John’s All-Encompassing Plan for 2009!

Right. The holidy is over, the job done in two weeks, and various things are coming into place to make 2009 a year in which John makes the foundation from which he shall save/destroy the world!

Phase 1

Phase one revolves the primary axis of studies. After finally chasing down the university, I am now safely tucked away and registered for my Masters at Wits. I shall be studying such amazing and wonderful things as Strategic Studies (war), Development (peace), International Organisations (NGO’s who pick up the pieces post-war), International Economics (Financiers of either war or peace) and so on.

It’s cool in so many ways I could never explain in justifiable terms without alienating a large portion of my social network, but rest assured that it’s precisely what I want. I had been banking on returning to SA to do postgrad studies since early 2008 when I declined to recontract in Japan. Thus actually finally being enrolled is a huge affirmating sigh of relief. Later on this month or next I intend to continue my post-Japan redux saga, as I have discovered several interesting and internal things on which I feel the need to expound! Regardless, for now all one needs to know is that I am back in university; cloistered away from the turmoil of the financial markets and job losses. Being jobless and utterly uninterested in full-time work for a year is nice. Poverty is not so nice. But the pro’s outweigh the con’s so far.

Phase 2

Phase 2 is basically things I need to get my arse in gear and do once I finish work. First and foremost is health. Following daily soccer practice/snowboarding/walking/general exercise in Japan, I have done virtually stuff-all since being back in SA. This shall change! Wits Hockey, Some running on the track, and maybe some squash if I can find some willing friends who want to play. They will be resumed, and I shall be good at them. After all, if I can’t humiliate an opponent/team/fellow jogger, what is the point? Certainly it’s not about personal goals. Heavens no. It’s about humiliation so that I can feel good about myself. Yes…

Keeping along with that track is debating. I am still horrendously inexperienced but, with a really cool National Championship this year I feel I should give it my best crack this year. I shall need to find a partner who is moderately intelligent and who can deal with my crippling humility , lest I speak with some common peasant who cannot keep up with my vast intellect and shining eloquence. This is important, as debating is all about mental masturbation. If I can’t be smug, I’m doing something wrong.

And that’s it really. I have no further machinations which I feel particularly inclined towards. Post-holidays I have a mountain of books to read (Hemingway is still currently the firm favourite, as I have demolished several more of his works), I need to find a bag to take to varsity, and I need to blog more. Reading Charlie Dunhoff’s blog – a Hamatonbetsu ALT who updates on a virtually daily basis – makes me extremely aware of my comparative laziness. Finding the willpower to write stuff was traditionally borne from Monday afternoon boredom at school in Takushin. With no classes left to teach in, nor elementary schools in which to frolic, easily 80% of my Japan posts were written at my desk at the Junior High. Now, however, I find I write only when I feel a particularly strong compulsion to do so. Makes for random and intermittent thought-farts, but at least it’s something I guess!

My music video of the week. Rise Against – Re-education (through labour):

Written by admin in: Africa,Books,Things Japanese |


So, Mozambique is done and I have returned. About 10 showers later it’s safe to say that Mozambique is dirty. But it’s more akin to if one took the word ‘dirty’, shoved in a mud patch, left it in the sun to bake a bit, and then cleaned up with bilge water. Yes. Third world countries are filthy. I don’t honestly know why this still surprises me.

Anyways, the trip itself was quite cool, and it’s always great to see a new country. Considering I’ve never actually been to another African country, this was quite important in that I can actually say I’ve seen more of the dark continent than SA. There were a lot of similarities to SA, a lot of differences, and a lot of things I can compare to my trip to South East Asia in 2007/2008. Here’s the summary:

The Land

Mozambique is hot as a bastard. It reminded me a lot of the humid, 36+ degree summer in Durban. It’s much like walking and breathing in a muggy soup. From the moment I disembarked from the bus in Maputo I sweated nonstop until I got back onto the Greyhound to Johannesburg. It also seemed to have a tendency to rain in torrents. Contrary to popular belief, this didn’t cool things down a whit, and instead only contributed to increasing the humidity. That being said, we did still traipse around the capital (Maputo) in the rain with nary a complaint. We were much like a bunch of drowned rats afterwards, but it was still great to see the city.

From Mozambique

The backpackers in Maputo: ‘Fatima’s’

For those not in the know, a quick history lesson; Mozambique was formerly a Portuguese colony until, post-WW2, in a fit of compassion, the colonial overlords took sympathy on their vassal state and gave it independence. Overnight. In a week virtually all the Portuguese skilled workers and civil servants had left the country, creating a power and skills vacuum in Mozambique which would make post-revolutionary France look like a timeout in a football game. The inevitable civil war erupted and two leading factions warred for supremecy, RENAMO and FRELIMO. There’s a lot more to it, including South Africa’s own dirty dealings in Mozambique, as well as intentionally bringing in thousands of migrant labourers from Mozambique instead of taking them from the local bantustans, ultimately impoverishing Mozambique of skills and disenfranchising the local black South African population who might otherwise have found a lot more work in SA’s mines.

Put simply, Mozambique crumbled post-independence. Visiting it now, many years later, it’s incredible to see a population effectively squatting on the ruins of a once-impressive country. The infrastructure is literally decaying away, and if you can find an apartment block in Maputo that has been painted in the past ten years I’d be impressed.

The outlying rural areas flood in heavy rains, and outside of the cities most dwellings are palm-rooved huts dotting the landscape. It’s quaint from a tourist’s perspective, but for Mozambique it only highlights the oppressive rot that has occurred. Still, it makes for some truly remarkable scenery.

