First impressions of Mozambique... First impressions of the real Africa...
Such a banality to speak of red dust and warm scents, of endless roads and smiles, everywhere big wide smiles. Commonplace as these are in any foreigner's testimonials, it still blows you in the face and your senses are overpowered with feelings when you land from “that other world” up in cosy Europe. Tenderness feelings, helplessness feelings, guilt feelings, adventure feelings, hope feelings.
The road is long, scenic and scattered with people from Maputo to Chokwé, hundreds of all ages selling, bartering, trying to make a living from whatever trade or crafts they have, hanging on the sidewalks, hanging on local buses, everyone surviving over the long dirt road. Chokwé town, a piece of no man´s land that no one choses to visit but where one happens to be born, study in subsidized schools like our charity´s SLM and SVP ones and later come to visit the family abandoned for a better trade in neighboring South Africa. The beautiful Pacific is only 100kms away but our children could not live further from it in a place where the earth has not seen the stubborn rain for most of the year, cattle is meager and week in dry pastures and hunger rises everyday.
BANG I am overblown as soon as I arrive to SVP school, 1000 kids total, 200 of the poorest ones under our care, just landed with our documentary volunteer Niko T. Greetings from total strangers, young and old, staff, children, Vicentine nuns, that welcome us like old family aunts kissing us and hugging us as if we are precious and they have waited to embrace us half their life. And your usual habits of the “civilized” western world of keeping a respectful distance, let´s talk business, just go unforgotten and you hug back and ask for the kids health and what they had for lunch. You pick up little children you never saw, some you recognize from our extensive charity reports but that till now were names with no faces, and they cuddle touching your face and hair. And it takes time, lots of endless warming Mozambican time, to just say hello and even more to greet goodbye. Have we forgotten in our busy full lives the joy and richness of getting acquainted with a new human being?
Edson, BANG BANG, scrawny fragile delightful strength of this 11-year old just under our Sponsorship programme that fell young into a wheeling chair. Edson who everyday goes all alone to school, with his long lean arms, through dust and wind, shy smile and so proud when, mouths open, we see him drive back home. We wanted to follow him on the spot and do a full documentary on him alone. And I muse how my concern flying that night had been how reliable my internet would be because it is absolutely impossible to the human race to now survive without 24-hour whatsapp.
Four wheel car out, drive out of town into the little oasis of the neighboring SLM School. Romantic despite its neediness, this little compound of the Vicentine sisters with scattered trees and half-surviving vegetable huts and little buildings in a school to which I probably dedicate some 70% of my “free” time. Feeding 800 kids every day, sponsoring 170 of these, putting them through after class tutoring, technical courses, can a few attend university once, an HIV centre for 32, let´s get the mums involved and generate family income, endless tiring project lists where I always want to do more, faster, higher, broader, more essential, more efficient, more, MORE!!
Will I and ALG be able to do more…? Do we need to do more…? Is less sufficient…? Will more still NEVER be sufficient….?
Sleep, sleep, and forget the mosquitoes and the adrenaline, the day starts at 5.50am tomorrow…