Monday, November 8, 2010

Does it Matter Who's on First? (Clarifying previous posting order)

About posts, comments, link and photos.

Posts. If you follow my blog, you will know that I posted quite a bit of information recently. For some reason, the postings don't appear in the nice "1st, 2nd, 3rd..." order that I thought they would and rather than continue to mess with publishing again (the blogger help suggestion that I imagine annoys those of you who get emails when I publish) etc., I am sending this out to encourage you to view the latest positings in order. I particularly think the first three are better read in order. You can select from the menu on the left side of the page.
Comments. I love to get them. If you are among those who send comments - thanks! It is great to hear from you and I apologize if I don't get back to you immediately. Sometimes I don't know that you have sent something for a while.
Link and Photos. You are welcome to share my link ( with anyone else. I have been asked that question. And that goes for the photos as well. If you use a photo for something else I just ask that you credit it back to me. My initials are fine. I post as 'elk' on photos but you are welcome to use my name, Biss Kuttner.

Tough Times (4th of 5 Five for Oct. posted in Nov)

Tough Times. For Zane. Who is persistent in telling me that he wants to know how I FEEL.

I have a good friend who did a great deal of research about going overseas to do development work as he is also working overseas. He would relay to me that after about two months many volunteers would get very homesick or depressed in their placement.
I haven’t found myself to be homesick. I miss my children very much. That is the hardest part of being in Mozambique. I miss the immediacy of contacting other family members and seeing my parents. I miss friends who, the longer I am away, the more I realize how large a part of my day to day life they were. But, honestly, I haven’t had trouble with being in Mozambique.
Some of being here is fantastic! I am not sure if my stay here will always be this full of new and interesting things but it is incredible. Most of the time I just tell people about the exciting things. The beautiful things. The amazing things. There are many. Many wonderful people. Many wonderful customs. Many beautiful places. As for the flip side – I guess I have felt it is too hard to relay the other stuff. Some things are just so overwhelming that I can't process it all, much less find a way to share it.
If you have read any of the blogs in this October set you know that I have spent three intensive weeks seeing terrible living conditions, and coming face to face with abject poverty, as well as people who struggle to survive day to day. The first ten days or so, I didn’t acknowledge my personal connection to what I saw. I was observing, being the messenger, trying to engage without being engaged. The third week into interviews and touring neighborhoods, I lost my shield. I could still professionally report and maintain objectivity but at the end of the day, my connection as a fellow human being allowed the bleakness of it all to flood in.
I haven’t shared about “how I feel” in my blog, although I get requests about that all the time. It has seemed too personal for such a public forum. But I am making an exception this time because if you are one of the people asking to understand what it is like here doing what I am doing, then it is as important to share the hard things as the rest of it all. And I think it is important, as other fellow human beings to allow yourselves to try to connect with the reality of “here,” to experience this world so foreign to my own and probably yours, because we are all part of the global “us.”
The places I’ve been and the people I’ve spoken to come from all walks of life. I’ve met the Prime Minister of the country. I interviewed the Minister of Youth and Sports. I have interviewed many people involved in development work from top management to front line work. But the most intense interviews, and the ones I actually feel the most privileged to be able to do, have been with those people for whom the study I’m working on is being done. Those identified as being among the most vulnerable in urban Mozambique.
I say “privilege” because it has been through great courage and unselfishness that people spoke to us and allowed us into their private lives. Consider your own life. How difficult it would be to allow a stranger to sit in your home and ask you to honestly share the difficulties you face, especially if sharing that information might harm your chances of job somewhere, or your status among the people in your neighborhood, or merely your own sense of pride. On top of that, I am a stranger – and they are trusting that I am coming to speak to them as a peer, a person interested in what they have to say, and that what they have to say is most critical to the work we are doing.
In my darkest moments, what I find myself thinking about is how vast the problems are. How monumental the task is to eradicate the sort of poverty that puts people on the brink of life and death on a daily basis. I think, “what is a ‘bad day’” for someone who lives in the conditions I see around me. And from there it is an easy slide into questions in my head about "what am I doing here" and "does it matter anyway." I fell small and ineffective, as though there is nothing I can possibly do that makes change happen. I described it to someone as feeling as though I am pushing peddles on a paddle boat, trying to push harder and harder, only to find that the paddles aren't reaching the water. Nothingness. No matter how hard I try, there will be nothing.
Some of the things I have been doing are so hard to handle that I expend a great deal of energy trying not to think about them. But they have to be thought about. It has been rough. People have let us into very personal aspects of their lives and their lives are awful in so many ways. It isn't that I am typically caught up in any one person’s personal life - or feel responsible to helping this person or that person. You can’t do this kind of work and do that. It is that the people we speak with are representative of thousands of people living here in horrible, horrible conditions. And, honestly, I do get to know some of the people we interview. I meet them on the street, or at their vending corner and I say hello, and get a big greeting and we chat. Just as though I were meeting a friend at home in the USA in the grocery store. But I know it isn’t the same at all because I know what they go home to my flat, they go home to a completely different landscape with incredible challenges.
