I just realised the title may be misleading: I'm still here (in Africa), I haven't left yet.

I added proof in this comment.

EDIT: I'm going to sleep... this is the latest I've gone to bed in a long time. I will continue answering questions tomorrow! Thanks everyone for an enjoyable AMA (at least for me!). Oh, and <obligatory frontpage remark>.

EDIT2: so, I'm up again, but power is out and seems like it'll only be back Monday... so I won't be able to respond to the hundreds of question left using my phone. Rest assured I intend to respond to all of them, except those that I've already answered several times, or those that seem to be actively conflict-seeking/racist, etc. Forgive me for not answering all questions.

EDIT3: Power's back ahead of schedule! Will resume answering questions in a few minutes.

Comments: 2004 • Responses: 95  • Date: 

pg133387 karma

What thing have you worked on that make you most proud and why?

sahba918 karma

Breaking social barriers.

I could spend a whole day telling you about interesting experiences I've had in this regard. One guy went and named his son after me just because I told him not to call me "boss" (context: I'm white and Africans often use this term for whites).

Pteraspidomorphi26 karma


sahba38 karma

Sim, infelizmente.

m_0252 karma

Sahba , I am persian and born Muslim ( althought I dont belive in religons ) , From one Persian to another Bahai Persian, I love you and wish you bests. now the question , do you do this for charity or is it just your work location , If you had a choice would you prefer working in IRAN ?

sahba334 karma

My dear brother, I am so touched by your kind words. As you know the Bahais in Iran are very strongly persecuted by the regime. Just last month my cousin was thrown in jail - just for being a Bahai. So I am very touched by your very kind words. I love you too and wish you all the very best.

I have never been to Iran as I am also a Bahai and it's complicated, as you know. But I am very eager to visit the country. I speak farsi fluently and many stories told my grandparents/parents are very dear to me.

As for your question, I came here very much inspired by the Bahai philosophy of trying to serve mankind as best as we can.

Waffle_Wombat230 karma

What's been your best experience so far?

sahba462 karma

Pfff, where to begin. Possibly last week actually. I am a Bahai (that's a religion). I found a couple of fellow Bahais here when I arrived, and last week we were talking and one of them commented that he's been by himself (i.e., no other Bahais around) for years - he said "I was so lonely that at night in bed I would often cry". He just became emotional and was really happy that "once again I get to spend some time with my fellow Bahais".

I don't think most people can relate to it, and I could share a more relatable experience, but this may just take the cake for "best experience" so far. There are so many though.

NeatNuts106 karma

What's been your worst experience so far?

sahba269 karma

Either the malaria experience or dealing with that fallen truck / dead passenger.

The malaria experience was freaky because one minute I was feeling fine, 5 hours later I couldn't stand on my feet. It's a bit scary considering how very remote my location is (i.e., no proper healthcare available anywhere nearby).

ComradeCube70 karma

Were you born and raised in europe with that religion? Where are your parents from?

sahba205 karma

In the Bahai faith parents don't "pass the religion" onto their children. Children are encouraged to make their own independent and free investigations of reality.

This being said, yes, my Parents are both Bahai (and originally Persian). The Bahai faith, meanwhile, is the first or second most geographically dispersed and diverse religion in the world (according to Encyclopedia Brittanica, last time I checked).

reddittorr147 karma

Are you working on a Bahai development project?

sahba101 karma

I am not. However, together with the few other Bahais I've found here, we're trying to establish what in the Bahai community is often called "core activities": e.g., classes for children, where they are taught the virtues of generosity, compassion, etc.

snailbrake175 karma


sahba140 karma

Full on, brotha

Jaque855 karma

This is great I'm currently reading this in Haifa... Right next to the Bahai world center :)

sahba66 karma

Haaaa, awesome! Enjoy! Are you a Bahai on pilgrimage? Or just live there?

seydar33 karma

Cxu vi parolas esperante?

sahba55 karma

Hmmm... no?

aryary227 karma

Sahba! It's your cousin Arian from the Netherlands! Allahuabha :)

I was reading the answers to the questions and your situation sounded pretty familiar to me. And when I reached the comment where you mention the baha'i faith I finally checked your username and realized you're my cousin!

It's awesome to read your stories and see you answer all these questions. I'm happy that you're happy there!

Happy ayyam-i-ha bro! (and now happy fasting! good luck, can't imagine it being very easy with the heat haha)

Edit: Haha I wake up and dayum this comment took off! He'll definitely see it now, thanks guys

sahba8 karma

Iiiiinsanity! Hi!!! I saw your "I think you're my cousin" comment earlier and figured it out just as I was falling asleep! What are you, a reddit karma beast???

bodhisattva_of_pr0n180 karma

Why did you need trash bags? Did you kill a hooker?

sahba404 karma

No. Two.

