Tag Archives: Maputo

The Solution

Sometimes it’s easy to slip into the bad habit of generalizing and lumping together the entire population of Mozambique as a single “they”. Ei: “They just don’t get the concept of monogamy.”  Extremes and perspectives differ but that is not a complete truth here or anywhere.

Then again, there are certain generalizations that I find are pretty much always true. Stereotypes come from somewhere, don’t they?

Anyway, last week I went down to Maputo for a national arts fair. The whole experience was great and it was satisfying to see how far our products have come in terms of quality, quantity and sales, not to mention how well our two weavers did doing all the transactions and interacting with the buyers.

That being said, I am pretty sure I have discovered the root of all Mozambican underdevelopment (are you ready for the big general “they” commentary…). Their problem is disorganization. Yes, that is it. Pure simple messiness.

I came to this conclusion when after spending several hours setting up the display and organizing our back stock, I looked under the table and our baskets were all over the place.

The vision of this heap of products all tumbled together with trash, chip bags, baby clothes, purses, pens, and who knows what else instantly made me fume with a feeling close to rage. WHAT. IS. THIS!?!?!

So I gathered my wits, took a deep breath and set about cleaning up. Circle patterns with circles, checkers with checkers, etc. If they don’t stack, sort them by general size. Right? When people wanted to see more of a certain size or design, then all they had to do was quickly pull out the appropriate goods.

The next day I walked up to our booth and looked under the table… and it was all mixed together. BAHHHHH!!! – what was I going to do!?

I took a deep breath and explained to my counterpart and weavers that I had spent a long time the day before sorting so that we could find “the one basket” they always wanted to sell. Of course they had even witnessed me sorting and stacking the day before, but when I mentioned that I wanted them keep it clean Sonia said, “Oh I hadn’t noticed.

I am not the most OCD person when it comes to keeping organized. I tend to stack and get lost in the mix of to-do lists, files, and random “stuff” that doesn’t seem to have a proper home. However, I stick to my theory – if everyone here in Mozambique was a bit more attentive to being tidy and less oblivious to their personal mess – then I think the world would be a better place.

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Riot in The Streets

We had a bit of excitement a few weeks ago when Maputo shut down because of strikes and riots.  It began in response to several factors including rising school fees, food prices, water prices, transportation costs and general poverty; All valid reasons to express anger and demonstrate frustration with a corrupt government. Sadly, things got a bit out of hand when strikes turned into marching, then looting, then police shooting into crowds. 

Luckily there was no social upheaval in sleepy Vilankulo. Our beach town seems to be too off the beaten path to get caught up in what’s happening in the capital 700 km away. However, it did get people all riled up, and VSO advised me not to go to work for several days – lest I encounter an angry mob marching the sandy streets.

Ultimately the demonstrations and riots were quelled and the transportation costs for buses and chapas were not raised. I’m sure a few more concessions were offered from the government but after more than a week of unrest it seemed to just… pass. 

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Maputo, Arts Fair & Thanksgiving

Just got back from Maputo. I was there for the last 9 days for an arts and crafts fair, where we were selling the Xindzala palm baskets that are produced by the weavers in our project. The exhibition itself was actually more professional than I had anticipated. Our display looked dynamic, we had good sales, and the caliber and variety of other vendors was great.  

Overall the biggest success of the fair was getting at least two of the weavers involved in the actual sales process. By the third day Lucia, our top weaver and community promoter, was actually writing up the receipts and handling the money for the transactions.  Perhaps that doesn’t sound huge, but for a rural woman in Africa who has only gone to the capital once or twice, this was a big step in getting her actively involved in the process.  

Our Booth

(note: the central empty space was where a large basket was placed,  but we were waiting for the stand to arrive when I took this photo during set up)

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For Thanksgiving I worked at the fair all day. I snacked on some samossas at the little opening ceremony, then went back to my little hotel room to watch TV and read. No dinner, no turkey but happy. There are only 3 channels; CNN, A French African channel, and ESPN. After not watching television for almost 2 months, I was thoroughly impressed by the variety.

Maybe it was just the simple joy of listening to American chatter as background noise, but who’d a thunk I’d go all the way to mozambique to become an NFL football fan!?! I know all about the stats, injuries, whose on a winning streak, the plays of the week. I’ve never been more eager to wake up and watch Sports Center. 

Other choice competitions that were featured included, “TimberSports” – log chopping, pole climbing, log running, chain-saw cutting… it’s a rather competitive world for lumber jacks, and I was so unaware.

While it wasn’t exactly the most festive of holidays on my side of the planet, I wasn’t really upset since it just passed without making me feel like I was missing something major. Without meaning to sound pitiful, I really think it was more of a dress rehersal for the upcoming first solo-Christmas.  I think I’ll be okay. 

 

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