24/20

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This is the ‘nickname’ of the actions of the Mozambican Government towards the Portuguese remaining in the country after independence in 1975. The reason behind the name being incredibly sad and really quite shocking.

Back in 1975 when Mozambique gained independence and waved goodbye to years of colonial rule it was decided that with the end of Portuguese rule should be the end of Portuguese life in Mozambique. Any remaining Portuguese in Mozambique found soldiers on their doorstep threatening them with 24/20; they had 24 hours to leave Mozambique and could take just 20kgs of belongings with them.

Think about the last time you had a good clear out or you moved house. Us humans like to collect. Or think about the last time you packed a suitcase before a long haul flight. Many of these families had considered Mozambique as home for 2 or 3 generations. 20 kgs is NOT alot.

One hotel owner, whose life and savings were invested in his business, in a moment of desperation poured concrete into the water pipes of his hotel. A despondent attempt at ‘well if I can’t have this place then neither can you’. It was a desperate, desperate time.

Recently a friend of mine took on a huge expanse of forested mountain from the government. An investment tied in with an environmental interest in preservation of the ever decreasing forests in Mozambique. With farming the main occupation for the majority of Mozambicans, good fertile land is in high demand.

Mozambique is not actually a very densely populated country but once a family is farming an area it is preferred to expand and expand in that area rather than up-sticks and move to a completely new area. This means though as the lower areas are over cultivated families slowly inch up and up hillsides in the search for untouched fertile soil. I guess like the slash and burn of the rainforest.

Part of his project will be to protect the forests being inched into. An added bonus of my friend’s project is that on top of his newly acquired mountain (as you do!) is one of the many abandoned 24/20 Portuguese houses. I say house but actually I should say mansion.

On first arrival at the foot of the mountain the road up to the mansion was utterly overgrown. Living on the road with his team of locals with axes and machetes they steadily hacked away at the trees growing up through and laying across the road. Camping on the road at night and starting all over again the following day.

It took them 2 weeks to reach the top!

Although there was talk of this mansion, there was no sign of it when they arrived. A local pointed to a clump of trees and they started hacking again. Completely enveloped in the forest itself the house slowly slowly came into view. What they found was unbelievable…

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After nearly 35 years not only was the house still standing (sans roof!) but the impressive sweeping staircase and grand open fireplaces were still intact. The house had been pilfered within an inch of its life but wandering around the shell of this magnificent building, you could easily tell which rooms had been bedrooms and bathrooms and imagine life as it had been in colonial times.

Being a total romantic for such things I fell in love with the place.

This weekend we headed up there to camp out in this tumble down relic. It’s 2000mhigh so cold at night so we lit a roaring fire in the old fireplace, had a guitar singsong and drank whisky…it was like a boozy girl-guide camp!

IMG_2564The next day the guard offered to show us to a waterfall. Sometimes these things sound better than they are but we thought while we are here (and being oh-so-British) we politely accepted. We were gobsmacked when we arrived, the waterfall cascaded right off the mountain summit into the forest below – it was a view to die for.

It felt a privilege to be somewhere most people in the entire world don’t even know exists never mind will ever visit. The whole weekend was the experience you only get living somewhere rather than visiting as a tourist – exactly the experience I yearned for the many times in the past where I was spending a month here or a month there working overseas.

What a lucky girl I am!

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Poor wee puppy

So am back from holiday and my relaxing break seems a world away after just a few days back in the land of confusao. Naturally there was all sorts of work stuff to deal with…like drivers who think they are Schumacher. That however is a whole other story!

Here’s one about my puppy instead…

3 things you should know…1) Normally my dog lives at my house and my maid cooks up cheap meat for him to eat. 2) My maid is currently ‘on loan’ to the office as my office cook has got TB. 3) Everyone at the office contributes a little bit of cash each month to supplement what I put in for office lunches.

So before I left town I had a wee think and came up with a  plan of how to feed my dog while I was away – leave money as normal for what would normally be for my lunch but in this case the food was to be dropped at my house for the puppy. Just in case (!) I left a few tins of dog food with my guards.

I thought all in all a simple solution. It would appear I just thoroughly confused everyone. I returned back on Sunday to a starving puppy…

I was reliably informed by my house guard that the tins of food had run out on the Weds….but the tins were only meant to be for  emergency!

When I asked at the office I was told – for some utterly explicable reason – my dog’s name had been added at the bottom of the lunch list (!)…that meant I pretty much insulted every single last employee by implying that I considered them to eat the food of dogs! Bearing in mind in Moz dogs are generally not kept as pets so it’s already quite an absurdity in their minds that I have this dog as a pet.

So THEIR solution was to NOT feed the dog with the lunch food but instead to send someone to buy dog food with the money I had left…. Sounds like another simple plan? That’s what they thought.

Unfortunately Chinese whispers then took the helm…the logistician told the maid NOT to cook food at the office but instead buy dog food. The maid went to the house and told the guards she was going to buy dog food. The guards told her there was no need as I had left tins of food already. The maid returned to the office, stopped cooking food for the dog and life continued as normal…so no food from the office, no food at the house….you can see where I’m going with this….

On the Friday the maid telephoned the logistician to say the guards had telephoned her to say there was no food for the dog….no s**t Sherlock! Then it was the weekend and no-one works on a weekend…hence by Sunday one heck of a hungry dog!

Welcome to my world!!!

It’s all about the team dynamics

Table Mountain panoramic

Success! I have managed to get my first family member to visit Africa. On the way back (well kind of!) from a trip to New Zealand, baby sis and hubby dropped by South Africa. With another friend jumping on a flight from London to join us, we were all chinking beers bottles our rather trendy Cape Town boutique hotel before we knew it.

