This post is a random narrative about some aspects of a trip I recently took sozinha (alone) to Maputo, Mozambique’s bustling capital city. The majority of what I did there was eat–which will be detailed in part II, my Maputo Restaurant Tour, coming soon. For all of you planning on exploring the Mozambique restaurant scene in the near future… Also, this is the first time I am trying to stagger photos and I am having a lot of trouble, so I apologize for the awkward layout… I will get better at this, I promise. Well, I hope so.
I love to travel. That is something you can probably discern by looking at my blog for about two minutes. While I live in Mozambique and every day is a travel experience in its own way, I enjoy the times when I actually get to leave my pretty cabana on the beach and go somewhere else.
Recently, when I had crazy chest pains appear out of nowhere, it was time for a trip. For the first time, I was blessed enough (and by blessed I mean “in a state of questionable health”) to FLY to Maputo, the capital, from my town! (We have an airport right here, but normally we have to take the 10-14 hour bus ride down over horrible roads, in the dark.) Check out our airport:
Yup, that´s it. That’s our whole airport. I had actually just left hitchhiking to another town when I got a call that said there was room on the flight for me. So I had the car I was in pull over, bid it adieu, and hitched another ride right back into town. Normal form of transportation. I had a couple hours at the airport with a little entertainment: Banana and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I HIGHLY recommend this book for any foodie who is interested in local food and farming. It really inspired me and woke me up to local eating and how much it could (cliche warning!) change the world.
Between the reading and the banana eating there was plenty of time to take awkward photos.
Finally my plane arrived! Check out this jumbo jet… Yeah, so I think the beauty of 747s is that it takes some pretty intense turbulence to awake you to the reality of your situation, as most of the time between takeoff and landing it feels like you are just in a luxury bus in the sky. On planes like THESE, you are ACUTELY AWARE for the duration of the flight that you are in a rattling rusty rattrap with whining propellers feebily shaking its way through the sky. You pray and hope for the best.
I know you are all curious (well, all you food bloggies!) about what they serve on the flight. Check out this rockin snackie I got. Kit Kat, mini tuna sandwich (where did this roll come from? It is delicious!) and a little packet of fat free mayo. Which was made infinitely more awesome as the packet had a cartoon of a rastafarian dude saying “It´s fat-free, maaaaaaaaaaan!” on it.
After landing I had the great opportunity to spend several hours doing fun things like getting an echo cardiogram, an ultrasound, x-rays and getting poked and prodded and my blood stolen from my veins. Apparently random severe chest pain can be a serious thing? And there is nothing as cool as getting to watch your own heart beat. I highly recommend it to anyone. Though I wish it didn’t have to happen in a blackened room with me topless and a Mozambican male doctor rubbing the slimy ultrasound buzzing wand thingy all over my chest. That part I could have done without.
Finally I arrived at the hotel palace known as Residencial Hoyo-Hoyo. Hoyo-Hoyo means “welcome” in a few of the more prominent Mozambican dialects. Now I finally felt that I was… okay, not on vacation exactly, but maybe on a business trip or something. Which is much more fun than feeling like a patient on an episode of House.
I went to my single room and made myself at home. It was definitely meant for someone tiny. Please look at this bathroom. Note to future hotel planners: Unless your hotel is for midgets, do not design a bathroom where in order to use the toilet, you have to put both of your feet in the shower. Also, the showerhead was about 8 feet up on the wall and the water sprayed out horizontally, making it not only impossible to actually bathe, but also guaranteeing a full on midget-bathroom flood every time I attempted to shower. Not exaggerating. My flip flops were like, floating around in there still the morning after.
Also, in the “make yourself at home” mentality, I unpacked my few outfits I had with me and placed them in the closet. Looks decently spacious, right? Looks can be so deceiving. That was the entire closet space! So strange…
Like any good foodie, knowing that my diet would be pretty nutritionally devoid when I was here, I stocked up. Well, the fruit is healthy. The yogurt is not, but I was told that the next day I was only allowed to eat one yogurt, before 6am, until dinner. STARVATION. Not my thing. Especially not in the name of health. Oh well. You do what you have to.
It was a good thing that I at least brought some fruit, though, because I had to laugh when I went downstairs for the continental breakfast the hotel offers for free. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, ANY free food is good food! Seriously. It becomes such an ingrained survival mentality that I really cannot turn down anything offered to me. I hope that changes when I go back… But it was pretty awesome to sit down and receive three (THREE!!!) different types of white bread for breakfast! YES! Check out all that protein, healthy fat, fruits, and other good things! I also had a second plate which I can’t fail to mention: one piece of cheese (I am not even a cheese person–especially at breakfast–but this is a luxury), a pad of butter and some jam. The next day, in place of the piece of cheese we got palony. Check out that PINK! Make you hungry yet? Good thing I brought bananas.
