Saturday, February 28, 2009


My mom left Maputo this morning and as usual, we lamented the fact that we couldn't have more time together. Ten days was painfully short, though definitely a step up from last year's whirlwind of a visit, and without a doubt better than no visit at all.

We will see each other again in September, when Rico and I make the trek to the Bay Area and New Mexico. It amazes me how, on the heels of 10 days passing in the blink of an eye, it seems like the 7 months from now until our next reunion will take an eternity.

Sometimes I wonder what on earth I am doing living so far away from my family. Life is short, and the opportunities to get together regrettably infrequent and fleeting. I enjoy the expatriate path I've taken thus far, but I can't help but fear that one day I will deeply regret not having made proximity to my loved ones more of a priority.

Again, I return to the wish to clone myself into 5 or 6 different Ali's so that I might be together with all of the people I hold nearest to my heart, in all of my multiple homes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


With my mom here in Maputo, I've been taking a bit of a blog holiday. I am still working during her visit, which means most of my day is spent in front of the computer, although I've managed to arrange for a half-day worked from the office, and a half-day worked from home so we can hang out a bit more.

I will be back with more frequent blogging shortly. In the meantime, know that all is well here in the land of the hot and humid, and I am greatly enjoying time with family.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nairobi and Obama with a Big Delay

It's been nearly a month since I attended the boring and quite poorly-delivered financial system training in Nairobi. Although the course was tough to sit through (the new system they were training us on was still full of bugs), it was nice to meet colleagues from the other country offices in Africa. There were people in attendance from Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Swaziland and South Africa - a very international crowd.

The highlight of the week was definitely Obama's inauguration. I was excited to be in Nairobi for that historical moment, and spent the evening watching CNN from the hotel bar with a group of colleagues, eating Indian food and absolutely crying my eyes out. Never has a moment made me feel so homesick! It was really incredible to be watching Obama's speech in the midst of a group of people I'd just met, and having one of the most emotional bursts of recent memory.

After watching the speech at the hotel, a group of us headed out to the streets to get a feel for how Kenyans were commemorating the event. We were lucky to be staying within walking distance of the University of Nairobi, site of the biggest public viewing of the inauguration in the city. The students turned out in hordes, and had set up several projectors and big screens showing CNN. There were Obama imitators and mock debates going on, as well as partying all around.

When my colleagues and I walked into the main campus courtyard and started taking photos, the students went wild. I was literally bombarded with people waving American flags, chanting "Yes we can!", all vying for me to take a picture. Had it been under any other circumstances, I'd have feared for my purse and my decency. Getting surrounded by a group of young, inebriated men generally doesn't fare well for a female, foreign tourist at night. However, this was no ordinary night. The vibe was very positive, inspiring and exciting. After a round of pictures, my colleagues managed to drag me out of the middle of the crowd and we walked through the campus watching all the crazy antics going on around us - people sitting down in the middle of busy highways and successfully stopping traffic while waving an American flag, cheers and chanting, handstands and other acrobatics, screaming, etc.

It was definitely a memorable night, not just for the partying, but for the conversations I had with my diverse group of colleagues, discussing how they saw the election, what Obama meant to them - if anything - and what they expected going forward. The main sentiment, heard from the mouths of Kenyans to South Africans to Mozambicans, was that they hoped Obama would serve as a model and inspiration for their African leaders...but that sentiment was many times tempered by cynicism and the belief that "unfortunately things are different here."

Time will tell, né?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Newly Un-Wise

Last week, Rico and I drove through to Nelspruit to get his wisdom teeth removed. All four of them. I was much more nervous than Rico was, and really struggled to keep it together as his caretaker. I wish I were less queasy.

The oral surgeon was very professional, and they were able to accomodate us with a first-time consult and then the procedure all in the same morning. Nelspruit really caters to people coming in from Mozambique and Swaziland for medical procedures, adn they are quite practical about new patients who only have one or maybe two days to get everything taken care of. It is incredibly convenient, definitely worth the trip.