Cape Town – in fact probably the whole of South Africa – is definitely best enjoyed in the sunshine. They are a nation of ‘outdoorsy’ folk so the downpour which ensued for our entire arrival night and well into the following day was not a good omen.

There was a slight dip in the “group dynamics” as it started to look like the ‘Leach ticklist of stuff to do’ might not attain quite as many ticks as planned.

Luckily the pre-planned schedule of activities wasn’t laminated (phew!) so with slightly fuzzy heads from a night on Long Street and a few phone calls by baby-sis, we jumped ship from Cape Town and headed for Cape Point…NOT the most southern tip in Africa but definitely the most tourist friendly most southern tip in Africa.

We must have been following the sun and within a couple of hours we had clear blue sky. The tick list started getting ticked…penguins on Boulders beach, Cape Point light house, whales breaching in Hermanus, wine tasting in Stellenbosch…by the time we rolled back into Cape Town the sun had even beaten us there.

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Abandoning the boys to their rather smelly fish-chum boat trip to dive with sharks, baby sis and I headed to Simon’s Town. Donning what can only be described as the least flattering of wet suits ever (with a thickness which worryingly seemed more suited to the chilly waters of the British Isles) we went scuba diving! It was a first for baby-sis and she took to it like a ‘fish to water’ (sorry!). A few beers later and the boys turned up to entertain us with stories galore of the Jaws-esk day they had had.

The sun decided to stay for the rest of the week so we hiked up Table Mountain and took the obligatory tourist trip to Robben Island. Safe to say a few beers were sunk, unbelievable seafood was eaten and many MANY photos were taken (mostly by Mr Leach!).

I remain Cape Town’s biggest fan…

Final point…for comedy value…the award for best holiday snap goes to….drum roll…baby sis (sorry Mr Leach)!

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Bribery & corruption

I went to Zimbabwe the other day. It’s only 50 miles away so just like nipping from Manchester to Liverpool…except a LOT more hassle it would seem.

A friend needed to do a border run to renew her visa…easy enough to do. I am a resident here so don’t have any problems…that didn’t stop Zimbabwe trying to make life difficult for us though.

We were travelling in her personal car so as to not be our usual conspicuous selves in our white NGO radio-clad trucks! She had only just bought the car so as in any country it takes a wee while to do change of ownership. However we had a piece of Government official paper to say it was her car, maxed out with official stamps and signature scribbles.

We made it out of Moz no problem and made our way through no-mans-land, slowly weaving past the tailback of fuel trucks trying to get petrol into Zim, towards the Zim border. As soon as we walked in to present ourselves, our passports, our dollars and our car papers we knew we were in for a long wait. We bumped into the Mozambican lady who had sold my friend her insurance…they chatted for a while as I queued for our immigration forms.

This lady is Mozabican and is married to a Zimbabwean. They both work in their respective home countries so the border crossing is a regular weekend event for them. She was having some issues because of some miniscule problem with her car – a cracked brake light or something totally insignificant like that. Hearing that we held our breath as we handed our car papers over.

Lo-and-behold (!) they were handed straight back to us accompanied by a shaking head. “Sorry madam, we cannot believe this car is yours”.

I won’t even bore you with conversation which then followed but is involved lots of very formal english being spoken (by them) and lots of clenched teeth smiling and nodding (from us) as we ping-ponged the papers across and back the counter.

Their problem was that our temporary ownership papers were in Portuguese (gee – what a surprise, we live in Mozambique) and their “Government designated official working language” (they actually said that) was English.

Their implication was that we could have forged our papers and therefore they could not allow our car into Zimbabwe. The problem was that they WOULD let us in (having just paid our $70 visa fee!) but not the car.

Maybe there was another solution we could offer them they asked? We knew exactly what they were implying …maybe we could ‘aid the entry process’. We were on the edge of a blindingly huge crevasse…if we jumped in feet first it would be blatently embracing the rife corruption which is crucifying this part of the world but at the same time how self-righteous and moralistic can you be whilst at the mercy of some jobs-worth immigration official.

Our Mozambican friend approached – she could see we were struggling – and said maybe her husband could help. He was a friend of the top-dog there. He spoke quietly to the guy behind the desk – I mean literally 2 or 3 words max – and before we knew it our papers were being stamped and we were waved through the gate.

What he said I don’t know, maybe they are the same tribe, maybe he was owed a favour…in any event by accepting his help we had still really accepted a corrupt favour.

Onward into Zim we had been told about a little known garden cafe, garden in the sun, chilled music, banana fritters, quiche and chocolate cake! We were sold. It was a bit of a mission (just to add to our day!) but find it we did. We walked in and straight over to the menu which indeed listed a multitude of sinful treats!

We went to order, my mouth watering, only to be told they were sorry but the only thing they had was….pork chops! PORK CHOPS!

My friend is a vegetarian – she was practically crying by this point…3 hours through immigration and no quiche, no cake…no nothing! They promised to make her some vegetarian pasta and I opted for the same (I mean…pork chops…come on!). We solemly sat down in the garden thoroughly hacked off.

Then…the pasta arrived…with sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta (all pretty much unobtainable in our wee town)…then they told us they had some chocolate cake left…things were looking up….then….

a girl came over to offer us her copy of Hello! magazine!! Yay!!

Sarah in Zim with Hello

3 hours later, fed, watered and filled with gossip we drove to the highest hill we could find to look down over the mountain range which marks the border between Moz & Zim…what a stunning view…not such a bad day after all but my word what a mission!

In Zim looking at Moz crop