milestones

It’s a curious feeling, building a life in a totally new country. I’ve always come to a new place with either a trip, a home or a job at least semi planned. In Mozambique, were really starting at zero. This makes for both a great adventure, and big frustrations. We’ve been lucky to meet loads of people who know a guy that can help us with project x or paper y. But, it’s time consuming.

My first impression of Mozambique is that it is passionate about paperwork, bureaucracies, sidewalk cafes, great coffee, and chicken. This has defined the first 3 weeks in Maputo. The city is by far my favourite African capital and we’ve been busy cooking prawns, going on very long walks, and figuring out how to turn Spanish into Portuguese. We’ve learned that due to the influx of Portuguese looking for jobs, the country is very unfriendly to people coming to look around for more than a month. They’ve set up a gauntlet of expensive hoops to jump through if you’d like to be here as more than a short term tourist… And we’re jumping. Conversations with people from all walks of life has helped us find the puzzle pieces needed to stay and hopefully were making progress. Finding a job will be key to letting us stay… And so starts the job hunt.

While we look for a job, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to hit a whole wack of life milestones. I sit here writing this blog with a tiny puppy at my feet, and a tiny truck outside. The truck was the first priority since this really is a country best accessed by 4×4. We spent days (Bryce spent more) hovering around the Pakistani car dealerships that specialize in used Japanese cars. We finally found our truck, a Pajero Jr. Not likely you’ll have seen them at home since it caps out at 80km/hour, but it will move us around for the time being.

Our pup we found on the street outside the apartment we share with a wonderful Zimbabwean woman. We noticed upon moving there that dogs were always for sale at “puppy corner” and after a few walks by, we couldn’t resist. Josa is allegedly a 2 month old German Shepherd/Rottweiler cross. Quiet at first, she’s turned into all her name means and more. Josa is short for Corajosa.. A Portuguese word that means: courageous, brave, fearless, venturous, bold, intrepid, spirited, spunky and adventurous. Our first week with her has rocketed us both into a routine set around her bathroom and hunger needs. With some walking, car ride and bathroom victories, I feel like we’re getting into a decent – albeit early morning – rhythm.

For the next few days, the three of us have made a return to South Africa for immigration issues and some discount shopping. It’s a nice break from Portuguese (or my best guess at the language), but were antsy to go back and make this work.

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the end of india

Sad times. I started to write this post from the fetal position in a crappy hotel in Mumbai. After 3 incredible weeks, my stomach had had enough. I’m shocked that after weeks of eating as I please, its decided to explode from all ends. Chalk it up to exhaustion? Though, our last week has been the most relaxing of all.

Having really packed in the cultural and sight seeing activities in the first half of the trip, we were ready for the beach and pool. The south delivered. We checked ourselves into a pretty swanky pool in Cochin for the day, and sipped on overpriced mojitos that were worth every rupee. We also had our first contact with other travelers. This mainly led us to discover that Carolyn and I exclusively speak gibberish to each other and really like going to bed early. Party animals, I know. Practical shoes to come next.

We took our longest train trip up to Goa which was a surprisingly enjoyable 17 hours. Our car had a rotating group of people, all very keen to chat. I learned a lot about two men reunited after 40 years, and all the things they’d done in that period (marriage, 3 kids, a few grandkids, holidays to the US). They explained some o the extreme variation we’d seen between states in India, and their perspectives on why. They spoke about the educational systems and the influence that the British founded boarding schools still hold. One of the things I find the most unsettling about backpacking is my lack of context. Hearing their politics (and reading a great book on Indian history/politics/economics – thanks Katie) was a refreshing change.

Goa was unlike any beach town I’ve seen before. It’s a combination of: the remains of a hippy trance scene, the Russian mob, Indian tourists, Goan culture and backpackers. It has the best people watching to date. Russian tattoos were intimidating, and old trancers have spectacular fashion sense. We took a cooking class and dummied seafood to remember that we were still actually in India, rather than some vortex where time, nationality and jobs don’t exist.

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We left Goa refreshed and sunburned, vowing to wear sunscreen next time. Hitting Mumbai meant our trip really was wrapping up and the nostalgia of all that we’d done began to set in as I planned multiple trips back. We spent our time in Mumbai poking around the art district, in hand carved caves and temples and on the beach watching the sunset over the city with ice cream. It was a city that, with a bigger budget, I could spend weeks in. More was planned, but my body nixed that idea and we painfully headed through traffic up to the airport hotel treat we’d gotten ourselves as a parting gift.

With that, and a heavy dose of cipro, I now sit on the plane to Maputo – diarrhea free. India has become a top contender for favourite country. It sits alongside Rwanda for most beautiful, South Africa for most interesting, and of course Canada for general wonderfulness.

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Kerala!

We’ve made it to the south. After a day, we are appropriately burned, sweaty and full of seafood. I can’t say I’d had much exposure to keralan or southern Indian food before, and this post will just be a quickie to tell you not to make the same mistake as me. Stuffed with fresh coconut broth seafood curries, I only hope that Goa will compare. Here’s why…

1. Coconut, everywhere. This meant that our food was finally a bit less dense, way healthier, much more tropical and reminded me of my family’s cooking. Coconuts are also diced up on the side of the road for a drink and snack.

2. Seafood, everywhere. Having avoided meat throughout this trip, it was a welcome change to have seafood rather than cheese be the bulk of a meal. Fish was pulled fresh from Chinese fishing nets each morning and stored on ice for lunch. You’d pick the one you want and the restaurant would cook or fry it up. It did unfortunately come whole with bones but, what can you do.

3. Paratha. A flakey delicious southern naan bread. Lighter than its northern buddy… And wonderful. Try it. Immediately.

4. All served ocean front with a cold kingfisher (beer is finally easily accessible).

The south is off to an excellent start so far. I’m again amazed at another new state’s vastly different personality. Sadly we were only in Kerela for a day and a half due to a very delayed flight so, I’ve flagged that for a revisit as well. Now it’s Goa time and then, Mumbai and were off.

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