29 January 2007

Hoyohoyo Tijondzweni ta Xichangani!

I just came back from my first Changaan class. It was pretty intense. Tatana Mukhavele is not going to cut us any slack. There are many new sounds and lots of verb prefixes and suffixes.

Some of the new sounds include a whistle (svi), a click (q), and another sound that gets made at the back and roof of your mouth (hlw). I knew there was a reason that I annoyed my mom making all those weird mouth noises as a kid. (Did you ever notice though that boys make more strange mouth noises than girls? What is up with that?)

Here are a few things I learned so that if you ever find yourself in a Changaan speaking area you can have a very simple conversation. You never know when this will come in handy - traveling in Kruger NP, dinner at the Mozambican embassy in DC, downtown Atlanta, the final round of Jeopardy.

Lixile (lee-she-lay) - Good day.
Lipelile (lee-pay-lee-lay) - Good evening.
Khanimambu (ka-nee-mam-boo) - Thank you.
Himina... (hee-mee-na) - My name is...
Wena ke? (way-na key) - And you?
Wahanya? (wah-han-nya) - How are you?
Nahanya. (nah-han-nya) - I'm fine.
Tatana (tah-tah-nah) - Mr.
Mamana (mah-mah-nah) - Ms.
Se yichahile! (say yee-cha-hee-lay) - See you later!
Fambani khwatsi. (fam-bah-nee kwat-see) - Go well.

I should point out that for many words, the penultimate syllable is stretched out. So Lixile sounds like lee - sheeee - lay. The way that words get said reminds me of summer days when it is too hot to do anything or scuffing my flip-flops along a sidewalk. Synesthesia?

Also, this won't get you very far. Mozambique uses Portuguese as its official language because over 43 indigenous languages are spoken throughout the country. Changaan, and similar languages like Ronga, are spoken in the south of Mozambique to as far north as the Rio Save. You might also hear a little Changaan spoken near the border in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga (South Africa) and Zimbabwe.

Changaan verbs, with all their prefixes indicating numbers of actors and suffixes telling whether it is a command or the sentence continues, make learning verbs in Romance languages look easy.

Hoyohoyo Tijondzweni ta Xichangani!
(hoy-oh-hoy-oh tee-zhon-dz-we-nee tah she-chon-gah-nee)
Welcome to Changaan class!

27 January 2007

A Mozambican Movie Premiere

Last night I went to the Mozambican premiere of a Mozambican movie - O Jardim do Outro Homem (The Garden of Other Men). Deborah, from the US Public Affairs Office, had an extra ticket and asked if I wanted to go. É claro! I love the movies, plus it was an opportunity to see one made locally.

I felt a bit under dressed when I arrived. I had just come from a volleyball game and only had time to rinse off and throw on a clean button-down shirt. Of course, many of the attendees were members of the diplomatic/cultural corps, the local artistic community, or cast members, and showed up in fancy casual to cocktail party clothes (no tuxes thank goodness). Gigliola Zacara, the female lead, had a beautiful capulana style dress in gold and black African print.

If the stage lights didn't blind us on the red carpet showing the way into the theatre, the multiple photographers with their blinking flashbulbs finished the job. I believe one photographer got a great shot of me fiddling with my contacts. Well, good thing that won't make the papers back home.

The story portrayed in this movie is unfortunately common in many places in Africa - not just Mozambique. A young woman, from a modest background, dreams of becoming a doctor. She needs to past a test, and do very well, in order to gain a spot at university. Her teacher will only give her a good grade if she sleeps with him. Hovering in the background and shadowing the entire story is the spectre of HIV/SIDA. Dum-dum-dah... Will she do it?

Through a series of day-dream sequences and a visit to the hospital, the viewer learns that Sofia really wants to become an Ob-Gyn and deliver babies. But achieving this goal will not be easy.

