Aparna in Mozambique

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tofo Part 2

Okay, this is a short blog post because am on cup 2 of coffee and have to start getting through my list of things to do in 3 days in Maputo, but hey, here are some pictures from Sarah's visit again to Maputo and our trip to Tofo, mostly!!!

Tofo Round 2

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Miss India

My latest fascination is my new bike. I remembered really what it is to buy something that is useful and that you really really love. In that little kid kinda way (zoom back to second grade show and tell.....I LOVE peanut butter, but I wouldn't mawwy it.) Yes, its that. Men buy electronics. Women buy clothes or whatever. Aparna in Mozambique buys a bike. Not just any bike. She is called Miss India. And almost every other expat in Beira has her. Those that don't venture to South Africa for the real bikes. Although I do have to say, that many people are buying the Miss India nowadays. She comes in Purple and Pink mostly, but last year's model seems to have come in blue and green.

Now, I have my transport. I go to the store, I take her to school, I go to meetings on her, and most importantly, I put things in her basket. She is my ticket to freedom. My favorite part about having her, is that people often ask me for rides or for a "bulea". Which makes me laugh. I can barely maneuver her myself, let alone another person sitting on the tray in the back. I could maybe manage a small child in the basket, but I wouldn't risk it! You can see what I mean from the picture below. ANd you can see that I am wearing some very stylish gear in the form of shorts (that I would never wear in the US) and a backpack (which I bough in the used market and which is, in fact, a bag for baby supplies, absolutely NO IDEAS!).

So, one of the other fun things is obeying car rules on a bike. I'm not sure if this is true in other countries, but here, the same rules. See, I don't really ride bikes in other countries. So, sometimes I think I can go down one ways. NO! People yell out "Contra mao" or the wrong way on a one way and proceed to give me commentary. Last weekend my roommate and I went for a spin and had to do an errand around a corner. Thinking that it was less than one block away, we thought we'd be daredevils and break the "contra mao" law. Within minutes, 4 policeman appeared. I managed to plead guilty. Then look extremely pathetic. MY roommate was mad, but I claimed stupid. And acted as a law abiding citizen. She was mad at the cops for exerting authority and threatening us. I almost cried. In the end, the big boss from another block came and told the 4 others to take our bikes away and make us pay 10 dollars each! Roomie was outraged! Now the shopkeepers got involved. They pleaded for us, pointing out how sorry we were. Then backup came from the alley, from another shopkeeper who claimed we were from his church and law abiders. And that we were really sorry, but that as foreigners we didn't know the laws. We wouldn't do it again. We had 3 out of 4 people convinced. The last one was a loose cannon. I kept looking pathetic and saying how sorry I was. He conceded to take my name and let us go. I walked my bike half the way down the next street and then pedaled my way out of there.

I almost lost my precious miss india. So silly. I really will follow the laws from now on, mostly because of this and the embarassment of being yelled at by people on the street for going the wrong way!!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The End of the World?

It is a normal evening in Beira. I worked on a research proposal with a group of students this morning, had a few meetings in the afternoon, went for my run, did my emails, and started working on a new research proposal for another knowledge, attitudes, and practices survey in a different district....and THEN........



Picture me. I am sitting and typing an application and working on some other things over tea and the BBC...and suddenly I am hearing scientists debating over something I remember from somewhere into my geeky astronomy loving past....THE LHC (zooming now into my sophomore year of college)...really, are they talking about the Large Hadron Collider on the BBC? Why, I am wondering (zooming back)? Because they want to do some new experiments (YAY)....they want to slam lots of things together really quickly and simulate the early universe (COOL). Lots of people are on the air, talking about dark matter and black holes. And oh no, now they are talking about Mr. Hawking. You know when they talk about Hawking that they are trying to get people excited....And people who don't know a whole lot about the universe love to talk about dark matter and black holes. True, they are they "flashy" things that people like to think about. And of course, important, but I'm not totally convinced on either one. They come from things we can't explain.

