Something I love about Mozambique is how Mozambicans love the water.
There’s a stereotype that Africans hate the ocean, that they’re afraid of it. The purpose of a river or of the sea is to fish, to wash their clothes, to bend over with their backs facing up toward the glinting sun as they pick oysters off the rocks, to collect water to drink and boil and bathe in.
But Mozambique is different. It was one of the first things I noticed when I first arrived here, and it’s one of the things that makes me fall in love with it all over again, like I am now.
Mozambique and I had a fight recently. It felt like a lovers quarrel but much more cold and indifferent. I don’t really care to get into the details but I had one of those weeks where I dealt with it all: a string of robberies and home invasions in our sleepy town, harassment from drunks, carelessness. One of those weeks where even just burning my tongue on a plate of beans or getting looked at funny would almost send me into a fit of a tears. On one of these days I decided to get into bed at 2 p.m. and didn’t leave until the evening, in which I promptly walked into a fight where a man was hitting a woman and the police stood on the side, standing nonchalantly with their hands in their pockets. I turned around and went back home.
Something aesthetic-travel blogs and filtered Instagram pages don’t prepare you for when you think about living in a third world country is that you are moving to a place where there really is very little justice. There just isn’t. It’s a place where the inner core is rotten with corruption and it spreads to the streets like mold, creeping into the lives of people who do not deserve it. The home robberies that have increased in frequency, where the crooks run free and, when they are caught and brought to the police station, they bribe their way out and flee. When men who reek of liquor hit their wives and girlfriends and the policemen stand on the side, making idle chitchat. Where innocent people just trying to get by come down with malaria; where people suffer from illnesses that would be so easily treated somewhere else.
Moving to a country in Africa is not always elephants and palm trees. It’s corruption, it’s sexism on both sides, it’s knowing that if someone does cause you some level of harm, the most justice you will get is your friends running into the bush wielding baseball bats and coming back empty handed. And I think this has really settled on my shoulders and my mind this week: there is not always justice in an unjust world.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t, also, a lot of beauty.
After a testing few days I knew I had to makeup with Mozambique after our fight, just like any relationship, I suppose. I went down to the ocean just before sunset and jumped into the water, turquoise and clear. I wrapped myself in my oversized towel and sat on the sand for awhile, and watched the exquisite world around me.
Three Mozambican girls in their soaked school clothes were screaming with absolute joy, huge smiles on their faces, as they held hands and jumped into the waves. Holding their noses, smacking their hands on the water’s surface, running to the safety of the sand before leaping back into the waves.
Behind me, a group of young local boys played soccer along the shoreline, and just down the beach I saw a couple of teenage Mozambicans jogging with their surfboards in tow. As they passed me, they smiled and waved, and that was all.
One of the first things I ever fell in love with in Mozambique were the colors: everything is bathed in turquoise and gold and emerald green. Just as it was this afternoon. And the other thing, was how Mozambicans love the water. Just as they were this afternoon. Just as they are every afternoon, when I’m not too blinded to see it.
There are a lot of beautiful things in this unjust world.
“But what I want to say is this: After the period of melancholy is over, you will be stronger than before,
you will recover your health, and you will find the scenery round you so beautiful that you will want nothing but paint.”