Living Space

Howdy everyone. Long time no blog, huh? Well, I’m back to civilization now–or at least as far as Nairobi, Kenya–and it’s high time I filled you in on what has been happening the last couple of months. I’ve just finished my two months in Mozambique. It was fascinating, colorful, and varied, as were the missionaries whom I met there. I saw some amazing things and heard some truly unbelievable stories. Well, unbelievable at least to the average western mind which has been desensitized to the presence and impact of the spiritual world in everyday life. Let me tell you, you can see God and the devil at work a little more clearly out there than you might at your office desk somewhere in the air-conditioned first world; but that doesn’t mean they’re not around there too!

But rather than start off heavy with all of that, I’d like to start off with a few simple, even mundane photos. Give a photographer a camera and no matter where he is, he’ll find something there to photograph! My “home base” was the AIM guest flat in the coastal city of Beira, and I’d like you to see a bit of it for yourselves. I described Beira to some friends on Facebook as a land where the entry fee to the sauna is included in the cost of your visa. The sauna is open 24 hours a day (for your convenience) and is located on the street, in your car, in your hotel room, or really wherever you might find yourself. Tropical sun, stifling humidity, and a sea of palms around the cityscape. As it grows dark, the local mosques blare out their sharp, off-toned calls to prayer, sub-par pop music (always the same reggae chords!) begins wafting up to my windows, evaporating from the cheap little radios through the cracks and crannies of thatched-hut suburbia. The local roadside market comes alive with a to-and-fro bustle as everyone, homeward, seeks to buy their daily corn, veggies, fruit, and fish.

Upon leaving the country, I wrote down the following farewell to Beira: “Stale sweat, half-dried fish, diesel exhaust, slimy puddlemud that smells like excrement, rotting fruit, garbage, Coca-cola served with tinkly pop muzak in local dives with names like “Why not?” and “The Cigarette”, raw neglected asphalt crumbling back to dust, cheap Tentaçao gin wafting from your смутные обжорки and the passing night cars, cheap cooking oil rising from your tragically unsugared mundazi doughnuts crackling in the pans at dusk. Прощай, немытая Beira, farewell and may you clean yourself up a bit until we meet again. But you know what, Beira? You’re ok by me. Your avocados make it all worthwhile. I’ll miss your mangos, and your old toothless Englishless ladies selling fruit and nuts and laundry detergent were a charm I’ll not forget. Please tell your young ladies to take a clue from them and get some class, the mzungu is not automatically interested in jigijigi. Speak softly and carry everything on your head.”

The city was a colorful place, alright. At times an attractive place, at times tiring. Утомительное, как солнце. And so the guest flat–located on the top floor of an old, sombre, thick Soviet-style concrete housing unit–was something of a place of retreat for me. After several months in the field, retreat became tempting for me when photographic situations would arise. Sometimes I get worn out, burnt out, and then it takes energy for me to go out there and meet the crowds and colors with my camera, even though I know I’d love to capture that beauty and bring it back. I’d want the “done” without going through the doing of it. So some days I took it slow and stayed inside “The Citadel”…an appropriate appellative, I think, considering you had to get past some five locks and three doors to get inside. But for all of its unsavory smells and city stress, Beira remains a pleasant memory for me. That’s the nature of the city, any city, full of good and bad, beautiful and repulsive, a struggle and a conundrum. And besides, the produce alone was worth the trip.

Here are a few photos from that guest flat, from my living space. For now we’ll go just past the sunset, with a few street shots from the window. When we’re done here we’ll take a trip outside and see what Beira’s like at night.

1 comment

Davey - April 4, 2011 - 6:26 am

I like these — as you know, I completely understand the compulsory urge to photograph *everything* when I can, and to imagine photographing everything even when I can’t. Strangely enough, I think these photos are a good summation of that feeling.

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