I thought I knew what to expect from the continent of Africa. Granted, my feet have only touched soil in seven countries here, but somehow I felt that I had it all figured out. However, Mozambique is full of surprises and newness.
The first surprise was the weather. I disembarked from the small aircraft yesterday morning into what can best be described as a tropic chill. Winter along the coast of southern Africa consists of temperatures typically ranging from 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and yesterday’s cool morning air begged for a jacket. No hot weather here.
The second surprise was the easy fusion of Portuguese and African styles in food, language and architecture. Although Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal more than thirty years ago, this place has certainly retained elements of that influence. Portuguese is still spoken here, the food has a distinctly Mediterranean flair (lots of grilled fish, simply prepared vegetables, and fresh fruit), and many of the homes and buildings here are constructed with red tile roofs and beautifully worked wrought iron.
Today’s events included a military brief to members of the local press about an upcoming combined exercise, SHARED ACCORD. One of the things I love about being a journalist is the sense of community that exists within our world. As U.S. and Mozambique military leaders spoke, the photographers, writers and videographers moved effortlessly around each other. With facial expressions and improvised sign language, we easily communicate our need for certain shots or angles. It didn’t matter that I don’t understand Portuguese, or that they might not speak English. We all had the same mission and a similar understanding of the courtesy and effort required to make that mission successful. That type of understanding is what I believe SHARED ACCORD will provide for Mozambique and the U.S. during the coming weeks.
I will be working in Mozambique’s capital city, Maputo, as the press chief for SHARED ACCORD until its conclusion August 13. The exercise, which is an annual, scheduled event, allows U.S. and Mozambique troops to become familiar with each other’s operating styles, and to build the capacity of Mozambique forces for future peacekeeping operations. I am excited to be here, and looking forward to the chance to exchange information, ideas and experiences with people from this already fascinating place. Can’t wait to share the adventure with you.
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