Rico only had local anesthetic during the procedure, and was incredibly calm about the prospect of being aware of his impacted teeth being removed from the bone. I, on the other hand, was not. I had to drink juice in the waiting room to ward away the feeling that I was about to pass out (queasy feeling not helped at all by the woman who had the appointment before Rico's and groggily came into the waiting room rattling her 4 wisdom teeth in a plastic cup for all to see).

Thankfully everything went according to plan, and Rico is recovering well. We spent 2 days at a guesthouse in Nelpsruit resting before driving back to Maputo, and I think that was essential. We always stay at Chez Vincent, and it was wonderful to have the owners going out of their way to get us a spare ice pack, make soup and mashed potatoes for Rico's dinner...while in the meantime ensure that I had a nice glass of red wine to relax, and some of the best French food I've had in ages.

Rico is now brancing out from a liquid-only diet to soft things like rice and oatmeal. By next week, he should be off the painkillers and nearly back to normal. I think we're both grateful that you only have to remove wisdom teeth once in a lifetime. :)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Cooked in Mozambique

Rico and I were watching tv this evening and caught a very cool cooking show on BBC Lifestyle. In the opening credits, I recognized Praia de Tofo, one of Mozambique's most famous beaches. The show is called "Cooked" and, from what we could tell from the two episodes we saw, is about a group of South African gourmet chefs that take a road trip through Southern Africa, seeing the sights and stopping along the way to create dishes using local ingredients.

The episodes we saw were based in Tofo and Vilankulos/Bazaruto. I loved the fact that "Cooked" highlighted the delicious food of Mozambique, as well as the more well-known beaches and sea sports. The guys bought squid (lulas) in the market and made several different dishes - baked squid tentacles in a tomato reduction sauce, fresh squid salad, squid risotto with ink, and gave a great tip about blanching the lulas for 20 prior to cooking to ensure tenderness. They took a dhow trip to Bazaruto and cooked fish in a sand pit inside a fishing dhow, which was a very practical solution to eating fish while on the open sea I'd never seen before. In all, a great program with nice, simple recipes and an introduction to some of Mozambique's beautiful scenery.

However, I have to say the production was a bit lazy. Not only were most of the place names wrong (Margarita Island, Águia Negra hotel both misspelled) - and a lot of the Portuguese translations mangled (understandable) - there were mistakes in the English text (when giving status updates, I caught "Tempereture: Perfect" throughout the Tofo episode). These little things irritate me to no end. You'd think the guys would go through the trouble to run a spell check and verify the names of the places they visited. Still, I applaud the effort to show a different side of Africa - its flavors.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


I've been struggling to keep up with the blog this week (obviously). A big part of the problem is my tendonitis - caused in large part by using the computer. I've been having serious pain in my forearms, and have been trying to avoid the old laptop in my leisure time as much as possible, as hard as that is for me given how dependent I am on email and the blog to keep in touch with family and friends. Despite the itch to be online, it's been good to have a rest. I think I need to make it a weekend policy to only get on the computer once a day!

So...I am still behind on blogging about my Kenya trip, but unfortunately that's not on my list of things I can get to today. Instead, we went to the pool at the hotel across the street (much-needed relaxation), cooked, bought a treadmill (no more Physical, the only public gym in Maputo, of which I'm not a fan), installed said treadmill on the veranda, did some spring cleaning, played with the kittens, watched tv, and suffered through an allergy attack (still in progress. ugh.).

Things have been good lately. Not much news to report, just work as usual (though some drama, but I guess that's to be expected with the particular function I have - nobody likes the person who enforces donor report deadlines and quality). I am looking forward to slightly cooler days, as the heat as of late has been brutal! I am also looking forward to a holiday on Tuesday. We are going to have the guest room and the hallway painted, adding to our house renovation kick.

Rico is getting his wisdom teeth pulled on Thursday. We are driving to Nelspruit in South Africa to have it done. I feel very sorry for him. I think, however, that I am more nervous than he is. Just thinking about his procedure and recovery makes me queasy! Good thing we have a long weekend planned for his recovery. I've already alerted the kitchen manager of the B&B where we will stay that we'll need soup, smoothies and ice cream.

I suppose I should find a few good books to read, as it will be a slow few days for me as Rico recovers from the operation...