on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

In Mozambique on February 20, 2008 at 10:57 pm

I am in Mozambique!

We arrived yesterday morning after a long, long, long journey.

My travels began on Sunday, Feb 17th at 6:30 am, when I left my friend Krista´s Manhattan apartment dragging almost 90 pounds of luggage onto the subway. That in and of itself was an adventure. I somehow managed to twist my ankle going out in the East Village to celebrate my last night a few hours prior. I only had flip flops to wear and I was pulling my overstuffed pink suitcase on ice.

I met Makiko at JFK airport, where we waited for our slightly delayed flight and flew to Washington, DC. In Washington D.C., after a six hour layover, we met Tamika and flew 16 hours to Johannesburg. The flight was sooooooooo long and I was already tired and exhausted. My irresponsibly sprained foot, souvenir of my last night in New York began to swell and throb. I’m still walking with a limp.

Makiko, Tamika and I were all seated apart from each other in different sections of the plane. I spent 16 hous squashed against a window, next to a large ex-marine who karate chopped me while he was asleep. I did however, get to watch two movies that I had missed while living on the mountain, ATTONEMENT and DARJEELING UNLIMITED, both very entertaining.

South Africa was fantastic once we finally landed. Okay, so the airport in South Africa was fantastic, that is. We had a 10 hour wait before our bus ride to Maputo (are you keeping track of the time? It was the longest trip ever). We met up with Rodrigo and Sergio in the airport food court and took shifts watching each others bags so that we could explore the airport and its periphery in groups. IICD instilled the fear of God in us when talking about Johannesburg. All we heard on the mountain was “Now be careful, it’s the most dangerous city in the world!”, ” Development Instructors have been robbed of all of their possessions in Johannesburg, be careful and don’t leave the airport”.

After sitting on a plane for hours and hours and waiting for hours, I wasn’t about to do it again in a stuffy airport, so Tamika and I left and everything was fine.  It was in the middle of the afternoon. We ventured outside for a walk and then we went further and further. The city was very familiar, very western. We experienced our first bursts of warm air here. There were times I forgot I was in South Africa until I’d look out the taxi window and see a palm tree or a baobab dotting the median in the highway. We did almost get run down in the middle of the street, because they drive on the left side of the street, very confusing to curious Americans.
Anyhow, after exploring and eating, we were off.

We took a bus from Johannesburg to Maputo. This was truly the worst ride of my life. The moment we entered the double-decked bus, the humidity weighed down upon us. We were the last people to enter the bus (late due to our exploring) and we couldn´t sit together. I was stuck sitting next to a European backpacker who smelled like he hadn´t showered in months. This guy had the longest legs ever and took up 3/4´s of the seat. It was agony. The ride began at 10pm, so it was dark and I was straining to make out the shadows of mountains and rivers but I couldn’t see anything concrete. The bus also didn’t stop. Not once! We did stop around 5am at the Mozambican border only to learn that it was closed until 6am. So we sat and we simmered and we festered and this was how I caught my first Mozambican sunrise. It was beautiful . An hour later at six we were herded off the bus in the most disorganized fashion possible. So much for lines, and order? We were pushed through customs in a stream of people, paid our visa taxes and before we could get back on the bus had to wait for an hour outside in the blazing heat as the customs people went through our bags one by one. Once this was over, we were back on the bus for two more hours. When we reached Maputo, we jumped off, grabbed a pick-up truck cab, rode in the back hatch with our luggage and saw the city for the first time.

Maputo is the capital of Mozambique and it´s enormous. There are areas that are extremely wealthy and beautiful and there are areas of extreme poverty. We had a thirty minute ride. Nobody fell out of the truck and we arrived at ADPP Mozambique unharmed.

Tamika and Sergio, travel weary yet excited

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