I’m back, I’m back, I’m back.
Time, Travel, Dreams, Memory
I arrived in Mozambique in October. I’ve been in Machanga since December. That works out to 10 months in country, and 7 months at site. Coming into the big city today, I was struck by the apartments. After all this time, my eye is accustomed to the mud and straw roof houses that surround our school. Little things remind me that I am not at home.
We pass 6/7, more phone towers. Two of them had smokey cooking fires next to them and women pounding corn. A few cars on the road, and my director exclaimed: ‘lots of traffic Sunday!’ A car races ahead – my thought: ‘What a hurry!’
Taking a car into Beira is a luxury. Space to stretch my legs. I’m amazed that I missed the chapa – (the bush taxi). My first trip to Beira I was plauged with Scabies attempting to drug myself with allergy medication to numb the itching. Cramped in with 20 other people, & little room (an airline seat is spacious in comparsion) , I dozed in and out of sleep, hot and uncomfortable. Upon arriving in Beira, seems when I went to take a piss in the straw outhouse (where to pee with no hole in the ground?), someone stole my phone. The ride back from Beira too was cramped, but thankfully my belly was uncomfortable making my scabies a secondary problem. So, I started off hating Chapas.
But then I got my systems in place that made travelling more comfortable: travel light: lots of underwear to change, one pair of pants (wearing them), one coat (to sit on), one book, a journal, and toothbrush. that’s it. The chapas are loud, but everyone is amiable. I see that the cobrador who is in charge of collecting money and assigning seats has an infinitely hard job and will have back pains the rest of his life –but, his is an honest living. I am hustled in there, with the babies, the corn, the chickens, the cheery talkative drunks, the blaring music. It’s very African, and the spirit is high.
A short episode.
We stop to pick up some four standing on the side of the road. Sound of the door sliding open. Looking down, I see the man has no shoes. His shirt hangs off his shoulders in tatters. But, this is a cheerful departure and their poverty is right now no concern. He is handing off packages. She is getting loaded in with a giant sack of corn meal and a baby. The older brother has his eyes to the window peering in, saying goodbye to baby brother. I look over the seat in front of me. The drunken man in front of me is engrossed in a racing game on his touch screen phone. The cobrador is chomping on a corn cob that gets tossed out the door. The music is blaring, the bass thumps, the door slides shut and we are racing again; slalomming potholes in our solo race. It’s so old and new and African and I’m in it, changed by it, & now, complicit.
I have odd dreams, some caused undoubtedly as a side effect from my weekly malaria meds, but some due to home sickness. I dreamed I returned home to comfort my dog as he died. I dreamed I arrived home just in time for my friend’s wedding – a parade from the airport, and me without my costume (my imagining the great time I would miss), hugging my father after he had a leg amputated. Dreams of my passed grandmother. Dreams of my nephew. I dreamed I toured Obama’s bedroom and saw his bed and closet and felt it incorrect that he and his family in the White House have no privacy.
Being away makes past good memories shine, emotions of years settle into recognizable forms, and values come out in strong contrast.
These bared emotions time’s brought into focus leaves me with a strange unspoken feeling of what my life has been. This poem describes it.
Behind the curtain it is / all the world’s poets have attempted to describe / all the world’s artists in hue and curve sought to capture /authors have tried telling it through the behaviour and meaning in a story’s arc/wise men have enfolded it into parables/ The mother holds her baby to her chest trying to be close to which she loves so dear. Behind the curtain, it smiles, laughing to itself, holding its sides laughing more, silently, barely able to breathe. They don’t know. They don’t know. I am not that. I am not that. Oh, I am more. Oh, they can’t even imagine all that I am, all at once.
I’m just talking about all of you who are reading this who may think of me sometimes as I think of you, as you think of those we share in common and those whom you’ve only told me about. My grandmother, my grandfather, those who have passed, those times we spent drinking coffee practicing the art of conversation, those silly fights healed by the platelets of love that always heal. It’s the understanding we’ve always had, and the life you’re living now that I don’t know, and the one I’m living that you don’t know. It’s the faults and qualities you recognize in me when we meet again telling you, oh, it’s still Micah, and, oh, he’s changed, it’s not this whom I once knew.
It’s the remembering of good times, and the trying to remember other times. What did we talk about? It’s the stumbling upon good times forgotten. It’s reading books and some days later recalling a line that fits what it is I’m trying to understand. It’s taking glasses to my past, trying different prescriptions. Which is better? Number 1? Number 2? Number 1? Number 2?
It’s new friends telling me what I felt but didn’t know(good advice!). It’s being overwhelmed by the amount of memory I’ve stored up. It’s the opportunity to read yet, books, voices from bodies long since deceased that have spoken to millions but never before to me. It’s living in southern africa, but traveling through pages in trains through blizzards from Moscow to St. Petersburg with Anna Karenina. It’s 1800-something.
It’s those things.
And it’s realizing, 10 months is really a very long time!