Paul_infamous-1286 karma

Tell us more about this hooker story..

sahba375 karma

Two hookers and an elephant walk into a lion...

jordy1327175 karma

I would like to hear about this terrifying snake from the title...

sahba697 karma

The spitting snake spits it venom at you (usually aiming for the eyes) from a distance.

I was just standing at the site and heard a ruckus by the workers near to where I was standing. I went to see what was happening: they had found a snake under some materials. I was kind of paralysed - as I knew it could just spit and screw you up. The snake was starting to swell its "neck" (an indication it's about to spit) but the guy next to me (a local) was a quick thinker and HE spat first! Apparently this makes the snake temporarily back off. The snake "unswelled" its neck and the guy promptly bashed it with a stick, killing it.

Crazy_G1raffe387 karma

this happened to me in panama, wasn't a spitting snake (cobra?) but a mamba or viper or something, luckily the neighborhood gardener chucked a machete from like thirty feet a way and decapitated the snake.

sahba177 karma

Frikkin hell!

_warrenmac145 karma

Do you think any real difference can be made? I've been hearing of people trying to help the region for as long as I could think of, yet it never seems to get better. So I guess my real question is do you see any fruit from what you've sown?

sahba775 karma

Your question is rather deep and difficult to answer. I'll dodge it with a story:

"A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference to that one!”

Answering your last question, yes, I do.

KingOfSamoa136 karma

this is gold baby

sahba210 karma

Gold, Jerry, gold!

_warrenmac35 karma

Great answer

sahba83 karma

You're pretty.

Tanthony2119 karma

Where in Africa are you?

sahba181 karma


CitizenTed127 karma

I've heard there's pretty girls in Mozambique and the sunny sky is aqua blue. And all the people like to stop and speak and that it's very nice to stay a week or two.

sahba149 karma

The people are just astonishingly nice and kind and gentle and generous and humble.

frankovski34 karma


sahba79 karma

Moz, Swaziland, South Africa. Very briefly though, almost exclusively Moz. Oh, and Addis Abeba airport... :-)

CommercialPilot24 karma

What's Swaziland like?

sahba88 karma

I was only there for a couple of days - and before I first visited Mozambique. I can tell you that my first impression when I entered Mozambique was "omg this place is so dirty". Swaziland, in contrast, was very clean, neat, and organised. And the people seemed very... meek.

Random fact: Swaziland, IINM, has the highest AIDS incidence on the planet, at over 40%.

bani23100 karma

Other than disease and freak accidents, have you ever had your life threatened by a tribal solider/ gunman?; Are civil wars still prevelant where you are located?

sahba182 karma

I've had a couple of incidents where I sort of witnessed the African fury, but fortunately it was nothing serious - just people being a bit aggressive.

Where I am, the war killed like 10% of the population and fortunately now, after 20 years of peace, the population is still very much aware of how precious peace is. Plus, the people here are generally very gentle and kind, nothing like stories I hear from other countries.

EDIT: a commenter below made me realise how "African fury" is generalistic and inappropriate. I tried, poorly, to clarify my weak thoughts here.

redbeast298 karma

One thing I always notice is that many non-Africans just say they live or vacation in Africa without ever mentioning the country. It's kind of annoying.

sahba106 karma

I did that out of privacy concerns, but changed my mind and decided to tell people where I'm living in the comments.

feraligatour95 karma

What motivated you to leave a life of ease in Europe?

sahba565 karma

"Everything is amazing, nobody's happy"

CognitiveJots94 karma

what are the craziest things you have seen since you moved to Africa? most horrifying, most unbelievable and funniest. three of them please, I want no stone unturned

sahba419 karma

  • Most horrifying: helping extract the dead body from the truck who plunged down from the bridge. His body was all messed up. We weren't sure if he was dead already, but after we removed him the police just picked him up like a sack of potatoes and threw him onto the back of a truck and took him away. I'm sure he died. That night I REALLY wanted to go home.

  • Most unbelievable: maybe the night sky. I've been here almost a year but I still gasp every time I see a clear sky. It's just... unbelievable.

  • Funniest: so many.... once I asked a local if the rivers would have too many snakes during the rainy season (as we work by the rivers). He said "no, no, don't worry, no snakes in the rivers". Then, after a pause, he said "only crocodiles". Or maybe when I saw an 18-wheeler truck speeding down the road, fully loaded with cargo, and on top of the whole cargo was standing a... goat. It looked scared shitless, poor thing. I laughed so hard.

gamesandwine164 karma

I chuckled at the goat story. Just picturing him up there all like "what the fuuuuuuuck"

sahba277 karma

Sometimes I think of that poor goat and laugh. It was like 500 meters away but I swear I think I could see its eyeballs sticking out like "what the fuuuuuuuuck". It was just so... FROZEN, like it didn't dare move. I mean, think about it, million of years of evolution could not have prepared him to "fly" 5 meters above the ground like that...

