Ilha de Moçambique is a terribly beautiful place. Beautiful because it's a lowriding sandspit on top of (what I believe is) a Pleistocene coral reef. It's surrounded by coral islands with precarious palm trees perched on top and the broad shady streets date back to the 1300s when Arab traders carried ivory and gold from Zimbabwe through this outpost. Terrible because something like 12,000 people crowded onto the little island to escape from the 2-decade civil war, and most of them and their children are still here. Obviously water and hygiene are huge problems. In spite of this, everyone here seemed healthier, happier, and, well, way mellower than the inland farmers. Island time baby, island time.
The center of the island is a huge hole, made when the Portugese (or their slaves) carved building stones from the coral foundations to build the fort (subject of a future post). The hole is now home to about 10,000 people and a booming market of fish/fruit/nuts/out of context used t-shirts from the states. Young ladies roam the streets in giggly packs (chickens!) wearing beautiful Capalanos.
Jodie forgot her "swimming costume" so she picked up a bargain pair of purple shorts with a hole in the crotch. Luckily there are these guys running a little sewing shop near the marketplace. They have old footpump singers nearly identical to the one in my mother's foyer - a hand-me-down from her grandmother I think? which is now a historically interesting curio table. Sort of made me feel like shipping it to Mozambique for these guys to fix up and run. They were so smooth I couldn't believe it.
Our little escort: "I AM JAMES BOND! I AM FROM AMERICA!" To which I responded, naturally, "I think James Bond is from England." And Jodie pipes up, ever so helpful, "Christie's from America! Where Coke comes from!" Ah yes, thanks for that Jodie, your ancesters are horse thieves. Ha! Just kidding. Jodie's Australian. And it just so happens, my ancesters are also horse thieves. My Grampa Sam proved it. So we're not so different, you and me, Jodie.
Like any good Bond girl, this lady runs with the pack of scruffy boys and holds her own in all the kicking and running and wrestling and hustling and all the general Tom&Huck goodness these kids get up to. Terribly fond of her for some reason. Because she's scrappy I think, and was trying to hustle me while in awe of me at the same time? A bold character. These kids could not for the life of them figure out why we took so much interest in rocks, shells, sand and tide pools. These are pretty picked over, but there were still plenty of brittle stars and sea urchins - guess nobody in the Far East has figured out how to make an aphrodisiac from these yet.
By the time we got to Ilha I had quit worrying about why the kids weren't in school. Occasionally you'd see a pack wandering around in school uniforms but a lot of the time there would just be kids everywhere all day long. It didn't occur to me right away that primary school isn't free. This sight (2pm on a weekday, outside wall of a crowded house) just about broke my heart:
You go girls.