People in these tough neighborhoods love their children and do their best to take care of them every day just like I have with my family. They look for ways to shelter, to feed and keep their children alive. I haven't had to think like that. I have had to think about feeding, sheltering, and educating my kids. When that last bit is the prevailing factor every day – not education, but how to stay alive or ahead of any singular negative impact that will spiral your family towards life and death - well, life looks completely different.
Other times when I’m lying in bed at night and all is quiet, I think about how much doesn't have to be the way it is - but it does just because it is that way. And it will be a long time for things to get better. I force optimistic slogans trying to override the futility I feel. I try to think that every day is a possible moment for people here to make changes. There is just so much work to do.
I have seen so much. And I have been told so much that is beyond my imagination. There are pictures I have flashing into my consciousness that I don’t want to think about. But they come unbidden.
For example, In the city I went to up north, I spoke with three different groups of young people who were taking about problems and challenges in their neighborhoods. One was a group of university students the same ages as my kids. They are part of an organization that does some very good things in the community including going and helping at an orphanage that has very little resources. They didn’t mention crime as being one of the problems, which I found interesting so I asked about it. They said petty crime is still a factor but very violent crime was down. When I asked what had made a difference, I expected some sort of community watch system, better policing, something along those lines. They said some word I didn’t know and moved on to another conversation. When I had them stop and explain the word they had said this is what they said. There was a time when violent crime was rampant in their neighborhoods. And criminals wouldn’t stay in jail when they were arrested; with bribe money and pressure from gangs of bodily harm, police would let them go. Finally the community got tired of criminals being let out of jail, particularly ones who then came back to hunt down people who turned them in. They grew frustrated knowing that their neighborhood wasn't important enough to protect from these guys. So they created their own justice. They catch these guys, put a tire filled with gasoline over them and light them on fire. As the guy burns to death in the street, kids will even run at them and hit them with long sticks. I’m told it happens about once a month in different areas of the city. It is called "linchamento." And, they said. This is the reason hard-core crime - murder, rape, etc – has drastically declined in their neighborhoods.
That is something I never want to see - a person being burned alive. I told Quim, the person I was with up there in Beira, not to turn on any streets where there was smoke. I can't even get my head around what I think about the moral implications and really - I don't believe in this context I am going to judge the community based on something like that. I imagine that were this situation talked about around a table in the USA there would be people screaming “human rights” and how wrong it is, while others would be saying vigilante justice has to take over when other more civilized ways break down to be nonexistent. What kicks in for me is on a more incidental level - I can't get the thought out of my head that kids are brought up seeing guys burning to death in tires and so on and so on.
I put something like this in context with the population who are made up of people who came out of a bloody and nonsensical civil war, a guerilla war, not even two decades ago where, by the end of the war, there was no ideology or political fight going on. By then, people were fighting to stay alive - fighting for food and fighting because if they didn't fight, they would be killed. In Beira, the city that this story is all about, the majority of "rebel" or guerrilla fighters and their families came to live. The war started after the Portuguese left in 1972. So the largest demographic (15 - 36) as well as any one older are the people who survived that experience and their families. They are the population of the country for whom life and death is being seen through a completely different lens. It still doesn't make sense exactly - but it doesn't seem so unthinkable if I were to imagine how people who lived through such circumstances might think about justice. And how I might feel if I felt that there was no option for protection for my family from my government.
I know that to be here I need to be constantly learning and I want to try and understand. I have to be vigilant. I have to be observant. And I have to keep asking ask questions. But even there - when I heard about the “linchamentos” – this sort of thing draws me up short. There are just going to be questions I don't even know to ask.
So, that is the sort of thing that I sometimes think about at night. Like I said in the beginning, I can feel so insignificant. I feel like crying – and I do. I feel confused. I feel angry. I feel frustrated. I feel frightened. I feel tired. Very tired.
Feelings aren’t something I can control. Being who I am, though, these feelings have to be harnessed and used to help me make sense of what I am doing here and what I have in front of me. In this country, there is an incredible resilience. People living these complicated, vulnerable lives talked to us because there is a belief that somehow, some day, things will be better. They see fellow countrymen and women who are successful and live well. It is possible. As long as there is hope, there is room for change. Who am I to doubt? I alone am not going to change the way things are here. But maybe as part of a larger picture there is a reason for me to be here. Most of the time, I feel enough hope to imagine what can be. That is why I am still here. Because I also feel challenged, responsible, imaginative, driven, creative, excited, and I feel hope.

