and gave out spoonfuls. They were just blown away and said that now, oficially I am an African.

Mozambique #16, South African Road Trip

For the holidays I had the opportunity to road trip from Mozambique to South Africa, stopping along the way to visit my colleagues’ friends and family members. We ended up spending almost two weeks in and around Jeffreys Bay, where I surfed, cycled and enjoyed the change in scenery. We then drove back to Mozambique, passing through and spending a night in a gorgeous park in Swaziland.

South Africa is an incredibly diverse country, with 11 official languages, 3 racial delineations, countless tribal allegiances and of course tons of European cultural influence. One South African told me that her country was a country with first world infrastructure and economy combined with third world poverty and crime. Another called South Africa “a piece of Europe lost in Africa”. Based upon the little that I saw, these were accurate statements. There were times when I easily could have been anywhere in the US; beautiful roads, infrastructure, strip malls, luxury goods, homes, and probably the most obvious of indicators, fat white people everywhere! Yet what was startling about this was that right next door was some of the poorest, hastily constructed shack villages I have ever seen. Literally I saw Ferraris driving down highways lined by “houses” built out of cardboard boxes where entire families were living. And im sure you can guess the skin colors of the respective owners. The demographic breakdown is something like 80% black South African, 8% percent white, 3% colored (which is a mix), and 9% other, such as Indians, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans etc. If someone could find the statistics for the socioeconomic status of the population, sorted by race, I think that would be a telling figure.

People that I spoke with, both blacks and whites, complained the most about crime. Mostly theft/robbery type crimes, but also violent crimes and carjacking seemed fairly common. From my very limited experience and solely based on what I saw, there were very definite trends in socioeconomic status based on race. White was usually comfortable if not wealthy and holding positions requiring higher educational levels, whereas black and colored appeared lower on the socioeconomic ladder, occupying lower sectors of the service economy and labor. I think anywhere where there is such a discrepancy and disequilibrium in economic status, especially when race and tribal cultural influences are factored in, the kindling is primed for an explosion of crime and social unrest.  The fear of crime unfortunately was quite palpable; bars on all the windows, alarm systems, high tech fencing systems, security cameras and companies everywhere etc. I am not condemning this at all, as based on what I heard the security measures were quite justifiable. I got a good dose of political information from talking with people and it seems that social unrest and turmoil is exactly what is happening. A lot of finger pointing, race issues, tribal and political party loyalty etc. Basically just humans being human; quite stupid, selfish, prejudiced and disorganized. The situation is very complex to say the least.

It appeared to me as well that all the racism and racial profiling that goes on is actually quite justifiable. Statistically speaking, you will practically never be robbed at gunpoint by a white South African male, whereas being approached on the side of the road by a black South African male is statistically speaking much more dangerous. So then the question is how do you live in a society where the vast majority of crimes are committed by one specific racial group, and avoid racism and racial profiling? I do not have an answer to this question.

Geographically speaking, South Africa is incredibly diverse as well, ranging from tropical, with massive banana and mango plantations, to desert, to Mediterranean complete with wine vinyards, snowcapped mountains and beautiful coastlines. We explored a bunch of different types of terrain while driving around and I would love to go back to explore more. As the pictures will show, it is a very beautiful country. The park infrastructure is fantastic as well. There are state run parks like Kruger, that are huge chunks of land with regulated game populations and strict visitor rules and then there are private game parks, where people stock their own pieces of land with African game species in the hopes of attracting tourists. There are also loads of cycling opportunities, water sports and awesome hiking. South Africa is actually a mecca for outdoor activities and I felt quite at home. I surfed perfect 6-8 foot J-bay, a world renowned surf spot that I have been have wet dreams (sorry I just couldn’t resist) about since I was 14 years old. All in all it was a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to go back.

When I first got to ZAF I went through a bit of a culture shock with the amount of stuff that was available and how nice it was to have running water and reliable electricity. I must say that the amount of absolute shit that is produced in the developed world and is available to buy in shopping malls and stores is atrocious. Cute little candle holders, napkin pins, ornaments, you name it… it just disgusts me the amount of energy and resources that is devoted to producing these completely unnecessary goods. But I digress. It surprised me at how quickly I re habituated to and took for granted the conveniences of the developed world. After spending 3 weeks living in luxury, I was almost dreading returning to my reed house where the roof leaks, I hand pull my water from a well and have inconsistent electricity. It was a bit of a shock the first day being back in Manjacaze, however I can now say that I am completely re adjusted and quite happy to be back. There is a wonderful simplicity and tranquility that comes with being in Manjacaze. I don’t want to stay here forever, that is certain, and I do like to leave once in a while when the village becomes too small and different flavors of experiences are needed, however life is good here, there are plenty of projects and work to do and there is so much to be grateful for and enjoy.

Photos: Mostly scenery, waves, mountains etc. I took advantage of the well stocked super market to make a Mediterranean themed dinner: All home made: ratatouille, cucumber yoghurt salad, hummus and pita. It was delicious and I had the pleasure of making it for 8 wonderful new friends we made in Jbay.