Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bem-vindo a Maputo

Disclaimer: Due to my limited access to the Internet, especially outside of the capital, all blog posts from Mozambique are being uploaded after my return to the States based on the dates and content of the journal I am keeping during my time here.

Greetings from Mozambique! The rest of the team does not arrive until tomorrow, so I spent my first day in Maputo exploring the city on foot. Starting near the Central Hospital, I walked around in circles for a bit before heading west to the city center, south to the docks, and then back northeast, which in total took about three hours.

First impressions:
  • Maputo International Airport, though small, is fairly clean and modern.
  • Prices in the capital are higher than what I had anticipated for a country whose GDP per capita is $428 USD–my 30-minute from the cab ride cost 500 meticais ($18), which I confirmed is about the standard rate, and a lunch of corn porridge, beans, and mystery meat set me back 300 meticais.
  • On a somewhat related note, poverty is not as apparently prevalent in Maputo as I imagined.
  • The winter weather here is beautiful.
  • Never before in my life have I felt so foreign (more on this later). 
  • Many of the main avenues are named after Communist leaders: Av. Karl Marx, Av. Vladimir Lenine, Av. Mao Tse Tung, Av. Ho Chi Min, Av. Kim Il Sung

Maputo International Airport
View from my modest accommodations near the Central Hospital
Masjid Taqwa mesquita (mosque)
Downtown Maputo streetscape - Avenida 24 de Julho
Maputo Cathedral
Praça da Independência
Municipal Council Building
Jardim Tunduru
Abandoned colonial-era buildings
Market, cont.
Jumma Masjid mosque
Across Avenida 25 de Setembro
Street signs
"Teatro Scala"
Avenida Samora Machel
National Library
Ministry of Industry and Energy, Central Post Office

By around 6 pm it was becoming too dark to walk through the sketchy park that curves around Av. Patrice Lumumba, so I decided to call it a day and stepped into an Asian-looking establishment, hoping that the familiarity of rice and hot soup might settle my stomach (which was still reeling from the mystery meat). I sat down, started reading the menu, and spotted an item described as "uma bacia de arroz com vegetais com carne em cima," which I realized was describing bibimbap. Yes, believe it or not, my first night in Maputo, I had somehow found my way to probably the only Korean restaurant in the country, where I splurged on 돌솥비빔밥. The gochujang tasted a bit odd, and I'm still annoyed that they charged me an extra 200 meticais for kimchi, but hey, neither beggars nor disoriented Korean-Texan travelers in remote southeast African countries can be choosers.

Jeonju, I owe you big time.