Category Archives: Sport

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

When a person loses so much sleep, there is a strange phenomenon that occurs.  It is almost as if your nightmares begin to tread with you during the day – like a shadow you cannot shake.  This shadow haunts your steps because any actual accomplishments are obscured in knowing that dark cloud is still with you.

I just departed from my time in Africa for some precious days in Ireland not 2 weeks ago where friends took a similarly long journey from Canada, Australia and the like for a wedding.  There seem to be several of these lately.  No matter: it was a much needed respite from the tyranny of the humidity that lays waste to what I call home in Nacala.  Neglecting my composition responsibilities, I have resumed in full flush deciding that these pages will require more ink than usual in the coming weeks.

What awaited in Cork was bitter cold and daily rainstorms but the latter has become a daily habit of Southern life at home.  As D always says, “It was all grand. All lovely.”  Yes, there was singing, dancing, hugging, and the depths of conversation explored – my favourite.

A private beach near Kwalala, in Nacala Porto.
A private beach near Kwalala, in Nacala Porto.

On my return, I was plunged back into a world of mud, thunder, and lightning which conveniently occurred in the middle of the night during most storms. I haven’t slept in five days.

Thus, the psychosomatic daydream I carried from the weekend may be an indicator of the subconscious just waiting to resurface. My nightmares are always the same – manifestations of weirdly real and ugly elements conjoined to my fears. All I can dream about is the NGO sector and as this is clustered with some distorted faces and chases in which I always fail.  The solution, I decided, was to go running when my dreams had no control over my chases.  Outside.

4:35am. Darkness covered the tall baobabs outside the house, and I strode towards the hill. Giving myself two minutes to wake up my mind, I quickly trotted into full stride thinking about all of the messy factors that are interrupting my natural sense of calm – the uncertainty of life in Africa, incomplete research, and job opportunities that continually appear and disappear within days.

4:44am. One shoe hit the pavement and the other followed. I could feel the callouses building underneath: the satisfaction in knowing that your muscles will be properly tired later. As my breath steadied into a rhythmic bent, the trees began to lift their branches, as if unburdened as the clouds drifted apart to let the sun begin its slow ascent.

4:53am. My eyes adjusted to the grey haze that comes from an early morning that is still truly the end of the evening, and no mosquitos or flies to be heard or seen. (That, of course, does not mean they were not there.) Why is it that calm escapes when it is so attainable?

4:59am. A figure came towards the road in a long skirt and misshapen body – it is actually the form of a semi-wicker basket type container balanced on a long, lean shape. Just a few moments passed as I turned to quickly head across in order to return before another 30 minutes had gone by. Another shape huddled behind a tree and climbing from the shadows appeared and began to materialize in the sunlight as I turned a corner.

5:05am. Brilliant in pink and yellow, the ball of light pierced the sky with its unflinching gaze and squinted at the Earth below. I think that calm is definitely attainable.

5:15am. On the floor and staring at the ceiling, I breathed in the artificial air that colors my ability to think in any appropriate manner. Hot, hot, hot. The pulse in my wrist throbbed and would continue until I could feel the cold from the floor begin to dissolve into me.

The truth is this. Living in Mozambique requires more than the average amount of patience and as one tries to build anything of substance, it slips through the fingers like grains of sand. A praying kind of girl myself, I have taken to a lot of solitary moments. It is one of the only ways I begin to feel sane and yet, my human levels of patience are just that. Human.  It is like the beauty of this country – always beautiful, always there but elusive when the thunder and the lightning mask the trees, the ocean, the beaches with its angry roars and sharp light.  Thunder and lightning is beautiful and mysterious in its own way but it doesn’t compare to the day the storms pass and the peace after resides on the shores.

When I look around at the people who work so hard and receive so little in return, it seems such a small price to pay – patience. I suppose that is what African living is actually about, at least for me: humility. Awe in light of the fact that things do not always go the way one plans. And being okay with that. Perhaps then Africa could start to feel like home. Perhaps then my restlessness and ambition could materialize …if the waiting can teach me anything at all.

Welcome back, I say to myself in dreams. Welcome.

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Taking the plunge

The guys like adventuring and while adventure is certainly one of the middle names yours truly does carry on occasion, I find it easy to wear out on a hot day. Take this past weekend.

I decided to take the plunge.  This comes in all forms:  rectangular, straight, and crooked.  For some it is a leap off the high-dive platform while for others it is a springboard into a river cannonball.  Or, it could be a dive into the unknown.

It is the fifth week in this blistering heat and savannah country I call home.  Nacala is off the South-eastern rift of the Indian ocean.  Known for its unseen coastlines and sultry views of the Mozambique channel, it is territory charted but not always explored.  After several days of being kept indoors, the troupe I acknowledge as the guys travels across to the main port on Sundays for sunshine and their own brand of plunge.

