The cabbage has gone!

Carrots lettuce toms peppers1

 

Thank goodness!

Even Google was struggling to suggest anything more inventive to do with my mass cabbage patch than cabbage soup & cabbage parcels.

After giving handfuls of the stuff to guards, maids and colleagues we managed to just about get through it before it started to turn brown. So after a good old hoe of the entire back yard we’ve planted carrots!

The re-planted lettuce has eaten its fill of nutrients imported in from the good soil we keep ‘borrowing’ from across the street and is now ready. The tomatoes have a new lease of life after my more green fingered guard and I constructed an interesting Mozambican version of a trellis and even my pepers, given half a chance (as in avoiding the mouth of my puppy!) are managing to just about get to an edible size.

1st pepper

For some reason the puppy has a fetish for lying in my carrot plot so the tufts of all the carrot tops are now flattened. It doesn’t seem to have done them too much harm though as I plucked a few of them out of the ground the other day. I gave a handful to one of my skinny office staff who declared his love of carrots which he promptly handed to his wife to get busy cooking up for him!

I have been donated an avocado tree and a lemon tree..both still babies at the moment but apparently in 6 years time will be trees! Six years! Think that might just be a wee bit after my time here!

The only thing I am still struggling to grow is basil! The Mozambicans don’t know the Portuguese name for basil; they just don’t recognise it. They even say no when I offer for them to take some home…not very Mozambican at all!

 Obviously the Mozambican soil feels the same way , the basil grows just a few inches then stops…luckily I’m managing to harvest just enough for basil mojitos…phew, national barbecue drinks crisis averted!!

A world first

Gundingo explosion

Yesterday I became the world’s first female deminer in Manica Province in Mozambique!

 I was generally told during training that once in a while I should put myself ‘back at the coalface’ so to speak.

 I guess it can be the same in any job really, you do your training, learn the ropes then start climbing the hierarchical ladder. My job is part administrative but importantly part QA of the guys in the field. I climb the ladder too high and before I know it there is the fear I could become an ivory tower expat without realising it…always with another meeting to attend, another report to write or another monthly account to balance…so far removed from the work on the ground I slowly forget everything I’ve been taught.

Luckily my penchant is most definitely for time in the minefield (and also luckily for me I am my own boss up here) so I don’t have to worry about ever getting office cabin fever or losing my eyesight to staring at my laptop screen!. Even so there is ‘being in the field’ and there is ‘being in the field’!

Yesterday I was definitely of the italic version!

 If I ever want to remind myself just how tough the job of our deminers is then I get back on my hands and knees and demine for a while. So yesterday I took myself off to the field, plucked a (very happy) deminer out of his work lane and scratched round in the dirt for a while.

 Oh yes, then I found a mine and got to blow it up…a ‘perk’ of being the boss I suppose!

 To be fair there was method in my madness, the guys were complaining about the rocky ground they are currently demining on. As ever money is tight so it’s just not an option to just say ok yes, I will splash out on 15 pairs of knee pads because of a few bruised knees!

 However as an attractive shade of bluey-purple slowly forms around my knee caps I think I might sending a begging letter back to the big bosses to make a visit to their nearest skateboarding shop!

Miracles do happen

Manica mountains

I have arrived…back in Mozambique that is!

Sadly my bags decided NOT to join me. I have to say, I waved them off in Manchester with the funny feeling that 3 flights and 24 hours later we wouldn’t be ending up in the same place at the same time.

You know that feeling of relief you get as you see your bag drop onto the conveyor belt in arrivals and the feeling of slight pity you have for the crowd you leave behind knowing full well that at least one or two of them will patiently wait there until the very last bag has been plucked off the conveyor before resigning themselves to the fact that their bag is just NOT going to arrive and trudging off to report their loss….well that was me this time round.

I stood there trying to stay positive until the bitter end before taking a deep breath and entering the world of ‘lost luggage’…it’s traumatic I can tell you. Especially lost luggage in Maputo airport with a lady who quite clearly does not get job satisfaction with a computer system which quite clearly does not work.

I persevered with said lady for about 10 minutes before giving up and taking myself off home with a master plan!

All I can say if thank goodness for Virgin Atlantic in Johannesburg airport! A lovely lady politely informed me that they wanted rid of this problem as much as I wanted my bag found. She sent some poor bloke down to the ‘basement of doom’ in J’burg airport to quite literally search through the piles of bags missing their owners. No luck.

Then she got onto London…ah ha! It had been left behind in Heathrow. And so the miracle began to happen…the first lost bag arrived 24 hours after me and after yet another attempt at Maputo airport in bad portuguese with my new best friend (!) and another call to Jburg, the 2nd one arrived! Both unharmed, both still locked and both still in one piece…

Knowing I was about to re-enter my life of rather sparse social life my pals in Maputo threw a little drinks bash and at a horribly unsociable hour the next morning I boarded my 4th and final flight back to Chim.

So here I am back in the land of the Salmon Shack, Red Wing & total confusao….it’s good to be back!

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…”

Beach huts

Being what they call an ‘expat’ (basically a Brit living abroad) I take my summer holidays in the UK…and that’s exactly what I’m doing at the moment. I have abandoned the troops over in Moz and am on my summer holidays…in Britain! 

Apparently with this credit crunch I’m not the only Brit holidaying in Britain, the difference for me being that in a week I go ‘home’ to Mozambique!

My holidays this year were timed to celebrate my Mama’s milestone birthday except my homecoming was a surprise visit so for my first few days back in Blighty I was “in hiding” down on the south coast with Ankles until it was time to journey north for the big birthday surprise.

What a great way to start my holidays…long walks down blustery beaches, surfing in chilly breath-snatching waters and a plentiful supply of white wine! As ever we had our usual Ankles & Bells eccletic mix of music to accompany us on our escapades and I sit and write this blog listening to Eddie Vedder’s beautiful songs from the movie “Into the Wild” from my ‘Soundtrack to Summer 09’ CD (thanks Ankles!)

Between myself and the sisters we somehow managed to keep my surprise arrival a secret until the big day when we celebrated Mama’s big day with a retro tennis themed afternoon tea party (hence the outfits!).

Tbuck lawn tennis

Obviously no visit home would be complete without a trip into the hills so after a quick pitstop in Edinburgh it was off for a few days tramping round the slightly soggy and wonderfully deserted Glencoe highlands with a quick detour via Wales to climb the busy little anthill of Snowdon.

With my much needed  ‘fix’ of hills to keep me going for the next wee while it was back home for shopping, brunching and generally just hanging out for my last few days of summer holiday.

So donning my fabulous new biker boots (it’s ALL about looking good in the minefield darling!) I head back out to Moz musing over just what chaos and confusao I was about to walk back into!