Happy birthday to….ME!!

31 years old…young…? Ah – who cares!


I think today was my single most surreal birthday ever! I spent most of the day as usual with a Portuguese dictionary firmly entrenched in one sweaty palm, with my trusty calculator gripped in my other. This is no real change from the norm for me at the moment – as I spend my days learning random Portuguese phrases like “what size are your feet?” or quickly calculating if a new cooker falls within our budget.


I had one pretty unique moment – all my senior level staff had disappeared on various errands and I was left keeping a watchful eye on our first 5 local employees hacking away at the rock hard reddish brown African soil to create the training area we needed for the 100 or so new deminers we were about to recruit.





The midday sun was absolutely beating down so during a workbreak I gratefully slunk into the shade (next to the chicken coop – the chickens came free with the compound!). The view from my shady spot stretched far out over the vast countryside unbroken until it reached the range of mountains in the far far distance…not a bad office window view I reckon!




I had one of those very real moments where reality hits and you realise exactly where you are and what you are doing. This was my compound! I was now location manager for all this, all these people and all this mine clearance to coordinate!


WOW! Oh yeah…and oh my gawd!! Think about it too much and it freaks me right out!


Needless to say the calm rest moment lasted just a moment before confusao broke out yet again and it was back on the road in red wing to buy uniforms and boots for our threadbare and shoeless workers leaving my logistics guys to draw up plans for rooms we needed to build and walls we needed to sledgehammer!





Boss Lorenzo is up here at the moment to offer much welcomed experience to this whole process and had somehow managed to smuggle birthday cake, candles and party poppers into the Salmon Shack without me noticing.


After a long day racing round town I was exhausted. We sat on the floor of my furniture-less living room and he sang a terribly out of tune rendition of Happy Birthday as I blew out my candles and made my birthday wish!


So it wasn’t an ‘all work and no play’ birthday!! That would just make me dull!!


birthday-candles      birthday-cake



Muito confusao and the Salmon Shack

I’ve heard moving house is apparently the 2nd (?) most stressful experience of your life.


Luckily for me the sum total of my current worldly possessions can fit into 2 cardboard boxes and a coolbox!


So today as I moved into my new house – christened the ‘Salmon Shack’ – I didn’t feel very stressed at all!


It was however a slightly convoluted operation – something I am quickly learning is pretty much the norm in Mozambique! My boxes were loaded into a trailer by about 10 of our staff (or I should say – 3 doing the loading and the rest discussing, supervising, pondering and generally just hanging around trying to look busy!) and hitched to the back of a landrover.


An inexplicable 5 hours behind schedule I waved my belongings out of the Maputo compound gates as they were driven off by my logistician on the 2 day road trip up to the ‘shack’.


In the meantime I boarded a flight to Beira, a city about 1000km north of Maputo, and headed to the office of another demining organisation who were kindly loaning us a car space worth of their compound for my lovely landrover ‘red wing’ which we’d left there 2 weeks ago (another occasion of Moz ‘convolution’!).


I then drove red wing the 3 hour journey to meet up with aforementioned logistician and trailer of belongings at the Shack.


And for all the ‘muito confusao’ experienced throughout the entire operation, all 3 of us…me, logistician and trailer (with belongings in tact) safely made it!




P.S…. ‘’muito confusao’’…I should probably explain this term…I use it ALOT in Mozambique!


Literally translated it means ‘much confusion’ but it can be easily applied and is frequently used in far too many situations to list here!


It basically means anything from someone not understanding what you are saying to them right through to an utterly mayhem and catastrophe fuelled disaster.


I doesn’t surprise me in the least that ‘‘muito confusao’’ is probably one of the most utilised phrases in the entire Portuguese language in Moz….normally swiftly followed by ‘‘epaa’’ which pretty much means “oh s**t”!


My new home

Vast expanses of vivid green countryside, beautiful mountains and incredible light….BUT WAIT!

I know what you’re thinking “oh here she goes again banging on about Scotland”, but read on my friends…this time I’m talking about Mozambique.


Arriving back to Moz after my Christmas break to the utterly UTTERLY (and long awaited) fantastic news that funding had eventually arrived for our new location to be set up.

As I was lined up to be location manager of this new programme, this was music to my ears. Bureaucratic hoops had been jumped through, letter had been rubber stamped and cheques had been pushed under the pens of the ones who hold the purse strings for signatures…we were off at long last!

Mid way through a week long recce trip, after a long hot day traipsing round compound after compound looking for “the one” which will be the new home for more than a hundred deminers and myself, I write this sitting on the hotel roof top watching a burning red African sun slowly sink behind a spectacular mountain ridge way off in the distance…I think i’m going to be just fine out here!


(Me with my ops manager outside “the salmon shack” – my new house! After about the millionth viewing you can see him smiling with utter relief!!)


(We climbed the 3 peaks of the local attraction Cabeça de Velho (Old Man’s Head). If you look sideways it’s the profile of the old man’s head….his forehead on the far right. When it rains the water pours down where his “eye” is and the locals say he’s crying!)