In and Around Beira
The Grande Hotel, Beira

Visit to Nelspruitt, South Africa - (5th of 5 Five for Oct. posted in Nov)

Visit to Nelspruit, South Africa. A couple of weekends ago I took a trip to South Africa. I was going with a friend who had to renew her visa. If you don’t have something referred to as a DIRE and you are from certain countries (UK for example), and you are working for more than 30 or 60 days, you will often need to get your passport/visa stamped every thirty days at a border. The closest border is Swaziland, but we have both wanted to go to South Africa and so we did. We were going to take a bus early Saturday morning but I was asked to make a presentation at a conference. There is not a late bus so we ended up renting a car. We had a very zippy tiny red Kia. It looks like one of those toy cars you pull back to wind the wheels and then let go and it shoots out of your hands. In Africa, the driver sits on the right side of the car, drives on the left, and if you have a stick shift, you are shifting with your left hand. This was an entirely new experience for me. I have never driven “left.” The long distance driving was easy even though the highway is two lanes and there is a lot of passing going on, winding road, hilly terrain, and varying speed limits through towns. The driving in Maputo – as I have related before – is like nothing I have ever experienced, but I actually enjoyed the challenge, and I liked being the one in the car for a change instead of the person trying to cross the street.

Back to South Africa. We stayed in Nelspruit. This is a city by Kroger National Park. We didn’t go there – it is expensive and I am saving it for when I have more time. Our nature experience was to visit waterfalls and other natural wonders along the Blyde River Canyon.
I was surprised by the landscape as we drove into and through SA on the way to Nelspruit. There is mile after mile of pine forest and the trees are immaculately manicured. The mature trees haven’t got any branches until well over 20 feet up. The trees are planted in perfect rows. They cover valleys and hills, every ridge in site. It turns out that this area has the largest man made timber forest plantations in the world. I could see every phase of logging along the road from fledging trees, to mature forest to stripped land with occasional stumps to logging mills with massive mountains of timber. Planting a forest isn’t dropping seed along a furrow of earth – young trees are put in the ground one at a time. The labor involved is mind boggling. It was hard to capture in the photos but when you see rolling hills looking any shade of green, they are covered in pine.
I haven’t been to natural a waterfall of any magnitude before. The ones we visited were beautiful, and each one very unique. The most amazing place I visited, though, wasn’t exactly a waterfall; it is a place called Bourke’s Luck Potholes. There are amazing rock formations at the bottom of a twisting gorge and bridges and walkways have been constructed to allow you to walk over the gorge and look directly down. You will recognize it in the pictures.
The settlements along the highway looked more prosperous than any I see in Mozambique along highways. My guess is that the housing is typically subsidized by the logging companies. People were walking along the highway in many places. We would come upon them walking where there isn’t any house or building in site for miles.
I was looking at photos with my friend, Mohammed, from Kenya. There is a photo of a town built right up against a graveyard. I took the photo as we drove past because the scene stuck out for me but I didn’t know why and didn’t give it much thought. Mohammed immediately exclaimed “Why are the houses so close to the graveyard?!” He has no doubt that the people next door hear the ghosts talking at night. I relayed to him that, if it was anything like the graveyard in Georgetown in Washington DC where I grew up, the talking was kids behind gravestones drinking alcohol where they were sure they wouldn’t be disturbed. We haven’t sorted that one out yet.
We didn’t see wildlife – didn’t really expect to. Just monkeys at a sort of café at the trailhead to Bourke’s Luck Potholes. They were hissing and screaming for snacks. Oh – and also a beautiful tri-colored lizard I photographed leaping about some boulders.
All in all, the trip was relaxing and a welcome change from Maputo. The bed and breakfast was in a quiet neighborhood that made me realize how constant the noise is in my flat from the music and cars and car crashes and the people talking and so on and so on… The quiet was wonderful to hear.
I would like to have had at least another day on the trip. Just to relax at the bed and breakfast for a few hours would have been nice. I loved the driving. That was a treat in itself. I do miss my car!
My final observation is that there were a number of places that looked so much like Arizona mountains, it was uncanny. And comforting somehow. Two worlds in one place.
Select the photo below to see the photo album.
Trip to South Africa.Oct 23 - 25