You know, we can't explain a lot of things. And sometimes we fill this space with things we can imagine that seem like they could exist. Based on observations of course. And experiments. Lots of smart people look at them and agree. But, still, how do you really really know? You don't, huh?

So, all of these people are coming on the BBC. People are scared (OOH). They are giving the poor physicist death threats (AAAH). Give the guy a break! This is some lifetime science experiment of his, let the old man have a good time and go to town! Plus he has joined up with buddies from big places...you know it is big when they get the buddies involved! I think he deserves to have a little fun....isn't this what scientists breathe for? So, yes, now a certain important person comes on and is talking about how when the protons crash together, beams (people love talking about beams), really fast, lots of them, gravity could increase around them, and phew, black holes everywhere. Inside the collider? Is this possible. Yes. Likely, the smart people say no. I have to say, I kinda trust the smart people. Plus tomorrow is only the test, the real show doesn't even happen until October (yawn).

Why am I talking about this? I haven't thought about the LHC since I was in college. Nor is it really relevant to what I am doing now....or is it?? When I was in grad school the first time, someone once asked me why people spend money on just this type of thing. I have no real answer other than, well, for one thing, it is really cool, I mean, look at the picture. And on the other hand, everyone wants to know more about the universe. However they explain it and however they question it, they are interested. And in general, everyone wants to know more about something that they can't envision happening. Traveling invokes this feeling, trying new food, cracking a puzzle or even, trying really hard to understand social problems, even if there is no specific reason...trying to get why people are hopelessly lost even if you can't put your finger on a concrete reason....(rambling)

Besides all of these things that I can compare to why we would want to know what the Universe was like right after it all got started....I like it because well, it makes me slow down a little bit and remember that there are millions of things that I really don't understand in the world. The wonders of living in Beira often also remind me of this, but in a much much different way. There are always people that are scared to understand more because it challenges their world view....I think that this point is probably more valid than the actual dangers of the big cool machine that makes things move and slam into each other really quickly...(WOW)

Looking forward to see how it all turns out (hopefully can sleep tonight)....aparna

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


First of all, yes, I know, I have not posted in nearly a month. Excuses? None other than my last two weeks before I went back to the U.S. I was running around like a chicken with no head. That, and I was feeling uninspired to write. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get myself to write about the ins and outs of my days. And I did have some great ones. I remember the day that I spent the whole day riding my bike (called miss india pictures will follow) around Beira to get groceries and do errands. I remember the days that I spent meeting with my colleagues to continue discussing medicinal plants and what our next steps would be. And there were lots and lots of days of watching DVDs with my friends, which strangely enough, became a little bit of our obsession in the last two weeks that I was in Beira. I wasn't really the hugest fan of Grey's Anatomy while in the U.S. but somehow in Beira, Grey's Anatomy has become hugely entertaining to me. I know, some people are cringing. I am in in for the surgeries and the action I swear, which are actually, pretty cool although totally unrealistic.

So, where am I now? In a little hotel in Joburg, wasting time before I have to go to the airport. Yes, I got up an hour and a half before I needed to leave just so that I could post on my blog. It really has been on my mind.

I went home mostly to attend a friend's wedding. I have to say that some of the intricacies of the Christian wedding were lost to me and I rediscovered this past week. I also discovered what being a maid of honor actually means. Who knew that I had to spend the entire ceremony holding my friend's flowers and fixing her skirt (or "train" as they call it). Things that never occurred to me. I also did not know that the maid of honor had to give a speech at the dinner. Ooops. My speech was funny and short (or at least people laughed). The best man gave this completely heartfelt tearjerker speech about what wonderful people my friends were. Talk about a little bit of a role reversal. I felt like I didn't do enough, but hey, I also hear that the maid of honor speech is something made up anyways.

Overall the wedding was wonderful and I tried my best to enjoy the party and stay up after 10PM. This is something I would seriously have to work on if I plan to attend any other weddings. I would hope that if in fact someday I were to get married, I would have a serious coffee before the whole ordeal to make it past the 10PM deadline. I don't know when this happened to me, but I am pretty sure that 26 did me in and turned me into this person who can't stay up past 6 year old bedtimes. I wonder if other people experience this same phenomena.