In Carvalho's film, Sofia's struggle to get into medical school at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane brings her into conflict with her football-playing boyfriend, her hard-working family, and, of course, her biology teacher. Fortunately, she finds support in her friends at school, a female teacher, a doctor who is the sister of one of her best friends, and her family - especially her grandmother.

During an important biology test, Sofia's teacher catches her passing along answers to a friend. The evidence, written on an eraser, is used by the teacher as a lever to get Sofia to have sex with him. Sofia really needs to pass this test in order to take a future university entry exam. She doesn't want to submit to the teacher though. Every attempt she makes to get advice from family and friends is foiled. She even travels to South Africa to visit her father only to find that he is dying. In the end, Sofia makes the only choice she feels she has.

I won't spoil the ending completely, but this is neither a French film or an American movie. That is to say, the ending is neither completely tragic or satisfyingly happy. It is hopeful.

I would definitely recommend seeing this movie or renting it from NetFlix. The story and acting are good. Plus, the cinematographer does a fantastic job giving the viewer a sense of Maputo - how people live and carry-on their day to day lives.

One further note for all the ethnobotany nerds that might read this review. Sofia's surname, Macuacua, is the Ronga name for the Black monkey orange (Strychnos madagascariensis). This tree is a member of the Loganiaceae family and the pulp is usually eaten as a paste. The flavor is initially sweet, but the aftertaste is reminiscent of rat poison as it contains strychnine. And yes, I have eaten it.

26 January 2007

Monkey Gland Sauce

So while I was shopping for instant protein (TVP) in Nelspruit I came across this lovely little packet of sauce. Later I found it sold in bottles. I might have seen it on my past trips to South Africa but it didn't register. At any rate the vegetarian conservationist in me shuddered to think what the possible ingredients were. Was I seeing a bushmeat product on the shelves of a national grocery chain? I really did have one of those moments when I was completely revolted, but driven to see what was really inside the container. Darwin will probably catch up with me one of these days.

What is in Monkey Gland Sauce? No monkeys, unless African monkeys are made of sugar, starch, maltodextrin, wheat flour, skim milk powder, salt, flavouring agents (gotta watch ingredients with an extra 'u'), vegetable fat, tomatoes, herbs and spices (just what kinds?), colourants, MSG, flavour enhancer, emulsifier, and anti-caking agent (damn, and I wanted a chocolate monkey cake). So at first read, perhaps the sauce is meant to satisfy monkeys (the hairless kind) - although the gland thing.... not sure why that particular word was included.

So I googled it. I'm not the first blogger to write about Monkey Gland sauce - it strikes many non-South Africans as an odd thing. But as an American, who is married to a Texan and living in Georgia, I get it. Monkey Gland sauce is the South African equivalent of BBQ sauce. Why they choose to call it this is beyond me, but it seems to be a must have at braais for your steaks.

I found a recipe on line for anyone who would like to try it at home from Johan Potgieter's South African Cooking website. He recommends the sauce for meatballs, steak, or even just pasta. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 4 months.

Monkey Gland Sauce


2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
olive oil
1/2 c water or stock
5 tsp prepared mustard or 1 tsp mustard powder
5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c tomato puree
3 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp red wine
2 tsp soy sauce
3 1/2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 c fruit chutney
2 tsp ginger, grated
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Saute onions and garlic in some olive oil.

2. Add stock or water, black pepper to taste, salt to taste, mustard, worcestershire sauce, port wine, red wine, soy sauce, tomato puree, ketchup, fruit chutney, and ginger.

3. Simmer for 30 minutes or more.

As you can see, no monkeys will be harmed directly in the making of this sauce. However, depending on what you put it on, some monkeys may suffer symptoms of indigestion, higher cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, accumulation of fat around the mid-section and buttocks, and heart attack - not to mention the potential damage to the biosphere from industrial food production and transport.


Just a quick apology here for the last posting. I can see that I will need to learn a bit more before I post pictures with labels that actually look good. The Preview button just doesn't seem to give the same view as the final posting.