The People

The people tend to reflect the above a little. And that being said, my holiday was all of a week so perhaps I was limited to the “let’s fleece the mlungu for all he’s worth” crowd. In that respect, the people reflect almost as obviously a mercantilist ethic as the Thai and Laotian vendors in Asia. They all have the same hungry gleam in their eyes. Buying anything requires bartering and you almost always get shafted. In Asia one haggled over a paltry dollar or so more for the hell of it than any real loss, but in Mozambique, the prices are effectively the same as – or often more – than South Africa. Thus haggling takes on a far more desperate atmosphere, where both vendor and customer have very invested interests in milking the other for as much compromise as possible.

I loathe this rampant looting and pillaging of whitey, but I recognise why it exists.

The Holiday

The holiday consisted of seeing 3 major locations: Maputo (city), Tofo (beach) and Inhambane (town). As previously mentioned, Maputo is what one gets when one ceases any and all development of a city for several decades and allows it to decay over time. It’s charming, but I would never, ever wish to live there.

Following Maputo we took a ten hour shuttle to Tofo, an idyllic little beach spot, littered with backpackers, campgrounds and timeshare houses right on the beach. Put simply it’s a great place to go, if you have a 4×4 bakkie and all the equipment necessary. I might be biased due to spending 3 nights in a 45 degree oven/tent on the sand, sometimes in the pouring rain and sometimes suffering from sunstroke due to too much swimming in the sea and general beachness. After 3 days a bed was very much in demand. Tofo is pretty much ruined – and made – by South Africans. We flock there in droves, interspersed with a remarkable amount of Peace Corps bleeding hearts who come to Africa to do… something (what precisely they do is beyond me), but they stick pretty much to themselves and the South Africans generally be what South Africans do best: drink beer, braai and generally raise hell. The affluent ones flood the coast with 4×4’s hitched with speedboats rigged for deep sea fishing, quad bikes, trailers, everything. They spend barely any money in the country, as most food and supplies are simply brought with. It’s shameful, but then again, when foodstuffs and general supplies cost a metric crapton, it’s possibly understandable (rather save that money and use it for petrol to power your hundred-thousand rand boat and Toyota Land Cruiser.

From Mozambique

The beach

From Mozambique

On the shuttle to Tofo

From Mozambique

Lunch (the food poisoning comes free!)

From Tofo we opted to spend two days in the ‘port’ of Inhambane, which actually turned out to be my favourite spot of all. It’s a quaint little town with one jutting pier accounting for its ocean commerce… or something. The town itself is jsut as decrepit as Maputo, but still has a little more charm, somehow. The night life was fascinating, the town pleasant to walk through, and the accommodation slightly more comfortable. Not much happened there per se, but it was still a great little town to be in. I shall instead speak with pictures!

From Mozambique
From Mozambique

The dockside walk

From Mozambique

The ‘hotel’ in neighbouring Maxixe (“Masheesh”)

As mentioned before, this was a short, week-long trip with not a helluva lot of excitement, but simply seeing a new country is in itself awesome in its own right. Coming back home, I was very much looking forward to the ‘petty’ trappings of 1st world living. Things like hot water, a comfy bed, painted buildings, and vendors who wouldn’t take the clothes off my back given enough leverage. Nonetheless, it’s important – I feel – to experience places like these firsthand, rather then simply be intellectually aware of them. Visiting Mozambique provides unknown, yet essential, affirmation as to the evils of perpetual exploitation and war gone very, very bad. It’s developed it’s own character in spite of this, but resembles, to me at least, merely the scab covering the rather painful wound beneath. Mozambique is screwed, and won’t be unscrewed for a very long time. That, I think, is a lesson anyone who has aspirations of power and governance should learn.

From Mozambique

The border point. The people at the top right of the photo are the end of the queue (I was sorta in the middle)

Written by admin in: Africa,Books |

A Return to (un)Civilisation!

The bus ride from Maputo was 10 hours, including a delightful 2 hour interlude at the Malelane border post where literally thousands of human traffic attempted to get stamps in their passports. What do you my faithful readership care? Not a whit I’d wager. But for me it means I am tired.

I shall post more later on in the week, including pictures when I find the bloody cable for my camera which has so far eluded me. Suffice to say the holidays were quite a grand excursion and I’m glad for them! Christmas with the family in chilled-out Durban and catching up with old friends was great, and so too was backpacking around Mozambique with my brother and entourage.

The latter was a very interesting experience, but in no way or shape or form relaxing. Talking with some Finnish folks on the bus back into SA they nailed it on the head that in Mozambique one is more concerned with surviving the experience more than having a ‘holiday’. It’s a large swath of typical African rural grass villages interspersed with the decaying remnants of a decades-long abandoned colony of Portugal. Indeed, upon entering the smelly, smoggy haze of Johannesburg this afternoon I was just glad to see houses with a relatively fresh coat of paint. Mozambique had good, great, mediocre and downright miserable experiences, on which I shall detail later on (again with pictures.) I learned some things and corrected others, but overall I come back from it a better person, which is ultimately all that really matters to me.

Much like the thought of returning to Sarufutsu after a particularly long trip, I always find that I look ever-so forward to getting home and being able to dwell in my own space. I’m a hermit like that; content to venture on temporary forays into the wilderness so long as I know I’m coming back ‘home’.

But for now, I am off to wash some very filthy clothes, eat some overdue-Christmas treats and go to fucking bed!

Written by admin in: Africa |

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