Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Eyes of a Nation

With Brett walking, talking and breathing freely again, we had done some cursory investigations of the city of Maputo.  It lay heavy on my soul though. Maputo’s fall from grace  seemed to have left all of its inhabitants affected, including myself. I begged for a change in scenery. I felt somehow scarred by the visions of children living in such abject poverty. My station in life left me above the reminders of civil war, disease and destitution that seemed to be everywhere. I could not take it anymore and we all agreed to move on. The sad eyes watched us leave the capital city and remained in my mind’s eye for many days to come. I felt hopeless and needed to cleanse myself from the sorry state that I likened Mozambique to be in. Pushing off, we hugged the coast and battled the currents North.
We chugged into Xai Xai and set up our tents. The Indian Ocean was large as life beside us and we relaxed some to be out of the city. Little markets were plentiful with women dressed in traditional sarongs sitting behind piles of bananas and little tomatoes. A bar graced our campground that we stayed at and I managed to chat over a beer with a woman who had recently emigrated from Namibia. She found it too quiet for her liking in Xai Xai and wished for more excitement. I far preferred it to our last stop in Maputo, but understood her need for something to do. The children’s smiles bloomed large on all the little faces we saw. While I could not forget, I managed to let go of some of the horrors of Maputo and began to enjoy Mozambique and its beauty.
We spent a few nights in Xai Xai, then moved on to Praia de Tofo. Here is where the blues of the ocean in front of me stole my heart. The pure white sand beach beckoned to me and I could not resist. I battled the scorching heat coming from the silky sands to plunge into the salty waters. It was heavenly to gently paddle in the warm waves that ebbed in and out. While it was too hot to sit in the direct sunlight, I did lay my towel down to soak up the pristine beauty of Mozambique’s coastline. I wondered how there could be so much suffering in such a beautiful place. Was it the heat that made people’s demeanours turn hostile? Did my colder clime make the people more prone to huddle together  and therefore more temperate in nature?
My musings were interrupted by the appearance of a boy in front of me. He said nothing, but followed my movements with his eyes. He appeared tiny, but his eyes seemed huge. They held all that Mozambique was. I could not resist and snapped a picture of him. His silence reminded me that I did not know his language or experiences, but he was beautiful none-the-less. We did not live in the same world, but could inhabit the same moment.
The child’s father materialized and smiled shyly at us as well. While English was not his first language, we managed to understand from him that his son was four years old. Miki and I  gave them some barracuda that we had dined on the night before and their appreciation was evident. I tried not to stare, but could not get over the size of the boy. We had seen children in Xai Xai that had claimed to be between 12 and 16. To me they had looked more like between 6 and 12. I pondered  again on what it was that formed these people the way they were. Did lack of vitamins and proper nutrition stunt the children’s growth so much or did the atmosphere of war factor in as well? I was supposing and questioning, but could not truly know the answers. I had not lived here, breathed here or grown up here. I could only guess at their lives paths. I don’t know if I really wanted to know the answers.

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