25 January 2007

Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Since these are pictures from the Lowveld Botanical Gardens in Nelspruit, South Africa, I'll start with a flower shot. However, I spent most of my time looking at trees, fruits, seeds, and leaves. Most of the plants were not in flower.

Dwarf Coral Tree - Erythrina humeana

Confluence of Nels Spruit and Crocodile River

The stream is named after the Nels brothers.

Crocodile River Nelspruit, South Africa

There were no crocodiles seen or harmed in the photographing of this river.

Sausage tree - Kigelia africana
No word yet on when the location of the Bacon tree will be revealed.

A primatology opportunity.

Mom and baby - Vervet monkeys

Eating papaya for breakfast. My shots aren't that close because I didn't want to disturb them while they were eating.

Troop with babies.

Red-leaved fig - Ficus ingens fruits

Knobbly fig - Ficus sansibarica

Bottle tree - Pachypodium namaquanum

KwaZulu-Natal Cycad - Encephalartos natalensis

Fever Tree - Acacia xanthophloea

21 January 2007

Sunday Morning Parade

I just watched a parade of women workers march past my house this morning. They are protesting labor laws for domestic workers. Domestic laborers, usually women, aren't paid much to do some serious work that we pay a lot for in the US -- childcare, doing laundry, cleaning the house. I recently hired a young woman to come in once a week to wash my laundry and clean my floors and bathroom. I pay her $30 a week for one day a week(5 hours), plus lunch and bus fare, and feel guilty about what seems to me to be low pay. I spoke with Rebecca (another anthropology Fulbright in Moz. from UGA) before hiring Susanna, about what was a fair wage. My $30/week for one day/week is apparently considered a very good wage by local domestic workers. Paying more would be considered too much.

It really feels weird having someone do my housework. It is honest labor, and my own grandma cleaned other people's homes when she first immigrated to the US. But I feel like I am not paying Susanna much to do a lot of heavy work. The bathroom not so much (heavy work), but the floors and doing my laundry (especially)? I do wash my own underwear - having someone else do it creeps me out a bit - but laundry is done by hand in a big cement sink with a scrub board attached. Plus, all the laundry must be ironed just in case mango flies laid their eggs in it (they like to hatch and burrow under the skin). I know I'm getting a good deal because I did my laundry every night in various sinks and buckets the year Chris and I traveled around the world.

Susanna's mom works in the apartment next door. From what I can tell, the resident is a single man with no kids. Sra. Safiera washes his clothes, keeps his house clean, and cooks - she's there every day except Sunday. Other empregadas (domestic workers) in my apartment building watch the kids in addition to their other work. I've had 3 other people ask me about employment since I've hired Susanna. Compared to some I guess I'm easy to work for - plus I have cable. ;-)

Cable makes me smile, not that I particularly like TV, but because Susanna likes to watch Bollywood movies and Brazilian telenovellas during her break and while she is ironing. I didn't realize that I got Bollywood movies during the day. By the time I get time to watch at dinner, all that is playing are Bollywood music videos.

So why does it sit oddly with me to hire a person to do my housework? It frees up my time to pursue my research (Scouts' honor I am not surfing the web while Susanna works. I got a whole lot of data analysis done yesterday). It also provides employment for a local person, which is expected of foreign visitors. I think it really has to do with my personal struggle against gender expectations and being raised to be so freaking independent. Susanna is being paid to do something that I am capable of and normally expected to do - my laundry and house-cleaning. I had a friend in Oregon, a very busy NGO lawyer, who had the same issue when she hired someone to come in and clean her house for her. The first couple of times the cleaning person came, she cleaned her house first. Rationally, I'm paying for a service. Emotionally, I've been raised to do this for myself, and as a woman it is expected that I do these jobs. Living in a foreign country really forces you to examine your own biases - even if they are against yourself.

I don't think that I'd even be able to have this dialog with myself if I hadn't taken a course in Gender and Geography at UGA. I think that class was the first time I've ever really thought about women's roles and women's spaces. I did before, but the class provided a space to talk about it with other people - men and women.

