Starting to Feel like Home

We were moved into our apartment a month ago and now it feels like we’re officially living in Maputo! Settling your life back into a rhythm takes time, but so far so good. It feels a little strange to try and fall back on your routines without any of your familiar belongings (our household shipment might arrive by the end of the month) but the point is to be adaptable right? We received our air freight shipment two weeks ago and that has most definitely been a help. It was like Christmas morning! Who knew I’d be so happy to see my own sauté pan and bed sheets.

On that note, I’ve already learned a way to improve on our next move. State provides a standard Welcome Kit whenever you arrive in a new home for you to use until your household goods arrive. This includes kitchen utensils, pots, bed sheets, towels, a toaster, a broom, etc. In our first two weeks I managed to break the spatula, the sheets were giving us rashes, the shower curtain fell apart… you get the idea. So while it’s so wonderful that we have these items to do everyday things, finally having our own that we can rely on is great. Now I know that sheets and maybe a few other items should be packed in our suitcases for next time.

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The view from one of our apartment’s patios, looking towards the Indian ocean.

Probably the most important routine I’ve been trying to get us back into is our eating habits. Between the holidays, packing, and last hurrahs with friends and family at our favorite places (i.e. the breakfast pizza at Ozzie’s and the lobster mac and cheese at Cheesetique) it was wrecked before we left the country. And then we went to Italy. After ten days of delicious cheese and carbs, the first two weeks here in Maputo were spent in a hotel without even a microwave. There’s been a learning curve but I’m so happy to have a kitchen again. Even with a faulty spatula it’s been so great to cook and bake for myself. The biggest hurdle is that we don’t have a car yet so in order to actually have anything to cook with I either have to walk down to the little bodega down the street (I needed fresh ginger the other night for chicken curry soup and when I went to pay for the tiny knob the cashier chuckled and let me have it for free; while the service is great and convenient, most items are rather expensive) or convince a friend to take me on their grocery trips (mooching off of other people is a big part of this lifestyle, and I am still getting used to it). Grocery shopping here is not a one-stop deal, no Target runs are to be had. There are a few supermarkets varying in size and quality where you can find most items, but produce is best either at the open-air Central Market downtown or random stalls on the streets. For example, the only place I’ve found vanilla extract is at Woolworth’s, but the best and cheapest zucchini was purchased from a stall in the Market. SuperSpar has excellent fresh pizza dough and the most spices, but the best (and possibly only, depending on the day and what you want) place to get meat is at the little Deli 986 in town. And I can’t find dill or relish anywhere. Also, I was so excited to cook with fresh seafood but the only place you can buy it is at the fish market down by the beach, and I’m told that the language and bargaining skills required to successfully maneuver there are high, so that trip is going to have to wait. Mozambique does not produce many of its own goods so most items are imported from South Africa. Depending on changing laws or availability, things become scarce and expensive. While back home I would make meal plans for the week and shop accordingly, here I have to be more flexible and take what I can get. I’m getting better at throwing random vegetables together and experimenting with seasonings and sauces. I want to learn some Mozambican cooking and incorporate it with what I already know but that is certainly going to be a longer process. For now I will focus on learning to properly clean our fruits and vegetables with bleach (the recommended method from the embassy health unit) and adapting ingredients I can find to make some of our favorite things.

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Our search for awesome local restaurants continues. Dhow has great views of the bay and delicious Mediterranean-style food.

Another routine both Josh and I are working on bringing back is exercise. Josh has taken to running home after work a few days a week. We’re about a 20 minute walk from the embassy, so he’ll loop a couple miles around down towards the beach. I’m mostly trying to gain my strength back after spraining my ankle in January. I started seeing a local physical therapist who is wonderful and is encouraging me to do yoga and pilates to get my balance back (I mostly watch videos on Youtube – on a related note, I cheered when we got wifi two weeks ago) but it’ll be at least another week before she’ll recommend more movement. There are supposedly a few great dance and kickboxing classes in town and I’m eager to check them out.

Not working has been difficult for me. I try to set a schedule for my days but most of my time is spent alone. I’ve started taking a Portuguese class twice a week and am taking on responsibility for a weekly dinner club with other State and USAID employees. I attend embassy events and try to regularly meet Josh and others for lunch. We went on our first trip outside the city this weekend. And I’ve read eight books since we arrived. I cannot wait until my job starts! If the process continues to go well that will hopefully be in about 3-4 weeks. I’m shadowing my future co-worker and the person I’m replacing this week (not getting paid but I have some free time…) and am really looking forward to it.

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View of downtown Maputo from the Marginale, the road lining the coast.

Olá!

We have been in Maputo for just over a week now. I have to continually remind myself that yes, I am in Africa. That yes, when I open the curtains in the morning that is the Indian Ocean I see. Our first morning here, I sat on the breakfast patio of our hotel drinking coffee and looking out at the water and marvelling at the strangeness that is this new life. Constant sun and salty wind. The diversity of the people and languages being spoken. Knowing that the clams I ate for dinner likely came from the women harvesting the beach just down the street. What a crazy and amazing opportunity this is.

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The patio at our hotel

Like every new arrival we were given a social sponsor to show us around and help us get used to our new surroundings. He scooped us up at the airport along with our four suitcases and gave us a quick driving tour of the city, and then took us to dinner at his favorite Portuguese restaurant where we tried Bacalhau (codfish), fried corn and cashew tarts. He even picked us up the first morning to take us to the embassy where we’d start a long process of meeting and learning about everyone and everything. But as we walked into the building I fell and badly twisted my ankle. I was furious – this had just happened in October and I’d gone to physical therapy. I’d even navigated the giant, uneven boulders that make up the streets of Pompeii without any issues. This was the first day and I had shit to do!

I was ridiculously embarrassed but everyone was so nice about it. I joked that I just wanted to meet the med unit staff early. I was given crutches and sent back to the hotel where I have been spending the majority of my time. I hate that I’m not able to experience everything fully right now (Josh has been getting around, though: our sponsor took him to a reggae concert at the local art collective, he’s gone for a few runs along the beach, and he’s made some visits to the local stores for snacks). I have, however, made it to a few meetings at the embassy and received my badge, had dinner at the houses of a few of Josh’s coworkers, and gone out for Piri Piri chicken with our sponsor. Josh and I have ventured out to a few of the local seafood restaurants on our own where we successfully ordered delicious coconut shrimp and grilled prawns and rice with clams in halting Portuguese. One night I accidentally ordered an entire bottle of wine instead of just a glass, but it was good and I don’t regret the mistake!

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Josh at Sagres, a little open-air restaurant on the beach

I think that babying the hell out of my ankle is working, and I’m anxious to use the tools I now have – including a brace my therapist encouraged me to buy before leaving – to work on strengthening it soon. I’m itching to explore the neighborhoods and local museums and attractions. We’ll be living in the hotel for at least another week while our apartment is set up. It’s likely we’ll be moved to a different apartment later this year, as the embassy is changing leases, but I’m looking forward to settling in for the time being. It would be the greatest luxury to bake cookies in my own kitchen and do laundry!