I got a ride home from Maputo with two Spanish guys and one South African guy who are visiting Mozambique and who were going to Tofo so graciously offered me a ride home. Police controls are common here, and it seems they look for something they can get you with, so you are obliged to pay a bribe to continue. This is especially true then the driver is white. We got pulled over at a police control and when the policeman walked over I, sitting behind the driver, rolled down my window and greeted him as respectfully a possible with a big smile. When he cited the error I pleaded, “but sir please you must forgive him, he is visiting from Spain and has only been here for a day, so he has not yet learned all the rules.” Those were the magic words apparently because he responded “I want to go to Spain, I LOVE Barcelona!” These two guys were from Barcelona, jackpot, so we were on our way again. The guys were impressed. “No offense,” I said to the South African next to me “but people here tend to like you more as soon as they find out you aren’t South African.” He said he didn’t blame them. He is also from the Cape Town area and, in my small experience, people from Cape Town tend to hold the rest of the country, especially the Johannesburg area, with particular disdain.
At the second police stop I rolled down my window and cheerfully and respectfully greeted and policeman again. Hearing my Portuguese he immediately switched to Portuguese himself and asked how our journey was going and where we were headed to. I told him that the guys were going to Tofo, but I was going to Inharrime because I live there and I am a teacher there. Magic words again, he told us to have a safe journey. They guys in the car told me I was welcome to drive anywhere with them.
Unfortunately by police check number three my charm had worn off. But this policeman did something I have never seen in a year here—he wrote a real ticket. Rather than ask for money himself, he wrote a real ticket and instructed them to pay it at the Inhambane city (the provincial capital) police station. It was strange because in a rented car that they will have in the country for a few more days, and the ticket written only on carbon paper and not entered into any computer, there is no way to control that they actually pay the ticket.
And during the ride on the shuffle setting on their iPod, Merle Haggard came on. Wow.