Pen on paper – a blog, a diary. This was the way I started my blogging “career” eight years ago. I’m writing without knowing when, how and where I’ll be able to publish this.

The consolation of losing internet is that I spend more time observing, remembering and accumulating images, portraits. I remember I used to have a much better memory during the first years I blogged like this with pen on paper. Lichinga, capital of Niassa province, does not seem to have changed as much as certain privileged neighborhoods in Maputo, where the rate of construction shocked me last week. However, there do appear to be some construction on older buildings, especially public ones. It could be my imagination, but there also seems to be more traffic – passenger cars, and motorbikes of all kinds.

 

The first impression one has arriving from the air is the dimension of areas planted with pine trees – the picture is quite visible from the air – there is a big nursery only a few kilometres from the city. The pine trees make a pattern, they seem like legions of disciplined freckles on the earth’s skin. (I’ll come back to the question of the pine trees later.)

The landing is brusque. The airport of Lichinga is a colonial jewel that has been quite well maintained – the lookout deck from the café above was totally packed with people for the arrival of the plane, which is one of the biggest social events of the weekend. Kids sitting on top of the railings with their feet dangling, pointing at the plane. Quick baggage collection, and posters of Guebuza stapled 3 meters high on the pine trees in the parking lot.

I’m at the Mária Bakery, the social heart of the “paved” city of Lichinga, which was the first place to install a wifi network, and, from the looks of things, gave up a couple of months ago on this public service. Sons and daughters of the elites come here to eat pizza on a Sunday afternoon, while barefoot kids play outside begging for change as people come and go. But these contrasts are mitigated by the bread business that Mária does, which attracts also those with a little change in pocket. It seems the Portuguese left their taste for bread everywhere they went around the world. The gasoline pumps outside simply don’t stop filling tanks, there is a mess of motorbikes, bicyclists with jerry cans, cars, agressive truckers competing to fill up.

I see tons of “fixies” – so in fashion in London – those bicycles with no gears. Here people use these out of necessity, sometimes giving lifts to their partners and friends. I feel like asking the hipsters of East London to see the “true” fixie, the provincial Mozambican version.

The main street is also the stage for a beautiful parade of capulanas – cloth originally printed with wax, like batik. To “amarrar capulana” is one of the most essentially feminine things here. And here the capulanas come directly from the source, Tanzania. The color palette is dominated by deep greens, purples, blues and brown – beautiful colors.