Oh man, just doesn't get old

Coprophobia70 karma

How the heck do you have a working internet connection but something as simple as trash bags comes as scarce? I'm assuming trash bags was underlying for larger necesseties like tampons or homogenized milk?

sahba137 karma

Good question. The internet of course isn't very good... but the reason why there are no trash bags is because barely anyone has a proper "house" where they would use a "trash can". People just sort of pile up the trash outside their "shack" and burn it once every couple days. Some items like this, that are so current to us, are not current at all here.

dinosaur10160 karma

Did you go to Mozambique with a NGO or on your own? If so, what sort of misconceptions did you have about development work before arriving? Has your perspective changed at all and how? What skills do you as an engineer feel are the most valuable in your work now?

Sorry for the deluge of questions - I am an engineering student who is interested in working in development and so I am very curious to hear about your experiences.

sahba184 karma

I came to Mozambique on my own - upon finding a job in a local engineering company.

I could talk to you about development for hours, so I'll keep my answers very short, to not bore you:

I don't think I had any particular misconceptions about development work because I didn't really have too many preconceptions. But one thing that does not cease to surprise me is how good some of the development workers have it. Insane salaries, etc. It feels very paradoxical.

I am simultaneously an engineer, an expatriate, and a human being here. Each of these gives me a specific responsability. The first two give me the responsibility of trying to be as dedicated and excellent in my work as I can. The latter requires me to contribute socially as well. This can mean anything ranging from asking the locals to stop calling you "boss" (just because you're white) to feeding refugees in a UN camp.

One short story that kind of shaped my view of development/aid:

Just after arriving, I flew out to this province with my boss (who's been here for decades). He's a good man, but kind of scary. While driving, he stopped by the side of the road to buy some cashew nuts from some of the local kids (think extremely poor). There were 4 kids, and each bag of cashew nuts cost 200 meticals. After thinking for a moment, by boss (very loudly and "bossily") said "I want 5 bags of cashew nuts, and I will give each of you 200 meticals". The kids are always so desperate to make a sale, so they just hurriedly handed my boss the 5 bags. My boss then hande out one note of 200 meticals to each of the 4 kids. These are small kids mind you. Maybe 12 years old, and they might have the intellectual capacity of an average European's 6-7 year old. Anyway, to cut to the chase, the kids were a bit confused, and said "but boss, we gave you 5 bags, and you are only giving us 4 times 200 meticals."

My boss became very loud suddenly and said "I TOLD YOU IN THE BEGINNING THAT'S WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO!!! If you don't want to sell, I'll go buy elsewhere!" - and he took the money from the hands and headed over to the car.

The kids of course panicked and said "no, boss, boss, come, we accept".

I was feeling miserable because the kids were being treated in such an aggressive way, and were so scared. I kind of wanted to say something, but didn't have the courage.

When we got in the car, I noticed that the poor kids were confused, because now they didn't know how to split the money between them (as one of them had given an extra bag). So as soon as I sat down and closed the door, I mentioned that to my boss.

My boss very calmly said "I know. That was an act. You see, sahba, we as engineers have a responsibility here. We have to help those kids. Right now they're going to struggle with how to split the money - but they'll be forced to learn some basic math as a result. We can't spoonfeed them like every other foreigner does. They'll grow into crippled men."

The conversation kind of flourished and deepened beyond that, but I hope I was able to explain the point: it was a very vivid example of how aid mustn't simply "give".

PS if you're into the topic of development and aid, look into the notion of "dead aid". Some are arguing that aid to the third world has essentially failed in the last 4 decades. The US Congress's creation of the Millenium Challenge Corporation (seen by some as USAID 2.0) is a small reflection of that.

dinosaur10134 karma

Thank you so much for such a detailed answer. I actually work with a development organization at my university and I've learned quite a bit about 'dead aid' and other reasons why most aid is quite ineffective. It can definitely be discouraging to read about and to see so much failure in an industry, but I still think that if aid is given intelligently to grassroots organizations that are working with and enabling their African partners, it can be effective.

If you're willing to answer another question, I would be very interested in hearing what your opinion is about foreign investment in developing countries. Do you think that investing in African companies and buying African products would help bring people out of poverty? I mean, we invest in our own country's companies and buy our own local products to support our own economies, so do you think consumers could play a role in alleviating poverty by buying African-made products? Or do you think that would create more harm than good?

sahba42 karma

I'm going to sleep but wanted you to know I intend to answer your question tomorrow. It deserves some reflection.

