Sunday morning was something of a “time out” for all of us. Several of the group went to church, and others visited the market. I set about updating the website, which for some reason was even more tricky to do from here than from Lilongwe. Slow speeds get frustrating everywhere.
After lunch, we were driving to Xai Xai (pronounced Shy Shy) in the Gaza Province, the most prosperous part of the Country. All of the County’s Presidents had come form this province, and most of the political elite. I had to scramble, as Eleanor knocked on the door to remind me of the time just as the last bytes were downloading.
In a small convoy of Land Cruisers we drifted through Maputo. Past the markets. Past the alleyways. Past the colourful monuments to the disastrous Civil War. And past the garbage heap. People of all ages were scavenging for whatever they could make valuable, even as the acrid smoke was still rising from the recently added piles of trash.
The rest of the drive was relatively uneventful. Broad grasslands, with some trees. Lots of people walking along the side of the well made road, many carrying an amazing array of items on their heads. We could see few animals, and in many fields the maize was spoilt, lacking in fertilizer. We passed through many small villages, and more than one large town. Modern cafes and hotels, mixed with simple huts. We continued to see smart cars, our cell phones held a strong signal, there were well dressed people going to or coming from Church, and we noted several police security checkpoints. All a bit of an enigma, at least to me.
On the way, we split into two groups. The group I was in was guided by Samuel from Save the Children, and visited 3 De Fevereiro Village to see a “Negotiation Skills Project”. Simply put, the idea is to train young people in safe sex, and also to help young women “negotiate” their sexual rights (especially the “right to refuse”) in a very traditional social structure. The village was alive with singing as we drove up. Led by the community school teacher, Salimina Chausue, the group performed a drama to tell the story. They were all wearing white t-shirts, and had written the play themselves. The story line was clear – and often hilariously funny. Condom packets waved in the air, watching a 12 year old girl sort out an 18 year old boy was instructive to all!
The ensuing discussion highlighted the same situation as in Malawi – a growing orphan population, and many deaths of young and middle aged people. They all know it is Aids, and the Village Chief insisted that the patients should be none-stigmatized.
Remember the punks in the village in Malawi? Well, their cousins were here, too. They held back, and tried to be “cool”. Yet here the village elders had them well in check, and even the young girls were not at all fazed by their antics. Let’s hope it stays that way.
In the discussion I tried to explain that we were using the Internet to publicize the issues, and get more help. Of course I should have known this needed more than words to explain. A demonstration was in order.
“First we take pictures, and record them on this little disc. Then we put the disc in the computer – like this – and you can see yourself on the screen! Wow.”
“Next we write a kind of newspaper with your pictures in it”.
“Using the telephone, we then send the newspaper to all the other computers in the world. People read the paper, and send messages back to tell us what they think”.
Xai Xai Beach
It was a lot of fun for us all, and it even got the punks interested.
Not surprisingly we were running late, and so we had to head onto Xai Xai. We crossed the Limpopo River (Rob’s students had insisted he sent them a picture of this famous river). As we were obliging, it was also clear how the broad, flat plain led to such disastrous floods just a short while ago. The Government is building defences along some of the roads as they upgrade them, although it seemed that much more needs to be done to prevent a reoccurrence.
Xai Xai is a pleasant town, but even more pleasant was Xai Xai Beach. Our Hotel was across the dunes, only accessible with a 4×4. It seemed to take an age to travel the sandy, bumpy track. But when we arrived, it was a revelation.
A collection of huts on the hillside, overlooking the beach, like a string of jewels in the darkness. Unsurprisingly the 4×4 couldn’t make it up the hillside, so we walked up the steep wooden staircase. A gin and tonic under a black, starry night. The Milky Way never brighter. Even the mosquitoes seemed to be held at bay by the stiff evening breeze.