Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Home alone

I suppose it’s not all that surprising but after such a long break I seem to have got out of the habit of blogging regularly, and then I end up with too much to say and too little time to write it in, and also the worry that you’ll get bored and tune out before your each the…er, hello?

So before I launch into what I’ve been up to, I’ll just share a couple of pieces of news with you. My sister, no longer very struggling author Marie, has just sold her book ‘Gods Behaving Badly’ (as if you didn’t know) to Ben Stiller’s production company to be turned into a TV series. It will still have to get past the pilot stage, but nevertheless, exciting stuff! And my dear friend Lizzie, whose great blog Switzerlady has generated a cult following, has been reborn as Ganda Lady (she’s moved to Uganda) and I wish I could remember how to do links so I could send you all whizzing over to her new place. Anyway, you can always google it.

Meanwhile we’ve been having a fairly hectic time of it since I returned from SA. Paulo is involved in something called the Initiativa das Terras Comunitarias (Community Land Initiative), set up to help local communities register their land rights in order to be able to utilise them to better and more lucrative effect. At this stage, he’s implementing a series of meetings and film showings with community leaders, government bodies and the communities themselves. Not, as you may have guessed, in Pemba, and indeed not even close to Pemba. The furthest away he is working is on the border with Tanzania, quite literally as he’s been bathing in the waters of the great Rovuma river which is the border. That’s about 500km from here. So to cut a long story short, of the 17 working days since I’ve been back, he’s been away for 9, and this week he’ll be away all week. As for me, I’ve also been away on Ibo and Quirimba islands – it was my turn last week – for 4 days. So, we’ve had 4 working days and 3 week-ends together. This is quite emotionally stressful after a 6 week separation, then add in the fact that both being at home, i.e. working full time and caring for two under-4s, one of whom still needs special attention, and travelling for work are tiring and stressful in their own way (Paulo recently drove 1000km in 4 days) and you’ve got two rather worn-down adults looking forward to a week off at Christmas with no travelling and minimal stress. Enough whingeing. We’ll survive.

The week before last, when Paulo was only away for three days, I was able to make a flying visit to Meluco. The idea was to inspect the guesthouse that we’ve been putting some money into rehabilitating and consult with the owner on next steps. She wasn’t there, in fact she was in Pemba, but the house was looking much better, definitely meeting minimum standards for minimum-standard tourists. What saved the day (it’s a bit frustrating to drive 7 hours in order not to meet the person you wanted to meet) was the fact that Meluco was celebrating 35 years as a town. So, in typical fashion, everyone was drunk or on their way, and there was a lot of drumming and traditional dancing. The variety of drums is always astonishing: huge great bass drums made out of oil barrels cut in half with a tightly-stretched goat skin laid over the end, tiny little drums that have a wooden spike to fix them to the ground and which are vigorously beaten with thin sticks, round drums and hexagonal ones, deep, high, fast and slow. I’ve seen most of the dances before, but it’s always enjoyable and this time there was one where all the young men were dressed as women (“Why?” “Because they have to dress as women for this dance.”) and another where they were also playing little wooden flutes. But by far the highlight as far as I was concerned was a little group off to one side who appeared at first glance to be playing a tape of traditional music. Far from it! They were in fact playing home-made instruments through two clapped out old tape players that were serving as amplifiers, and a megaphone as a speaker. Three guitarists, including bass and lead, playing guitars made of shaped planks of wood with a few strings attached, accompanied a singer/rapper whose mic was made of an old torch with something rigged up inside, and kept time with the drummer, whose drum kit comprised of a bass drum (as above, but with pedal), two traditional drums, and two cymbals hammered out of sheet metal of some kind. It was FANTASTIC. I have lost the cable that downloads photos from my camera, but I’ll make a plan and post a photo here as soon as I can. Got to see it to believe it.

On to Ibo and Quirimba, last week, where I did lots of good work and spoke to lots of interesting people and also spent an hour reading in the shade of two huge, ancient mango trees. I believe I have mentioned my love of mangoes before, but I feel I should add that mango trees also give the best shade of any tree, and as such I was in a good place to enjoy my novel (a bizarre book called Wild Sheep Chase). My love of mangoes, however, pales into insignificance next to the enthusiasm of the local children. It’s an annual feast: free, bountiful, wonderfully sweet and juicy fruit literally falling from the heavens. A dozen or so dirty kids were hanging out under the trees where I was sitting. The rustle of leaves and thud of a dropping fruit triggered a scrambling flurry of bony elbows and knees culminating in a dusty dive into the sand to grab the prize. Then a triumphant grin and a sticky face. As the children are spread out under the tree and as the mangoes fall randomly, there is a pretty even distribution of fruit, although the bigger kids often get the better of the smaller in a one-on-one. Usually there is no squabble over the winner, although I did see one foul: a nasty tackle from the rear which drew a sharp reprimand from a watching adult. The fallen child lay in the dirt and wept rather over-dramatically, but she kept the mango. I also got lucky: a mango fell near me and the kids were too scared to come and claim it. It was delicious.

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At 8:56 pm, Blogger gandalady said...

Hello mate! Am most touched by the big up, and seriously impressed by what you get done with 2 little uns. I also feel the need to pick your brains about all things Ugandan, but I might save that for an email xx


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