A recommended read:

Domosh, Mona and Joni Seager. 2001. Putting Women In Place: Feminist Geographers Make Sense of the World. The Guilford Press.

The parade carried on down the street. The women workers singing, clapping, and dancing along. Two motorcycle "cops" in the front and a pickup with 3 more "cops" following behind. I counted only 2 men marching with the women (about 100 in all). I'm not sure what that signifies, but I hope that the women get some positive attention for their effort. I gave them mine - a wave and a thumbs up.

18 January 2007

Two Weeks on in Mozambique

So I’m still standing (that’s for all the relatives who’ve been calling Chris to find out if I’m ok) and running even. My broadband connection is up and running too – I’m writing my blog as I sit in the sauna-like heat of my apartment overlooking the busy Av. Vladimir Lenine. The above is a picture of a capulana that when I saw it, I just had to buy it. Sr. Horatio at Casa Elefante (a store across from o Mercado Central stocked floor to ceiling with capulanas) helped me practice my Portuguese when buying it even though he speaks English too. Capulanas are the cotton wrap-around sarongs that local women wear. They also make good towels, baby slings, head wraps, nose wipers, and pot holders. I've seen them used in tree climbing in Samoa, so I'll be on the lookout here.

A lot has happened since I arrived, so I’ll just touch on a couple of the highlights for now.

The Expediter
Every traveler should have a personal expediter. Razak met me at Maputo International Airport after 2 horrendous days of travel. They were horrendous mainly because a 12 hour layover at Charles deGaulle Airport sucks. CDH is where travelers make pilgrimage to get some of their time in Purgatory reduced. I certainly felt like I was visiting each of Dante’s (yes I know he’s Italian) 7 circles of hell on the bus ride between my plane and the terminal. I opted for the hanging out in the airport, watching water drip from the ceiling, and freezing my butt off 12 hour layover. I found something like Cocoon, but it was only accessible to business travelers – not proles who fly cheap seats. I was too exhausted (because I can’t really sleep on planes) to take the train into Paris to actually see anything, so I slept on the floor in the kiddie playzone. I was not the only adult person taking advantage of the industrial grey indoor-outdoor carpet and screaming toddlers. A Japanese man, 2 British men, and a lanky Scandinavian also sacked out in various “corners.”

Anyway, to get back to Razak… He met me on the other side of the passport stamp person. Helped me pick up all my big luggage. (Yes!! I knew losing my luggage the week before in DFW would bring me good luggage karma.) Got me through customs without a strip search, removing every article of clothing I own from my bag, or making me take off my shoes. That meant that I didn’t have to explain why Chewbacca and Obi-Wan Kenobi action figures (Chewie couldn’t go by himself to the big dunes at the edge of the sea and I couldn’t find a Han Solo action figure) were wrapped in a t-shirt and shoved into my backpack, along with other items like Tex-Mex hot sauce, a year’s supply of Lariam, new running shoes, and a bikini. Razak got me past the ravenous pack of taxi-drivers who prey on those ignorant of real costs. Drove me to my front door, helped me get my luggage upstairs, opened the door, and handed me the key. That’s some expediting. It wasn’t even 4 o’clock in the afternoon here, so I still had some time to go to the grocer’s and get a mobile (cell phone in southern African speak).

The Mobile

I know most people think that this doesn’t rate a discussion. But I am a cellphoneaphobic. I have never owned a mobile before, and back in the States I always have to ask how it works when I use one. It took me 2 days to get the hang of it here. It doesn’t really help when you only know 3 people to call. Rebecca force-learned me how to text. I don’t think I’ll ever be that fast, but texting is the way to go here. I’m also really nervous about calling Portuguese-only speakers. I hate to admit it, but I rely heavily on body language and context to follow conversations (actually I do this in English too). On day 2 of my cell phone, I had to go back to Mcel (the local mobile company with a branch located conveintly across the street) and ask how to put more credits on the phone. You can dial a number to find out, but the instructions are in very fast Portuguese. I caught about 50% of what the operator was saying. The salesman was very nice and laughed when I told him how stupid I was in Portuguese. Estou muita estúpida, mas eu aprendou. I have no problem saying that and frequently.

