Monday, May 25, 2009

bom dia, and then ciao ciao

Writing from South Africa, as didn't manage to blog from Mozambique, despite getting internet yesterday there for the express purpose of putting up something. It's been an interesting and at times incredibly wonderful two weeks.

I've swum in the Indian Ocean, seen the sun set over Maputo bay, eaten a lot of mandioc (cassava), including in a old colonial house with rifles and black and white photos on the wall, in a backpacking hostel, and in a small local restaurant in Feira in Maputo, met some excellent people, and most of all got to live a dream of many years standing. That dream was to scuba dive with a turtle, and I go to do it last week. A lot. And it was truly incredible.

I was lucky enough to see one turtle on a dive, after seeing the flipper of one near a cave two days previously (but that didn't really count), but there he or she was, appearing just in front of us, swimming gloriously along, and gradually swimming away into the blue. It was so wonderful. Like I always sense when I'm diving it felt like an honour and a gift to share the water with the creatures that live in it, and to be there with a turtle was a very moving experience.

Then on further dives we saw more turtles, and my sixth and final dive was the most incredible. It was just the instructor and I, a rare chance to have only two of us diving together, and even he thought it was a good dive. We saw five turtles in that dive, two loggerheads, two leatherbacks and one green turtle, some less than a foot away. We say an eagle ray as well and so many other fish and so much coral. When I closed my eyes that night I felt like I was floating and later I dreamed of being underwater. But being in the presence of those turtles was something I'll remember forever. That first one, calmly paddling, and the others, resting in front of my face, close enough to touch, hanging out for as long as we wanted to be with them. So that's been a big part of what has been important for me here. It has been quite an intense time, a lot of thinking and reflecting though very little writing. And wonderful experiences to store up.

Mozambique seems like a country with big problems but enormous potential. The poverty is fairly extreme here, and it got to me more than being confronted with it usually does - perhaps because I'm usually very aware of the poverty or problems of the majority, but also feel like I'm engaged in some way with doing something about it, even on a very small or very long-term scale. Maputo on the other hand was strange in that is was quite a pleasant city, with tree-lined streets, interesting faded architecture, and good arts and crafts in museums and on the street, but the poverty that is really high in Mozambique barely seemed to penetrate it.

This is in contrast to my experience in other cities in Africa which often have very wealthy sections or buildings but the wealth is interlaced with the destitution and struggle, with people working for a pittance on the streets, street children wandering the city, some begging, tiny businesses working very hard, and shanty houses or pieced-together shelters right next to fairly luxurious homes or offices. Whereas Maputo had much less of that, and it was strange as the country as a whole is actually poorer than some others I have been in.

Perhaps it was also because I was working for the first week then backpacking for the second, which I'm also not used to - the backpacking Southern Africa trail is quite established here. So the first week I had at least some interaction with Mozambican colleagues, but not much with those worst off, while the second week I met some Mozambicans but mainly only those working in tourist services, again quite removed from the general situation in the country.

It also seems like the country has such great potential - especially for tourism, with exceptional diving, beautiful beaches, thousands of miles of coastline, and some interior wildlife areas and national parks. And the potential for business and trade to develop further here is also substantial. The war has been over since 1992, which is nearly twenty years, and time for people to change their perceptions of the country, it seems peaceful and eager to move ahead. I had never particularly thought of coming to Mozambique before I got this opportunity, but now I'd like to come back. You never know where the turtles will lead.


Blogger Snag Breac said...

Very glad you got to swim with turtles. Sounds totally amazing!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 17:12:00 GMT+1  

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