Work I AM Doing (2nd of Five for Oct. posted in Nov)

Work I am Doing. Early in October I began work on a project to examine poverty and vulnerability in urban areas in order for NGOs and their partners to better serve the most vulnerable populations in those areas. The impetus for the project was a response to the desperation that caused people to strike/riot in early September. This was designed to be a “rapid study.” Interviews for the first two weeks and a week to write conclusions and recommendations. Modeled after the Red Cross/Red Crescent rapid assessment tool used to determine disaster preparedness. The information is qualitative, and is obtained from people who are the target of the action to come. Our data is meant to lead to recommendations for communities and service providers regarding immediate action and change to reduce poverty amongst the most vulnerable people.

While we gathered data from NGOs (nonprofit here is non-governmental organizations) and government representatives, we were not comfortable relying on these interviews to tell us what people in the “most need” thought about themselves, their needs and their options. We decided to talk to people in and around cities of Maputo and Beira who were among the most vulnerable, and in addition to individual interviews, arranged ‘focus groups’ to reach more people at a time. We also decided that photos would play a large part in relaying realities. I urge you to visit the album links as they will tell you much more than I can write here.
Visiting neighborhoods was tricky to arrange. People are not very welcome to wander in the neighborhoods we needed to reach. The neighborhoods are also very dangerous; it is unsafe to be walking around without someone who actually lives there. I conducted the interviews with the help of my Program Manager from VSO since my Portuguese is still weak.
Our first interview was with a young man, Baptista, who sells flowers across the street from our VSO office, and, it turns out, he is also something of a mentor and small business supporter for a number of other vendors in this area. He put together our first focus group from the vendors he knew – it was a very good start. More importantly, he invited us to his home in Albazine, a very poverty stricken neighborhood on the far outskirts of Maputo. I wrote a short posting about our visit with his family.
One of the neighborhoods within in the city of Maputo is Mafalala (album link). When we visited some young men who have put together a center in the neighborhood (providing training for people to clean waste, learn how to mobilize and other such projects) took us around. We wound around and about through slim passageways and on unpaved roads. The neighborhood is teaming with kids. Their homes iare made of tin sheeting or crumbling bricks. They eat next to nothing, have no water or electricity in their home, and their playground is rubbage and fetid, mosquito and waste infested water. But they are still kids. And they run after me with my camera hamming it up, striking poses and hugging their friends begging for me to take a picture. They act like kids do everywhere, laughing and yelling and running about. Only they also run out of energy, malnourished as they are, and their faces take on blank expressions I haven’t seen on people so young. Based on current statistics, were I to return in six months or a year, a number of them will be gone – not relocated to a better place – rather they will be dead, having succumbed to illnesses that don’t necessarily kill in wealthier populations. This sounds so grim, like a late not advertisement asking you to pledge a dollar a day to help a child in Africa. But it is real and right there in front of me.
In some neighborhoods when I began an interview in a backyard with six or eight people, the numbers would swell to 25 and 30, some people wanting to talk, others wanting to listen. The questions I asked were mostly the same, but always led to unique conversations, frequently taking on the flavor of a neighborhood meeting with us as observers.
After taking a group photo so many people came to say thank you – I felt so privileged to be trusted to enter their neighborhood, to hear their thoughts that were not always “politically correct,” and to be allowed to photograph them and their neighborhood - but my thank you was always drowned out by their thanks. Our visit was unusual in that we came to their turf to ask them what they thought, without looking for certain answers, and without promising things except that we would be sharing what they said in our report. While studies about poverty in Mozambique, in Maputo and elsewhere have been done, this one seems to be unique. Many people have become interested in it – people in the neighborhoods we visit, people in NGOs and people in government.
A couple of things before I end this segment. I was not aware of the level of danger or the unusual nature of our visits until this past week as various Mozambicans have expressed their surprise that we talked to the people we did, that we saw the depth of the neighborhoods that we did, and that we were allowed to photograph what we did. This speaks to both my naiveté and to the people who protected me in their neighborhoods, and made it ok for me to be there.