O Ladrão

I woke my 2nd Sunday here at about 5 am to get in a run. A couple of dogs in the neighborhood were putting up a ruckus, but whatever. I just hope that they’d been chained. I have not yet had problems with dogs in Mozambique, most sleep once the sun really gets cooking, and I’d rather not start having problems. (I had a bad dog experience in American Samoa, okay?) I got dressed, picked up my keys and card with my address and US embassy number (a US Embassy security recommended item), and headed out my door.

As I was locking up, a man dressed in dark clothing and a black tuk jumped up on the tin roof of the shed behind my apartment building (1 ½ floors below). He lay flat on his belly and started pulling himself along. Sr. Salvador, my building’s guard that morning, was blowing a whistle and yelling at the man. A young man in a corner apartment one flight down from mine came out on his laundry balcony in his boxers – probably just out of bed. The ladies that live next door at the auto repair shop were out wrapped only in their capulanas looking up at the man and back at the police. A sound like a small firecracker or pop gun snapped out. I looked down the driveway of my apartment building (people park in a locked area in the back) and there were two local policemen pointing their automatic rifles at the man on the roof. I looked in the opposite direction to see another policeman coming down the drive of the apartment building next door with a rifle. I suddenly wanted my camera – what a cool thing to take a picture of I was thinking – but didn’t want to miss the action. As an afterthought it was probably better that I didn’t take a picture. For sure the cops would have confiscated my camera, and if they didn’t catch the man (and the man saw me take the picture) I could be targeted.

The man continued to drag himself flat along the rooftop. I wondered where he was going because the fence between the two apartment buildings is topped with razor wire and a spike iron fence. He found a hole big enough and started wiggling through. Pow! Pow! Two more shots were fired (now I understand the expression “pop a cap” when referring to shooting someone, the firing sounds like a child’s cap pistol). The ladies at the auto repair shot hit the ground, and I ducked behind the cement balcony wall. I don’t believe that the police could be that far off in their aim, but the bullet could always ricochet, right?

By the time I looked again, the man was on the ground on the other side of the wall. My view was blocked by the shed, so I’m not entirely sure how it ended. The police continued to walk around the neighborhood until 6am. The people living in the bottom floor of the apartment building next door kept looking at the ground where presumably the man had dropped. I finally saw a policeman come and pick up the raggedy black overshirt that the man had been wearing. But that’s all I know. I wonder why the man was running – what had he done? Where did he do it? Poverty probably answers the why question. He didn’t look like part of a wealthy organized crime group.

I didn’t go running Sunday morning. It just seemed like a bad idea at the time (and its too hot and busy on the street later).

Did you think I would give a blow by blow for the entire 2 weeks? Do you really care what a $300USD 2 bedroom apartment with cable/internet looks like (okay so its subsidized. Its university family housing complete with little children that like to scream with happiness as they slide down the bannisters)? Or that I have hired a person to come and wash my clothes (sans washing machine)? Or that the beach here (Costa del Sol) looks like an African version of spring break every weekend – complete with men dancing in thong bikinis, beer being poured out passenger windows into the cups of passers by, and women wearing wet, semi-transparent loungerie in lieu of swimsuits? Or maybe you might be more interested in the price of fresh mangas, bananas, and abacaxis? Garbage recycling in the city of Maputo (it is interesting I kid you not)? The family that keeps guinea hens next door at the auto repair shop (I must have inherited my dad’s guinea fowl karma)? I’m holding out. I can save the boring stuff for later. In the meantime you can take a look out the back door of my kitchen. This young man spends a lot of time just hanging out on his apartment's rooftop patio.

01 January 2007

Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish everyone all the best in 2007!