Denathe54 karma

Opinion/viewpoint on increasing Chinese investments in infrastructure (and thus bridges) traded against acquiring land and resources?

sahba97 karma

Very good - and difficult - question. I'll make my job easy by just pointing out that most of those deals are being done with very little to no transparency at all - which is a bad sign by itself.

HydrogenxPi50 karma

I'm an engineering student and am interested in going to 3rd world regions to help build power systems, water filtration, bridges, ect. Any advice?

sahba69 karma

I'm going to sleep but wanted you to know I intend to answer your question tomorrow. It deserves some reflection.

ews52242 karma

Did you ever have to bribe an official?

sahba145 karma

Yes, I did! And I'm surprised it took so long for this question to pop up.

Officials asked for bribes 3 times. Luckily I managed to talk my way out of it each time. The amounts were petty, but the concept of bribing isn't good. In one case the police office was so touched by my argument ("Look, if you want to fine me, I'll suffer financially, but I prefer that than to hurt this wonderful country with corruption") that he apologised, promised he'll never solicit bribes again, and we became friends.

omgMaym39 karma

Hey, do you have a mailing address? I am sure someone can mail you some.

sahba108 karma

Oh, man, thank you so much bro!

As for me having a mailing address... yeaaaaah no.

Moochilove34 karma

How does someone struggling to find essential water, have time for an AMA? :)

sahba98 karma

Haha, funny enough the last thing I did before sitting down at the computer was go outside and talk to a few people and pull a few strings to ensure I'll have water tomorrow...

JGPH16 karma

What kinds of strings did you have to pull for something as essential as water?

sahba47 karma

I made it sound more Godfather-y than it really was. In short, the guard who is protecting the compound where the water pump is had (absolutely random and arbitrary) instructions to not turn the pump on. All I did was very humbly and apologetically beg him to turn it on despite his orders.

I've noticed that when a white person displays (sincere) humility, it can go a loooong way.

JGPH10 karma

Odd. Is there a danger of the well running dry? It does seem like a very odd order.

sahba31 karma

I've been learning that much of life in Africa is like this. Odd, random, hanging by a thread. In the beginning I would worry about things like this ("might the well run dry?" etc.) but now I just go with the flow. It's easier.

supdoc1633 karma

your story sounds similar to the plot of The Ghost and the Darkness. have you ever seen it? although... if you plan on staying there for a while maybe you shouldn't until you're back safely

sahba55 karma

your story sounds similar to the plot of The Ghost and the Darkness. have you ever seen it? although... if you plan on staying there for a while maybe you shouldn't until you're back safely

Thanks for your movie recommendation! I just added it to my "DO NOT WATCH" list.

supdoc1634 karma

watch it eventually. it's about a badass european engineer who wants to experience africa and goes to a remote village to build a bridge.

sahba105 karma

Awww, you just implied I'm badass... That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me, supdoc16.

bani2332 karma

I am guessing you have witnesed a vast mojority of poverty and death over in Africa; when you talk about "I'm making more money than I would back home" ; making massive amount of $$ , do you feel as if you are an Imperialistic figure residing in Africa; or do you feel as if Africans think you are?

sahba111 karma

I'm making more than in Europe, but not insanely more.

It's very difficult to begin to comprehend the poverty (and death) here. In the Western world unemployment is around 10% and everyone is losing their minds over it. Here unemployment is 80%.

We have a cleaner working full time in our office/home. Most of the time he doesn't have work but he works full time just as an excuse to give him full pay. So, you could say he is quite privileged as he at least has work, and a salary.

If he buys one loaf of bread every day per each member of his family (5 people), by the end of the month he will have spent about half his salary. If he buys one tiny fish for a single meal, that'll be 15% his salary.

Per month, I can easily spend 5 times my cleaner's salary just in groceries - and I'm a veeery frugal guy. And he has to sustain a wife and three children, too.