Finally, about vulnerability. What is the definition of vulnerability? This question comes at me a lot. Our definition comes from answers people gave of vulnerability in their own lives, and definitions used in the world of development by entities like the Red Cross and World Health:
Vulnerable populations are those that may be less able to care for themselves, and may experience health crisis, when rapid negative events are introduced into their lives, and they have been made vulnerable by characteristics of life/circumstances such as: finances, location, health, age, limited rights, lack of education, limited knowledge/information, loss of family, history of abuse, loss of cultural/historical roots, lack of self-protection, insecure livelihood, governance, lack of social protection, politics, inability to communicate effectively, exposure to effects of climate change, presence of chronic illness/disability.
In practice all of that is just words on paper. Initially, I found it hard to emotionally difficult to process what I was experiencing – I just kept doing the work. It started to get really hard about ten days in when I was in Beira visiting a neighborhood with so much less than nothing, yet people with incredible vigor and desire to find a way to make things different. That same day I visited a place called the Grand Hotel – I will share more about that in another posting. But as we drove away from both of those places I felt an overwhelming choking sadness – I just wanted to be somewhere where I could yell at the sky and cry and cry.
The day after we flew back to Beira I got a call and the stark reality of vulnerability slammed me. I mentioned Moises, Baptista’s brother, when I started this post. He died while we were in Beira, two weeks after our visit. If you take a look at the pictures you will see him there, alive but not well. I forgot somehow, amidst that family’s loveliness, generosity, and vivaciousness, their vulnerability and how it can tip the scales desperately and with lightning speed. This posting is dedicated to him. I needed to write it to put onto paper a reminder to myself, if no one else, that vulnerability doesn’t beg for sympathy. It begs for change.
Select a photo below to link to that photo album.

In and Around Maputo, Mozambique


Grand Hotel, Beira

Beira: In and Around, and The Grande Hotel (3rd of Five for Oct. posted in Nov)

Beira – In and Around, and the Grande Hotel. Beira. This is a city in the central part of Mozambique. It is the second largest city in Mozambique but the size is vastly different than Maputo (approximately 3 million) with Beira having less than 400,000.

I was told that after the civil war ended, many of the “guerilla” fighters and their families came from out of the bush and moved into Beira. The city is very different politically than Maputo, where the ruling party, FREMLO, has a very strong presence. In Beira, the major opposition party as well as minor parties have strong representation. I heard conversations about politics and government issues/policies/problems, much more so than the conversations I hear in Maputo.

