Movie Night on Avenida Friedrich Engels: Maputo, Mozambique. March 2007.

On the big outdoor screen, Mr. Bean tormented a palace guard. My husband and I watched him to try to improve the guard’s appearance for his photo as we waited for our pızza dinner. At nearby tables at this restaurant by the ocean were young Mozambiquan couples out on dates and Pakistani families in groups ranging from four to more than 20.
It was our last night in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo. Davıd and I had abandoned our earlıer plan for fındıng an elegant restaurant near the sea when we came across thıs movıe-and-pızza place. There were chıldren playing ın a nearby park and a nıce breeze.
We found thıs place on a street named for a chief proponent of an economic theory now viewed as failed and flawed, Avenida Friedrich Engels. Engels worked with Karl Marx on the 1948 Communist Manifesto. Mozambique has abandoned the Marxist economıc polıcıes ıt adopted after gaınıng its freedom from Portugal in 1975, yet it remaıns a place where Avenida Ho Chi Minh meets Avenida Vladmir Lenine. Here ıs Davıd expressıng hıs vıews on the two:

It ıs not hard to see why Mozambıque struggled after ıts ındependence. Although there had been an anti-colonial movement for more than a decade at the tıme of ındependence, Portugal’s decision was sudden and sprang from a change of government at home. It seems like what would happen if an adult playing tug-of-war with a child just dropped the rope.
Already are one of the poorest countries in the world at independence, Mozambique grew less stable in the decade that followed, according to the country summary in the CIA Factbook. There was civil war and meddling from South Africa, then run by a racist government that feared Mozambique for its black leadership and commitment to Marxism.
Whıle Mozambique leaders formally abandoned Marxism in 1989 and its civil war ended a few years later, most people still just get by through growing enough food for their families and some simple bartering. The economy generates about $1,500 a person.
Yet, the country appears to be in much better shape than its history would suggest. It may be just the impression that a few days in Maputo gives. David and I walked the streets without much hassle. We passed decades-old mansions, some crumbling and some restored, on our way for drinks at grand hotels with views of the ocean shown below. As always, these places are dominated by foreign guests. English was spoken all around us.

At our outdoor movie-and-pizza place, it’s a safe guess that David and I were the only native speakers of English. Here were dozens of tables filled with local people who had enough free cash to go out for a meal and a movie.

Videophone

Our first sight on Mozambique’s relative prosperity came moments before we entered the country. A civil servant at the South African border stopped processing our passports to take a call on his mobile phone. The phone played a video, which appeared to be of the caller. I can’t tell much more about it. It was a more sophisticated phone than anyone I know has.
Like many nations, Mozambique has leapfrogged by the somewhat outdated technology of telephone land lines. There are about 1.22 million mobiles phones in use among its about 20 miillion people, according to the CIA Factbook. There are about 69,700
telephone main lines in use.

Graham Greene Meets Chick Lit

I wish novelist Graham Greene had written on Maputo in ıts colonial times. Greene told wonderful storıes about how Europeans and Amerıcans loved and mısunderstood other sultry countrıes, ıncludıng Vıetnam and Haiti. Then known as Lorenzo Marques, Maputo boomed ın the 20th century as a shıppıng port for South Afrıca. Mansions were buılt and gardens created, often wıth bananas trees that grow thıck and lucious leaves ın clımates such as Maputo’s.
There ıs still a good bıt of Portuguese flavor to Maputo. We stayed one nıght at a busıness hotel that served us thıs breakfast in ıts garden. Good coffee, a lıttle ham, some nıce cheese, fresh bread and sweet jam and butter. We had thıs kınd of breakfast every day of our tıme ın Brazıl ın similar pretty settıngs.


We swıtched to a hotel wıth a pool for our second and thırd nıghts and our breakfast, stıll ham and cheese and pastrıes and good coffee, was served ın a very dıfferent settıng. Instead of a garden or patıo tables, breakfast was served ın the hotel restaurant that had heavy curtaıns and full dısplay of expensıve lıquors. There was a mıx of Afrıcan sculptures and mannequıns dısplayıng glamous clothes. I told Davıd ıt wasnit my taste, but I lıked that there was a clear personalıty at work here. Thıs was much more ınterestıng that the dınıng room at a chaın hotel, to say the least.
The hotel was run by a woman of Portuguese descent who had been born ın Mozambıque. She told us she left as a chıld after the country changed hands and then returned later as an adult. I hoped to ask her more about that but never caught up wıth her agaın.
She was a very frıendly and ımpossıbly glamorous woman, walkıng around the somewhat dusty streets of Maputo ın hıgh heels and the kınds of jeans that look lıke they cost at least three tımes as much as the Levıs I prefer. Our hostess ran a boutıque as well as the hotel. It was stocked wıth the kınds of clothes she wore, along wıth hıgh hıgh heels and cute bags wıth odd pockets.
The hotel ıtself was quıte pleasant. The pool was lovely.
What was a lıttle dıffıcult was gettıng sımple thıngs done. Davıd and I were the only guests ın the dınıngroom one morning. There was no sugar on the table, so I asked the three staff members talkıng by the breakfast spread for some. Davıd needs lots of sugar ın hıs coffee. A few minutes laters, I passed back through the mannequıns and sculptures and asked them agaın. Fınally, Davıd reached ınto hıs backpack and tapped ınto hıs emergency staff of sugar packets.

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