"I wanted to let the readers know what it is like to live in the heart of Africa"
Special thanks to Lisa-Marie Rahlmann for translating the interview.
You got to know more than thirty different countries across South America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East – are you rich, did you save money for a long time, backpacking, the last two…?
(laughs and smiles) Many people think that to travel you need a lot of money, but that is not true. I have traveled extensively, but I have almost always spent very little; sleeping in hostels or couchsurfing, buying food in supermarkets and eating on the big public squares, etc. I am not a consumerist. I almost never buy clothes, only if I really have to, so my savings are for traveling and eating; my two big passions in life. Moreover, I have learned a good formula: live with little money = have more free time.
What do you dedicate yourself to?
I work as a freelancing travel journalist and I have a blog. Moreover, I do translations and consultancy work. What I want the most is to continue to be a “virtual nomad”, to be able to work and travel at the same time.
What kind of a relationship do you have with Africa?
Since I was little, I dreamt of doing a volunteer job in Africa one day. I watched movies and read books about the continent and it fascinated me. I don’t know how to explain my fascination with the African people, but the truth is that I admire them a lot; they are honest, friendly, excellent in sports, incredible singers, and, most of all, know how live with very little.
And what you had dreamed when you were a child came true. Five and a half months in Africa….My priority was to do my volunteer job and then go travel after. In reality, I merged the two and did voluntourism. I chose Mozambique because of the language. Since the country is a former Portuguese colony, I knew that the Portuguese would help me to understand society much better. I spent 4 months in the small town of Lichinga, almost at the border with Malawi. After that, I traveled for 1/1/2 months thorugh Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. Furthermore, I traveled a little bit in Mozambique during the time that I was there. The best experience taught me that I can live in any place, that I can adapt to any place situation if I have to.
And during the volunteer job…
In those 4 months of volunteer work I worked with a local NGO that was called Estamos. I helped them with their communication and social media department. In addition to creating material about malaria, HIV, etc. with the people who were working at the NGO, I opened an account of Facebook, Twitter for them, and we made a blog. I taught them how important it is to be connected with those new tools, so that they can make the work that they do there more known and get more help.
During the last month I also gave English classes in a small school in Lichinga. It was a very beautiful experience to be able to share a bit of my knowledge with the kids. Through that experience, I learned that kids are the same all over the world; there are those who study, the rascals and those who just want to have fun.”
I always went to class on a bicycle and at the end of class they would always get into fights over who would push the bicycle to the exit of the school. A tenderness and laughter that have left a deep impression on me forever.
Where exactly is Mozambique? It’s an African country, on the Southern coast of the continent, north of South Africa.
From your house to the NGO it was a 20 minute walk, how is it to live there?
People live off very little. Most of the time I went to work by bike. From the path I could see how people got up early. There were barely any sidewalks and people slowly started putting up their products to sell them on the street: food, clothes, live chicken, SIM cards, etc. I liked taking this way to work and seeing the guys in their uniforms, laughing, the ladies with the plates on their heads – because guys down there don’t help with the task of going to look for water – and the dogs who would come out and look, like me, how this little city was waking up every day.
Yes. It is in the province of Niassa, one of the least developed ones in Mozambique. The majority of people does their shopping at the street markets, where you can buy anything from soap, to batteries, to vegetables, to live animals. There are no big supermarkets or stores. I remember that sometimes I missed being able to choose between one type of yoghurt brand and another, or between one type of milk and another. And at the heart of that, I realized that one can live very well with little, without that many choices. The majority of people in that city buys clothes in the street and almost everything is second hand, coming from donations that arrive in big containers from other countries.
Everything happens out on the streets…isn’t it a total chaos?
What did in fact annoy me very much was the almost nonexistent public transportation system. People travel in furgonetas (vans) that are full to the brim. Some travel clinging to the outside like animals. And there are many accidents and deaths. People travel for many hours, sitting between big bags full of grain, construction amterial or firewood. A disaster. And what surprised me the most is that the Mozambiquans do not complain about it. Maybe because they don’t know that there are other ways, or maybe because they do not know their rights at all, or because they have completely resigned. I don’t know.
What was your day to day life like?
In Africa, the daily rhythm is a different one, and I had to get used to getting up early and going to sleep before 22:30h. I would get up at 7h, have breakfast, and by 8h I was already at the office and we would work until 17h/17:30h. After I took advantage of the street market to buy something for dinner. I lived in Santos’ house, the director of the NGO, and I had a very comfy room to myself. His 5 kids, 3 nephews, and 6 dogs were living in the house as well.
Since I had a lot of free time and Santos had a big library, I read 5 books in 4 months. I used the internet – whenever it was working – to communicate with my family and friends, and to update my blog. On the weekends, I played with Green, the daughter of 5 years old. It was a lot of fun and very entertaining to live with a big African family.
You talk about this whole experience in your blog, which is a big travel guide…
the blog Mochila Cult already existed before I went to work as a volunteer. It’s already 2/1/2 years old. During my travels through Mozambique I used it to write more social and cultural accounts, rather than touristy ones.
Ever since I saw the video of your goodbye party, I want to be there [in Mozambique] right now. Why did you come back?
Because I had already planned on coming back to Madrid. I often say that these goodbyes are something we as travelers have to get used to, so as not to be suffering all the time. I believe the best part is what we have lived through and what we have shared. True friendship withstands and overcomes the distance. Moreover, I like to feel saudades – something very Brazilian - , longing for the past, people, smells or moments.
Yes, at my steady job in Madrid. I had taken a leave of absence for two years, although I did not go back to work for other reasons. Moreover, during the time that I was volunteering, they offered me to stay and work for them under a one year contract, but I did not want to. Today I am thinking that maybe I could have stayed…
"Depois de 4 meses de novos amigos, experiências, muitas aventuras, chegou a hora de me despedir de Moçambique, mas levo comigo as boas lembranças e os novos amigos!"
What did you miss when you were in Mozambique?
This may sound rehearsed, but after so many years of living abroad, not in Brazil, for more than 11 years – I learned to live with other things. That is another one of the great lessons I have learned through my travels. I prefer to drink Guarana when I am in Brazil, eat alfajores when I am in Buenos Aires, and try all the new things I can find when I travel.Everything in its own place, because I learned that if I miss what I don’t have, I stop appreciating what I have in front of me in that moment.
I love eating and my preferred dish from Mozambique is matapa: manioc leaves, groundnuts, and coconut milk – so yummy!
What are your Top 5 favorite cities in the world?
A difficult question. In random order: London, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Island of Mozambique, and Cape Town.
Why did you go to Argentina?
My parents are Argentinian, but live in Brazil. I left Curitiba when I was 24 years old to study English in London for one year. Moreover, I have lived in Turin and in Madrid. I like to try out, discover…and this thing of traveling stronger than me. But the main reason why I came to live in Buenos Aires is because my aunt Bubu died last year, at the age of 107 years. Another one of my dreams was to be able to spend time with her, and I had the chance to do that for 2 years.
Recommend a song… Mudaram as estações - Legião Urbana.
A fancy… eating chocolate in bed while it’s raining.
A website…my blog: www.mochilacult.com
A place… sunset at the beach.
In another life I would have been… a horse.
I believe in… the human being.
A piece of advice that was given to you… don’t give up!
What you have learned… what counts is the moment.
A phrase or a citation… "It is never to late to be who you should have been all along."