The people I spoke to in Beira are extremely proud of their citizenry and many believe that there are bad feelings between them and the people in Maputo. Maputo is a wealthier city and is seen to have many more employment opportunities, but that is the only reason many say they would go to Maputo. The youth we interviewed were proud that Beira did not participate in the strike of early September and think it was mainly an uprising of youth wanting to vandalize and burn things and agitate the police, not a proper protest.
The city was built on the coast as a major port city and was once the capitol of the country. It is still a the major port in the country and the “Port Building” is depicted on one of the currency coins. A lot of the architecture, as in Maputo, is old and deteriorating; it was built when the Portuguese occupied the country and abandoned when the Portuguese left in 1972. The civil war that ensued caused a lot of damage, particularly in this part of the country. The war came to an abrupt halt in 1992. People were encouraged to move in to the abandoned buildings and take over their maintenance. As time moved on, people couldn’t afford to maintain their flats. Many moved to what are now the barrios – the slum neighborhoods - that circle the city center. Other people looked for less expensive accommodations in the city, settling in abandoned buildings deemed uninhabitable because they are structurally unsound, and have no running water or electricity. One of these structures is the Grande Hotel in Beira.
The Grande Hotel must have been magnificent when it was operational. It is massive has beautiful sweeping lines, and is situated so that guests had wonderful views of the ocean and the city. Today it is a crumbling monstrosity, housing a miniature city of some of Beira’s most vulnerable population.
The hotel is a very dangerous place to be for a number of reasons. The building is in horrible disrepair and even in the daytime, a misstep could be life threatening. At night, when there is nothing but pitch black (there is no electricity or running water), even candle light is not always sufficient to keep people from falling off edges of the building where there are no longer walls or down elevator shafts or stairwells.
It is dangerous because there is crime, and there is violence there. At night in the absolute darkness the situation heightens. No matter the time of day, outsiders are not welcome unless they are with a resident and have been given permission to be there.
The community has its own governance structure which is complex and effective. There are layers upon layers of power culminating with the ‘Boss’ and the “Boss’s Boss.” For an outsider to gain access to even the grounds of the hotel requires a connection. To go into the structure requires permission from someone of power. To actually move about the hotel, have permission to take pictures, and speak to the Boss requires going through a series of introductions, conversations, silent/unseen approvals to move up from one level of permission to another, and ultimately it requires the Boss to decide you are of interest to him.
When we visited, we explained why we interested in talking to people and taking photographs. We were introduced to residents as we were led up and down and around the structure Eventually we were introduced to Nina, a woman who stands in for the boss when he is not available. She led us through some additional introductions (layers of approval?) ultimately bringing us to the rooftop so we could interview a young mother, Nadia, living in a circular room that – if it were to have had windows – would have had a million dollar view.
Nadia was uncomfortable with questions at first and was sharp and suspicious. When I was able to explain what we were doing and why, and clarified that we were not just prying or gawking, she warmed up. She is in her mid twenties and has a baby, not yet walking, named Omar. She has lived at the Grande Hotel since she was five years old. She “bought” the room she has just a year ago. She is worried about the location because the guard wall has fallen away in many spots so Omar could crawl, and eventually run, right off of the roof. She also doesn’t have neighbors on the rooftop which provides privacy but also leaves her without protection. In the photos you can see the size of her home. She has at least one other adult living there with her who did not come out of the house. Nadia brought the baby inside when we first arrived and he was handed back out to her wearing nice clothing. It appears she has some status, indicated by being the person we were brought to, the house she lives in which is comparatively very nice, the good clothing for the baby, and the person helping with the baby.
While we were speaking with Nadia, the ‘Boss’ of the Grande Hotel materialized on the roof top to meet us. He spent about 20 minutes with me. He talked a little about a documentary/movie made in 2008 about the Grande Hotel (titled “The Grande Hotel.” It is supposed to be very good) and said it was well done and depicted things accurately. As for what were the problems there, obviously things like crime and unemployment. But the biggest problem is that the building is dangerous and “could fall down at any moment.” The government sent some people to look around a few years ago and they promised to help people relocate but nothing happened before there was a change in who was in power, and of course, with “new management nothing will happen. They have not come again to see what is here.” He emphatically stated that he wants the government to relocate all of the residents of the hotel, en masse, to a piece of land with basic housing for everyone and take down the building. He believes this is the only solution to the issues of his community. He said bringing in water or electricity was no good as it wouldn’t keep the building from falling down in the middle of the night.
The situation at the Grande Hotel is extremely complicated. There are some people living there who could afford to move to somewhere else, albeit not a very good neighborhood, but one that isn’t going to collapse. There are people running good business in the hotel selling groceries and probably black market items and who are making relatively good money. But the majority of the people are extremely impoverished. I don’t know what options are open to them to relocate.
I don’t believe that any of the people in the hotel will relocate by themselves. This is a very tight knit community even though it is made up of 3,700 people. Many are the original inhabitants who came out of the bush when the war was declared to be over, and they have remained there, raised their families there (like Nadia’s family), and their children are now raising their families there. Others are relatives of those people coming in from all sorts of circumstances. The governing structure within the community is probably very similar to that which was used by the guerrilla fighters during the war, with pyramids of power leading up to the “Boss.” This is what the community has lived with all these years and it would be difficult to adjust to other ways of living, especially if individuals hold positions of power. It is power – not wealth – that holds sway here as in all of the communities, poor and otherwise in Mozambique.
While the structure of the community binds these people together, the fact remains that they live in unbelievable and dangerous conditions and the people that we spoke to there said they want to be in a safer place. It is hard to imagine moving 3,700 people all at once to a new place. But perhaps that is the only viable solution. Even though he may be conflicted about what he wants or how to make positive change, his parting statement from the boss to me was unequivocal and stark. “The government might worry about the cost of moving everyone. But what is that to the cost of paying for the funerals of 3,700 people when come to bury us after the building collapses.”
Selecting a photo below will link you to that photo album.
Grand Hotel, Beira

