The scent of coffee drifts across my nose from the remnants of the last 30-minute café siesta; it reminds me of how the morning sweeps across us so quickly. What seem just a few minutes are actually three hours and two cups of coffee later. Legs crossed in lotus position at my desk, I am the picture of anti-professionalism, but then again the door is closed.
Just over two years ago, I stepped onto the great continent that is Africa for the first time. As I relish what it felt to step onto that soil and smell the dusty air, I am overcome with peace. The fragrance of clean earth and salt in the wind prickled against your skin when you stepped into Madagascar. What is fast everywhere else was slow and tranquil. It was good.
Within the usual cogs of life’s blood and the ticking time bomb that is industry here. Life here in Mozambique is dangerous and charming all at once – a manifestation of the typical stereotypes and surprises combined with foreign investment and strange expatriates. Getting caught inside the insanity is part of the fun. There is more to African states outside of what I see here.
That is what Madagascar was to me – it was just more.
My recent work with a local health and agriculture NGO is opening my eyes to the pitfalls of organizing African projects. It is possible for things to go well – but often one must expect they will go wrong. Yesterday’s meeting happened over an hour after it was planned and the main contact performed a no-show (there are still no messages on my cell phone from this person). Frustrating yes, but I learn. May be motivated to do more in fact, from my experience.
My partner-in-crime, D, lived in Madagascar twice in his life, for approximately 3 years. The way he tells it, it is the dream. He isn’t far off. You may have some of the usual irritations like the inconvenience of the power shutting down and lack of public transport, but this is tempered by the local restaurants which don’t serve food with European pricetags, the thriving expatriate community, and the wonders of the surf.
Tea Time in Fort Dauphin
The latter is one of the most important. Mozambique shares some of this pride in its sand and sea, but there are few waves and seemingly fewer expatriates in this part of town. On Sunday, a short church service was followed by work (it doesn’t stop even for holidays here sadly) but the office was left early to share a celebration in the middle of Nacala-a-Velha where we laughed about the days gone by while the rain drizzled off the rooftop of a Portuguese restaurant, chilled wine in hand.
It is easy to take much here for granted. In fact, some aspects of this sub – Saharan region (if one considers Mozambique part of this cluster) is 100 percent convenience – laundry washed, full dinners cooked, and water bottles delivered to your door with a can of mosquito repellent. Perhaps an ideal living standard doesn’t include that last one but it is fairly necessary if you want to enjoy the gorgeous twilight as the sun descends on the sleepy villages.
Hobbies here include scuba, snorkel and laughter by the ocean, of course. One of the favourite spots in Nacala Porto is along the shore where I capture scenes of children playing next to groups of boys casting their fishing nets. Events and people here are shaped by moments much simpler than mine and they are happy.
Running through the bright greens of the bush
In St. Luce, Madagascar the pictures were the same – humbled lives driving boats around corners, fishing along streams and carrying all their belongings across roads and through bushes.
Sunburnt and Surfin’ Africa
So, as I reminisce about the Isle that is Madagascar from the wonderful day I was first brought to Africa, I cannot help but wonder:
How can my life ever be the same after this? Some might say that life is difficult here but how else could I really appreciate when everything falls into place perfectly? No – nothing goes to plan here but then, life goes. Life adapts. You adapt. I do too.
Truly I am dealing with the harsh realities of racism, abject poverty, polychromatic visions of time (which means some don’t even really believe in time as much of anything except a number to point to) and a lack of understanding about littering and toilet usage but that’s not important, really! It is a small price to pay when I can see so much more that is humble and beautiful.
Even then, when I do go home, when I speak to my family on the phone, when I eat brie, goat’s cheese and fresh fruit, well… it doesn’t get much better than that. It is so rare these days.
What is rare is special.
As I said, how can I see what perfection is? How can I appreciate it until I first go through the challenges of adjusting to an existence rife with challenges? I think we were brought on this Earth to go through trials in order to see the good. La vie belle would lack that je-ne-sais-quoi that is impossible to deny.
First in Fort Dauphin, I was introduced to a world so unlike my own and I fell in love with the people, the place and the mystery of Africa. Now, Nacala. It is not a coincidence that a certain fellow who first showed me the unusual complexity of Madagascar is the one who also gives me so much joy now. I am so thankful for day number one with this guy and certainly for today.
Life is never boring and it never will be.