Douglas Ferreira Nogueira part-time report
Time does not seem to work in the same way in the southern hemisphere. Suddenly, four weeks have passed, yet, so much has happened that it feels like a whole year of experience. It could be related to the intensity of the sun and the constant good feeling of meeting people who, despite never seen you before, meets you with smiles on the street. In every new friend, the found feeling of meeting someone I had not seen for ages and the strange sensation of feeling home more than never or anywhere else.
There is something really magical to this place. And it does not matter if it is the kid asking for coins to buy bread, or the the dreadlocks guy who turns out to be a well known artist around the globe, people here are full of life in their eyes. The small talks on the taxis and chopelas, smaller taxis, are also filled with genuine smiles, but of course not all people are the same. Talking Portuguese definitely helps to get around more smoothly, but many people in Maputo speaks English and there are also many other foreigners and expats from all over the world living here.
The daily life here starts in the early morning. After dribbling some cars to cross the street, I walk through another and more calm street where there is always a person sitting on the floor, holding a clay bowl in between the legs, preparing the dough of a very traditional Mozambican food. At her left side she uses an improvised oven to fry the round-shaped pieces of dough that makes music in the sparking oil. They look like falafel to me. I ask for some five pieces of the freshly made ones and keep walking. On the way, someone screams “Xiquelene? Xiquelene?”. These minivans are called chapa by the local people and with half of the body outside the chapa, a guy calls out the direction it is going. The ride takes 5 minutes for me and from the stop where I get off I still have another 7 minutes walk to arrive at the campus.
The weather has, so far, been quite generous. Not many days with temperatures reaching 40 degrees and only one day of intense rain, which was enough to create huge pounds of water over the asphalt. When I reach the office of my local supervisor where I usually work, I often think about the original and straight plan of coming to Mozambique that had a sharp begin and an end; collect data, interview people, get more contacts, interviews, read, write, write, read, ready, back and gone. Well... not really how it turned out to be. The first weeks were full of awesome and interesting experiences. For example, there was a conference of the 40 years anniversary of the collaboration between Sweden the host University in Maputo that culminated with a social gathering at the Swedish ambassadors residency. It was a great opportunity to make contacts and network with people who helped with some information and even with one of the interviews. At the same time, the first weeks were also a patience exercise, waiting for people to call back and waiting so long for a document to reach the main institution I needed to talk with. However, I perceived it as a great opportunity to gain time, reshape some interview questions, work with other aspects of the research, and an opportunity to get to know the surroundings and make even further contacts, both professionally and new friendships.
During the first two weeks, there was little fieldwork. Nevertheless, thanks to the help of some professors, I got the chance to talk with the director of one of the main institutions I needed to talk with, and get further contacts to interview engineers at telecommunication companies, about aspects of the research on the use of mobile network for sending alerts to populations at risk zones without the need to know their phone numbers. The third and fourth weeks were intense with interviews, and it feels that the most fundamental material had been collected. There were still some interviews left but the most important data had been gathered. However, I wish I had started writing as much as possible earlier, because towards the end it feels that there is so much left to write. Nevertheless, even though I still have a lot to do, the progress so far feels very good. In the end, the combination of patience and knocking on people’s door definitely helped to get the data I needed. The experience in Mozambique has been very positive and most of the interviewed people were also very positive towards this research. The perception so far is that there is room for improvements and also the will to enhance the disaster risk reduction routines in Mozambique with the use of the mobile network.