the greatest gift

I struggle amidst all the emotion to find words to describe this past three weeks. I have not really processed much aloud. My conversations are very present tense and mostly related to everyone else around me. Conversations are often in Portuguese, which only make them even more complex and demanding of all of me as I try to listen and speak with my 100 word present-tense-only vocabulary. And writing, my usual method of figuring out how I feel about everything has been impossible because it is never quiet, impossible to think and I am never alone. 

 Amilcar the dreamer. We started Galeria dos Sonhos together. Now he is a waiter, making money to further his education.

Amilcar the dreamer. We started Galeria dos Sonhos together. Now he is a waiter, making money to further his education.

It is a beautiful thing about this culture, living and working so closely together, choosing to sit together, no concept of personal space. The guard once asked me what I do all day in my house alone. I gave him my long list of blissful solitary duties of book reading, tidying, music listening, meal planning and list making and he just stared and then laughed. I feel their pity when they learn of my being 4o and single. They gasp and are wide-eyed and then the gawk turns to pity, every time. I learned to truly live in community alongside Africans. I learned how to share and how life is so much less difficult when you have a nation to help you. But historically, I am most changed and come most alive in the silence and in solitude and in being all alone. 

 Rofi is now a waiter too. I have heard rumour he is the best in the city. He had to quit university because he has been having severe pain that appears to be neurological. He has good days and bad. 

Rofi is now a waiter too. I have heard rumour he is the best in the city. He had to quit university because he has been having severe pain that appears to be neurological. He has good days and bad. 

Today, my quiet place comes in the form of a sweet guest house and a generous invitation of beautiful missionaries who have been in Mozambique for almost two decades. The quiet, the coffee, air con and warm huge shower are all so nice but I find myself missing the chaos of life back on the compound. The solidarity seems selfish, though desperately needed. It has been a profound three weeks. 

 This boy. I told him I wanted to start a school. The next day he arrived with all his friends and that is how we started an English school in Pemba.

This boy. I told him I wanted to start a school. The next day he arrived with all his friends and that is how we started an English school in Pemba.

I am wondering about Henrique and what he will do with this day and realising I have so few to spend with him. We took his motorcycle earlier this week into town for me to look for fabric. I bought some fabulous leather sandals but they rubbed horrible blisters. I am missing morning conversation with Em on all things politics, Instragram, fashion, and food. Uno games with Nathalia. Amilcar and Rofi are working today. Rofi is not well and I am worried.  I went to meet his parents this week. We took a chapa to their village. I have actually driven by there many times. It is on the main road past the airport. His parents have been married for almost 50 years. I am always confused about family lines here but I think there must be or have been multiple wives. They are Muslim and his father is a farmer, architect and/or builder. They are building a home for Rofi to rent out as a means of income. Rofi’s symptoms are neurological according to the doctor and diagnosis here, impossible. I went to see Amilcar at work this week.  I beam when I see him. There are no words. Just so incredibly proud. He looks so professional in his starched dress shirt. His belt, visibly worn two notches over from when he used to be so skinny. I want to give this young man the world. He has worked so hard and I wish he had every opportunity to flourish. I want the very best for him. I trust him immensely. A lot of the boys in his class are now living off the streets, drinking themselves into oblivion, fighting, sleeping with a different girl every night, selling anything they can to make a small amount of money. And Amilcar is patiently working hard. When I left him on Thursday he hugged me and stumbled on some words and then said, “I love you, Mana Graça.” Such sincerity. I love that boy too.

 Taking the bus to the city for fabric shopping.

Taking the bus to the city for fabric shopping.

They are all just a few miles up the road, but I am missing them terribly. And I don’t know what that is all about. Maybe it means I am growing up and finally learning to give bits of my heart away and this is what truly living feels like. And I am learning how to get refreshed and filled up in the midst of crowds and chaos. And I can’t begin to fathom getting on a plane and leaving them all again. It is going to break my heart. I gave this place a few years of my life, but I have gained an eternity through these relationships.  I am experiencing the impact they have had on my life and at the same time, watching the impact I have had on their lives and it is brilliantly beautiful. I am so touched by it. I am so undone by it. I am so overwhelmed by it. I am humbled and honoured. Their lives are a little bit better because I came here. And mine is forever better. I was grumpy and I complained and it was impossibly hard. But getting this rare gift of actually seeing the fruit of my grumble-filled labor is stunning.