Monthly Archives: April 2010

I am all love

On Sunday April 25th, I fell in love

It’s true. I saw this amazing man and was smitten from first sight. 

Let me continue to tell you that this mysterious fellow is my new nephew Teo. My oldest brother, Travis, and Marta had their first child last Sunday. I am overwhelmed with happiness and joy for his birth. These feelings are complicated by confusing emotions of elation for his arrival and a sudden very clear understanding of my distance from my home and family.

It’s actually been one of the very hardest weeks for me here in Mozambique. I spent last weekend on skype chatting with almost every member of my family. We all ooohed and ahhhed about how great this new addition was. Since then, I’ve rushed home from work waiting for my next chance to get online and watch via webcam as this beautiful, alien family member sleeps and stretches in his carriage seat all the way back in NYC. 

I cannot express how grateful I am for modern technology at this moment; cell phones, email, Skype, web-cams. I live in a time of luxury communication for an overseas expat. But for all the access that it allows, it really cannot replace the intimacy of a real hug or kiss. 

As all my family gathers together to celebrate and revel in the excitement of this event, I find myself constantly on the verge of tears, be it from happiness or homesickness – I can’t seem to differentiate right now. 



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Visitors from home!

I have known Andrea since I was in second grade and Alexi since eighth grade. 

Both Andrea and Alexi live in NYC. But they love me so much, that they got on a plane and flew from NYC to Dubai to Johannesburg to Maputo then to Vilankulo. Two days and four flights later they arrived. All this for just one week in Mozambique.

This is how we spent our time:

A & A brought me gifts from home:

I made them walk around in the hot sun and go to work with me one day. So to make up for the sweat, we went to Casa Guçi, where

We caught a 3 am bus down to Tofu, where

Feeling bold and full of adventurous spirit, we hitched hiked to the nearest ATM.

We bought chocolate and lozenges,

They almost passed us by, but then stopped and came back. They took pity on us because they said they used to hitch when they were young. 

The next day we relaxed and were lazy.

We then made the long trek back to Vilankulo.

On the last night we went to the market and bought fresh fish. So we

The next day, it was time to pack up. Lexi didn’t have much to do, since her bag never arrived. After lunch and one last dip in the Mozambican Channel, Andrea and Alexi got in a taxi and headed back to the airport.

Now, I have a quiet empty cabana all to myself.

It’s the sudden empty space and feeling from when people you love go back home. The vacuum reminds you of how grateful you are for your friends that travel half way around the world, but it also reminds you that you live half way around the world. 



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More things that go bump in the night

On Saturday, I was talking to my parents via skype, and giving them a tour of my place with the webcam. Proudly I told them about Simba’s heroic rat-hunting success from the previous night. As I was trying to get Simba to sit and pay attention to my parents on the computer he started barking and pacing in front of the wall again… I get one quick view of a rat tail slipping over the reed wall escaping outside. 

I tell my parents about my hesitations about using rat traps and poison, but my father insists that I do something about it. Not because it’s gross, not because they are planning on visiting and staying me in several months, but because –

Camille, if you don’t take care of your rat problem, snakes will!

“Okay Dad, I’ll do something,”  I say humoring him; not too worried, because I’ve been here for over 6 months, and I’ve yet to see a snake larger than 5 inches.  I know it’s really only a matter of time, but frankly, rats give me more of the heeby jeebies than the idea of snakes. 

The next evening, as if hearing my fathers transcontinental warning, I get a visitor. I was more shocked by the snake’s well timed appearance than by it’s actual presence, so I took a photo then went to ask the guard for advice. 

The snake was coming in through a hole between the cement foundation and the back wall, but when the guard walked up with a stick it slithered back into it’s hiding spot. As advised, I poured hot water in the hole and prepared to jump to the side, in case it came rushing at me (as with the previous night’s rat escapade).  Instead, the snake quickly slipped away into the back yard as the guard through sticks it at. 

In Mozambique, all snakes are refered to as “cobras” even if it’s a garden snake or a mamba. I still haven’t been able to identify exactly what kind it was. It was black, 14 inches longish, and about the width of 2 pencils (not much to go by). I looked up photos online, and I’m pretty sure it was not a black mamba. So if you know your Ophiology, please let me know!



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things that go bump in the night

I have a rat (or several) that lives in or around my house. I’ve spotted it a few times, and thankfully it’s not NYC rat/monster size but more of a big grey mouse variety. Frankly there is really not that much I can do to keep them out since my hut is open to the elements and most of nature.

The only real extermination options I have are rat poison or a trap. I’ll admit, it’s less animal rights based and more about caution for my own wellbeing that  has kept me away from the pursuing the murderous options. First off, I’ve been hesitant to use the poison since I am scared the dog might eat it. Secondly, I am nervous that if the rat did eat the poison, it then might go die in my reed roofing. That could potentially go really wrong and stink up the place. You’d think the easiest solution would be to encourage the Peace Corps girls’ cat, Cooper, to follow his instincts but he’s well fed and totally disinterested in doing his duty.

