Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Parents are Coming!

I know it seems that I have only been writing about visitors lately but tis the season, and honestly the arrival of guests is the most noteworthy of events in my life. Six weeks after Christopher left, my parents have begun their excursion out this way. In fact they arrive this afternoon.

I think one of my favorite pleasures of traveling out side the U.S. is the joy and anticipation of waiting for and watching people step off the plane. They emerge from a little door, walk down a few stairs onto the tarmac, look up at the tropical surrounding and see you waving and smiling. There is a bit nervousness (are they on the plane? will they recognize me?) but then… Instant Happy!


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Rocky Ride Home

Some things to know about driving in Mozambique: 

  • There is one highway that runs from the south to the north of Mozambique called the EN1. It’s bascially the transportation spine of the country. Parts of it wash away every year during rainy season, parts of it are paved, but most of it is covered with potholes – big and small.
  • Lanes are more of a suggestion here. You’re supposed to drive on the left side of the road, but people drive on whatever side seems smoother and swerve around afore mentioned potholes along the way. 
  • When it rains – two way traffic is a bit more tricky since there is often one just lane that is useable. People play chicken and then just barely move to the side when they need to get by. 

So all this being said -Sarah and I needed to get from Maputo to Vilankulo and the big fancy bus wasn’t running when we needed it, so we decided to take the local bus. It’s normally not that terrible. Perhaps a bit more patience is needed since the busses are old, slow and always jam packed with people and stuff, but they’re bearable. However time around, the local bus fell more into the “let’s just make it home” category.

A few hours into our trip, we hit our first snafu:

Uh oh. Aparently we got  a bit too close to the side of the enbankment and just kinda slid down. We were really lucky because it didn’t roll and no one panicked. Since the bus was balancing on two wheels and all the passenger doors were on the bottom side of the bus, we  all had to all climb out of the drivers door quickly and cautiously, handing babies and old people down.

But Hazzah! In true African fashion, after standing out in the mud and rain for an hour debating wether to abandoned Sarah’s bag and hitch to the nearest town, a big Caterpillar tractor showed up out of nowhere.  With cheers and gasps of surprise, it amazingly pulled the whole bus back onto four wheels and out of the ditch! We were on our way again. Until…

The door panel to the luggage hold flew off. (Note door laying on ground in photo.)  ReallyOkay.  Everyone loaded out to get a good look while someone ran back down the road to fetch the bags that had flown out. Not too long there after the door was resecured with shredded rice-sacks and sticks.

Once again everyone loaded back in and we were on our way, until…

Oops, another door panel came off. (it was already too dark to take a photo)

By this point we knew the routine. Load out, find a temporary solution, pile back in and try again. After a quick scare that we might run out of gas, the driver decided we had enough to finish the trip. Luckily, that was the last of any more major delays.

13 hours later we arrived in Vilankulo, in the dark and ready to be home. It was a bit of a scare but really this just seemed like another funny story to write home about. 

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Chapa vs. Kumbi

One of the most striking details that I noticed while in Swaziland was the distinct sense of personal space and propriety.  One situation that struck me as particularly clear example of this was the bus system.

In all the African countries I have traveled in, the most common and affordable way to get around is to take a “bus” – bus means a big van that follows a route, and picks up anyone on the street going more or less the same way.  In Mozambique this sort of transportation is called a chapa (pronounced shah-pah), in Ghana it’s called a tro-tro, and in Swaziland it’s called a kumbi.

Chapas in Mozambique (and for that matter in South Africa and Ghana) get  filled to the brim with up to 24 people, basically as many passengers and boxes that can possible squeeze into the car. The door man will hang out of an open sliding door, clinging to the closest person and roof. Each time someone gets out the rest of the row either has to move out quickly and hop back in, or the cornered passenger literally craws over a row of passengers to exit.

(click for bigger image)

In Swaziland however, it was like being on a different planet. Courtney, Sarah and I sat there in shock and loving all the extra wiggle room as strictly 12 to 14 people got on. 3 people per row and no squeezing! Perhaps not quite the same adrenaline rush as the fear of missing your exit or drop off, but totally impressive nonetheless. 

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