Sunday, May 25, 2008

Migrants have until today...

The news these days in the local Cape Times is both frightening and depressing. Mobs in the townships continue to attack migrants from other parts of Africa, mostly Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Meanwhile, it seems that South African president Thabo Mbeki is practically ignoring the subject. Here in Cape Town township locals gave foreigner "job thiefs" until today to pack up and get out. This morning we heard of overrun churches and community centers filled with frightened people. On the positive side, it looks like many South Africans are doing their part to help these idps. Our local grocery store has a shopping cart out front asking for donations for displaced migrants. Sarah and I are planning on donating some of our gear, such as tents, and Sarah is even thinking of volunteering with a local NGO should they need help. I look forward to tomorrow's coverage with anticipation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

from Multi-Cultural Mozambique to Rioting South Africa...

A week to enjoy Maputo was a great way of finishing our time in Mozambique before heading off to Cape Town two days ago. Luckily, we were able to stay with some friends we met up in the northern part of the country. The two fellows we stayed with are both Lebanese doctors, so we got a pretty good perspective on a number of things, including the Lebanon conflict, the practice of Islam, and Arabic perspectives on the US. Probably the most interesting story I heard was about getting fired on by Israeli soldiers while working for the Red Cross in the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. Apparently that experience makes their work in land-mine detection seem "low risk."

South Africa is another world. The two most striking things about it for me are: 1) How 1st world Johannesburg and Cape Town seem, and 2) How dangerous things are here. Jo-burg is a collection of fortress-like houses and buildings. The recent xenophobic riots in the townships definitely didn't help our impressions either. The news has been pretty horrendous. I really hope the government does something about it, both short-term and long-term.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Last weekend we took a trip to MUSART, or Museu Nacional de Arte de Moçambique. We weren't really sure what to expect from it, but ended up very impressed. Free entrance was an added bonus.

Throughout the exhibit one is struck as much by the creativity and imagination of the paintings and sculptures as by the stark symbolism and dark implications behind many of the pieces. The dates of the works, most of which were done in the 70's and 80's, helps explain this: It was a time of revolutionary upheaval and civil war in Mozambique, and the implications of this are ubandantly portrayed in many of the sinister, mocking and ironic images. Sculptures of helicopters, fish and jungle creatures are made out of rusty ak-47 parts and broken bayonets. Paintings, such as the one above, portray a distinct social malaise, where alliances, loyalties and trust are all up for questioning.

I know too little about both Mozambique's modern history to give a proper critique of the socio-political context. I am also almost completely ignorant of the individual artists and their histories, but I will say that their works are both imaginative and well crafted. One cannot help but be lured into the emotional and psychological state that influenced these artists.

Friday, May 9, 2008


It's been about two weeks since we made our harrowing journey across the Tanzanian border into Mozambique, which means that this post is two weeks overdue. My excuse has been the lack of infrastructure in northern Mozambique and the chaos that has been our schedule (example: it took us three days to realize that Mozambique is an hour behind Tanzania). I guess it doesn't help that we stuck ourselves away in several of the beautiful little hard to get to nooks along the way.

The past few weeks have been for the most part quite fun and relaxing. I would say that for me the highlight has been the different type of characters that we have found ourselves in the company of. Northern Mozambique has a fraction of the tourist infrastructure found in the south or in Tanzania. Because of this you often find yourself clumping together with whatever other expats are in the area, many of whom are there for work rather than pleasure: Landmine clearing rigs, oil company contractors, tourist establishment proprietors and various hanger-ons. I've been surprised by the amount of ex-military types working up here. We've bumped into a few South Africans who were in the Apartheid-era South African military and who because of the clandestine operations in Mozambique and Angola are fluent in Portuguese. For them it was an easy decision to skip off here after South Africa's transition to a "rainbow nation" government. However, we've also met Kiwis, Australians, Brits, Lebanese, all of whom have served in some sort of capacity with some military. Not a few of them have seen time in either Iraq, Afghanistan, or both through some of the many companies contracted there by the US government and the UN. One Afrikaans assured me that the first place the American military went when they looked for dependable contractors was the demobilized South African paramilitary forces.

Despite having significantly different philosophies and ideologies, these guys have been extremely kind to us, paying for drinks, giving lifts, and passing on helpful advice. It's been nice to see that great differences in opinion about a lot of things doesn't have to stop people from being kind to one another.

We are currently in Maputo, which feels like the first "real" city I've yet been to since getting to Africa: Huge gridded avenues, skyscrapers, paved walkways, it has it all.

Ugandan Cuisine

While in Arusha I had a couple of friends stop by to visit. I took them out to the local joint we frequented while there: Hut made out of cardboard where you could get a solid meal of rice, beans and casava greens for about 50 cents. One of my friends, Tara, wrote up a review of it, complete with pictures, on her blog, Check it out.

CORRECTION: Sorry, I originally wrote the wrong address down above. I have made the correction, and will repeat here: