Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I've got some personal stuff to sort out over the next few days and will consequently be away from the blog. This is a public space, and I tend to be quite open about what goes through my mind, but certain experiences and struggles I need to keep for myself and those immediately involved.

I am likely going out of town for a bit, that is if I can manage to get my passport back from the immigration office where they have been "processing" my residency permit for the last 2 months. Sigh.

Things are okay, in the sense that for as terribly painful as my present situation may feel, I do see multiple silver linings to be gained from the process of working through it all. There is just a lot to sort out between here and there...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Return of the Shit

Pria took a revenge shit on my bed again this morning. It's the first such incident since we got the cats fixed at the beginning of the year. The message was loud and clear - someone was unhappy that I've been out of the house for most of the weekend.

Pria planned the revenge poo in a very strategic manner. Were I not already an old hand at this game, I'd have certainly been in for a very unpleasant surprise.

I woke up this morning at 8:30 with a massive hangover and only 2 hours of sleep under my belt. Suffice to say last night was a good one - we went to the Franco Moçambicano to see a concert, then to Cristal to eat, then to a new bar called Havana and finally to The Lounge/Coconuts for dancing.

It was one of those nights where you come out of the club and it's already light out. Given the fact that I saw the sun rise, you can imagine that all I wanted was to sleep late into the afternoon. Unfortunately, I had to meet a client who was driving up from South Africa and could only see me this morning.

Reluctantly, I hauled myself out of bed when the alarm went off. I brushed my teeth, made a desperate cup of tea and checked my e-mail. I called the client to see how the drive up was coming along. He said he was stuck at the border and would be delayed by 1 hour. "Perfect," I thought, "I can go back to sleep for a little while."

I shuffled back to the bedroom and was about to lie down when I smelled the unmistakeable scent of cat shit. Pria lurked guiltily in the corner, and the covers were in a ball in the middle of the mattress, certainly not how I'd left them. I knew all too well what this meant - a little treasure waiting for me under the blanket, carefully covered up by the cat's shuffling paws.

Sadly, I was dead right. Not only did I not get any more sleep, I had the always pleasant experience of uncontrollable gagging bright and early in the morning. I shoved all the blankets and sheets in the washing machine, filled the detergent compartiment to the brim, and kicked off the sanitization process that will continue to tomorrow with an additional heavy wash and perhaps some bleach thrown in for good measure.

I've had many cats in my life, but never one remotely as vengeful as Pria. Sometimes I wonder if this is a foreshadowing of what our children will be like one day. Is this acting out somehow a reflection of my total lack of cat-rearing (and consequently parenting) skills? I can only hope that I'm paying my dues now, in feline form, as opposed to the much more complicated (though perhaps slightly less smelly) mess that can come from a teenager hellbent on getting his way.

Note to self: totally not ready for kids yet!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'll Love You 'Till My Heart Stops

I do a lot of musing on here about how my relationships with friends and family have been affected by my travels and ultimate choice to live in a country not my own.

Most often I am feeling lonely and homesick when I write about this topic. I focus on the changes that have led me to feeling isolated, and it becomes quite easy to believe that I exist in a world where nobody will ever understand me or the omnipresent saudades that fill my heart.

Then there are moments, like just now, where I am left glowing because I realize that certain connections with certain people will never wilt away to an unrecognizable, lesser version of what they once were. There are bonds out there capable of surviving both distance and time. The relationships change and evolve, as is natural as we grow older and have new experiences, but I am satisfied to recognize that with a handful of friends and family we seem to travel parallel paths, albeit through completely different universes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Looking Back on Month 1

For your reading pleasure, a few of the highlights thus far from Journal #1:

22 July, 1997 (day 1 of journal)

I’m in Miami right now at the Fairfield Inn for the orientation [for AFS exchange students prior to leaving the country]. It’s alright, I guess, but pretty boring. Our leader is Joy – that same woman from NY – the kooky one. She’s such a bitch.

We’re quarantined here basically. Shandi and Shelly [fellow AFS-ers] wanted to go get their tongues pierced – I really want to get my nose or tongue pierced. Probably my nose, but I couldn’t hide it in pictures. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo. Mom would kick my ass.

In retrospect? Good thing we were quarantined in that hotel.

I then go on to talk about the flight from Miami to São Paulo, followed by a 10-hour bus ride overnight to Maringá, the city I was going to live in. Unfortunately my travel narratives aren't that interesting - apparently all I cared to dedicate journal space to was gossip about boys!

25 July, 1997

The house here is nice. I have my own room, but I have to share a bathroom which sucks. You can’t flush toilet paper in Brazil. The shower is really small and is electrically heated. For lunch, we had meat and Japanese white rice. I wonder if I’ll eat sushi?

Wow...I was pretty spoiled. I've come a long way when you consider that I shared one bathroom with 5 other people for nearly a year back in Chimoio, and that it was the least of my complaints about that household.

28 July, 1997

Today, Helena [my 13-year-old host sister] and I went shopping. I bought a corduroy skirt and a pair of ass-tight jeans. I can’t believe I’m wearing them. It’s against everything that I believe.

Again, how things change. I am now a diehard fan of the ass-tight jean. Can't really bring myself to wear any other kind, truth be told.

04 August, 1997

Well, I survived my first day of school. Inkari took me and Julie [exchange student from France] to school. We met the head of school (not the principal). Her name is Helenita. She has 2 different colored eyes. The principal is supposed to look like a black Abe Lincoln. Behind the school is a river that smells like shit.

Nobel [name of the high school] is mostly open air. The teachers move classrooms, not the students. School is from 7:15 to 12:00. We have 2 breaks during the day, and 6 or 7 classes. I don’t have to take tests, do homework or do gym. Cool!

I subsequently met said principal and confirmed for myself that he does, in fact, look just like a black Abe Lincoln. I still can't believe they let exchange students have such a sweet deal at school. I suppose they understood that learning a new language and adapting to a new culture was work enough without the additional pesky stress of things like tests and homework!

13 August, 1997

School was ok today – nothing special. We had double math, grammar, geography and literature. In literature, I read part of a short story out loud. It was tough, and a little embarrassing, but when I was done the whole class applauded. Giovanna said that I read better than some people who speak Portuguese.

Hugo, the boy who sits behind me, kept saying “Suck my woody!” during class, not because he really meant it but because he knew I'd understand the English and have a hard time keeping a straight face. It was so funny. Today was Maíra’s birthday. She’s 16 now.

Ah, teenage boys. Gotta love them... Re-reading this cracked me up because I actually remember this day at school quite well.

16 August, 1997

Last night was damn cool. I went with Rafael’s whole family to Moda Paraná. We watched a fashion show which kind of sucked, but the music was cool. They were showing summer clothes, and when the ass-bikinis came on, Rafael said I should get one. Ha, ha!

I'll let you all guess as to which style bikini I prefer to wear nowadays. Apparently Brazil had quite the effect on my fashion choices as well, despite my initial resistance.

19 August, 1997

Today we went with Inkari to Londrina [neighbor city where I had to register with the Federal Police]. We walked all day long to take id pictures, go to the bank, go to the police and go to his grandma’s house. My feet hurt so much! I had to wash them in the sink at Inkari's grandma's because they were completely black from being sweaty and walking around in the dirty streets.

Well, I got all my paperwork done for my id card. The guy in the police station was checking me out so much. He was sitting there just staring at me. Too bad he was about 50, fat and hairy!!

Ah, some things never change. I'd still not be thrilled at the prospect of 50, fat and hairy!

21 August, 1997

Today was a normal day, but it was kind of frustrating. I saw Rafael [current object of a massive crush] again at school. During breaks Tiago, Rafael and I just hang out and try to talk. It’s kind of uncomfortable. I never know what to say, and I feel stupid trying to speak in Portuguese. So, as a result of all this, I feel so dumb – I think Rafael must think I’m just a dumb American girl – young and ditzy. I wish I could speak better with him. I just get so nervous. At least I know he understands. When he went to the US for his exchange, he didn’t speak any English.

I feel so strange during the breaks. I start out with the girls in my class, feeling like an intruder. Then I see Rafael, say hi, and feel stupid and desperate. Sometimes I really hate Portuguese!

It's good to remember that this language hasn't always flowed so fluently from my mouth...

I'm only 1 month into my diary and already this has been such a great project. It's amazing to re-read my entries. Most of the details I remember quite well. I think writing has a massive effect on how my memory works.

I'm still in the light and fluffy bit of my experience. I took it upon myself to spare you the incessant passages about this-or-that cute boy from my class, or from the tennis club, or who I saw at the pharmacy. Take my word, this sort of stuff comprises 80% of the material, but it gets a bit old to read (so I can imagine it would be doubly boring for you, the reader, given that you have no idea who these people are). However, I do promise to share worthwhile observations about all of the boys I was obsessing about. It's just that up to this point I seem to have been unable to describe any of them in words other than "cool", "hot" or "fine".

I know the content is going to get heavier, and that some parts of my journals will be downright unpleasant and painful to re-read. Still, it's definitely worth it, even if the whole book thing never materializes. Just to be able to go back and reflect is really valuable.

Caminhos da Memória

After much procrastination and excuse-making, I have finally started one of my big life-projects.

You see, when I was 15 and moved to Paraná, Brazil for a year-long student exchange, I started keeping a diary. I wrote every single day during that year (such discipline! where did that all go?) and thus have a pretty complete record of the changes that took place during such a critical time in my life.

It's all there in writing...the first feelings of being ashamed to be an American, the struggle to learn Portuguese, the identification with Brazilian culture, travel to the Amazon and all along the coast and interior of the country by bus and boat, the unfortunate development of an eating disorder, lots of dates with lots of boys, and the decision to not go back to high school and instead go straight to college and independent living once back in New Mexico.

I kept writing after that year abroad, so I actually have a detailed record of my life from age 15 to about age 23. So much happened during that period...

Last year my mom very kindly DHL-ed me all of my journals. My grand plan was to transcribe them to Word, thus quieting the paranoid part of my mind that is convinced there will be a fire or a flood or some other disaster and I will lose all of my journals, and also giving life to the dreamer in me that recognizes I've got a pretty good first draft of a book (or books!) just waiting to be put together.

It's taken me quite a while, but I'm finally tackling this project. Last night I opened the first journal from my year in Maringá, starting in late July 1997. TEN YEARS AGO, people! How did this happen? How did all this time slip away?

I remember being on exchange and meeting other students that had returned from programs, say, 3 years prior. My reaction was, "Wow, that was ages ago!" And here I am now, a full decade after the fact, forever changed by the decision to live and study in a country not my own.

My initial reactions to re-reading my journals are the following:

- my handwriting is still exactly the same as it was when I was 15 years old;

- I was more-than-slightly obsessed with boys;

- I already had a poor self-image, in particular with relation to my body;

- I used the word "damn" in all its variations way too much;

I wil share later in the week some of the funnier passages I've come across so far.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Trying to Update My Profile Photo

Potassium-Rich Changes

The other day, when I was up to my ears in committments (saying it like that makes it seem as if I'm still not overwhelmed this week, but whatever), I mentioned that I had an upcoming meeting with my future boss to discuss the terms of my new job.

The meeting went well, I am happy to report, despite the fact that it caused me at least one sleepless night and a butterfly full of stomachs (oops, seems the old brain hasn't quite warmed up this morning. You know what I mean).

I toured the gigantic warehouse where the new company headquarters will be located in Matola, the industrial sister city of Maputo. The new office is composed of an administrative block (where I will have an office with a window all to myself, thankyouverymuch) and a huge open area where all of the fresh produce will be unloaded and processed for delivery to its final destination.

I am fascinated by the logistics of this operation. The company exports its bananas by truck across the border to South Africa, where the fruit then goes to a network of 16 fresh produce markets across the country to be sold to retailers. When the trucks come back to Mozambique, they are loaded with potatoes and onions to be sold on the local market (Moz is dependent on South Africa for much of its fresh produce, which is completely ridiculous in a place with such agricultural potential, but that's a story for another day).

In the midst of all of the produce in the warehouse area are crates and crates of brown eggs, the result of the layer farm that my new boss also operates as part of his empire of 5 businesses. Every aspect of the operation is complementary. In this case, the eggs get sold in Maputo and surrounding areas (to decrease what was up until now total dependence on imported eggs from Swaziland and South Africa), and the chicken shit gets collected and used as organic fertilizer on the banana plantation, reducing input costs and decreasing the use of chemicals.

So, the result of my meeting the other day is the following:

I will start work on October 1st.

I will have a 3-month introductory period in which I will learn the ropes of my new job. After this, I must choose whether or not to sign a contract. If I want to continue working, I am in it for an additional 2 years. If not, for whatever reason, we will part ways and continue to have a good friendship and working relationship.

During the introductory period, I will have a low salary that basically covers my costs. I will also get a car (!!!), a white, short-wheel-base Pajero with a giant neon green banana logo on the side of the vehicle. I've already told my new boss that I need some practice with left-hand-drive cars, in particular with parallel parking. He said he'll put me out on the plantation to get in some good hours driving on the dirt road network he's established before turning me loose on the crazy streets of Maputo.

After the introductory period, assuming I sign the contract, I will have a nice salary hike. I also plan to negotiate for a few additional benefits. We've already discussed the possibility of variable remuneration. The new boss agreed with the idea, now it's just up to me to propose a formula for said bonus structure. :) I'd also like to discuss the option of receiving healthcare benefits, a rent subsidy and gas reimbursement.

And then there is the ever-important question of vacations. In a fresh produce operation, you are going the entire time, year-round. I've already managed to work in a month-long vacation to Brazil and the US smack in the middle of my 3-month trial period. I'm already wondering how I'm going to manage to keep up my travel schedule after this!

So as part of my new professional identity as someone who works for a banana plantation empire, I've set up a google alert to send me industry news on a weekly basis. This fascinating article about how Chiquita payed massive sums in exchange for "protection" to several Colombian armed groups, and is now facing an investigation from the US State Department, has my interested captured in a big way.

Chiquita has just commenced operations here in Mozambique over the past year. They are up near Nampula, in the northern part of the country, and are working with outgrower farmers. For multiple reasons, they are not considered direct competition to the company where I will work. Still, one must recognize that they are a giant force in the fresh produce industry, to the point where they've created the equivalent of a Colombian Watergate scandal.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Collector Personality

If such a thing exists, I definitely have it.


I've collected since I was a young girl. Some of my first memories are of being on the beach in Grado, Italy near my grandmother's house and wading through the warm waters of the Adriatic in search of seashells. Once I even found a seahorse and captured it in my yellow plastic bucket for observation.

My seashell collection is perhaps the longest-running of all the items I seek out. Every single beach I visit, I pass hours searching for shells. Walking along the sand in search of that perfect, whole shell is one of the more relaxing activities I can imagine. It is also great because I don't like deep water or waves, am afraid of jellyfish and several other sea creatures, and as a result don't get in the water much when visiting the beach. I need something other than books and sunbathing to pass the time!

I've tended to display all of the shells I've collected on beautiful ceramic platters on shelves and tables around my house. Here in Maputo, however, it is impossible because the boys are so naughty the would destroy everything. So my shell collection here sits in a basket inside the bathroom closet.

Rocks and Minerals

Another collection I started when I was very young was a rock collection. I remember going to several spots in New Mexico - the Gila Wilderness and the Bisti Badlands, to be specific - where you could find giant quartz crystals just lying about in the sand. I still have all of my beautiful rocks and minerals, but they are in a storage unit in California at the moment because, what with international weight limits for travel, I've not been able to justify literally filling my suitcase with rocks!

Pressed Leaves

Part of what I enjoy so much about collecting is the possibility of then organizing the items in my collection. I remember my mom taking me to the University campus and to several city parks when I was in elementary school so that I could get leaf clippings from various bushes and trees. They had a Ginkgo Biloba tree in the patio of one of the University departmets - biology, perhaps - and that was my favorite because the leaf shape was so beautiful and in a category all of its own.

I'd go out armed with scissors, a photo album with magnetic pages, paper labels and a pen. I knew all of the leaf shape categories by heart - chordate, ovate, oblong, etc. I'd put each leaf carefully on a sheet of the photo album with the appropriate labeling, then take my full field book home at the end of the day and place it under a stack of dictionaries so that the leaves would become pressed and dried.

Native American Pot Shards

Another exciting collection I started as a child - and one of the ones I still do to this day, though periodically - is that of Native American pot shards (broken ceramic pieces from old cookware), mostly from the Anasazi. My dad and I would go out to this empty lot in Los Lunas, New Mexico, just off I-25 and about a mile from the state prison. At the time it was just mesa - sand and scrub brush. I don't remember why we originally went out to that isolated spot to walk around. Perhaps because my dad knew it would be a treasure trove, but maybe it was just a coincidence the first time.

It would just be the two of us, each one with a plastic sack. We'd stomp our feet hard to create vibrations on the ground as we walked as to scare away any snakes lingering in our path. My dad and I would literally spend hours walking around the high desert looking for pieces of painted or coiled pottery. Sometimes we would even find 2 or 3 pieces that fit together, though I never fulfilled my dream of finding an entire pot.

I realize that technically, the fact that we were collecting anthropological evidence on our own was probably not ideal; however, my dad knew that within months there were plans to put up an ugly housing subdivision on that ancient living site. There would be no survey of the site, no recognition of its rich value in terms of research and the history of our state. We figured it was better to have some of the artifacts in the care of people that appreciate them, as opposed to the entire site being buried under slab concrete and grass lawns, forever destroyed.

Now when my dad and I go camping in the Jemez Mountains, we still find loads of pot shards from the Anasazi. I usually collect a few pieces, but am much more criterious than in my younger years and prefer to only take the truly unique pieces home. On our last trip, I found a single ceramic piece the size of my palm, covered with ochre and black geometric designs. We also made an exciting new discovery - in addition to pottery shards, there are also 1,000-year-old beads to be found. You have to look close, but I managed to find 2 in addition to the original heishi tube my dad discovered.

Stamps, Postcards and Foreign Currency

These were my travel-oriented collections. In the same storage unit in California, I have a album with an unimaginable number of old stamps, some from the 1800's, and others from countries that don't even exist anymore. I used to buy some stamps from those lots advertised in the back of magazines. Others were from my many international pen-pals when I was a child (I regularly wrote letters to friends in Greece, the UK, Madeira, Mexico, Italy and the Central African Republic).

In addition to stamps, it was logical that I would also collect postcards. Many were ones that I'd actually received in the mail; others I'd buy as souvenirs from tourist points around the world. On several occasions, I selected my favorite postcards and taped them in a grid pattern to both sides of my bedroom door like a mosaic. I think I have easily more than 500 postcards squirrled away in a box somewhere...

I also collected foreign currency, both banknotes and coins, from my travels and those of my mom, who had quite the international career at the time.

New Collections

As I get older, I prefer that my collectible items serve a dual purpose. They must give me the pleasure and challenge of the collection process, as well as be something useable, for example in the decoration of my home, or in the kitchen as I make and share food with friends and family.

The latest focus of my collector personality is paintings. Ricardo and I have already acquired several here in Maputo, our favorite gallery being the Núcleo de Arte.

We've also included wood carvings in the scope of our new collections, which makes a lot of sense since Mozambique is internationally recognized for its precious hardwoods and skilled artisans in this medium.

For more stories of people with collector personalities, go here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I feel sad and unsettled tonight.

I was sitting here at the computer reading blogs and eating a can of white asparagus (exciting, balanced dinner, no?) when this wave of...whatever...hit me. I very nearly started to cry, something I've not done outside of an airport for quite some time now.

September 11th came and went, and I didn't even reflect adequately on the significance of the anniversary. I just went about my day, realizing that it was a somber one only when I needed to go to the US embassy to get a statement saying that I have a clean criminal record (visa processing requirement) and found the consular section closed in observance of the events 6 years ago.

I sat and thought about it for a moment, remembering where I was when the planes hit, feeling the weight of where we've come since then, and feeling generally numb.

I feel very detached sometimes, from family, from "home" (that ever-elusive concept), from friends that I've left behind, from the US and all of its influence on me as an individual and on the world at large.

I am ambivalent about politics at home, yet sense in my bones and breath the importance of the official war reports and campaign tactics being presented at the moment. And still I feel disconnected, apathetic. As if no matter which direction we go, the final result will be the same. I wish I were more passionate. I wish I could bring myself to read or watch the news on a daily basis. I'm aware that ignorance and my current stalled state of mind don't help the situation at all, but I also can't pretend to feel any other way at the moment.

People here often ask my views on politics, on what it means to be an American expat; they wonder whether Ricardo and I will live in the States at any point, and ask why I left in the first place. People want to know why I often appear Brazilian on the outside. Why my language, style and mannerisms seem to project something so different than is expected of an American.

I have no good answers, even when I ask the same questions of myself.

I simply know quietly, intuitively, that certain things I believe in and certain others I don't. I know when a path feels right, or when a decision is so wrong that I am afraid I will be physically ill. These things I know on a corporal level, yet for all the analyzing I do in other aspects of my life, for all of the writing about emotions and processing of feelings I do, I can't seem to form rational, accessible explanations that would allow others to understand.

I feel very lonely most of the time. Some of this is my own "fault", I suppose, for once you step out of your home city, once you board that plane, once you acquire a new perspective that is different enough from the things you originally were taught and believed in, it is impossible to go back. Physically, of course, one can always return to a hometown or an old group of friends, but always with the sharp realization that relationships have changed forever.

For a long time I struggled with an identity crisis. I was very ashamed to be American, and this contributed to my feelings of isolation, both in the US and out. When at home, I recognized that I had changed in my time abroad and that I no longer related to my friends - and even my family, in some respects - in the same comfortable way as before.

When I was in Brazil, or in Italy, or wherever on my travels inbetween, I had to deal with the fact that I also didn't fit in with my new peers, and that worse yet, I was known for being "the American". At the high school I attended in Southern Brazil, many friends playfully nicknamed me "gringa". I pretended not to care, but each time I heard the name (which is used to refer to all foreign people in Brazil, not just Americans) I cringed, as it reminded me of the identity and background with which I felt so ill at ease.

It took literally nearly a decade, but now I am over this crisis for the most part, at least in the sense that I am no longer ashamed to say that I am American and speak English in public (yes, it was that bad at one point when I was a teenager).

I still feel strange about many aspects of being an American, but it is more in the sense that I identify more with a culture to which I have no "legitimate" claims than with the one in which I was raised.

Once an ex-boyfriend of mine commented that I was destined to be lonely and unfulfilled my entire life because I was in love with a country, something that could never love me back.

That made me laugh, but it also made me sad. Not because I expected to have Brazil fill some sort of hole in my heart, but because I realized that likely nobody would ever understand how that country affected my life. I still very much feel this way.

So, sitting here in our flat in Maputo, contemplating culture and identity and the role my home country has in the world, I feel quite alone.

Perhaps this is why I like cats so much - they always "get" me, no words or passports required...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Geo Force

Apparently, the fact that a devastating tsunami was not generated from yesterday's Indonesian earthquake is sheer luck.

The wave that was generated from the quake was sent southwest and basically petered out in the middle of the Indian Ocean; had it gone in any other direction (i.e. towards land), the consequences would have been devastating.

Here in Maputo, as far as I could tell, there were absolutely no effects felt from the earthquake.

And thus, life continues as normal around these parts...

Yes, I Just Spent 20 Mintues on Google

In the wake of the earthquake this evening in Sumatra and the resulting 9-foot wave that was produced locally, there is a tsunami watch in effect for the entire Indian Ocean basin for the next several hours. While officials in Australia and India did not register any significant increase in ocean levels following the quake, the possibility of a tsunami being triggered in other locations has not been ruled out.

While it is extremely unlikely that we will have anything catastrophic happen here in Mozambique as a result of the quake, everyone is buzzing with the news of the tsunami warning. A friend who works at the European Commission texted me with the alert, and the official warden message from the US Embassy just arrived in my inbox, complete with instructions from FEMA as to what to do in a tsunami (obviously the voice of authority for these parts, because we know just how well they handled Katrina, right?).

Anyhow, here in Maputo we will most likely see increased intensity and height of ocean waves from between 11pm and 1am, the time when the "tsunami" is expected to reach these parts of Africa. Nothing to worry about, though, as the most serious consequence expected is water coming ashore beyond the seawall that usually keeps the city dry.

I know tsunamis are quite dangerous, and that this particular one has already claimed lives in Indonesia, but I must admit that I am rather excited by the prospect of a tsunami warning and being able to witness the effects of an altered ocean. I am equally fascinated by hurricanes and tornadoes. We've discussed this previously, but I think part of me would have been quite satisfied by a career in meteorology, geology, vulcanology, etc.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Too Much.

I am tired and overwhelmed. It feels as if I am in the midst of finals week at school or something, only I don't have a hall full of classmates to complain to and spend late nights with cramming and eating dry cereal out of a box.

I have a friend in need of a shoulder (or as she put it, a couch psychologist and a glass of wine) who is coming over in 30 minutes.

I have a fundraising proposal to finish for tomorrow.

I have a meeting with my future boss tomorrow to discuss the particulars of my apprenticeship (i.e. he will make me a salary proposal and I can only hope to God that it is halfway decent because I really, really don't want to have to get into negotiations with this man).

I have a jewelry collection to complete and launch for Thursday. That means produce some new pieces, sit for hours in front of my super Excel spreadsheet and calculate retail/consignment prices, run back and forth from the gráfica to get more business cards and tags printed, train the girl who will be working the shop at the Franco Moçambicano. Phew!

I have two commissioned jewelry pieces to do in the next few days.

I have the last tail end of spring cleaning to finish, but this can wait for the weekend.

And, last but not least, I have to go to the bloody gym! I haven't been since Rico was here in Maputo and I can feel the effect on my body and mind. Food has somehow become the enemy again in the last couple of weeks and, while I have faith that these eating cycles come and go, and that I will certainly snap out of it at some point, it sucks to feel obsessive about food and weight again, even if in proportions that are nothing like my full-blown eating disorder days. It's sobering to realize that food issues are with me for life, and that eating is the first thing I turn to when feeling a lot of stress.


All I really want to do is take a nap.

Even just listing this is making me tired!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Help with Snake Identification...anyone? anyone?

Random topic, I know. But the fact remains that I am at once morbidly afraid of and strangely fascinated by snakes.

Yesterday, when returning to Maputo from our fabulous beach holiday at Ponta Malongane (more on the adventures later), we passed by a large snake that had been run over by a car.

Obviously I asked to stop and take a picture. Even from the safety of the car I got the heebie-jeebies and a mad rush of adrenaline when we rolled down the window to get better photos of the snake. Something about seeing its scales and slick-looking body without a pane of glass in front of my face made me freak out.

As if that weren't bad enough, after I took my photo the snake's head moved and its mouth opened. We debated about whether the movement was simply nerve-driven (like a chicken that continues to run about once it's head has been chopped off), or if the snake was in fact still half-alive and suffering.

We had a discussion in the car and decided that the most humane thing would be to run over the snake again, as it was definitely injured beyond the point of hope and none of us were stupid enough to even consider handling a wild snake (to get it to a veterinarian or a zoo or something, I suppose, but even writing it sounds wildly insane). So the driver went in reverse a couple of times and I choked back the urge to scream.

Anyhow, the point of all this is to say that I am obsessively curious as to what type of snake was in the dirt road. I want to know its scientific and common names, confirm to myself whether or not it is poisonous, etc. I spent over an hour last night googling all the images I could find of snakes in Southern Africa to no avail. I was able to rule out a couple of families (this thing is definitely not an adder, a boomslang or, I am virtually certain, a cobra) but I was unable to find any photos that even resemble its head shape.

Basically this is a call for help from anyone reading this who might have expertise in snake identification. Do you know what this thing is??

Snake found at sunset on dirt road near Boane, some 80km outside Maputo, Mozambique. Snake is approximately 1.5 meters long and quite thick. Light grayish-tan body with dark speckles. Lighter underbelly. Tail darker than body, nearly black. Area was mostly open savannah-type landscape, with lots of acacia trees, low scrub and a couple of rivers nearby.

While you're at it, what about this snake Rico and I came across on our road trip 2 years ago from Maputo to Chimoio? (If you click on the photo you can get a zoomed image)

Snake found in mid-afternoon on dirt road near Inchope, Sofala Province, Mozambique. Snake was easily at least 2 meters long. Light grayish body with lighter underbelly. Little to no markings. Jaw and head protrude from line of body. Area was mostly forested, with some patches of open bush.

I have a guess on this second one. I am virtually convinced it is a Black Mamba. I wish the photo I'd taken were better quality. The color seems about right (Black Mambas are named for the dark inside of their mouth, not their outer skin color) and the snake's head and jaw are pronounced in a way that resembles the characteristic coffin-shaped head of the mamba.

Guesses, anyone??

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fellow Artisans and the Fort

More photos from the national crafts fair this past weekend at the Fortaleza de Maputo. This old fort is amazing - the perfect setting for exhibitions, parties and weddings. A friend told me about a wedding she went to at the fort where the entire garden courtyard had been illuminated with candles - including several suspended from the trees!

And here are several of my fellow artisans. Don't they look proud of their work?

Spring Art and Cleaning

Bit by bit I'm getting organized again in the aftermath of the crafts fair, Rico's short stay and somewhat hurried departure from Maputo, and weeks of too little time and a lack of motivation to clean/organize/arrange/deal with clutter.

Yesterday I embarked on a massive spring clean. I'm about 40% done, though I still haven't even touched on the office. I'm leaving the worst for last, as I can't deal with all the papers and jewelry supplies scattered about at the moment. Somehow the bathroom cabinet and my closet were easier to tackle, and I'm proud to say they are now nice and orderly, expired meds thrown out, forgotten items donated, and summer clothes moved into my main closet.

Part of spring cleaning means unloading the photos from my 2 cameras. Here is a small preview of the creations I sold at the fair.

The first several designs are made with a mix of 300-year-old trade beads from Ilha de Moçambique, semi-precious stones, pearls and sterling silver wire. The last photo is a necklace with blackwood discs (that I sourced through an artisan in Nampula Province), all wire-wrapped in silver with lilac pearls.

I'm going to be quite busy this next week producing yet another collection, as I've been invited to show my work at the new shop that is opening at the Franco-Mozambican Cultural Center. More on this later, but I am bursting with excitement over this opportunity. I will be only 1 of 2 (fine) jewelry artists featured!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sheer Exhaustion

Friends, I am wiped out but very happy. The crafts fair has gone extremely well up to this point, more so than I could have hoped, really. It is such a thrill to see that people enjoy my work, want to own the things I create. It's very satisfying to see that all my efforts over the last year are paying off.

I got a little flack from some of my fellow artisans - 2 in particular - about the fact that I'm not Mozambican and that many of my materials come from other countries. In all, however, people have been very accepting and have viewed my work as an innovation, not a threat or something to reject on grounds of xenophobia.

After 4 days of the fair, I am completely worn out. Standing from 10am to 7pm really takes a toll on the knees and feet. I have newfound respect for people that stand all day at their jobs. I remember when I was waitressing it was hard to be on my feet for hours on end, but at least I was walking around and active. Standing relatively still behind a booth is a whole different story...

Today is the last day of the fair. I hope it goes as well as the last 4.

I am off to shower and coat my calves and feet in wintergreen cream, the natural equivalent of icy-hot.

Pictures to come soon...