I tend to travel with some instant oatmeal packets (they are being hoarded from packages from the states, so I try to use them VERY sparingly) and a jar of peanut butter. This trip was no exception. But seeing the state of things I went out and bought some Fiber 1 as well and manage to only ever so slightly improve my breakfasts past the plain white bread. Proud of me, bloggies?
So there’s breakfasts, but what do I DO in Maputo? I found myself wondering this same thing during this trip, as I had a lot of down time and was quite alone in the big city. This is rare; there are always SOME people loitering because of medical issues or PC meetings or other, but for a variety of reasons, I was flying solo. So I was just looking for things to occupy my time…
One of the things I MUST do whilst in Maputo is stop by the Peace Corps office. It is always nice to see friendly faces, chat up some people in English (and Portuguese, depending), run into other Volunteers, check my perpetually empty mailbox, and always stare at this map. This is all of us… tiny faces so you can’t hunt us down in our villages or anything… but it is one of my favorite things in the office.
Another fun thing to do is wander through the outdoor craft markets. And by “craft markets,” I mean, “a bunch of dudes with a bunch of stuff spread it out all over the sidewalk, and it is fun to check it out, but you have to try to not look very interested, because otherwise they will never leave you alone, and I really shouldn’t be buying any of this stuff, oh wait that is really pretty…” kind of like that.
Probably the thing I do best in Maputo is food shopping. It is nothing like America or even on par with South Africa mind you, despite being an hour and a half from the border, but still, you can get COOL stuff! But it comes with a price. I saw my first block of tofu in Mozambique. A single serving. I am pretty sure it cost like twenty-five dollars? And seeing I get paid… nothing, I can’t actually buy that much. But I always end up spending a week or two’s worth of “salary” at the supermarkets.
This place here in the first two I-am-not-allowed-to-take-photos-in-here pictures is called “Deli-cious.” Get it… GET IT?!?! They have great stuff, like chocolate from all over the world, Cuban rum and Philadelphia cream cheese. And like, actual deli meats and stuff. I just go in there and smell the salami. As sneakily pictured here, they also have an Asian section, which would be the death of me if things were just a TINY bit cheaper so I felt like I could buy some of the wasabi… egg noodles… what have you. This is seriously the only place in the country that sells some of this stuff. So crazy how exciting it is to see a food you forgot about on the shelf of some tiny overpriced mini mart. My life is pathetic. The other place is Hiper, which has a pretty great spice selection (I hoard spices to keep my life… I mean, my food… more interesting) and lots of other random goodies.
Other things to do in Maputo: WALK. I am a workout-a-holic, but presenting with severe mysterious chest pain signifies that running around a dangerous African city alone is probably not the smartest idea. So I spent about a billion hours walking, clocking nearly 40 miles in the six days I was there, and calling that a very decent attempt at keeping active. Slash it just killed time. I was so desperate for time fillers that I literally walked long loops around the city unnecessarily to arrive at my destinations. Sometimes I ran into peacocks. This is normal. Actually, not really. What are PEACOCKS doing on the streets in a nasty, crowded city?!
There is also a movie theater in Maputo. Yes. A movie theater. It plays one movie at a time, for a week or so, two showings, and they are the original movies in English with Portuguese subtitles. Couples Therapy (or, more correctly, Terapia para Casais) was playing and I was so excited to get to watch a movie. Who doesn’t love to see movies when it’s been months and this is probably the only functioning theater around, and when you walk in and this is what it looks like.
Actually, I think I just go to the movies for the popcorn. It is stale and has probably been sitting there for weeks given the fact that approximately two people attend any given showing, but hey, my standards are incredibly low and it’s MOVIE POPCORN!!!
Being alone for several days, waiting between doctor’s appointments, gave me a lot of time to reflect. I spent a lot of time journaling at pretty cafes, contemplating the meaning of life. Being alone, it was amazing how little I spoke in that almost-week, besides with the doctors (most of that in Portuguese) and ordering food and whatnot during my constant eating adventures (also in Portuguese). It felt like a quiet week for me, watching the world whiz by as I sat in places like this with my journal and wrote.
Finally after receiving a more or less clean bill of health and a nice sized sack of medicines, I was cleared to return home. This time on the bus. Mini cheese sandwich, muffin thing, and a juice box this time. It is funny how lame this sounds and yet being handed a snack box makes the entire 10 hour journey totally worth it. (Yes, this is sad. You try being in the Peace Corps for 20 months! You will be almost as lame as me…) Well, ten hours if you don’t like, break down on the side of the road or anything.
It’s always nice to step out and get to travel, even if it isn’t the experience you expect. Watch out for the restaurant tour coming soon. That is how I REALLY filled my time on this trip!
What are your favorite travel snacks? Do you ever modify hotel breakfasts? Have you ever been served three different types of white bread for a meal?