14 February 2007

Zambezi Rising

I've gotten a couple of emails about rain in Mozambique and how I am doing. I am okay. To put it into perspective, its kind of like if I were living in Washington, DC and you asked if a snow storm in Boston was giving me problems. There is about 800 miles between Maputo and the mouth of the Zambezi River. Mozambique (308,882 sq. miles) is a little smaller than 2x the size of California (163,707 sq. miles), and its coastline at 1,553 miles is a little shorter than the length of the entire Gulf Coast (1,631 miles).

The problem, I think, is that Africa is this monolithic place to many people. Its where wild animals and Tarzan live, where slaves came from, and where godless black people eat monkeys and dance naked to the sound of jungle drums. Lies, damn lies. I haven't met Tarzan yet. ;-P

Unfortunately, I can't be sarcastic about the realities of HIV/AIDS, other diseases, hunger, illiteracy, political corruption, child soldiers, war, genocide, crime, and grinding poverty. Those things are all too true. (I'm talking of Africa in general here, Dad, not Mozambique.)

Before leaving for the field, sometimes when I told someone (not in my department at UGA and not everyone I spoke to thank goodness) that I was going to do research in Mozambique, their first response was, "Where's that?" Okay, I understand, no oil so not really on US radar. When I said it was in Africa (southeastern to be more precise), I would then be asked if I was going to need to learn African. African, not Afrikaans which is an African language, but African. Like everyone in Africa speaks the same language. UNESCO puts the number of African languages at 2000 (probably an underestimate), Mozambique has 43 living languages and a whole lot of dialects.

But back to the weather... Maputo has been getting a bit of rain at night, and some terrific thunder and lightning storms in the late afternoon/evenings. It is the rainy season, so I've been expecting some sort of wet in addition to regular sodden clothes humidity. I've figured out that when the wind picks up out and blows big clouds of sand and black plastic shopping bags down the Avenida Lenine, rain will most likely follow in 15-20. minutes. Sometimes the shopping bags take off and try to migrate to safer, drier places in Swaziland and South Africa, but they don't get far. Black clouds in the west/northwest are a big clue too.

Links to the most recent news on flooding:
Floods Force 68,000 to Flee Homes in Mozambique

Mozambique: Worst Floods in 6 Years, More Expected

Unlike, Bush & Co., the government here had actually made good preparations by coordinating with NGOS to stock up on water, food, and tents for displaced people. However, the floods have lasted longer than they planned for and supplies are expected to run out by the end of March.

The Zambezi floodplain is very fertile farmland in a country that is primarily agricultural. I doubt people will be deterred from moving back home when flood waters subside - even though that is the current recommendation. Since it is the growing season here, hunger will probably be a big issue in Mozambique during the coming dry season.

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