Thursday, November 02, 2006

Greetings from Maputo! Caitilin Shannon

(Caitilin Shannon is a good friend who has just completed law school. She was hired this summer by Doctors Without Borders to do an internship in Africa.)

I have arrived safely, well, and for the first time in a long time, well rested, if you can believe it. I was tempted to flee the apartment last night, as there was music pumping all night long from some club nearby, that and the night was gorgeous, breezy cool but not cold. The view of the city from my apartment is quite stunning – but then I guess that is what happens when you live 14 or so floors above the ground. Sigh. The primary disadvantage of high living is the fact that the elevators here are unpredictable at best. Last night was my introduction to walking 15 flights of stairs – makes the NYC walk-up seem like a warm-up.

So I have not been to the any of the clinics yet, but have had a chance to meet much of the teams. We had a planning meeting yesterday, to discuss goals for 2007. It was a great way to be introduced to the work and to see the various personalities of the two teams – Maputo and Lichinga. The work here is finally real, and from my briefing in Geneva and various discussion here so far, it seems that I will be plenty busy over the next months, which makes me happy. However, the work will be much easier once my Portuguese is more functional. The learning curve is steep though, and so far I have not fallen off. Thanks to my Spanish, I think that it won’t be so bad picking up the language.

As for my living situation – I am in an apartment which is HUGE and which I share with one other person, Natia. The street is called Avenida de Mao Tse Tung, not far from Marx and Lenin Boulevards. From the 14th floor there are views of the city from all sides, and I can see the ocean from my bedroom window, which is such a luxury. It is still a bit far to the water, but the view itself is nevertheless a form of catharsis. Natia is lovely: she is from Georgia and has about 5 years or so experience in administering MSF (Doctor's without Borders) projects. She has lots of stories to tell and is quite down to earth.

Natia has been giving me a tour of Maputo over the past two or so days. The city is nice… like many cities I have visited before – San Salvador, Mexico City, Tirana, Bombay – but then quite different. The climate is sort of Mediterranean – varied temperatures, with hot summers and mild winters, and somewhat dry. Ocean breezes abound. There are bougainvillea everywhere, as well as frangiapani, jacaranda, and flamboyan trees. Streets are wide and fairly clean, though many are quite in disrepair, not so unlike my hometown, NYC. Friday night I got a taste of the nightlife here – a bunch of us went to see a band, great music. Strangely in many ways being out was quite like being out in NYC (the NYC I like), in the vibe of the bars and music and the people, though not in the number of options.

The good news about communication in Maputo is that it’s pretty good. The office, where I will work some of the time, has 24-7 internet access, at home I have a landline, and I hope to get a cellular sometime this week or next weekend.

Well, that is all for now, more soon, especially reflections from my first week atwork.

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