In and Around Maputo, Mozambique


A Visit to Baptista's House (1st of Five for Oct. posted in Nov)

It has been some time since I wrote. October was very busy - there is a lot to tell. I will break this entry into separate postings so they can be read at more leisure. I will put picture links to some of them as listed below.
A Visit to Baptista’s House: Baptista and his Family
  1. Work I Am Doing: a. In and Around Maputo  and b. Beira
  2. Beira - In and Around; The Grande Hotel: a. Beira , b.TheGrande Hotel , c. Baptista's House
  3. Tough Stuff
  4. Visit to Nelspruitt, South Africa (EASY reading!) Drive to Nelspruit and Along Blyde's River Canyon
The photo links also appear with each posting.

A Visit to Baptista’s House. I have been involved in a study about identifying vulnerable populations in urban Mozambique and the adequacy of resources to help alleviate extreme poverty and vulnerable populations. One of the first people we interviewed is a young man named Baptista. We know him because he sells flowers across the street from the VSO building. In addition to letting me interview him, and arranging a focus group for us, he invited us to his home in Albazine, a very poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Maputo. When we arrived at his house, his family brought all the chairs they had outdoors and placed them under a large mango tree. The women sat on a mat at the base of the tree and we and Baptista and his brother, Moises, sat in chairs to talk. Baptista’s wife, mother, grown nephew, daughter (7rs old) and niece (3 months) were all there. You will see in pictures that Moises, his brother was thin as a rail and looked quite ill. It turned out he had been sick for some time, unable to work, and in fact, had been in a clinic for a couple of weeks. He had come home that day because he couldn’t afford to stay any longer.
Their house is made of reeds with a tin roof. Baptista has been slowly buying block to build a house. He thinks he now has enough block but needs money to pay for cement, other materials and helpers. They don’t have running water or electricity now and he doesn’t know when they will have that in the new house after it is built but having both is a goal. He showed me the block, explained where the house would be built and what still needed to be done before he could start. He also showed me around the property, identifying the trees (he has planted an apple tree that is still quite small but that he is very proud of), explaining the duck pen, how they get water (not on the property – they have to go down the road) and pointing out places he would like to develop in the yard.
I was watching Baptista’s mother and daughter playing with his 3 month old niece, Latiina, and really wanted to hold her, which they let me do. I had been wondering since I arrived how mothers tie their babies on their backs, and even though my Portuguese is halting, I managed to ask if they would show me how it is done. Sonia not only showed me but insisted that I tie Latiina on myself. You will see in the pictures how it is done, and you will also see me trying to do it gracefully – but it is nerve wracking! I was worried I would drop Latiina before I had her secured. She held on very nicely – no worries – and once I had the cloth tightened she felt very secure. I will have to say that Latiina is one of my favorite cultural ambassadors.

Select the photo above to link to Baptista and his Family for more photos.