on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

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In Mozambique on June 23, 2008 at 4:41 am

I am back in Manhattan. In many ways it’s almost as if I never left. It’s funny how life moves forward with such great momentum despite it all. It’s strange how in the blink of an eye you can be transported from one time, one place, one reality to a completely different one. I have had almost no time to process anything. Yesterday, on the subway, Tamika and I kept blinking at each other, trying to understand how we came to be in New York, when only a few… (ok like 48) hours ago we were riding a rusty, rickety chapa.

I am happy to be back. I’m taking it slowly. I’m finishing up my final round of interviews this week. Then I’m heading to Maryland/D.C., Rochester and back to Manhattan to go through the process of re-settling (eeeh…).

I miss Mozambique already and have decided to enroll in a formal Portuguese language course so I can truly become fluent enough to go back (in some capacity or another). I’m definitely going back to Mozie, the love bug bit me the moment I stepped of the chapa, although at the time, I wouldn’t have called it “love”.

Tamika and I had an adventure making our way back home to the states. We almost didn’t make it back.

We left Inhambane for Maputo at 4:30 am. We spent the night at Lynne’s, took a chapa from the central market and arrived at 11:30. This was on a Monday and we were supposed to fly out of Joburg on Tuesday evening. Two weeks earlier, we contacted the ADPP headquarters in Maputo telling them that we were leaving and that we needed our bus tickets to Joburg (our organization is supposed to cover our expenses to the airport, etc.). Sure, no problem, we were told.

When we got off of the chapa in Maputo, we called the office to let them know we had arrived and would be heading to Machava in a few hours to pick up our tickets for later on that day (we were supposed to leave on a bus at 7pm- we just wanted to drop our bags off at our friend Jesse’s apartment so that we wouldn’t have to lug them around the city). When we called, we were informed that they hadn’t purchased any tickets for us and that the bus that we were supposed to take was full. The panic began here.

Desperate and furious, Tamika and I showed up at a particular man’s office (I am not naming names) to get to the bottom of the confusion. We were told that it wasn’t possible to get a bus in time to catch our plane and that they didn’t know we were leaving. I was literally told and I quote “this is not my problem, this is your problem”.

This was one of the most frustrating things about living and working in Mozambique, nobody ever wanted to take accountability for anything, nobody was ever on top of anything. There were no systems in place to check or balance much of anything making it so easy to get screwed over because you couldn’t depend on anyone and people didn’t do anything unless you lit a fire beneath their you know what. It was a backwards mess.

We were so angry. We argued with this man and his buddies in the office. Finally, since there were no buses and we needed to be in Joburg by 7pm the next day, he decided to give us the ticket money and told us to take a chapa. This would have been uncomfortable but fine if there weren’t violent conflicts at the border and people being killed. I couldn’t believe that ADPP had so little concern for our personal welfare that they would send us, two females, on a rickety chopa with Mozambique plates over the border in the middle of a conflict zone where Mozambicans were being targeted and attacked. We took the money and left. We had no other options. The only bus company that we were aware of was booked solid.

We called everyone we knew. Everyone begged us not to risk taking the chopa. We were torn. Our flight would be leaving without us, if we didn’t make a decision and quickly. Literally two hours before we almost took a chapa, my friend Lynne called to let us know that there were two tickets available on the Pantera Azul bus that was scheduled to leave in the morning at 7am which would get us to Joburg by 3pm. It would be a close call but it was our best chance.

Thank god for friends. We were connected with a friend of Lynne’s who lived in town where we spent the night and left in the morning with no problems. Luckily my friends are wonderful, supportive people, without which, I would never have survived the journey or my experience in Mozambique.

That last clash with my organization made me so happy that I was leaving early. I can’t stress enough, the importance of doing your homework before you take a contract abroad.

The Pantera Azul bus was comfortable and spacious. We relaxed our tense muscles and enjoyed the complimentary tea and biscuit service. It seemed that everything would work out in then end after all when about an hour away from Joburg, around 2:30, the bus blows a flat tire. We were horrified. We just wanted to get to the airport so that we could go home. We were so close but it was just not working out.

The driver and his first mate hopped out and worked on the tire for about 30 minutes. Somehow they patched the tire and we slowly puttered onward towards the bus station.

We finally made it to Joburg. We were about an hour late but we were there. The brother of one of the guys we knew in Mozie came to pick us up at the station and took us to the airport. We made it just in the nick of time. We were even able to spend our last rands and mets at the airport mall before boarding.

Despite it all, the flight was great. Tamika and I had two seats each. I caught up on my movies. The amarula and wine flowed freely. We had a surprise stop in Senegal? but 17and a half hours later, we made it to New York and boarded the subway and bam…we were back in the game.

My Mozambique- ADPP chapter is now closed. I am working on a book about my experiences. There were so many things that happened that I couldn’t really write about in this blog that I am recording now. I’ll post my introduction as well as blurbs at a later point. I can write what I want now that I’m no longer under a contract 😉

Thanks for reading!

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