In short: Africans definitely see me as an "Imperialistic figure" in their midst. Of course this is only in the particular village I'm living in. In the capital, there are countless Africans whose wealth would make me seem a homeless guy.

eebootwo30 karma

What's the most moving/sad thing you've seen?

sahba90 karma

When I was in the capital, someone asked me for money (a beggar). His tone was so sad, so desperate. Long story short, his employer wasn't paying him and he had no idea how to feed his family that night. The way he spoke is what really pierced my heart. Hard to convey.

pyvpx28 karma

sup fellow westerner engineer in africa. I'm in east africa and work in telecoms. it really is the best thing ever (especially at night -- oh my the stars. THE STARS) but can be so damn trying.

may I ask what kind of premium you're getting over what you'd be paid back home for a similar position/job?

sahba51 karma


may I ask where in East Africa you are?

yes, tiring is a good adjective.

if the financial crisis hadn't hit Europe, my premium would be about... 100%. But since the crisis has drastically lowered waged in Europe, I can say that I'm making 4 times more than friends in Portugal with a similar resume. it's not so much that I'm making a lot of money, but that they are making very little.

just before coming here I was offered a prestigious full time job as an Engineer making... 450€/month, net.

aeroeax28 karma

Why did you decide to go to Africa, was it for work or something else? You ever feel like leaving and enjoying the conveniences of modern life again?

sahba78 karma

It's surprising how quickly we forget about the "conveniences of modern life". In the beginning I struggled horribly with the water difficulties. Just last month I managed to take a shower (incl. hair) with just 2 small bowls of water and thought nothing of it.

I decided to come here because I felt strangely drawn to this continent. I wanted to experience Africa.

StopItLink426 karma

I don't mean this in a crude way or derogatory way but what are the local women like? Can you "date" someone?

sahba45 karma

There are of course a lot of cultural differences which can make connecting to others on that level a bit more difficult. In any case, I can't speak from experience as I'm not looking at the moment.

pantyfex25 karma

Are the antimalarials giving you crazy dreams? I was on Malarone when I was in Uganda and didn't have any side effects but when a friend who did a safari in Kenya and Tanzania had absolutely batshit insane dreams on whatever he was taking.

sahba39 karma

I only did malaria prophilaxis for the first few weeks, then decided to give it up. Fortunately I didn't have those hardcore side effects. A friend of mine did though...

3vere125 karma

What was the weirdest thing you've done/seen there?

sahba89 karma

Nothing occurs for "weirdest"... I can tell you most disgusting though:

I treated the infected wound of a local, whose leg would've probably gangrenated had I not done anything. He would possibly have had his leg cut off or died.

While I was trying to remove the pus, the wound sort of exploded and the pus gushed onto my bare arm... I scrubbed reeeeeally vigorously when I showered after treating him...

JonathanZips33 karma

how do you know how to treat injuries? you are an engineer.

sahba88 karma

I have quite a bit of experience in wound management since I took care of my diabetic grandmother.

3vere130 karma

But still, helping that guy take a lot of strength and kindness.

sahba56 karma

Thanks brother. I don't think anyone would not help him, seeing his condition and knowing that a little help could save his leg/life.

DickScream32 karma

Any pics to post for r/popping?

sahba149 karma


industriouseuphoria23 karma

Do you ever get depressed by the conditions there?

What country are you from?

What country are you currently in? What does that country need to do to improve it's future?

sahba49 karma

Haven't gotten depressed yet, no.

I'm from Portugal.

I'm in Mozambique. As for your last question, that's kind of the million dollar question, isn't it... If only I knew.

mtbkr2419 karma

How do you listen to music? Do you have an iPod/radio/instrument? If you don't, what kind of music do you miss?

I think I would really miss listening to music if I didn't have access to it.

sahba51 karma

Before I actually moved here, I did a 1 month trip to make sure I really wanted to do this. For that trip, I skipped music on purpose (note: music is maybe the one thing I don't think I could live without). I wanted to really immerse myself, and it was a great experience.

I currently have several gigabytes of music with me... :-) I have an iPod as well as music on my computer.

magpie1818 karma

Is there an AIDS epidemic in the area where you live?

sahba36 karma

i.e., the village/province? AFAIK, it's not any worse than in the rest of the country (approximately 18% infected I believe). Swaziland, a neighbouring country, has 40-50% infected - IINM, the highest rate in the world.

Polite_Werewolf18 karma

If there was a zombie outbreak, what would be your zombie plan?

sahba173 karma

Surround my house with treadmills and wait it out.

isleepinahammock17 karma

Ok. Context. Give us some background I'm a structural engineer myself. I work in Houston designing offshore oil platforms. :P

But how exactly does one end up repairing bridges in Africa?

sahba32 karma

I'm sure you know there's a lot of oil/extraction stuff happening in Africa now!

Tbh, one just needs to look for jobs... In my case I put up a very extensive job search and through a contact I found this job. But I had limited experience and a very specific set of requirements, so it took me a while. But if you send your CV to some recruiters, I'm confident they'll hook you up with lots of stuff.

mightykill1916 karma

What do you do to pass the time when there is nothing to do? (besides Reddit)

sahba34 karma

Durings the weekends I try to do some social work. Couple weeks ago went to visit some refugees at a UN camp.

