Friday, September 25, 2009

Casa Cali

After a marathon trip that involved two back-to-back 11-hour flights and a 12-hour layover in the mix, Rico and I made it to California two days ago. I'm incredibly grateful to report that, after an equally gruelling trip, our three cats made it across the world as well. They arrived soon after us, and despite some initial shock and yowling about, everyone is nicely settled in and feeling at home.

Rico made it through his immigration interview without incident, and received a hearty, "Welcome to America!" from the attending officer. Our luggage arrived on time, the few cargo shipments we sent (sculptures, paintings) seem to be on track, and nothing serious was lost or damaged in the move. In all the international travel I've done throughout the years, I can honestly say I've never had a trip go quite so smoothly.

Casa Cali is gorgeous, much more cozy than Rico and I had expected from the photos. We have wooden floors, a spacious kitchen, two decks and a stunning view across the bay where, on clear days, we can see the San Rafael bridge. We also have a mature garden that I look forward to learning how to make flourish. We've met some of the neighbors, and are getting to know the basics of our new place of residence (i.e. how to get on the freeway, where to go for a jog, how to get to the nearest BART station, where to find the bank and supermarket).

Rico and I are in the midst of the low-level craziness that is moving into a new house, unpacking and trying to establish a routine. We had the requisite American experience of going to COSTCO yesterday, which was quite a trip. We've been trying to figure out what all still needs to be purchased, what can wait, how we will arrange the furniture, which room will be my atelier and which will be Rico's office. It's a bit exhausting, but I am absolutely loving this process.

I will likely be posting infrequently for the next week or so as we get settled, but please know that I fully intend to continue blogging, and that I also will keep writing about Mozambique and our experiences in Maputo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm starting to play the "lasts game", whereby multiple parts of my day are classified as the LAST time I will do something during this chapter of Maputo: walk up the Caracol, eat pizza from Mundos, cook in my kitchen with my collection of spices, go to the wood market, wake up on a Wednesday morning.

Of course, I can always come back for a visit and do all of these things and more, but thinking about our departure in this manner actually grounds me and helps make it real. Despite all the premature pining for friends and sensory memories, can you believe that it's still not completely hit me that we are moving? It does in flashes, but for the most part it still feels like each day will lead to the next just as it has for the last 4.5+ years. I can't fathom quite yet that one week from today we will be arriving in the San Francisco airport, 3 cats and a whole lot of luggage in tow, and that we will go pick up our new car and drive to our new house.


I've got a very busy day ahead of me, so I'd best get on it. Despite the pain of waking up at 5:30, it's been lovely to have a quiet bit of the morning to myself to drink coffee, play with the cats, blog and listen to the songbirds call in the sun.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A New Chance

What a strange day. Busy. A little crazy. Full of procrastination, even though this is the home stretch.

In the morning I went to pick up some checks from translation work I did for a local University, then spent over an hour at the bank trying to cash said checks. Nothing was wrong, it was just a slooooooow process.

I came home, ate some delicious mexican lasagna leftovers from my moment of culinary inspiration last night, then got to work. I have many things pending:

- Maize Mills Business Plan and Feasibility Study
- Translating University's web site text
- Translating project documents from a Malaria Project
- About 12 outstanding custom jewelry orders

And, of course, packing. And socializing. And lounging in the sun.

Despite all that's going on (today is 8 days to Cali), my day was totally overshadowed by an email from someone who was part of my life 10 years ago. A lot of water is under that bridge, but suffice to say this person was once very close to me and that things ended on a particularly sour, hurtful note.

Over 2 years ago, in June 2007, on a late night up alone while visiting my Dad, I was struck with the desire to write an email to this person. All I wanted to do was come clean, apologize for the not insignificant part I played in the disastrous end to the relationship. I wrote for over an hour, spelling out all of the words and actions I regretted, trying to convey my most sincere apologies even though so much time had passed.

I sent that fateful email, and never heard back. At first I was anxious, hoping for a response, but then after a few months I let it go. Recognition of my olive branch would have been nice, but at the end of the day the cathartic process of writing out my regrets, accepting them, and forgiving myself was much more important.

Today I received an unexpected email from this person from my past. I couldn't believe it. (S)he asked if I had time to chat, that (s)he was plagued by a sense of guilt and ingratitude regarding the period when we were part of each other's lives. I was blown away.

I gathered the courage to ask if (s)he'd received my message over two years ago. (S)he said no. So I resent it, knowing for sure that this time, my apology will be read. I admit, I'm beside myself with nerves wondering what this person's response will be, but I'm trying to remind myself that the truly important part of this exercise has already passed - forgiveness of self for decisions and actions past. The fact that I had the opportunity to make sure this person receives my apology is simply icing on the cake.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Until We Meet Again Soon

It's hit me.

I'm not certain what triggered this heavy, sad feeling, whether it was the come-down from a delicious mid-week escape to a beach cottage in Bilene with friends, or an unexpected email awaiting my return that took me back in time 10 years and made me reflect upon previous places, previous goodbyes, previous me's.

The uncertainty of what's to come, though sometimes daunting, is definitely not what makes me anxious about moving. I love change, thrive on it, really. I like knowing that my next months and years will be completely different from the last ones, that I will be in a new city, living in a different home, with blues and lilac-grays on the walls instead of terracotta and brown, blueberries for breakfast instead of mangoes, keeping my reinvented self busy with a new job, fresh passions, undiscovered friendships. These are the things I think about when faced with change. I rarely get eaten up by the more practical bits like, "How will I find a new job?" or "Who will cat sit when we travel?" or "How long can I live on my savings if everything goes wrong?" I mean, of course I think about those things - I am a planner at heart - but I don't dwell upon them. They don't really bother me. I believe things will fall into place, somehow, sometime. Until then, I know I'll be okay.

