Friday, April 27, 2007

Inselbergs and ladybirds

So, the inselberg. What a great word. I think the literal translation is island-mountain, which is a pretty good description of these huge chunks of granite which soar up all but vertically out of the plains, creating an awe-inspiring lanscape of monoliths disappearing off into the hazy blue distance. Although, of course, to experience this awe-inspiring landscape at its best, you have to climb one of them. Which, in this case, involved a two hour uphill scramble, at times clinging onto small handholes in the rock, and pushing through thick vegetation on the occasional flat bit. I was quite pleased with myself for making it to the peak, as a) I am not very fit (who, apart from Swisslil, finds the time and energy to exercise with small children to look after?) and b) I sometimes get a bit wobbly with heights. In any case it was well worth it, and based on the assumption that if I can do it then almost anyone can, I am going to put a bit of time and money into helping the young guys who guided me get better organised and a bit better equipped (bare feet!) so that they can offer a better (and more lucrative) service to the occasional adventurous tourist who makes it out to Meluco.

Meluco the (very small) town is the district capital of Meluco the district, which is a vast and wild place with many elephants – who frequently trash the crops – and a tendency towards drought – which also trashes the crops – and a subsequently fairly low standard of living. I very much want to promote tourism in the area, which is truly beautiful, but am hampered by the fact that there is no public transport, so only tourists with a vehicle can get there, and also no phone lines, so you can’t make an advance booking and be sure that there is somewhere to sleep, something to eat and some form of entertainment apart from trying to guess whether that strange night-time noise was a curious hyena or just a mouse in the roof. So we will start small and take it from there.

That was last week. Then, at the week-end, was the birthday party. Sebastian turned one on the 18th (in Meluco) and Joaquim turns three today (26th). Conveniently enough, a week-end lay in-between, so we inflated the bouncy castle and paddling pool and little slide thing that links the two, patched up the tear in the smaller Winnie-the-Pooh paddling pool, filled both, blew up many balloons, ordered grilled chicken and savoury snacks (“salgadinhos”, literally “salties” - a particularly fine Portuguese tradition, little pasties and pastries and the like), made jelly, bought ice-cream, baked two cakes and transformed them into one ladybird and one rabbit (looked a bit like a mouse, but Sebastian didn’t mind), and scoured Pemba for suitable goodies to fill going-home bags for 20 little boys and girls. (When I say we, Paulo ordered the chicken. I forgive him, he’s been busy and it was kind of fun.) 20 little people then scoffed the food, burst the balloons, sang happy birthday twice, and bounced, slid and splashed to their hearts content whilst their parents enjoyed a cold beer and whatever food they could salvage and made sure that the babies in the small pool stayed upright and left the kids in the bigger pool to their own devices. As you can imagine, it was a great success.

If I can find the cable to download my photos, I will post some of both of the above.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Alan Johnston

I want to tell you about the two days I spent in Meluco and the inselberg I climbed. I want to tell you about Sebastian and Joaquim's birthday party last Saturday. But I think this takes precedence:

Alan Johnston banner

I don't believe I have to get all pompous and tell you why I think it's an outrage that he's being held. More lightweight blogging to follow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Nothing much

The rainy season, which was tapering off as should be at this time of year, has made an unexpected comeback with a series of dramatic night-time storms over the past week. Torrential rain, loud thunder and flashes of lightning that fortunately do not wake the boys and are keeping the garden green.

Our house grows (rain is good for the cement). Need to order the doors and windows.

Received an official paper the other day, addressed to Rebecca Bums Phillips Marques. My middle name is Burns. An easy mistake to make, and not funny in Portuguese, but I thought you'd like it.

My sister (you may read her blog) is on holiday and I miss her virtual presence. Is there a word for that?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Boy news

Sebastian’s walking is coming on in leaps and bounds. Well, not literally, obviously, but he’s a very enthusiastic learner, and can take about 10 steps on his own now. Sensibly, he prefers to walk in the sand, where falling over is less painful. He’s very pleased with himself, and so are we. Joaquim also thinks it’s great.

The boys are developing a certain sibling complicity, the better half of sibling rivalry. Unfortunatly, their latest game involves the following: Sebastian gives Joaquim a cheeky look and emits a very loud and high-pitched screech. Joaquim – delighted – imitates him and there ensues an unbearable tympanum-busting ping-pong of screams. We get cross with them both and evetually prevail on J to stop, but S is less pliable, i.e. J knows it’s naughty, S thinks it’s just funny. I prefer it when they take the animals in and out of Noah’s Ark together. Even if it does mean I have to sing “the animals went in 2 by 2” interminably.

Speaking of interminable singing, J continues to blast out nursery rhymes and the alphabet song tunelessly but enthusiastically, and the charm is starting to wear off. On the other hand, I am very impressed by the fact that he is starting to read numbers (1-5) and letters (Munchy Mike for Molly and Milan, Jumping Jim for Joaquim, Clever Cat for Clover), which he seems to love doing, especially when it’s his own name. I feel very lucky with our nursery, a few years ago there was nothing. I have decided that I have no choice but to ignore the article in the Guardian the other day that reported that attending nursery makes children more disruptive at primary school. Another stick to beat the working mother with. All I know is that not attending nursery makes Joaquim much more disruptive at home. I’ll have to take the risk.

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Monday, April 02, 2007


Sebastian has taken his first steps! He’s still very wobbly, but on Saturday, and in front of a very appreciative audience (he has a sense of timing), he took 4 bold steps on his own. “More, more!” cried Joaquim, duly impressed.

It was just one element of a particularly fine week-end which kicked off with dinner with friends at the new Chinese restaurant on Friday night: good food, cheap and – best of all – something different. Saturday saw S walking and J enjoying a rather loud kids’ party, and on Sunday we paid Rafina (Sebastian’s nanny) to take the two boys to her house at 6am and we slept until nearly 9am. Bliss! Followed by a long day at our friend Brenda’s place on the beach inside the bay, with a big group of friends, lots of kids, good food and cold beer. One of those week-ends that really makes me appreciate living here.