A typical day 2

A chunk falls off the newly concreted wall in the shower! Head for guesthouse breakfast…instant Moz coffee (like Nescafe granules but with chicory!) and bread rolls…try strawberry jam but tastes like jelly and not convinced its ever actually made any contact with a strawberry, try sausages – bad tinned frankfurters! Eggs…swimming in oil.

Hmm – these guys not quite got to grips with beautiful breakfast buffets yet! Eat plain bread and drink coffee.

Spend day waiting for then meeting the provincial permanent secretary – a man with the smallest feet I’ve ever seen! Then waiting for and meeting the district permanent secretary who asks about political campaigns in England (it’s election time here and there are lots of free goody bags being handed out here!). Diplomatically try to explain the differences between our 2 countries without using the words bribery or corruption!

Negotiate with Mayor at council offices to camp behind the office (this is the done thing here – you turn up in a new town on any kind of official business, head to what is the equivalent of the mayor’s office and request his permission to camp in his back garden…there is always a patch of available grass and up go the tents!!). DSCN2175

Mayor not in town. Get directed to police station, police chief says yes and we pitch tents next to the jail cell building! Laugh to myself about how my new temporary home is basically in the local police station…some things only happen in Africa I guess!

Climb into tent, spend half an hour organising my new home (I could be living here for some time) and remember how much I love camping.

Stick in earplugs to block out sounds of church goers next door reaching fever pitch proclaiming they are burning out the devil. Sleep!

p.s for more ‘typical day’ stories click here

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Lake of Stars

View from tent

This is the view from my tent!

Needing a (I think) well deserved break from the 40 degree desert minefield I have been living in for the past 3 weeks I decided it was time to break free from Moz and head over the border to Malawi.

It’s a place I have always fancied visiting and have heard great things about (no pressure then!) and before coming to Moz I read about an awesome looking music festival called Lake of Stars.

Live music definitely being a great love of mine and not having to work too hard to convince 2 friends to join me, we road tripped over the border and spent a long weekend at possibly the most beautifully set festival I have ever been to.

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The campsite was on the beach (not exactly the mud bath of Glasto!) and as the sun went down we listened to some great African sounds lazing on the sand drinking cold cold beer…a road trip well worth the 3 hours spent getting across the border! 

 

(this phone was a promotion by the local phone provider…it was in the sea and it actually did work! I reckon 2000 people went home with this exactly same photo of themselves!)

A typical day 1

Dried fishChicken

I regularly get asked 2 questions when I meet someone for the first time…

1. How did you get into landmine clearance?

2. What on earth is a typical day for you?

The first I have yet to come up with a suitably exciting war story! The second…well here is what I did one day last week…so a ‘typical day’ I guess!

Wake up early to sound of mechanics across the street using an incredibly noisy piece of machinery to something no doubt very random to an unsuspecting vehicle and listen to a freight train pass 20 metres in front of my house which makes the glass in my bedroom windows rattle!

Get up and spend an hour opening and closing the ridiculously unnecessary number of cupboards in my house looking for various bits of camping kit! Find a cockroach on its back in the spare room – looks dead, leave it for the maid!

Open the back door and get pounced on by dog wanting breakfast, feed him and use the moment of non-jumping dog to pack Red Wing currently sitting in the middle of the lawn (the garden hose doesn’t reach the driveway and until I have time to buy an extension each time the guards want to wash the car I have to drive Red Wings into the middle of the garden!).

Drive to friend’s house to drop off borrowed bbq…road closed for no explicable reason so off-road it through the bairro (the shanty house neighbourhood) where the ‘road’ is the width of the car so drive past a lady literally a foot away from me waving hello whilst sitting in bed in her mud hut.

Get to work with a 30 mins to do list…4 hours later still there. Storeman on holiday so dish out various bits of kit being asked for, fill up vehicles from our compound fuel pump (which involves us pushing 3 of them across the compound as waiting for new batteries so can’t start them!).

Sign out explosives for the survey team, sign contracts for new staff, accept resignation letter from exiting staff, sign cheques for accountant. Eventually get on the road for 6 hour drive to next province as ‘advance party’ in setup of new demining programme.

Use journey to have operations catch up with ops manager and brainstorm for new programme. Get lungs and throat full of dust from road…landrovers are notoriously NOT dust proof even with all the windows shut!

Stink Red Wing out with dried fish and live chicken (requested food shopping list from deminers’ camp we are heading to). Arrive at sole guesthouse in town for last night of running water and electricity (experience automatically makes me wash hair whenever have running water and plug in laptop whenever close to a working plug…2 luxuries you just NEVER know when you might next have!).

Shower wearing flipflops (…anyone who has ever backpacked needs no explanation as to why!!), drink gallon of water, sleep!

p.s for more ‘typical day’ stories click here

Landmine-free Mozambique

After hosting a recent visit from a UN journalist we’ve just been sent a link to his photo slide show…pics 6 to 18 are all from my new location I’m currently setting up way up north in Moz (photo 7 is obviously by far the most stylish!)

Mozambique landmine story in pictures

Many people ask me if there really is still a problem with landmines in Moz, mainly because there are few accidents but this is only because people know where the mines are and so avoid the danger areas…

In the space of a week I’ve met 2 families whose lives have been irrevocably destroyed by landmines. One man introduced me to his wife and his son both of whom have been seriously maimed by landmine accidents and I met a young girl who not only was blinded by a landmine but the same accident killed her big brother. Speaking from first hand experience…trust me, there is still a landmine problem in Mozambique.

However there is also light at the end of the tunnel – Demining is not a never ending story

Goat testicles for breakfast

I absolutely kid you not…

We bought a goat today to spit roast for dinner. The province we are in is absolutely THE place in Moz for goat. They are everywhere. So it only seemed right – when in Rome….

I opened my tent at 7am this morning to see a man squeezing undigested food gunk out of the goats stomach. Next I saw the goat’s head waiting to be spiked and roasted (roasted goat brain is very tasty I’m told!). A plate was then proffered in my direction with what looked like little bits of chicken…

Not chicken I was told…goat testicle. I refused then clocked myself and thought if it’s good enough for my guys then its good enough for me, stop being such a wimpy foreigner (and a female foreigner at that!) so accepted the piece being offered to me and swallowed it whole.

Never let it be said that I don’t ‘go native’ when the opportunity arises!!

And the taste of goat testicle….let me just say this…DOESN’T taste like chicken…

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If you look to the bottom of the picture next to the foot of the guy holding the goat’s head you can see the hairy ‘outers’ of my testicle breakfast!