Getting to Know Maputo, Mozambique

By Danielle Lee

My first impressions of Maputo, Mozambique were the sights and sounds outside my car window: roads filled with pot-holes, bumper to bumper traffic that beats LA traffic, old Japanese cars, streets filled with vendors, ancient and run-down buildings depicting Portuguese colonialism, and overpopulated streets.
But there is one thing that I love so far about Maputo: the people. They will probably be the most friendly and most welcoming people you will ever meet. They love their country and welcome anyone who visits. Alongside the paradise beaches and the natural and untouched wildlife in the North, Mozambique is, in fact, a beautiful country. And Maputo, the Capital of Mozambique, will serve as my home for the next month.

Julietta and her grandchild, Shanyll
Upon arrival in Maputo, I was greeted by Horacio, who welcomed me with a smile and hugs upon hugs. He drove me to his home in Maputo. There, he lives with 3 of his 7 kids and his wife, Julietta. Julietta is a nurse at the Central Hospital, the largest public hospital in Maputo. This hospital is where I will visit many times during my stay. I met his children at their apartment: Maida, Arsenio, and Danny. Caita, who is their cousin, also lives in this 2-bedroom apartment. They immediately served some dinner that I realized is a staple meal in Mozambique: Chicken and rice. At first, the language barrier was difficult to deal with, but their children knew some English so we were able to get to know each other.
Myself with Karmen’s cousin, Ercilia, and Caita
Afterwards, Ines, arrived to pick me up. I will be living at Ines’ house along with her daughter, Karmen, in a city outside of Maputo, called Matola. Ines is Horacio’s sister and works for the Ministry of Mineral Resources. I was truly grateful to have her open her home for the next month for me.
The next few days were all about getting to know the sights, sounds, and people of Maputo.  The day after I arrived in Maputo, it was Children’s Day. Karmen and her friends took me to Maputo to celebrate in the festivities. However, there were too many people there so we decided to visit Costa do Sol, Maputo’s beach. It was great to see the scenery of Maputo and touch the warm waters of Indian Ocean for the first time.
With my host family’s children and cousins: Zaza, Shanyll, and Aneesha
The following few days was an introduction to Central Hospital and the non-profit organization I am going to work with, Reencontro. I will be focusing on HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. HIV/AIDS has a 16% prevalence rate in Mozambique and the second leading cause of death, behind malaria. Reencontro focuses on children affected by the disease, providing them with education and a safe haven. They not only reach out to children, but they also assist families and communities surrounding Maputo.
Through the African Millenium Foundation, I was able to create a partnership with Reencontro, and become familiar with their work. Olinda Mugabe is the founder of Reencontro and has dedicated her life in improving the lives of people in Mozambique. I will be working closely with her to develop my own program with her organization. I’m truly grateful and excited to be given this opportunity and cannot wait to experience what the next few weeks have in store for me. Keep checking this blog to read about my experience here in Maputo!