â€˘ A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE â€“ Juridio ChiÂcala smiles as he stands in the foyer of Maputoâ€™s grand Victorian railroad station: â€śI would like to travel and visit AmÂerÂÂica, but I would not like to live there. Mozambique is my country, and things are getting better here. I want to stay and build a better country.â€ť
He and his fellow citizens have a long way to go. Last year, Mozambique was ranked No. 172 out of 177 countries in a United Nations poverty report â€“ and that was before the current credit crunch.
But Mr. Chicala is undaunted. He was taught English by Mormon missionaries four years ago after becoming a Christian in 2003. He is about to marry his fiancĂ©e, and his job gives him an above-average salary.
In a typically African city choked with traffic, corrupt police, decaying infrastructure, and uncollected garbage, his companyâ€™s bright-yellow tourist trains with road wheels are an unmistakable sight.
They pick up and drop off visitors at the capitalâ€™s few tourist attractions, including the impressive railroad station completed in 1910. Keen moviegoers will recognize it as the fictitious hotel in the 2006 movie â€śBlood Diamond,â€ť starring Leonardo DiCaprio, about the tragedy of the illegal diamond trade in West Africa.
Chicala says the former Portuguese colony is on the rise. He points to a growing number of construction projects under way and air-travel improvements as evidence.
â€śThings are changing, and there are more political groups fighting to make their mark,â€ť he says. â€śFrelimo [the ruling party] are more open and encouraging business to be more competitive and create jobs, which didnâ€™t happen before. I am optimistic for my country.â€ť