But during the week, between a full-time job, just "making things work" (making sure you have water, maintaining the old house, etc.), preparing meals, and a couple of personal projects, not much time is left.

(You specified "besides Reddit"...)

lolag0ddess17 karma

Did you have a chance to talk with the refugees in the camp? What was their reason for displacement? How did the overall structure of the camp work, exactly?

sahba28 karma

Yes, I did. I had heard that there were many Bahais (my religion) in the camp, so I was particularly curious to visit them. Having a shared religion kind of makes it easy to start a conversation.

They are originally from the Congo, and fleed the conflict there.

The camp is not what you'd imagine with tents, etc., but more like a "refugee town". You can see that it is an artificial location (since the "houses" aren't all bungled up, but sort of follow along a main avenue in the camp). Socially, over the course of my 2/3 visits there I've been able to observe that the refugees are quite destitute (it's particularly heart-breaking to see how their children have no materials in Swahili). Also, I was pleased to notice that the UN has a bunch of initiatives to help the refugees become independent (by starting small businesses). Many refugees have succeeded in this and have managed to leave the camp.

mightykill192 karma

As in, Do you normally use Reddit?

sahba2 karma


yesreally-10 karma

I have some questions for you that aren't all related to Africa, hope you'll reply to me though. I've finished highschool 2 years ago, haven't found anything I like yet. The only thing that comes close, is everything you are describing here. Traveling, repairing buildings/structures, the social experience.

I'm rather curious as to how you got to this point in your life, being able to do all these things. Also, what do you do on a day to day basis? Is it truly as great as it all sounds?

sahba9 karma

I'm going to sleep but wanted you to know I intend to answer your question tomorrow. It deserves some reflection.

Robo9410 karma

Hows the wifi in africa? Btw... how the fuck do you get internet in africa?

sahba26 karma

In this region, I haven't heard of a single place with wifi for the public. There are a few spots in the capital (cafes, etc).

The internet is surprisingly good where I am. I mean I struggle with the water supply, electricity, fuel... not easy to find decent rice or milk... the local market has about 4 kinds of vegetables ever available (onions + peppers + tomato + cabbage and that's it) - but the internet is pretty good!! Ahhhh....

romieerome9 karma

I am considering doing something like this. I really want to see and experience africa and help the people. What would you recommend to a 29 yr old who wants to go back to school and eventually help in third world countries? I am leaning towards engineering but what engineering fields do you think would have the most benefit for the people there?

sahba16 karma

Bro, I was feeling just like you. Coming here = best decision I ever made. May I ask why you want to go to school? What is your current training? Could it be of use?

romieerome1 karma

Currently I work on the help desk for a managed service provider where we manage small and medium business' IT networks. I'm a self taught computer tech so I don't think my skills would be of any use in the third world. 0I graduated High School when I was 17 and had no direction in life and dropped out of college after my first year but now I feel like I really want to help the world somehow. I want to go back to school to learn western technology so that I can somehow adapt it to help third world countries.

sahba1 karma

You know... any minimally skilled and self-motivated IT person can make a very good living in many African cities now... Basically because Africa is generally booming, and the qualified workforce isn't really there to meet the demands. At least this is the case in Mozambique.

protocol_79 karma

Can you provide some proof, please? (This is required for all AMAs; see the sidebar for details.)

sahba21 karma

Would a picture of the collapsed truck do?

protocol_71 karma

That's probably fine. A picture or two from the place where you work or a picture of some paper documentation would also be great, if you have either of those.

sahba26 karma

Ok, here's proof:

*Pic showing my catana, the national airline's (LAM) in-flight magazine for last month, and a box of anti-malaria meds: here.

*Pics of the truck that fell from the bridge: 1, 2

*Pic from under another of my bridges: here.

sahba3 karma

Sure thing. I'm just trying to think of what I can provide...

jlindsay878 karma

Do you have a exit plan if for some reason the government would destablize and another civil war erupted? I understand Mozambique is stable right now. But things can change quickly...

sahba20 karma

Yes, Mozambique is very stable, but I have a pretty hardcore emergency package set up. My two escape options, based on whatever information emerges at the time, are:

  • Drive to one of the neighbouring countries (there are 2 different countries about 20h driving away);
  • Drive to the nearest airport and fly out.

The first option is probably the safest as the airport here has very small capacity and would possibly collapse too.

Theyodeller6 karma

What's your plan upon arrival of the neighboring countries?

sahba16 karma

My emergency package allows me to survive for a while (i.e., easily until I reach the capital of those countries, for example). Once there, it's just a matter of heading to my consulate / nearest airport. Of course this plan assumes that those countries won't collapse at the same time..... That would be SERIOUSLY unlucky.

crumcrow8 karma

Was it worth it?

sahba25 karma

Oh absolutely.

dragonite_life8 karma

How much do you make?

sahba16 karma

Between 1.500 and 2.500 USD / month.

