Prague Twin

Monday, March 13, 2006


I am in the capital of Mozambique: Maputo. So far, I haven't had much of an opportunity to see much of the country outside the capital, but it is quite interesting here nonetheless.

Mozambique threw off five centuries of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975 by means of a largely Marxist revolution. In 1989, they officially gave up their Marxist stance and democracy has been advancing ever since. The current president, Armando Emilio Guebuza, was elected just last year and continues to advance the free-market and democractic reforms which began nearly 20 years ago.

As a result, Mozambique is enjoying significant growth and foreign direct investment (FDI). Although still one of the poorest contries in the world (ranked 200th in per capita GDP right behind Rwanda) it has one of the fastest growing economies. Per capita GDP is growing at 7% a year and has increased 10 fold in the last 20 years.

Mozambicans are quite friendly. I have not experienced any overt racism, nor have I felt any kind of danger. Street vendors are quite aggressive however, but it is little more than annoying. We had dinner the other night on a raised balcony, and paintings for sale would constantly dance by as if floating on an unseen moat surrounding the restaurant. One guy just wouldn't leave us alone at a Thai restaurant, and actually followed us a couple blocks after we left. He was annoying, but harmless.

Yesterday, we took a boat tour to a nearby island resort. Two Yamaha 85 outboards propelled the small boat out to sea in a five foot swell complete with breakers. We had no seatbelts or lifejackets, and at one point we were easily 4 miles from any land. Safety is not a high priority here (my kind of country). Pedestrians have no fear of cars, and thus driving consists of timing the gaps between the endless parade of pedestrians crossing the roads whenenver and wherever they please. We came within inches of running down a mother with her infant wrapped against her chest in the typical manner. She turned to us and had a laugh.

We got a taxi ride in a 1957 Ford Custom with right-hand steering. I'm not sure how rare this car actually is, but I had never seen one. In this case, we did get some stares. We were coming back from the beach area where hundreds of little stands are set up selling BBQ'd chicken and grilled fish. They sell wine, beer, cigarets, alchohol....essentially everything you need to have a good time at the beach. You can make a phone call from the beach courtesy of a mobile unit connected to a regular phone. The whole set-up sits on a podium about 2 feet wide, and seems strikingly out of place in the technology free environment of the beach area.

While my wife works during the week, I plan to head down there and mix with the locals a bit. Hopefully that will lead to an interesting post.


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