What bothers me is all that I leave behind. The friends, the lifestyle, the particular smells and sights of a city and a home, the language, the foods, the late nights out dancing that sometimes, though not quite often enough, end up with a sunrise and a coffee, high heels in hand.

I believe the serial expat becomes a master at making friends in a record amount of time. I suppose it's either that or become a recluse, which is certainly a valid option (Lord knows I love staying at home with cats, tea, my jewelry supplies and maybe a little trashy tv to round it off). Still, I am definitely one to establish my friendships quickly and then desperately try to hold on when, inevitably, one of the parties moves on to new adventures. Somehow it's easier to process when you say only one goodbye at a time. Apparently now that it's my turn to leave, I'm turning into quite the sentimental sap, even though some of my best friends here I've known for little more than 3 months.

What happens to all these friendships? How many do we really keep? How many of these special people do we ever actually see again, despite the fact that many of us are frequent travelers? The answer, I fear, at least looking back at my own life and experiences with moving, is that we maintain precious few of those connections. Part of what makes me so sad about the prospect of moving away from Maputo is that I've established the most wonderful friendships here, and I'm afraid they will all fade and slip away.

Much of it is my own fault. For as much as I love to write (letters back in the day, blog and email currently), I am actually quite shit at keeping in touch with friends and family. I really struggle to maintain constant contact with anyone except my mom and dad, rather going through intense bursts of communication followed by months - sometimes even years - of silence. Sometimes this doesn't critically affect a friendship, especially if it was one born and rooted over a 2-day music festival, or on an 8-hour plane ride. Other times, the lack of regular contact makes the relationship wither away. Recuperating those neglected connections can be hard, if not impossible. I'm trying to be a bit better about phone calls and responding to emails, but it's easy to move away and slip into a pattern of non-communication. I really don't want that to happen this time around.

For the first time in recent memory, I have an incredibly special group of friends here in Maputo. In all the other cities I've lived over the past decade, I've had deep connections with individuals, but they seldom knew each other and weren't really inclined to go the same places or do the same things. Here, however, I have a core group of about 7 or 8 friends - some of whom I've known for several years now - who really define much of what I love about life in Maputo. I can't imagine saying goodbye, or even the more hopeful até logo.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rye Bread, La Loca Style

For Mbini and Stefanie.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sesame seeds, ground in blender*
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground in blender*
1/4 cup caraway seeds, ground in blender*
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 package quick-rise yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp butter

In a large bowl, mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, ground seeds (sesame + flax + caraway), brown sugar, yeast and salt.

Heat water, yogurt and butter in a saucepan until about 120-130F (until it feels like very hot bath water) - do not let boil!

Add the wet mixture to dry ingredients, mix until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead several minutes until smooth (don't let the dough rise).

Shape dough into a ball and put on a greased cookie sheet. Let dough rise about 20 minutes, until doubled in size. Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

* You can use any combination of seeds or nuts for this component of the dough. You can also leave them whole, but grinding in a coffee grinder or blender attachment ensures maximum absorption by the body, in particular for flaxseeds.

The Quest

It's a simple one. I want to be tan when we go back to the US in 14 days (fourteen days!), so some serious pool and beach time is in order. I know it is meant to be avoided, but man I love sitting in the sun! Doused up in SPF 30, of course, but loving every hot, humid minute.

Today the heat hit Maputo, suddenly and accompanied by unforgiving wind, as it seems to happen every year in September. Yesterday it was warm, but clear and with full blue skies, still chilly at night. Today, something shifted. I could feel it at 6am when the cats woke me up. It was hot, suffocatingly so. Gray, hazy skies. On the weather report they said it was 35C.

I had pilates this evening with the trainer. Since we've sold most of our furniture already - portable fan included - I suffered quite a bit in the heat. Sweat glistened off my feet and dripped down my face minutes into the first stretch. Vodka tonics post-workout really were the only remedy imaginable.

Tomorrow we are off for a bit of a beach holiday. Rico and I, together with a couple we've become quite close friends with in the last two months or so. I find it so frustrating that you seem to meet the best people in the final moments leading up to a transcontinental move. Still, meeting late is better than not meeting at all, for sure.

We are heading to Bilene, a lagoon of brackish water a couple hours to the north in Gaza Province. Rico and I may have to haul our laptops along to do a bit of work in the downtime between sunning and braai, but still - it's a vacation.

Back on Friday, hopefully several steps closer to completing my tan-a-licious goal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Not Fun

The goodbyes have started.

This morning it was Andrew, my 'intern' who turned into one of the best friends I've made in recent memory. We had great times together doing fieldwork in Nampula and Zambézia, drinking beers, discussing development, comparing our tastes in music. He came over to say bye before flying up to Nampula, and at least I managed to control the tears until after he'd left. I believe we will see each other again, but it makes me sad to think that our friendship will inevitably change.

Then, this evening after my jewelry open house, I said goodbye to Helen. Admittedly we don't know her super well, but she is one of the best friends we have here and we will miss her dearly. She is such a unique person. I remember the first time we met at the Franco Moçambicano. I couldn't stop laughing - she has the most wicked sense of humor, and a great Scottish accent to accompany it. I hope she comes to visit if she takes a holiday in the US.

This is just the beginning. I don't know if I'm ready for all these farewells.


Today I will:

- drink several cups of coffee

- make a double batch of Amarula brownies

- ignore my tendonitis for a few hours

- put on gold jeweled sandals

- make several pairs of earrings out of trade beads

- remove as much cat hair from the sofas as possible

- have a glass of vinho verde

- hammer and oxidize some silver components

...all in preparation for my last jewelry sale in Mozambique. Hardly seems possible!