We are finally nearing the end of our long break, with only 2 weeks left until we are supposed to start school. This past week, just when the boredom had reached its peak, we decided to get out of Mapinhane for a change of scenery/ before I completely lost my mind. Difficult transportation aside, lots of smiles were had as we spent a great couple days with some friends in southern Inhambane. We relaxed on the beach, drank a mango daquiri, ate yummy market food, and snorkelled with dolphins!
After this break from site, I was happy and excited to be going back to Mapinhane. After having some difficult, empty days recently I took my excitement to return as a good sign as to how I truly feel about Mapinhane. After a few days away, I was looking forward to going ‘home,’ seeing the kind people we see every day in town, and being back in our house.
One of these kind people is Celia, the woman who runs the bread shop in Mapinhane. Before we left, we had been talking to Celia about matapa, a delicious Mozambican dish that we wish we could buy prepared here in Mapinhane. After talking to Celia about how much we like matapa, I asked if she would teach me to cook it one day. I felt like a first grader again when she, somewhat reluctantly, agreed, and there was a potential new friend on the horizon for me! It has seemed a bit hard to meet female friends in Mapinhane, so I was so happy to spend a Sunday afternoon making matapa and chatting with her. More on matapa-making still to come!
The struggle this past week was a toss up between transportation and feeling like a tourist on our trip south. To begin with, we spent about 3 hours waiting on the side of the road for a ride south, flagging down every car and bus that passed with no luck. On the way back north, we bought a bike in the city and had an even larger challenge with transportation home. After about 2 hours looking for, finding, and negotiating prices with a chapa (minibus) driver, we were ready to head home. We then realized that this bus would be the third to fill up and leave. With each bus taking about 1-2 hours to fill, this wasn’t something we wanted to wait on. I quickly ran to the machibombo (charter bus) station and was pleased to find one heading north within the next 5 minutes…but Alex couldn’t get there quick enough and they left without us. After waiting for the next bus heading north we overpaid for us and our bike, got on, and relaxed into the comfortable seats…a mere 3 hours after starting our search for transportation. We’ve experienced this kind of inconvenient transportation in Kenya and Tanzania before, but up until this point we had had really good luck with transportation in Moz, so this was our first big challenge with it.
My second struggle with this trip was feeling like a tourist. In Mapinhane everyone is so nice to us. We can walk around freely and we are, more or less, treated like normal people. We have good conversations with people. We buy things for the same prices that Mozambicans buy them for. No one bosses us around or treats us like we have bottomless pockets of money. As soon as we entered the bus station in Inhambane City, our last leg of transportation before our destination, all of this good treatment went away; we were now among the tourists, in a tourist destination. Suddenly people were trying to obviously overcharge us for a bus, we were being asked for money, and told quite rudely that we had to sit in the back of the bus so people could fill in in front of us..even though other passengers were allowed to choose their seats. After an already long day of travel, we had to stand our ground and get a little sassy with the chapa guys, if for no other reason than the principle of maybe making this whole process slightly less obnoxious for the next traveler to come through. Over the next couple days in our tourist destination, we were asked for money many more times, and “white taxed” like crazy on all fruits and vegetables we tried to buy, the worst of which was the coconut salesmen that tried to charge us, literally, 20 times the normal price. It’s hard to know that you do, in reality, have more money than most of the people overcharging you. And it’s hard to come from somewhere in the country where people don’t treat you that way- and just treat you like another person- to somewhere where your assumed financial status seems to be all people see you for. It’s hard to see the teenage boys-and younger- walking the beach all day, selling things as probably their only source of income, and then refuse to give them more than 25 cents because you know that’s the real price of a darn coconut. The conflict of apparent poverty and refusal to pay more because of the color of our skin or where we come from is a really difficult thing. The light at the end of this tunnel, at least with the beach salesmen, was that after we told them enough times that we weren’t going to buy their wares, many of them sat down and talked to us about various things: school, the United States, where they grew up. And again, we had a chance to see that these conversations have value too, maybe not as immediate as a few metacais more in their pockets that day, but just for the intangible value of the exchange of curiosities.