Shouting encouragements to our brave hunter from atop our chairs

So that rat issue has continued and I wake up to scurring noises in the night, an occasional sighting, and the loss of several vegetables that get nibbled on while I’m away. But on Friday night, I found a new solution:   Simba the Hunter.

Friday evening, Courtney and I were sitting in my cabana when the dog started making lots of noise and trying to get behind one of my shelves. I figured he smelled some variety of creature, but didn’t think too much of it. But as I pulled the cubbard away from the wall so that Simba could get a good look at the empty space – a rat came leaping out. 

Eyes beedy and blaring – heading right for my jugular… Or so I assumed. I was too busy screaming and making a mad dash for a chair to get a good look.

Amidst all this excitement the dog lunged and actually caught the rat! I think he was more surprised than us that he actually got it. Meanwhile we shouted prizes and encouragement from the other side of the room atop our lofty chairs.

Once the animal was finally dead (it took a while) we were filled with adrenaline and pet owner pride. One rat down – hopefully not too many more to go. 


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6 month mark.

As of today, I have officially been in Mozambique for half a year. 

(Well, actually six months and 3 days if you count travel time)

Since time seems to fly here, I offer a feather from one of the pied crows that likes to perch atop my cabana.  They are quite smart and I’ve read that they make great pets, however I think I’ll just let them go about their business standing vigil and occasionally dive bombing our poor dog. 

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Product Development Workshop

The beginning of My Mozambican Life, Part II was marked by an extended excursion into the field for a training workshop –a big step both professionally and personally.

Inhassoro is a sleepy fishing town about an hour north of where I live and it was the location for twenty day product development workshop that I helped plan and co-lead. The objective was to train 25 participants, representing 10 of our weaving groups to create new products using their traditional materials and technique. The goal was to create products that were smaller, more accessible for the local transient tourist market and quicker to make – thus more financially lucrative for the women.

Our design consultant, Sivuyile came in from Durban, South Africa to help with the workshop. Luckily he had worked with our groups on a previous training, so he was aware of many of the limitations of the Xindzala technique and the sometimes stubborn personalities represented amongst our weavers. (Visit his design company’s website here.)

Before we left for Inhassoro Sivu, Sonia and I went to a local carpenter to see if he could produce some wood accoutrements we wanted for potential jewelry designs. It was rather fun to be able to draw something then explain your vision and see what would come out of the wood shop.

After accidently breaking one form in half, Sivu and I mutually agreed that the new broken shape was actually more dynamic than our first ideas. So we modified. 



The jewelry was meant to follow a mixed media trend – combining hand carved wood along with softer woven palm details.  


Our first 3 days in Inhassoro, we worked with our top 5 weavers. These women were selected because they represented either our fastest, most talented or team oriented of our groups. We wanted people we knew would be able to pick up new ideas and also help instruct other weavers throughout the training. I will proudly say that this was my idea to bring in the top weavers for the first few days –it was a great opportunity to see early on what designs were working and which were not; saving us a lot of time and material. Plus, it meant that we had finished samples already made and available by the time the rest of the group arrived, thus avoiding the awkwardness and anxiety of tackling new products from scratch.

Then 20 more of our weavers arrived. The first week we concentrated on the accessory designs, consisting of bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Then the last week all attention was focused on producing bottle shaped vases. These vases were an exercise in interpreting 3 different wine bottle shapes – but using the same stitch that is normally used for wider flatter baskets.  From the beginning we understood that each bottle was destined to be a bit different and unique. So we embraced the organic quality of the vases and encouraged the women to really look at the forms and follow what they saw.

We tried out a new stitch technique that had the potential to be faster and cleaner – however, after several samples, we decided that it was not unique enough and the quality was rather inconsistent. So back we went to the traditional stitch – which was a good decision since part of the objective of our project is to maintain the heritage of the traditional Xindzala. 

Now you might ask yourself, what the heck did YOU do this whole time Camille? Wellll, mostly I just sat under the tree with the women either trying to learn how to weave, tinkering with designs, or occasionally offering my approval and advice. There was a lot of sitting and watching. Luckily the women are great singers, and they would often break into song or get up and dance. 

We sat under this cashew tree:

I also had great company – since Sivu is rather lovely. It has been a long time since I actually got to fluidly speak English to an African person. And I will admit that it was with great relief and surprise that I rediscovered I have a sense of humor! It’s not that I haven’t laughed here, certainly there have been countless lost-in-translation moments, but actually being able to respond in a timely and witty manner – well, that was a novelty.

So the weeks passed with good company and creative juices flowing. At the end of the training we had many great samples produced. I’m sure we’ll have to continue working on quality and production, but there is real potential for our new goods.  Personally, I found a great sense of satisfaction seeing several of my designs actually come to fruition. 


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