19 August 2007

More views from the week in Gala

The road into Gala from the reserve gate.

Little boys spend hours building toy cars out of recycled materials.

Lagoa Ntiti Lodge is the a ecotourism project in Gala, started with help from HELVETAS

The trees and skies and landscape remind me of Jorge Garza's work. Hi Jorge!!

Traditional Rhonga home construction.

Masala (Strychnos spinosa and Macuacua Strychnos madagascariensis - two native delicious fruits. You eat the pulp and spit out the seeds. Masala tastes a little like apples, macuacua has a funny bitter aftertaste.

Eating masala in my apartment. I had chilled it and when I cracked open the rind all I could think of was chilled monkey brains. It is a monkey orange.

Interviewing Tatana Jobe. He and his brother Enoque share a homestead and farm. Jobe loves mangoes and had about 12 BIG trees in his yard that he had planted many years ago.

Interviewing Mamana Rhoda acknowledged by pretty much everyone in Gala to be an authority on local history. She was born and raised in Gala and is probably 85 years old or older. Her son is the current regulo (chief). She still works her machamba (field) and is sharp as a tack.

Inside Gala Primary school. There are 3 rooms.

A mural painted by the community graces the outside of the school.

5 meninas on their way to church.

Earning my anthropology stripes

As I'm preparing to head back to Madladlane for round 2 of community census interviews, I thought I'd catch everyone up on my time in Gala.

Gala is a small fishing-farming village located at the southern gate of the Maputo Special Reserve. There are 29 families. I completed interviews with 20 over the course of 8 days. Gala is very spread out over the dunes. Any given day, my translator, my student assistant, the regulo (chief), and myself walked 25-35 kilometers. Everyone walks in Gala.

Our water came from a hand dug well in the sand forest adjacent to the guard camp. After 4 days of bathing in the water Leocadia, my student assistant (here), and I developed borboulios. This is a rash caused by microparasites in the still, fresh water. You apparently need to boil water for bathing as well as drinking. The more one scratches, the more the rash spreads. My rash is fading now, but I had a band around my waist, on my neck, and on my hands. Not fun. This same well was used by a very noisy lone elephant one evening. We heard him drinking and breaking branches. We all stayed in the camp and hoped the elephant wouldn't join us. AK-47s don't do much except make elephants angrier. In the morning everyone in camp surveyed the damage alongside our neighboring troop of samango monkeys that live at the well.

The other big excitement was having to stay an extra day in the camp because our transport broke down. The wires on the battery and solenoid were messed up. Its fun having to arrange transport by cell in the savanna wilderness. You have to climb to the top of a nearby dune to get a signal.

The guards were calling all the buddies they could think of that owned a truck. In the end, we hitched a ride back the next morning to the main reserve camp in a truck full of Mozambican military. They were exhausted from a night of poacher patrol. One poor guy looked like he was going to fall out, but apparently he had his AK-47 jammed in such a way to brace himself and his grip on the ceiling struts was pretty strong.

I rode in the back with the guys and let Leocadia ride up front. They probably would have preferred a pretty girl to look at, but she was exhausted from a week of work and earned an easy ride back. She was great. No complaints except general exhaustion at the end of a day of walking. Plus, she got all her interviews about historic climate change in Gala finished!!!

Anyway, from there the driver got the car going and we headed back to Maputo. At the ferry in Catembe the front tire blew out. The driver started asking around for a jack so that he could change it. I finally blew my lid. "How could you fucking take a fucking car out on the fucking savanna without a fucking jack? What kind of fucking idiot is he? What the fuck was he fucking thinking? I have the fucking money. Why didn't he fucking tell me? I would fucking buy a fucking jack if we don't fucking have one!" It wasn't pretty and Leocadia (who speaks English) was laughing hysterically. The ferry was docking and here we were sitting in the line within view of Maputo with a bunch of equipment, a flat, and a day late getting home. I wanted to kill the driver. Then our driver returns empty handed. He stands there for 5 minutes just looking at me. Then he gets into the car, moves the back seat around and pulls out.... a jack! What the fuck was that all about? Apparently, he just didn't want to have to pull it out. We got the tire on, made the ferry boat, and got home in under 30 minutes. By that time, I was 6 days without bathing, covered in an itchy rash, grease from the tire change, dust from the road, and no food since the cup of coffee I slurped down really quickly on the bumpy military truck hitch. At this point, I am a bit hesitant to get in that car again, but I'm leaving tomorrow morning. At least there is a bus from Salamanga to Catembe. Epa!

01 August 2007

E Mulungo

After a long process of setting up meetings and having them canceled, making arrangements for going to the field, buying equipment and supplies, etc. I finally started my interviews and mapping.

Sergio Julane (geography) and Angelo Francisco (ecology/botany) (L to R in photo), 2 undergrads at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, came out to Madladlane with me for a week of meeting with traditional leaders, community mapping, and interviews. Madladlane, is a small farming community, located along the banks of the Rio Futi, adjacent to the Reserva Especial de Maputo. We stayed at REM and walked across a footbridge everyday to meet and talk with community residents.

Community residents were surprised to see a branca (white woman) walking from home to home, field to field, and certainly from the reserve to the community. E mulungo is what the very smallest children shouted when they saw me, adults were far more circumspect. A mulungo is a foreigner, particularly a white person. I usually shouted it back, in a silly voice, causing all sorts of giggling from both children and adults. After all, I am now the official village idiot.

These little girls were giggling just a moment before the picture was taken. Their mom got 2 of the 3 sisters to change into their best dresses for the picture.

These are just a few of the images from my past week in the field.


Elephant feet or patas. They come from 2 older elephants that were harassing the community and had to be killed. The guards at the reserve had tried herding the animals back behind the fence several times, but the elephants kept escaping to eat crops and attack residents.

One of 2 main roads in Madladlane. The other is a hard dirt road that will probably be paved in the next few years.

Local primary school

A pretty barboleta (butterfly) that decided to hitchhike a ride on my arm. The IUCN is working with the local community to get ecotourists to visit to check out the high diversity of birds, butterflies, and plants.

Terminalia sericea, also known as Conono locally, is used for construction and charcoal production. It is a typical wooded savanna tree species.

Abandoned store in Salamanga, a nearby town.

Mamana Amelia was one of several women farmers I interviewed this past week. She got a kick out of me pronouncing local names for plants and learning a little isiZulu from her during our interview - probably because the new words involved clicking and hlth sounds. I also probably made some funny faces trying to twist my tongue around the new words.

Sr. Olesene, me, Sr. Daniel Mathe, Sergio Julane. Sr. Olesene is a reserve guard and farmer, and acted as our translator this past week. Sr. Mathe is a traditional leader in Madladlane and provided a great summary of the history of the community.