Theyodeller7 karma

What is the weather like day to day? Also, do you see businessmen buying property there planning for the future?

sahba19 karma

Excruciatingly hot most days. Now we are in the rainy season (think that scene in Forrest Gump).

My last trip to Europe, I went for a walk outside on the first day after arriving. It was 15ºC out. I was wearing 3 pairs of pants, 4 sweaters, 3 pairs of socks, scarf, hat, and gloves, and was still freezing.

As for property, if the topic interests you, you can google "land grabbing in Africa". It's a full on thing. It's happening here like crazy. The government recently approved construction of a bridge to an island close to the capital, and I thought to myself "Hey, I should look into investing in some property over in that island". I soon discovered that every square foot of the island has apparently been purchased by members of the government - way in advance of the bridge project being announced.

YouMad7 karma

Do the repaired bridges make it easier to get you those trash bags?

sahba15 karma

No dammit!!!! They're on an other road!!!!!!

sryvre7 karma

I'm heading to Burkina in a few months for the Peace Corps - any suggestions on things to bring that didn't cross you mind until you were already there? Or that you never would've thought you'd want/need/have use for before arriving?

sahba13 karma

I'm going to sleep but wanted you to know I intend to answer your question tomorrow. It deserves some reflection.

juliuszs4 karma

Is the "African Queen" your favorite movie?

sahba5 karma

Can't say it is.

Shayesllc4 karma

What are your personal living conditions like? Care to grace us a photo?

sahba11 karma

I'm actually extremely privileged. So much so that I'm embarrassed to share a photo of my house. In short, I have an actual house (concrete, wood, tiles, etc), which already makes me one of the 1%. To make it more dramatic, it was recently renovated. It's not a mansion or anything, but I am extremely lucky with what I have.

lisathebossy3 karma

Is there just no water? Or no clean water? What kinds of animals do you see the most?

btw, I'm 1/4 Portuguese, grandfather was born there :-)

sahba8 karma

There is no clean water anywhere in this province (the water will frequently be infected by bacteria, amoebas, etc., or worse, cholera. There was a cholera outbreak here last month which killed lots of people). In my particular case, I'm extremely privileged as I have access to an electrical pump nearby. Problem is, the pump sometimes doesn't work, sometimes there is no power, etc. In the dry season the water levels in the ground were very low so there was little water coming out. My solution to the water supply problem was: BUY A LOT OF BUCKETS. So I permanently have like 20 buckets filled with water with me in case I run out.

As for animals: LIZARDS EVERYWHERE. I see about 50 a day, easy.

Rory_the_dog1 karma

Is there any NGO activity concerning clean water? Who put in the well?

sahba1 karma

Yes, a bunch. Apparently wells are surprisingly cheap to set up. I looked into it and I could set one up (including manual pump) for less than 100 USD. The problem lies in maintaining it. In this village there are maybe 50 pumps/wells, but more than half are broken. Someone might come and set it up, but a year later some part breaks and no one can afford to / knows how to fix it.

AmberHeartsDisney1 karma

Why don't you buy one of those straws that clean the water?

sahba1 karma

I've thought of that a lot! Not sure where I could find one?

gx153 karma

Why did you move there? You could probably get less dangerous job where you live and paid more or am I mistaken? Other than that, are you the only European there?

sahba6 karma

I moved here because I always wanted to experience Africa, and in some way contribute to the betterment of this continent. As an expatriate, I'm making more money than I would back home.

I'm the only white person in this particular town - but I'm working in a large project with many foreigners. The camp site (where all the other foreigners live) is about 20km away from me.

gx157 karma

Follow up question, how are the people living there treating you, as the only white person in their community?

sahba19 karma

Insanely well. It's almost uncomfortable.

An example: whenever I go to the bakery, it'll be full with about 15 locals waiting for bread, but the baker will immediately ask for my order. I have to insist that it's not my turn yet.

noopeed3 karma

What type of engineering did you study at school? Are you working with some organization or are you some sort of maverick engineer who takes matters into his own hands? What type of engineering work do you perform specifically on a day to day basis?

sahba5 karma

Hahaha :) Not Rambo-engineer... I'm hired by a company who has been hired to repair bridges.

I studied civil engineering. My day-to-day "engineering" is simple concrete structural repair, and other ancilliary works.

lookingfortheanswer2 karma

High five. I lived in Malawi and did Education work. No water (not even boreholes in a lot of places), CRAZY transportation, and my trip to Kamuzu hospital in the capital was...interesting. I had to bring my own medicine.

