Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Roll up for the mystery tour!!

Well it has been almost a whole month since my last post and I have run out of all worthwhile excuses for not writing. I guess I am just too preoccupied with the day-to-day events of my 8 to 5 job here in Maputo that I no longer see my existence here as a Mozambican “adventure.” Ha ha, apathy and procrastination really can be terrible viruses. Things here still continue to amaze me, even though my one year anniversary in this beautiful country has long since passed me by. Much has happened in this past month and I would like to first tell you all a little bit about my final work trip that Cremildo and I took in the middle of September.

We took off for a bit of a Magical Mystery Tour of Mozambique that saw us visit three provinces in a week and a half. If there is one thing that I can seriously count myself blessed for it has been my ability to see many different regions of this country through our HIV/AIDS and microfinance project. As any development worker will agree, working in the field provides a degree of satisfaction that you just cannot find while pounding away at a keyboard under the fluorescent lights of an office room. Encountering the personalities of those on the ground puts development into a realistic perspective and recharges ones heart and soul for working in this field.

We began our journey in Nampula where we were joined by Dominique Brouwers, our consulting partner from ECIAfrica in Johannesburg. We spent two solid days with our partners CMN and Ophavela, discussing our research reports and policy recommendations. While Ophavela continues to amaze me with their strategic planning and operational capabilities, CMN continues to present out team with headaches. Their organization continues to drag their feet with a couple of key activities, despite our continual support and pressure applied on them from Maputo. With this organization, we have definitely encountered that fine line in development between technical assistance and “carrying” a partner towards a final goal.

After our time in Nampula, Cremildo and I went to Beira in the Sofala province to continue our second phase of our HIV/AIDS impact assessment with our partner BOM. Here we encountered a whole new challenge: a severe lack of communication between the BOM branches in the field and the head office in Maputo. We found out that the branches were quite behind schedule in HIV/AIDS trainings and therefore only a fraction of the clients were eligible for our survey. This obviously made it very difficult for us to obtain our required research sample but with the help of some hard-working, and very patient, enumerators we were able to complete a sufficient number of surveys.

Returning to Beira, I was reminded of the decrepit state of this once bustling port city. To understand the contemporary state of Beira, one must understand the regional dynamics of this massive and culturally diverse country. The central region of the country has for years been at odds with the highly developed and politically influential south. Maputo has for years been the main commercial and political hub of the country and the regional isolation felt by many Mozambicans in the center has been able to be manipulated by RENAMO to challenge the FRELIMO old guard in the south. Unfortunately, since Beira is the political heartland of RENAMO, the city receives very little support from the governing party in Maputo. The years of civil war also had a disasterous effect on the city and it has never fully recovered from its rapid deterioration.

One of the best examples of Beira’s crumbling state of affairs is the Grande Hotel. This used to be Beira’s leading 5 star hotel before independence, hosting the likes of celebrities, politicians and wealthy Portuguese elite. However, as the country slipped further and further towards revolution the owners promptly packed their bags and left behind their magnificent establishment. Now, 30 years later, the Grande Hotel is home to over 2000 squaters with 3-4 families sharing a room, goats and chickens roaming the hallways, laundry strung throughout the dinning room and central stair case and the distinct aroma of charcoal fires, rotting garbage and urine. When I was last in Beira I had the chance to go inside the building with a local Mozambican friend of mine (it would be a death wish for a white guy to go in alone!!). Walking around the living ruins of a five star hotel is truly a bizarre experience.

After we said goodbye to Beira, we made our way to Chimoio in the province of Manica to continue with the HIV/AIDS impact survey with BOM. Chimoio is the opposite of Beira, clean, calm, relaxed, beautiful. We spent three productive days collecting our samples with the help of too young enumerators and meeting with potential partners for our microfinance and HIV/AIDS affected youth project. We here at MEDA are excited about the potential of this project and doing more hands on work in the field. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this proposal.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of some kids playing around in the late afternoon in Chimoio. I really like this picture for some reason. For me it represents the joy, beauty and innocence of youth. In Mozambique, these kids are called the Janela de Esperança (window of hope) because there generation holds the best chance for the country to rebuild after the ravages of HIV/AIDS. Protecting these youth from infection, and equipping them with practical skills and higher education, will be a central challenge to the future growth of Mozambique.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello mate! Sounds like you're still having fun. Had a jam with some mates yesterday, but it had nothing on the reggae party!


8:13 a.m.  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

ah too positive John, thanks again for the CDs and the great memories...hope our paths cross again sometime, sooner than later.


1:17 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jared!

I've just been catching up on your adventure. After being there for over a year and still being able to find amazing stories to tell and experiences to vivdly relate is truly an inspiration. Please, don't stop writing.


11:07 a.m.  

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