Saturday, October 20, 2007

Going to the mall.....

This is the Feira de Fi, a large shopping area for Quelimane. There used to be an old electricity company located here on big plain, but it went out of business years ago and now there is a maze of thatch stalls with second hand clothes and plastic house stuff from China . It's very easy to wander in and get totally lost because there is no logical organization to anything. We went to try and find some shirts for Kev and a mat for our room. It was really, really hot so I stopped to get one of my favorite treats, a "lanhe" (a young coconut with water inside instead of milk) at the "food court." This was a guy sitting on the dirt road with a big pile of these coconuts. I asked how much they were. "Cinco contos," he replied (about 20 cents). "Faz favor, Podia abrir meo lanhe pra mim?" (Could you open my coconut for me please?) The guy whips out a machete and gives the coconut four or five good whacks and the top comes off. (I'm always impressed by that. You can see young kids whacking these things open. Kevin and Troy and I tried it one afternoon with a kitchen knife because it seems like such a cool skill to have. I was afraid someone was going to lose a finger.) He handed it to me, edges dripping. I wish I could describe the taste of these when they are fresh and you have been walking in heat and dust for a couple hours. First of all, it's always about 60 degrees inside a coconut. The water is clear, cool, and a little sweet. I drank the whole thing as we walked, avoiding the hairy edges. We passed an older man while I was taking a big swig. He laughed and yelled, "Lanhe, gosta n'eh? Mozambican food!" When all the coconut water was gone, I found some concrete steps and tried to bash it open and scrape out the coconut meat with the little top. I was pretty ineffectual, so I asked Kev to smash it. When we had nibbled it clean, we dropped the shells on the ground. It feels weird to do that, but there are no trash cans anywhere. I don't think there is much of a trash collection program in Quelimane. In some areas, there are huge piles of shells laying by the side of the road.

Coconuts and politics: There is a company called Madal with a coconut plantation outside of town. We met a consultant and his wife (wonderful people) recently hired by this company; who told us about their efforts to make charcoal out of these shells with kasava paste. Many people here have tiny metal stoves and you can buy tiny piles of homemade wood charcoal for them and cook outside. Their plan is to reuse the coconut shells as a sustainable fuel source, so people don't cut down more trees. They used some at a cookout at their house recently and it worked beautifully. They took us on a drive through the plantation recently, which is gorgeous. The palms grow enormously tall and pineapples are grown in between them. As we drove through, we would see people among the trees that would duck down as we passed. We learned that about 50% of the crop of coconuts and pineapples is lost to theft every year. What a problem. One the one hand, people are hungry and the crop is a source of food. I don't know how the local populace approaches this situation. Maybe they feel that after years of colonial exploitation, part of the crop should be theirs. On the other hand, 50%. Yikes! How does the farm, which employs many people, stay financially afloat?

Kevin got a shirt and we bought the mat for about a dollar from a huge pile of them on the side of the road and lugged it the mile or so back home (well, ok...Kevin lugged it.)



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you've posted another "adventure". I am visiting vicariously through ya'll!!! I hope ya'll have adjusted well. I can't wait for the next one!!

Love always,

October 21, 2007 at 6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

coconut water is the best! i remember having it as a kid when we visited india. my grandparents say that the water is good for digestion and "cools down your insides" which, i would imagine comes in handy in mozambique! i'm glad to see you are doing well! miss you both!!


October 21, 2007 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Laine said...

You look marvelous! The fresh food and coconut milk (no processed foods)sound delicious.
I guess you heard that Vanderbilt beat South Carolina-don't know your preference for that.
Thanks for the blog. I look forward to them and, of course, to the photos.
Take care.

October 22, 2007 at 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am enjoying this blog from both of you. The trip to the "mall" was interesting, as is everything you do in Mozanbique. It would take a lot of grit just to survive in there,at least for me, but both of you appear to be enjoying the experience. What tales you will have to share the rest of you life!
Meanwhile,those of in the wilds of McMinnville are living vicariously and enjoying it very much.

October 22, 2007 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger bobselph said...

Be on the lookout for a surprise I shipped last week to the office in Maputo. It went UPS and I hope it makes it.

October 23, 2007 at 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Querida Lara,
Great story about your first lanha. I agree they are good on a hot day. I had to smile about your experience at the clothing mall (as we call it). You see I live in Quelimane too & enjoy the special things we can't get in the States. Have you tried Litchis yet?
We'd like to meet you & Kevin sometime. We live behind the "Comercio Interno" gov building (everybody knows it) in the big white house with the long driveway. Or ask Stacy about us as we have already met her.
We are sorry we didn't know you to ask you to our Thanksgiving get together. Hope you had a break from work.
Phil (Felipe) DuBert

November 22, 2007 at 9:55 AM  

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