With a glass of white wine - or two - we celebrated the historic moment yesterday afternoon, in my publisher's
office at an Amsterdam canal. Finally my book is out: it came from the printer's on Monday. Een nacht in een vijzel
is available in the book shops today. Official presentation
is next Wednesday. After the Chardonnay at Artemis many more drinks were to follow, as well as an excellent Ethiopian meal in Kilimanjaro
restaurant. All in the company of photographer Caro Bonink
, who took this picture of me just before dinner. To the non-Dutch readers who keep asking me when my book is going to appear in English, I can just say: be patient... I am sure in due course a publisher will be interested in translating it.
Despite of everything his father came to warn him that the police were looking for him. And his brother needed a moment to regain his composure, but did not chase him away as he had feared. After walking around with his secret for years, the Ugandan found the courage to come out and tell his family that he is gay. This is a risky thing to do: homosexuality in Uganda
is an enormous taboo and men who have sex with men can wind up in jail. In his weblog Gay Uganda
reports on his struggle ever more openly. I keep up with the developments in the life of this courageous friend with a little concern, but mostly with admiration.
My optimistic opinion on Mozambique's future - Saudades
- caused a somewhat umbrageous response from Switzerland. Émile, working for a medical ngo, thought my view far too rosy. Didn't I know that Mozambique is on the list of least developed countries? Of course Mozambique still qualifies as a developing country in any aspect. The life expectancy is 40 years old and the bigger part of the population lives below the poverty line. Nevertheless the improvements I witnessed after four years of absence, led me to this positive attitude: the country is definitely developing in the right direction. This in sharp contrast to my experiences in Congo or Sudan, where the situation seems pretty hopeless to me. That's why I think I am allowed to be optimistic for a change.
After three weeks of roughing it - showering with a bucket in candle light, sleeping on the floor and spending entire days in minibuses stuffed like sardines - Merrill's bed and breakfast in Johannesburg came as an oasis of luxury. My final day in Africa I woke up in this bed and I hadn't slept so well for weeks... On top of that, it is affordable too: The Fountainhead
, in a beautiful old villa in Observatory.
Most poignant phenomenon in southern Africa these days is a problem that is not supposed to exist. At least according to the South-African government is doesn't. South-Africa and Mozambique, as well as all other neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe, are teeming with Zimbabwean refugees
. It's been four years since I last visited Mozambique, and a year and a half since I last was in South-Africa, and at that time I hardly ever encountered Zimbabweans. Now everywhere you come across citizens who fled the rocketing inflation - 4,500 percent this year - and the food shortages in the country under Robert Mugabe.(more)
The first country I ever visited in Africa was Mozambique, over five years ago. It still is my one true love on this continent. After three weeks here I'm leaving tomorrow for Johannesburg, and already I'm starting to feel home sick for Moz, or as they say in Portuguese: tenho saudades
. Life's rhythm, the mix of people and colours, the Mozambican friendliness, there is so much to return for. On top of that the progression in this country in southern Africa is clearly visible. I haven't been here for four years, and I am amazed by the developments I see. One more night in Maputo – final nights in Africa tend to last until dawn – and then: até approxima
(till next time)...
Mozambique had been struggling with major floods, when on top of that in February this year tropical cyclone Favio
slammed into the country. It especially struck the coast town of Vilankulo, where I stayed for some time years ago. I'm back in Vilankulo to see the damage. Prepared for the worst, I was actually positively surprised. The Mozambicans have picked up their lives and are getting back to normal. An inhabitant described the damage after the cyclone 'as if we were back at war', but now most roofs have been repaired and uprooted trees have been removed. The extreme force of the wind is most visible still on the market place. The municipal market had recently moved to a new place with orderly rows of concrete stalls under an enormous roof financed by the Irish. But cyclone Favio blew the roof off and bent the construction to a ball of mangled steel. Since then the market has moved back to the wooden stalls in it's old location down town.
Somewhere at home I must still have the little white sticks I brought from a previous journey, which the Macua women grind into powder and mix with water to put on their faces. When I met this lady in Mossuril, she offered to put it on my visage as well. It is supposed to make your skin soft as silk, but unfortunately I did not have time. I have now left northern Mozambique to spend a couple of days in the southern capital of Maputo. I miss the open friendliness of the Macua though, the biggest ethnic group of the country. Tomorrow I travel on to Inhambane, a whole day on a bus stuffed like a can of sardines.
Twice a day Cabaceira Pequena is cut off from the outside world. During hight tide the mangroves that surround the village at the ocean are impenetrable. Only when it's ebb tide you can wade through, but then you have to know your way on the narrow paths. That's why I don't enter the mangroves without Ibrahim, the guide who has learned to find his way through the wet forest ever since he was a child. Walking in the mangroves makes me feel tiny. The roots of the trees alone reach as high as my shoulders. We splish splash over the meandering trail in silence, and when I look back, the forest seems to close again after us. I can't help but be a bit relieved when we reach main land again.
'If more than 32 people are getting on, we're getting off.' The little boats have a tendency to sink in such circumstances, writer Lisa St Aubin de Teran drily explains. She and I are sitting on the back of a small Arabian dhow waiting to cross from Ilha de Mocambique to Cabaceira. I came to interview St Aubin on her new book on her life and work here Northern Mozambique. Transport to this location only is an adventure that, apart from the dhows with endlessly repaired cotton sails, involves pickup trukcs, bikes and inevitably wet feet.(more)
Forget Zanzibar: Ilha the Mocambique
is the place to be when it comes to fascinating African islands in the Indian Ocean. Once it was the capital of Mozambique, but the city dozed off into a long sleep when the Portuguese colonial rule decided to move the capital to the upmost south of the country. A collection of historic early colonial buildings in diferrent states of decay, on an island where time seems to have come to a standstill. The bridge to the mainland is so narrow that two cars can only pass if one of them recludes into the few spared out parking along the bridge. Hence the atmosphere on the island is laid back and quiet. It has one book shop, a few hotels and a tiny market. Little by little tourists discover the place though, so if you want to see it in its current state: go there now.