Friday, September 29, 2006

Why I don't like Fridays

Have you ever lived in a Muslim society? Northern Mozambique is at least 50% Muslim, and Islam is concentrated here on the coast, due to historical links with Arab countries. We are extremely fortunate in that there is presently no conflict between Muslims, Christians and followers of any other religion. Everyone is free to worship as they see fit, and if a woman chooses to marry someone from another faith, she simply converts. This may be an odd concept for those of us who have been brought up to believe in the absolute nature of faith, but it makes for very relaxed inter-faith relations in these troubled times. So far so good, and I have no problem living in what is effectively a very relaxed Muslim society.

My only problem, if you can call it that, is this. One of the admirable traits of Islam is the obligation to give alms to the poor. In particular on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Therefore every Friday the streets of Pemba fill up with the absolute destitute: the lame, the blind, the crippled, the sick, metally disabled, war-wounded, war-traumatised, lepers, the poorest of the poor, and so on. They circulate in large groups from one Muslim-owned business to another to beg for charity. To the credit of the Muslim community, they receive bread, rice, small change and other items. It is, to be frank, a horrible spectacle. These are truly desperate people, dressed in rags, stinking, sometimes shrieking, sometimes covered in sores, all pretty pitiful. And there is nothing I can do about it. I don't know where they are hidden during the rest of the week, for apart from a few regular beggars, we never see this sad section of society. It reminds me that although Pemba looks OK (if not great) on the surface, this is still an incredibly poor country with a lot of poor and suffering people. So, what should I do? As things stand, I do nothing. There are a number of people I often give a little money to (some of those "regular beggars") but I find the scale of the problem rather overwhelming. I would like to do more than just salve my conscience, but it is not immediately obvious how.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sorry bout that...


3rd time lucky

I have written this three times, I am starting to wonder if blogging from Mozambique is possible.

This time, I shall be brief. Lovely week-end:
beach (white, blue and green)
bank holiday
extra day off, yesterday, also my birthday
lie-in, breakfast at the hotel (bacon!), party, cake, presents
kids had a great time, fuelled by chocolate eclairs and a bouncy castle
better than anyhting else, good news from a family member, cannot say more. Yet.

By the way, comments now open to all - feel free to let me know I'm not talking to myself.

It was my party, but there was no crying

What a splendid week-end. Not only did we spend most of it on the beach (think white sand, turquoise water, palm trees, etc.) but Monday was a bank holiday, and on Tuesday the office was closed, which also happened to be my birthday. This started with an extra hour's lie-in (the best present Paulo could have given me), followed by a slap-up breakfast at Pemba's poshest hotel, where I ate things I never have at home - bacon, mushrooms, melon! Then a fairly leasurely day, rounded off by a little get-together at home which featured a truly yummy chocolate cake (if I say so myself, as I baked it myself) and some lovely presents. Think the kids had the best time though. Joaquim and his friends spent the whole night bouncing off each other on the bouncy castle, on a sugar-fuelled high (he is two and a half and doesn't usually eat much sugar) after raiding the choclairs. Sebastian slept through it all, after all he's a little young, at 5 months, for parties and sweets. I had a lovely time.

All of this was completely outshone however by some very good news from a family member, which I am not at liberty to reveal here. Yet.

It's my party, but there was no crying

What a glorious week-end. Not only did we spend most of it on the beach (think white sand, palm trees, turquoise waters etc) but then Monday was a bank holiday and the office was closed on Tuesday, which also happened to be my birthday, so it all turned out rather nicely. Had a little party at home, nibbles and drinks kind of thing, but I think the kids had the best time as we have a little bouncy castle in the garden and they spent the whole night bouncing on it and each other in a sugar-fuelled mania (didn't think about little hands when I placed the bowls of chocolate eclairs on low tables). Joaquim, who is 2 and a half, doesn't eat much sugar usually, so he was particularly lively. Sebastian (5 months, no sweets for him yet) slept through it all. Also had a very yummy chocolate cake (if I say so myself, as I baked it myself) which always goes down well.

All of this was outshone, however, by some very good news from a family member, which I am not at liberty to reveal here. Yet.

Feeling remarkably chirpy back in the office. After all, it's not long until the next week-end.

By the way, I have enabled comments from non-members (at my sister's prompting) so feel free to join in.

Friday, September 22, 2006

So far so good

Well that wasn't so bad, but I spelt my own name wrong. Phillips Marques. Note to self: proof read. Feeling brave enough to email my friends about this (hello!).

Welcome to my world

It's been a slow week at work. So slow in fact that I've found time to launch a blog. Bear with me while I learn how to use it, will you?

Recent events of note in the Philips-Marques household:
Sebastian has had two mango flies. I have removed them. For the uninitiated, and I won't go into too much detail here, they are small larvae that grow in your skin and eventually, if you chose not to pop them out first, hatch into flies. They come around at this time of year, fortunately they don't stay for too long. No-one's favourite guest.
Joaquim has got into Bob Marley. He spent 2 weeks asking for the same CD of children's tunes every morning until I couldn't get them out of my head. Now he's moved on. A great improvement. Wonder if it's because I used to play him "Three little birds" in the womb.
Paulo is recovering from the mammoth task of importing 5 trucks and a small car into the country, via Maputo. A hideous blend of customs, paperwork and mechanical breakdowns. I would never have done it. He - brave man - is considering doing it again sometime.
Rebecca is recovering from 4 weeks on my own with the kids due to the above and an absolutely crippling sinus cold followed by breathtakingly painful tonsilitis. I went to bed at 7.30 last night, I think that helped.

That's all for now, if I'm successful in posting this I may feel encouraged to write some more soon.