Guerra de água
In my Portuguese lesson, we focused on formulating questions. Quando / quanto / quanta / quantas / quantos / qual / quais / que / o que / quê / quem / aghhhh.
Whilst still mastering how to say <what time is it?> I somehow managed to get into a spirited conversation on the nuances of Brexit, when Ilidio asked my opinion on the latest update. It was a good example of the old language learning advice of just launching in. In my case, on less passionate subjects, I think a lot about grammar and sentence structure and am guilty of not launching in, lest I incorrectly conjugate a verb in the conditional perfect.
Ilidio is also proving a good sounding board to help me navigate the politics of renting an apartment in Maputo. The family of five who own it and lived here previously (and have moved to the central city of Quelimane) paid monthly water bills of around 400 meticais per month. My latest has been presented to me as over 1,000. Even with the most vigorous showering and deliberate flooding of the kitchen, I would be struggling to match the usage of four additional people.
The security guards are friendly and we have a little chat each day but I'm also wizened enough to know that they will be enterprising when they seize on opportunities to capitalise on my poor language skills and ignorance of various arrangements. I'm the only non-Mozambican living in the building, which has three floors and about nine apartments, some of which host businesses on the lower floors. There were some shenanigans recently involving an unsecured tap to my water supply, which the guards informed me about and I asked the landlady to fix. However, especially as I was away for a stretch, I imagine what happened is that the guards made use of the unsecured water supply and ran a mini-racket to people in the vicinity, selling water from my pipes for a few meticais per bucket, hoping I wouldn't react to a large bill. Ilidio's advice is to make it known to the guards, in a friendly manner, that I'm monitoring the situation after ever such a puzzling bill. After all, it's only good language and vocabulary practice to be discussing domestic affairs with them...
After a good lesson of ranting in Portuguese about a saída do Reino Unido da União Europeia (the UK's exit from the European Union), Ilidio's car had been clamped. I scarpered from view so he could meet the clampers (the municipal police) and negotiate its release. He got away with a fine of 500 meticais, about $8.50. It would have been harder to wrangle down if I'd been standing there gawping, as there is an inescapable link between how I look and the perception that I have bottomless pits of money.