Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin – depositphotos.com

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado – zmescience.com

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay – Fstoppers.com

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – Wikimedia.org 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island – 123RF.com

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – blouinnews.com

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation. The EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition.

Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night – 123RF.com

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images

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The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…

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Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk – pond5.com

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte – Wikimedia.org

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Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.

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Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park – berlijn-blog.nl

Komische Opera House Berlin – operawire.com

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – efcollegebreak.com 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin – classictic.com

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree

Barrio Mafalala Mozambique

Barrio Mafalala Mural

Yesterday’s three-hour walking tour of Barrio Mafalala was a thought-provoking experience. I went with a new friend Kari, whom I met through a local tour group – Maputo a Pé. Kari is from Norway visiting Maputo and Mozambique for the next five months researching a university project. She specializes in Social Anthropology and arranged the Mafalala tour through Iverca, a tourism, culture, and environment guild.

Mural of Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

Iverca Association

Iverca Association is an “NGO guild led by young students and tourism professionals”. They promote and develop tourism, culture, and the environment in Mozambique. Ivan Laranjeira, Iverca Director, and his associate Anna guided our tour.

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Today, 22,000 people live in Mafalala’s “labyrinth of wood and zinc houses with streets of earth and alleys marked by metallic plate walls”.

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Segregation in Maputo

In the early 1970s, Lourenço Marques (Maputo) was a broken city – a Portuguese colony with whites and blacks forced to live separately. Whites lived in the ‘cement city’ on the banks of Maputo Bay. Blacks lived in the ‘caniço (cane or reed) city’ – a set of “peripheral neighborhoods in precarious condition where no consideration was given to infrastructure, water, sanitation, or community facilities”.

The Portuguese required “indigenous people to wear identification cards” and limited their access to the cement city, public transportation, and recreational areas. These restrictions ended when Mozambique won independence from Portugal.

Samora Machel First President of Mozambique

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“Marrabenta is not just a musical style, it’s a way of life. It has to do with how we dress, talk, and behave. It’s our history.” Mozambican Singer Mingas.

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José Craveirinha Activist, Poet, and Writer

Independence from Portugal

After Independence, the people renamed the capital city from Lourenço Marques to Maputo. The former border separating black and white regions, Caldas Xavier Avenue, became known as Marien Ngouabi Avenue, after the President of the People’s Republic of the Congo. Today, Marien Ngouabi Avenue is a busy road “in no way reminiscent of segregation”.

Mia Couto Mozambican Writer and Author of Terra Sonâmbula

Mafalala Resistance and Cultural Change

During the 40s and 50s Mafalala was the “nerve center of political agitation, and the place where a strong intellectual resistance movement began”. Poet Noémia de Sousa and writer José Craveirinha were key figures in the resistance movement and wrote Mozambique’s first “anti-colonialist manifesto”. At the same time, cultural events were changing in Mafalala, and the “Marrabenta became the barrio’s new music”.

Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

Festival Cultural da llha de Mozambique

Barrio Mafalala suffers from “drug abuse, high unemployment, crime, and an overall sense of malaise”. Water is a continuing problem, and although electricity is available, many can’t afford it. During our tour we encountered a local resident expressing her frustration about  losing electricity.

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Mafalala is the historical home of Mozambican artists, intellectuals, and important cultural and political figures. It was home base for FRELIMO, the resistance movement that fought for independence.

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Noémia de Sousa Activist, Poet, and Writer

As we walked the rough dirt streets and toured points of interest, Ivan provided narrative on history and life in Mafalala. Many of the intellectuals who played an important role in Mozambique’s history and culture lived in the barrio:

Joaquim Chissano Second President of Mozambique

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To read Noémia de Sousa is to read Mozambique. Her father was a Luso-Afro-Goesa (Portuguese African) and her mother Afro-German, marking her deep experience of being Mestiço.

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Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

“Born in Mozambique and educated in Brazil, Noémia de Sousa was a poet and newspaper editor. Jailed briefly in Mozambique for her political activism, she later lived in Lisbon and France. She edited the women’s pages of the newspaper O Brado Africano from 1949 to 1951. Her poems were circulated in the mimeographed collection Sangue Negro. One of the first African women poets to gain a wide literary audience, de Sousa often published under the pseudonym Vera Micaia.

Mafalala Children

Photographs are only permitted in a few areas of Mafalala. Some photos in this post are by our Iverca guide Ivan Laranjeira. Others are from the personal archives of Elarne and Fedo Cariano, and some from Alejando de los Santos Pérez’s book Mafalala, Cultural Guide of the Historic District of Maputo.

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During the 40s and 50s Mafalala was the nerve center of political agitation in Mozambique…….

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Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

Sights along the walking tour included the:

  • House-museums of José Craveirinha and Noémia de Sousa
  • Massjid Baraza (mosque) built by Muslims from the Comoros Islands
  • Murals, graffiti, and craft markets

Eusebio Mozambican Soccer Player

During the colonial period, the Portuguese only allowed Catholicism to be practiced openly. It was necessary to camouflage Mosques like the Massjid Baraza. The mosque has existed since 1928 but was only marked as a mosque after independence in 1975.

Graffiti Mafalala Festival

Tufo da Mafalala

We ended with a performance by Tufo da Mafalala. The unique dance group earns a living with their performances and has appeared throughout the world. Makua women originally from northern Mozambique formed the dance group. At the end of their performance, Kari and I joined them for a fun short dance!

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José Craveirinha’s work represents an unequaled legacy for Mozambican literary, social, and political history.

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Mozambican Singer Mingas

Festival da Mafalala

Iverca promotes a Mafalala Festival which lasts for a month each year. The 2017 Mafalala Festival “introduced an innovative program based on preserving the neighborhood’s traditional, historical, and cultural legacy”. The popular festival features Marrabenta shows and traditional singing and dancing.

Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

I found Mafalala a smaller version of Soweto, a South African township near Johannesburg which I visited several years ago. Soweto was “at the forefront of the fight against apartheid”. Like Soweto, Mafalala struggles with water, waste, sanitation, energy, transportation, and other infrastructure problems.

Maria Mutola, Mozambican Olympic Gold Medalist

The tour left me in a bit of a mental stupor but considerably more knowledgeable about Mozambique and its history and socio-economic environment. I’m still comprehending much about the complex and this fascinating country.

 

 

An interesting side note is that during the 1990s Maria Mutola, Mozambican Olympic gold medalist and 800m runner, attended high school in Springfield, Oregon USA. She lived and trained in the Eugene-Springfield area (known as “Track Town USA“). Mutola competed in six Olympic Games and was an Olympic gold medalist in 2000. I retired in Oregon in 2007 after living in San Francisco for almost 40 years.