Sunday, February 15, 2004

Another hot weekend, the heat is not over yet at all. In the middle of the day the aircon in the car just can't handle the calor, so the only solution is to drive very fast with all the windows open. There are only about 3 roads in the city where you can actually do this without hitting trench-like potholes (25th September, 24th July and the road out to the airport) so quite often you just have to grin and bear it.

Last night I had a fairly hairy run-in with the local constabulary which luckily all ended OK. I had just dropped Neill off at his flat in the wee small hours and decided to take a back street route back home rather than the usual cruise of 24th July (some days I think I must go up and down that street 20 times every day). This was a fairly dim idea as the roads aren't gridwise and most don't have signs so I was soon lost. I turned down a street which would have led back in the right direction except:
a) it led to a T-junction, of which
a.1) one exit was a barred off VIP residence
a.2) the other exit was no entry

So I U-turned but as I started to head back out a very big policeman stepped out into the middle of the road and motioned me to stop. Fair cop guv, he definitely meant me as there were no other cars about....

...finally finishing this story, the policeman asked to see my driving license - fortunately I had it and all the other car docs, as I had heard too many stories about just this kind of thing. He pointed out that I had entered a one-way street - hadn't I seen the sign marking no-entry?. I hadn't, so would I mind stepping out of the car to look at it properly. No problem, officer.

After walking halfway down the street I could make out a little stripey pole with peeling black and white paint, hidden under a tree - how could I have missed it? Once I had 'accepted that I was wrong' as he put it, we walked back the car while I waited for the lead-in to the 'propina' (bribe). Luckily at this point, a 4x4 full of of happily drunken Mozambicans zoomed up and made exactly the same mistake I had. The policeman went over to get them into trouble to, but they turned out to be big, fat and unconcerned, which in Moz is generally a sign of someone who is big, rich and powerful enough not to give a monkey's about small-fry policeman. Sure enough the constable was very emollient and the truck U-turned its way out of the cul-de-sac.

Plod plod back to my car where I am patiently waiting, plotting my 'exit strategy'. I engage in some casual remarks about the departing truck, innocently pointing out that they did just what I did - and got off scot-free. The policeman can't help but agree, then realises his mistake and desperately tries to backtrack, searching for something I did which was worse than what I did. As I remember exactly what manouevres I made I am able to remind him in a nice, dim foreigner sort of way, and he is stuck - now that this moral equivalence has been established he can't really get me into trouble.

So at last he lets me on my way, a free Scot.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Hooray! I have finally bought a car (metallic blue 1992 Toyota Corolla SE Limited 1.5l petrol for those who are interested. Air-conditioning, gearlock, and missile-launcher). The final hours of this long process are described below...

At about 12.30 the guy selling me a car gives me a ‘beep’ – a one-ring call on my cellphone which is very widely-used here to keep phone bills down. I go down the four flights of stairs from our office and into the stifling heat. He picks me up in my car-to-be and we start the daunting challenge of doing the paperwork for the sale. First step is the notary’s office where we get authenticated copies of my signature, his signature, and the transfer forms. A whirlind of stamps, signatures, queues and receipts.

Next, we take our own photocopies of all the docs we’ll be handing in ‘just in case’ they get lost. Finally comes the hard part – telling the government. We climb up to a tiny croweded office out of which, into the corridor snakes an irritable queue. Mozambique doesn’t have a DVLA as such, its done at provincial level and this is the office for the whole of Maputo – by far the most carred province in the country. Yet on our arrival there is only one person actually serving at the counter which explains the wait. We try a few ruses to jump up the queue without success, and after about 40 mins grind to the front. It was a cold morning so I wore my suit (100% wool) but now I am regretting that, as sweat trickles down my back and I shuffle my feet slyly to block any would-be overtakers. Eventually we get near the desk. At least one in three people at this point turn out to have got something wrong with their documents or are at the wrong office, and so are sent back out to start all over again. Thankfully my guy knows his stuff and I pay my $14 and get a receipt – allegedly in two weeks time I can come and pick up the updated ownership documents.

Last but as it turns out not least, we pass by the insurance company offices as I am sceptical of seller’s claim that the insurance is for the car, not the driver, and will cover me once I buy the car without any hassles whatsoever. Sure enough the first thing the insurance guy says is ‘but your policy is not transferrable sir’. Que sorpresa! He does explain a way we can get round this problem for a while until I have bought my own insurance, so I drop vendor off at his house and drive off in new mobile. Unfortunately he neglected to explain fully how the immobilizer works so halfway round a big (and luckily very slow) roundabout which doubles as a kind of free-form car park, the engine cuts out and I stop dead. After an anxious minute I figure out how to unlock the beggar and am off again. Great fun.

We (me, Neill & Luiz) went home a bit early to drive around in the car. It certainly improves our striking distance for finding decent restaurants...

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Sunday, February 08, 2004

Sorry just had to add this... I went on imdb.com to try and find out what city the movie was set in (seriously!). No joy, but in the comments section I did find this very interesting discussion about the penultimate scene (which, given that it is crucial to the plot, Moz TV obviously cut). Don't read unless you have seen the film but it does raise some interesting issues, about something that if the genders were reversed would rightly be considered by everyone, without a second thought, as a terrible crime:

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...writing this blog in the middle of trying to watch Moz TV's 'big saturday movie' - the dodgily-subtitled '40 days and 40 nights' in which Josh Hartnett tries do give up sex (including hand shandies) for Lent, in a city overrun by foxes of the utmost fineness. We couldn't work out which city it was set in but if anyone could let us know we have decided to go and work there instead as basically all females in it are apparently stunners (as opposed to here where its perhaps 60%).

In fact we almost gave up trying to watch as Moz TV are either showing it from a pirate DVD or they have 'Mr. DimmoThick' doing the reel changes as every 20 mins they cut from one scene back to an earlier one, then jumped past an important scene - each screw-up marked by a 'break' in which the same trailer for a crap Brazilian soap set in 1930s Rio was shown again.. and again ... and again ... wait let me just check ... yes again.

Well, I'm not that bothered as today was a great sunday - pure sun followed by little showers at 2-hourly intervals to keep the heat under control. Everyone was vegging around on the street in a relaxed way. I swam 1.2km and ran 11km so after that my heart was so slow and peaceful that everything seemed in kind of slow motion, filtered through a tint of calmness.

Also, I finally closed the deal on the car, if all goes well we can do the paperwork tomorrow and then I have a new mota all to myself - it already has a good sound system so I just need to put in the tinted windows and furry dice, then will be all set for some pothole cruisin.

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

The worst of the heat is definitely past, I can bear to sleep with the door shut most nights. Occasionally, when the wind blows strong, it is almost cold, a little shiver going just deeper than the hairs on my arm.

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Test-drove a car yesterday, almost OK except for a funny sound in the engine. I am going to get it checked out today.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Just finished reading "The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts" by Louis de Bernieres. It was so good that it gets a special mention. In fact I'd say I liked it more than Captain Corelli. Let's just hope they never make a Nicholas Cage-ified film version of it.

Given that the book is fairly unsparing about the horrors caused, directly and indirectly, by the American involvement in Colombia over the years, I suppose Hollywood will keep well away. Last night I watched 'Bad Boys II' where the entire Miami PD basically invades Cuba at the end in a totally save-the-free-world justified fashion, but I don't think they could do quite such a propaganda job with Don Emmanuel.

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