Scuba.  An enthusiast of sport, thrills, and bendy sorts of activities, diving seems to be my kind of crazy.  There was only one minor element that made the chills begin to spike on the hairs of my neck.  The prospect of going under water without the naturalized gulps of air I have grown so accustomed.  Breathing is a biological right.  Humans are meant to eat, sleep, walk, run, and jump.  Swimming, however, breaks the barrier of what a land animal does on a normal basis.  Certainly I can do so, but to go under water for longer than the accounted few minutes I might be able to hold my breath seems more than just strange.

It is another shade of crazy.

This is a minor fear I have had for years probably tracing back to the haunting day my Mother hid around the corner during my five-year-old swimming class where she abandoned me in 4-foot water despite my screams in a glass-encased pool house.  You could hear the echoes as I was held by my bewildered teacher, “Help! Police. Help! Police!”  Doesn’t Mommy and me class mean Mommy and me?  Tough love, she would say. Yes, yes.  Unfortunately, that sweet narrative has followed me around on too many embarrassing family outings where strangers would show up asking for childhood tales of the girls.  Why don’t my sisters have any run-ins with the law in their early years?

Artur84, Freedigitalphotos.net
Artur84, Freedigitalphotos.net

Needless to say, getting my feet wet this weekend was more than a chore.  D’s close friend Adrien, we shall call him, decided this was the Sunday I made my debut after a month of ‘safe’ snorkelling.  Adrien was trained in Thailand as a diver and instructor so his expertise over many years has lent him the title of resident certification guru to teach others on his free time.  Generous as it was, I still just tried to keep mastery over my teeth which internally ground each other as he explained rules.  First, there was the importance of breathing, the possibility of injuring one’s lungs, how the ribcage could collapse if the chest was expanding too quickly, and of course, the challenge of placing your regulator on in case it ‘disappeared.’ Eh!?

Slipping on a brand-new mask and full black dress, I wondered why a diver needs to look like Catwoman out for a fish-hunting session with four eyes on her head.  Perhaps that was for when I was hungry?  Next time.  We walked down to shore in the sweltering sun, carrying fins and tanks, although D carried mine as a kind gesture for my first time.

Putting on the vest and oxygen tank, there was an immediate sense of what I was prepared to do.  The thrill rose up to my chest immediately but I pushed down the tide of fears that threatened to destroy my courage.  My toes grabbed the corners of round and wet black rocks that glistened with drops of the ocean in low tide.  Each step made my chest more conscious of the short breaths I took, puffing creepily in front of me.  The dank air oppressed my skin and was met with the feverish sweat pouring down my back.  In the shallow sea, I felt the salt water fill my mask slowly.  I slid it off my brow to clear the fog as my unhurried descent made me feel colder and colder in my heart.  New masks are simply not ideal for first dives.

Adrien playfully discussed how his ex-girlfriend would simply rip off his mask as a joke, tease, or prepare him for other such expert diving shenanigan.  Clearly this was another level.  Out of the corner of my eye, D was noticeably swimming nearby without a care in the world.  Certainly he would find it normal while I did not.   Especially not at 10 metres or 40 metres under the surface.

However, we were simply floating just below the horizon of the sea, my eyes peeking beyond the East-West of the port.  As we slowly dipped under the current, my eyes adjusted to life below the water and the unsteady “hhhhhhhhhe shhh” of the regulator haunted my every pore.  Instead of backing away, I rose to the surface once more.

-Is everything alright?

(I nodded)

-Ready?

-Almost.  Just give me one second.

1,200 seconds later, I had mastered three diving skills, gone below the surface for just under four minutes to view a sunken car, and lost one scuba fin.  I managed to accomplish this, and continue to breathe.  Needless to say, I had hoped I could dive for longer, but it seems I am more like that turtle than I thought.  (Read my post on If you want to go fast, go alone. http://wp.me/p4e2Bz-R)   Fear not.  I will be trying for 10-30 minutes this weekend.  Despite all, open water is not so much the great unknown any longer.

The hardest part may be leaving the sea and carrying all of the gear to the top of the hill.  This is where lunch beckons your return.  Lunch will not scold you for losing your shoe.   Or your fin, for that matter.  Who am I? Cinderella?

Next time the "okay" sign comes up, I'd rather be relaxing in a cafe, or wine cellar, for that matter. Photography Credit: Alija, Getty Images
Next time the “okay” sign comes up, I’d rather be relaxing in a cafe, or wine cellar, for that matter.
Photography Credit: Alija, Getty Images

By the time the troupe had driven back home, we all were in a delirious state of mind.  While the guys decided to practice shooting with a pellet gun, I took myself on a thirty minute walk just long enough to spend some quality time alone on a nearby rock just smooth enough to lean on and do absolutely nothing.

Nacala-a-Velha is a quiet place.  Quiet equals discretion, hidden gems and silent thoughts.  So that is how the day ended on that final Sunday evening as the sun descended on the shade of Baobab trees who silently glanced at my shadow that walked among them.