Thursday, September 29, 2011

Arrival in Maputo

Dan and I are thrilled to announce that today, after a 17-month process, a 15-hour plane ride, and numerous tearful goodbyes, we have arrived in the capital city of Mozambique.  The plane arrived in Maputo ( mah-POO-too) at approximately 11AM Lisa-and-Dan Time, at which point we greeted Country Director Carl Schwartz, gathered our luggage, and proceeded to load all of it onto what appeared to be a horse trailer made of reinforced wire.  A quick calculation suggests that we were carrying more than 4,000 pounds of luggage, the bulk of which was made up of socks, underwear, and candy.   We then piled onto two maxi-vans (four abreast in six rows) and chugged through the city of Maputo. 

As we pulled away from the airport, the scenes started to slide by- the airport parking lot, the gatekeeping station, a little boy walking his goat… We saw advertisements for Coca-Cola, diapers, and condoms painted on the sides of concrete houses while little barefoot boys ran along the sidewalk after older siblings.  A boy wearing a broken flip-flop was whipping a belt like Indiana Jones, lost in a private game.  I saw a woman balancing a basket of oranges on her head and two teenage school-girls in uniform, looking smug and too old for their age.  The sight of them made me feel distinctly nervous and out-of-place. 

“I’m too young to teach those girls,” I thought.  “They would eat me alive.”

Everything was awash with color.  The fruit stands were bright and piled high while every house boasted an advertisement for some common market product, usually Coca-Cola.  Somebody said that houses were painted with advertisements because the paint was free. 

We are staying at the Hotel Cardoso.  In general, the Peace Corps does not select luxury establishments for trainees, but this particular hotel was the only one that had all 25 rooms available.  The hotel and grounds are very beautiful.  A large grassy lawn leads to an overlook of the bay and to a tiled patio with two pools.  Amenities include a shower, television, and wireless internet.  Twice today we have eaten at the hotel buffet.  It is certainly not the hardship that we anticipated.  The only unpleasant happenings involved a round of vaccinations and an anti-malarial prophylaxis that lodged in my throat.
 Hotel Cardoso

Contacting and visiting us in Mozambique:
As many of you know, our training address is “Lisa and Dan Spencer, PCV, Corpo da Paz/U.S. Peace Corps, C.P. 4398, Maputo Mozambique.”  Mail takes 2 to 4 weeks to arrive.  Our training ends in the beginning of December, but our mail will be forwarded to us if your letter or package arrives late.  Flat paper mail is best- a letter, crossword puzzle, soduku puzzle, comic strip, photograph, etc.  These are less expensive to send and will be very exciting for us. 

If you will be coming to visit, I suggest taking South African Airlines.  The service was wonderful and that fact that we had two full meals, free wine, blankets, pillows, socks, earphones, and television made that 15 hour flight much more enjoyable. 

(Note about traveling through Johannesburg and Maputo:  Place secure locks on all luggage, even carry-ons.  Many Peace Corps volunteers had stuff stolen at the airport.  Most of the articles went missing when the crew unexpectedly ordered carry-on luggage to be checked during our short flight from Johannesburg to Maputo.  Most of the carry-on luggage had not been locked and volunteers lost jewelry, music players, and, in one case, over $300.00.  Volunteers pooled funds to replace the lost money, but it was still a tough introduction to life in Africa.)

I do recommend the Hotel Cardoso.  It might be expensive (it feels expensive), but we feel safe and there are many international travelers staying here.  The front desk can  exchange currency, and does so at a reasonable rate.  Currently, one US dollar is worth approximately 26 meticals (MZM).  What we can buy with 26 meticals has yet to be determined. 

Next time:  Our New Friends and our Training Schedule

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