The rest of home was spending time with my family, friends, and working on some applications for last year. And oh, of course, the first weekend was dedicated to the bachelorette party, another exercise for me in staying awake. Good times though. While home, I had two meals at my house that were catered. Something completely new to me. Nowadays, when we have people over my mom prefers to cater south indian food so that everyone can relax. The food was great, but I have to say that I miss a little bit the madness of trying to cook for our growing family and the huge steaming steel pots of unlabeled food....there is something charming about the long preparations for the long awaited reward of eating. But oh well, now we were able to run errands up until the very last minute before people came over.

So I passed my vacations and bags packed, I am heading back to Beira in a few hours. During my trip last night, two really nice things happened to me. One, on my flight from Chicago to Atlanta, I started chatting with the girl sitting next to me on the airplane, who turned out to be a former Air Force EMT. She was reading a book that she finished and asked me if I had ever read it. When I said no, she gave me the book, stating that it would just sit on her shelf and that I had a long flight so I should read it. I have to say that it is something that I never even thought about doing, but that I wouldn't be completely opposed to do. The book is called "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and it is next on my list of to reads. I didn't get to it on the flight because of the multiple movie options. Still, really meant a lot to me that she gave me the book and now I am going to start doing the same! Well, that is, if anyone sitting next to me actually chats to me. On my flight to the U.S. I sat next to a 7 year old the entire time who talked to me about tetris and whether or not I wanted to eat all of my food.

The next interesting thing was at the Atlanta airport between concourse T and A. For some reason, maybe because I had 3 hours to kill and knew that I was going to be on an airplane for 20 hours, I decided that I was going to walk around the airport for 3 hours and made it my goal to go to every single concourse, from A-E and T. It was great. I almost didn't go to A and T because they were at the end, but on a last minute whim decided to do so. So, as I am going on the moving walkway, I look to the center and see these beautiful sculptures bathed in spotlights from the ceiling. The whole room (walkway really!) has this dim museum style lighting and then these huge rock sculptures in the middle of two opposing walkways. I immediately hop off the walkway and proceed to spend a half an hour with the statues. They turn out to be rock art from Zimbabwe and the whole display was so beautifully done complete with explanatory pamphlets and pictures of the creation of rock art on the walls. This was something I did not expect to see between concourse A and T I have to admit. I thought the idea was so neat, in a place where people are in transit to get them thinking further about other places. Here is the link for that: www.atlanta-airport.com. Heading back to the airplane, I was sort of in a daze. I then read an article about an "oriental rug" trader who told his story of how the most rugs that he sold were in transit, when people would just glimpse photos of his rugs and then ask him further questions about them. Interesting ideas overall.....here is another description of airport art, a good idea in my book: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/fea/travel/unitedstates/stories/DN-airportart_0916tra.ART.State.Edition1.41f340b.html.

Finally I get on the airplane and the first movie I watch was "The Visitor." The whole movie had this eerie glow to it, like you knew something bad was going to happen. But then there was Tareq, the shining character of the movie, this happy guy who makes beautiful music and shares this with everyone. Just reminds you of one of those people who reminds you that things are really great in the world if you stop and look around. He sort of spreads this feeling to everyone else. A highly recommended movie for those who love music and like hearing people's stories. If you really like music and don't mind kiddish movies, you should also see "August Rush." I also saw this movie, "And then she found me" starring Helen Hunt. Another tear jerker and more on the people's stories side. Slow, raw, and very real. I enjoyed this also. Okay, I am going to stop my movie commentary. But, I am that pensive sort of traveler. I do do my share of reading, but in between I stare off into space, try and chat with people, and get a really thoughtful streak. I considered writing letters and blogs while on the airplane even, but what can I say, sleep took over. But still, I am a pensive traveler. I wonder if others are as well?

Speaking of which, the time has come for me to go to get the next flight...Here is a new fall academic year for many and to all the excitement that fall to winter brings.