Ireland: Maputo Reunions

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The last few days have been a wonderful whirlwind of reunions and catching up with Irish (and Manx!) friends who have worked in Mozambique. Red wine flowed, a lot of good food was consumed, and more words than it deserves were wasted on the mess that is Mozambique today.

It was wonderful to catch up with friends, some of whom I hadn’t been able to see for many years, and some of whom left when things were still hopeful and positive and we thought we were helping Mozambique build itself anew. It was a pretty intense week, but great to see everyone.

First of all we had a lovely relaxed weekend with my former boss down in Carlow and his wonderful wife and their amazingly all-grown-up kids. I kept wanting to come over all grandmotherly and say things like ‘wow haven’t you grown’. Instead we debated the pros and cons of Thailand as a holiday destination for 18-year olds, discussed university courses, and went to see the Paddington movie where the girls ate their bodyweight in pic and mix. Lauren had a wonderful time bonding with the ever-friendly Fletcher the dog, who had travelled all the way from Maputo with them when they left.

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Fletcher the dog enjoying a fuss….

We also had a lovely night in Dublin catching up with Claire, Sive and Denise, as well as Claire’s daughter whom I hadn’t seen since she was Lauren’s age. She is now a fully-grown, articulate and lovely teenager.

We spent a wonderful day with Nicole and Thomas, who many of my Mozambique friends know; they are doing very well and Thomas is a delight. Nicole took us to the National Gallery – although we mainly ate cake and went to the shop rather than appreciating much of the art – then we enjoyed a tour of the Christmas lights and admired the Christmas tree in Grafton Street, before retiring to Andersons for supper and (yet more) red wine.

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We also had lunch with Ruairi ‘the gaffer’ De Burca (so named by the guy on reception), back from Belfast to take on the no-less-challenging vagaries of Irish Aid.

More than anything, though, we got to spent some quality time with the lovely Denise, a true friend, wonderful host and much loved pseudo-aunt for Lauren. We usurped her room, abused her heating, made ample use of her washing machine, messed up her kitchen, flooded her bathroom, and she still got up before dawn to drive us to the airport.

Maybe she just wanted to make sure we made.that.plane!!!!

Goodbye to Mozambique

Despedidas

Lauren's despedida cake
Lauren’s despedida cake

Despedida is a Portuguese word meaning farewell or goodbye. It’s generally used as shorthand for a farewell party. Between us, we had 5 (!) despedidas, as well as many personal goodbyes to the people who have made up our lives in Maputo. Lauren left before me, to spend a month in Portugal with my parents while I remained behind to sell furniture, finish my final work contract and generally ensure a smooth exit from Mozambique.

Lauren’s despedida started off on the last day of school with a special goodbye to her teachers and classmates at the French school where she has been incredibly happy.

School children at Maputo French School

Then in the afternoon, her party was held in the park at the end of our road, and we had an awesome cake, giant jenga and darts, and lots and lots of kids and adults. Her very first nursery teacher came, as well as her adored form teacher from the French school and a lot of close friends who have always been there for me during the ups and downs of being a single working mum in Maputo. It was a lot of fun, until people started to leave and it hit hard that this was the last time she would see many of her friends, schoolmates and teachers. Particularly sad was her goodbye to our nanny and housekeeper, who has been with us since she was born, and who has helped me raise her to be the wonderful, kind and mature child she is today. Another big goodbye was to Lauren’s cat Luke, who is being fostered by a kind friend until we are settled.

 

Once Lauren was happily settled in Portugal, I had a series of wonderful but also sad despedidas, with former colleagues from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Irish Embassy where I worked as an economist for four years, with a bunch of other economists with whom I have shared the many frustrations and crises of recent years, and then a final despedida on my very last night with friends, sundowners under the massive fig tree by the beach at the fabulous Southern Sun in Maputo.

 

It was a great way to close this chapter in our lives, and I am sure we will see many of our friends again in the future.

Choosing Our Own Path

Why we chose the name of our blog.

We chose choosing our own path as the name of our blog after a few attempts to reflect the idea that we want to do our own thing, both with the trip and more broadly with life.

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One of our more interesting choices of path recently – the Sani pass in Lesotho…

Eventually Lauren’s excellent first suggestion of ‘mummy-and-daughter-round-the-world-travels-doing-it-our-own-way.com’ got shortened to ‘choosing our own path’ because that’s exactly what I intend for us.

My life has so far hardly been conventional – my family moved from the UK to rural Portugal (and it was *properly* rural back in 1989!) when I was 13, and I finished my schooling there before an attempt at conventionality (Economics degree followed by working in London as a Management Consultant) for a few years. An unexpected redundancy paid off my student debt when I was 26 and focused my mind on whether I really wanted to be part of the London rat race for the next 40 years. Nope.

I signed up for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and was posted to Mozambique, mainly because I spoke Portuguese already. This started a 15-year love-hate relationship with the country. Over that time I worked at grass roots level and policy level, for NGOs, private sector firms, the Mozambican government, and international donors.

Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
Stunningly Beautiful Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique

I chose to have Lauren on my own because frankly, my choices of potential father material were always deeply flawed. A perhaps unconventional option, but one I believe paid off. We are incredibly close and she is just amazing.

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The most important thing in my life.

Lauren has grown up surrounded by extreme poverty, and deeply aware of my desire to contribute to development for the less privileged. But she has also been protected by living in a lovely Maputo bubble of international schools, nannies and drivers. Many of her friends have swimming pools and huge houses. But even our small apartment was in a high-end area, right next to the president’s palace (which unfortunately came with the added ‘benefit’ of regular attempts at foreign national anthems by the military band when the president received visiting foreign dignitaries).

I want Lauren to grow up knowing she is incredibly lucky to have a family that loves her, enough funds to never worry about food, housing or school, and protection by a generally benign state by holding a British passport. I hope she will benefit hugely from this years’ trip, and it will help to forge in her the ability and determination to choose her own path in years to come.