Good for you. I know it was a struggle a lot of days, but now that I'm back in the US, I'd give anything to be there again.

sahba2 karma

Africa does have a way to put a spell on us, ey

midwestpaintball2 karma

Why is it that I cannot get in contact with engineers without borders?

sahba2 karma

I have no idea... I've never tried.

Panentheist2 karma

Question? Why can't Africans repair their own bridges?

sahba3 karma

This country has 20 million people and is more or less twice the size of California.

Its main university (and only noteworthy university) produces 50 engineers per year.

Do the math.

Panentheist2 karma

Okay, so again - Why does Africa need European engineers to repair there bridges? Your point is "Well.... they just don't have the engineers" Are you implying that Africa is there for, stupid and not intelligent enough to utilize their brain power and produce more engineers?

sahba2 karma

If you are a teacher, I beg you to come and help raise Africa to its true independence.

If you're reading half of what I've written so far in this AMA and still think that I have such negative views of Africa, then you are out of your mind.

Hazlzz1 karma

Are you having any language problems? I know Mozambique has Portuguese as the official language, but how widespread is it? Have you learned any Swahili/other common vernacular languages?

sahba1 karma

Fortunately most of Mozambique has Portuguese very well established, which makes communication between the different "peoples" of Mozambique possible. For this reason everyone is pretty "proud" of their national language (Portuguese), since it sort of unifies the variosu peoples of the country.

I've started to learn the regional dialect.

abnom1 karma

If you are complaining stop doing it. You are living the dream, you have an engineering title. You can do what you want. Change location but don't complain.

sahba2 karma

I'm not complaining... :-) I wasn't forced to come here, I came because I wanted all this. When the malaria tested positive, I started laughing. "So it's true, I'm really in Africa". I was literally happy.

When one is in love, one loves even the "annoying" traits of the loved one. I happen to be in love with Afica.

My_comments_count1 karma

Can you get stuff delivered from Amazon. If so, how long and what service

sahba1 karma

Yes, but insanely expensive. Would also take a very long time. Rough guess, small package, 100 USD, 5 weeks.

Not to mention that the closest post office is 90 km away and I would have to be lucky enough for them to keep my package there until I arrived to pick it up.

drive-by_wiseguy1 karma

Do they eat rat meat there?

sahba1 karma

Well, that's a very generalising question, but I can assure you that if you or I were as poor as many people are in this town, you would even pay to eat rat meat, if you could.

dexcel1 karma

Are you finding many people from Portugal are coming over to work in the old colonies?

Isthere any resentment from the people of mozambique at allagainst the portugese?

Has much changed since the discovery of the massive gas fields offshore?

Has there been a large influx of Chinese like in angola?

How are you repairing the bridges? What has caused them to fail, neglect, overloading, natural events?


sahba3 karma

Are you finding many people from Portugal are coming over to work in the old colonies?

Yes, it's turning into a social phenomenon both in Portugal and in the former colonies.

Isthere any resentment from the people of mozambique at allagainst the portugese?

1 in a 1000 Mozambicans will display that - and maybe when they're drunk. The overwhelming majority like the Portuguese.

Has much changed since the discovery of the massive gas fields offshore?

I'm assuming you're referring to all the other resources which are giving Moz money (the gas industry hasn't really given money to Moz yet). Yes, much has changed. It's visible all around the country. But there are a lot of very serious, very good, articles which seem to be demonstrating that the increase in GDP in Mozambique (and in other countries who are blindly following the donor-imposed development models) are not successfully reducing poverty - and definitely not as much as other countries are doing it.

Has there been a large influx of Chinese like in angola?

I don't really see many Chinese citizens anywhere, but Chinese business is EVERYWHERE.

How are you repairing the bridges? What has caused them to fail, neglect, overloading, natural events?

The bridges have just grown old. They have cracks in the concrete and the rebar is damaged as well.

aeagal1 karma

Well, let me get to the questions then. I guess we're doing this backwards.

What have you survived? Have you ever had to dodge something falling from a bridge? Have you encountered any deadly animals? What sort of daily struggles do you encounter? How far is the nearest grocery store?

Ok, what's the next answer?

sahba1 karma


Unkwn7471 karma

Does the water ever give up? Or does it always struggle?

sahba4 karma

Water doesn't have the benefit of having watched the Last of the Airbenders. So I kind of have an unfair advantage over mastering the elements. Water ends up giving up most days.

CityAtSpeed0 karma

Worst thing that you saw/happen?

sahba0 karma

A dead passenger that I helped extract from a crashed truck being picked up like a sack of potatoes and thrown onto the back of a truck.