Sunday, 12 May 2013

Alone in Maputo

After the traditional switch into ghostmode for a twenty hour transit, I arrived in Maputo, which I found to be surprisingly quiet and cool. It is Sunday and it rained yesterday.

The streets here are lined with palms and foliage, birds darting from one tall structure to the next, cars lazily meandering across lanes and through stop signs. Colonial architecture is everywhere, Portuguese roofs and window frames and influences are everywhere, and the streets are boulevards with sweeps of trees and greenery. Almost everywhere is coastline, from which a cool breeze tempers the warm air. Winter is closing in but no northern European would dare to call this winter.

More than 80 percent of Mozambique’s 23 million people live on less than $2 per day. Only 35 to 40 percent of the population can read and write, and less than ten percent has access to electricity. I'm here to work with @Verdade a new kind of hybrid media organisation that believes if you give people information access and a channel to express themselves, you take the first step toward engaging them as active participants in transforming the country.

Using a vibrant Facebook community, local chalkboards, networks of taxi drivers and community outreach programmes, @Verdade innovates with content, distribution and engagement to involve over 400,000 people weekly in politics and social issues.

In the evening, I went on my usual solo jaunt, getting into scrapes and ending up - again, as per usual - stumbling along a dual carriageway in the dark. I managed to find the bay regardless, and as the sun was setting, I began my descent down a gentle curve, and swallows flipped and twisted their way between light sources gathering loud insects. Up on the hill, odd Soviet-style housing blocks peaked by masses of radio transmitters. Before I knew it I was lost. In Maputo, the darkness arrives suddenly, as with an extinguished light.

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