Thursday, November 27, 2003

Today I was woken by the doorbell at 6am. Since it is already very light at that time, I didn't quite realise how early it was until I had already stumbled out to the stairhead. I was half-expecting some kind of ambush but it turned out to be a little guy with a big smile on his face which I guess was supposed to assuage the rude interruption (even for Moz 'seis horas' is a bit on the early side). He wanted to see the owner who I explained several times did not live here. He wanted to 'serve' her with some kind of court order and I pointed out that I could not guarantee that she would pass by the house any time soon.

Nevertheless he scribbled an official-looking document and handed it to me. It didn't have my name on it so I was happy to take it, but I was well pissed-off at his complete lack of caring about waking me up. However given that he worked for the Maputo Department of Justice (or something like that) I decided not to make a big thing of it.

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This whole Mozambique thing is in fact a fraud - I am actually living in Peru and Julie has just spotted me working as a guide on the trail to Macchu Picchu - apparently.

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Monday, November 24, 2003

Well the municipal elections went off peacefully, though with a dreadfully low turnout, despite the fact that none of the major opposition parties boycotted the process this time round. There were certainly some shenanigans in the overall process but nothing major - the current 'partido em poder' won 29 out of 33 places.

To encourage people to vote, the day was in fact a holiday, as I found out almost by accident on tuesday afternoon while inducting some new recruits:
"So have a go at making sense of this manual and then we'll pick up again tomorrow"
"Tomorrow - isn't that a holiday?"
"Er, no, its a wednesday"
"No but the elections..." (genuine concern creeps into voice at thought that crazy foreign boss might seriously be thinking of working on a holiday)
"You what? Hang on then, and let me check with the team..."

So I have a quick run-round (we have now spread into two offices) and sure enough there is a chorus of good-natured insistence that nobody ain't doin' no workin' tomorrow no way Jose. Given the rather chaotic nature of things at the moment we have received no official guidance about this from on high, so Luiz and I decide to give in gracefully.

Come thursday, very few people have the blackened forefinger which means they actually made it to the ballot box - so most of them weren't doin' no votin' neither that day. Still everyone makes up for it by voluntarily staying so late on thurs and even friday that I have to politely suggest they go home before they start making mistakes. Our team is certainly beginning to kick arse if I do say so myself.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

What a rubbish airport is Heathrow. In the last few years I have flown via Schiphol a lot and got used to its well-signed layout, egalitarian shops (named only after what they sell - "Books", "Cameras", "Dutch Hardcore" etc.) and best of all - simple and reasonably-priced Internet access.

Heathrow, by contrast, where I had to spend 5 delightful hours on the way back to Moz, has more or less the same shops you'd see on any British high street - except with special "high prices" which make a mockery of Duty-Free - and no Internet access. Despite being the busiest passenger airport in the universe, or something, Heathrow Terminal 1 has only some measly stand-up internet booths at 4 squid an hour (6 if you use the BT ones). I couldn't believe this at first so asked in a Dixons. The guy said that there were some dialup ports in the Business Lounges, and promptly offered to sell me a laptop seeing as I didn't have one. I admired his enterprising spirit, but bit my tongue rather than point out that I would never buy a computer from a bunch of ignorant rip-off merchants like Dixons (or any of their extended-warranty-flogging kindred: Curries, PC World, Comet etc).

I therefore went to the BMI desk and blagged my way into the business lounge, where apparently had computers. Appearances aren't always reality though, and no sooner had I been welcomed by Sonia at reception than I discovered that they too only had phone jack sockets. Sonia very kindly offered me a drink but I declined as there didn't actually seem to be any food in this lounge.

At this point I discovered that to get back into the main concourse required a half-mile trek round through security again, as the lounge was just beyond the "point of no return".

After this I gave up and paid my pieces of eight (well, pound coins are the closest we have to gold money) into the dilapidated Internet kiosk. With only a Master in IT to help me it took a while to figure out - but the browsing experience was decidedly unpleasant, given the heavy metal keyboard which missed out the useful buttons and required 5 BHP to press a key, rendering typing impossible. Next time I am definitely going to try Air France, which means only one stop in Paris, a city both cooler and with nicer restaurants.

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Friday, November 14, 2003

Packing my stuff as I fly out of Glasgow tomorrow. I have bought so many clothes (Maputo having rather a dearth of reasonably-priced fashion apparel) that I will run the risk of being charged import tax. So I am going to go through all of them and cut all the labels off etc to pretend I had 'already bought them'.

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Monday, November 10, 2003

The other day I drove at rush hour along the M8, heading east towards Edinburgh. Thanks to some good music, it was in fact a very peaceful experience. The going was slow due to endless roadworks and diversions, and night fell around half-way. At one point we gently climbed up a long rise, a stream of red lights in neat pairs, counterpointed by a brighter river of white lights which flowed neverending down the hill in the other direction. It seemed like there were more cars just on this road than in the whole of Maputo.

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Sunday, November 09, 2003

No posts for a while sorry am in Scotland for a brief visit and a wedding (not mine). Chilly.

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