I'm but a day away from my flight home to the states. I've learned to travel light here. I've a week's worth of clothes in my backpack, some poetry and spiritual readings make for light weight reading material, and the rest is my wire artwork and a coconut palm broom. That's good cuz I'm down to my last 200 mets and think I'll be huffing it to the airport and back instead of a 300 met taxi ride.
It's a momentous thing to be at the one year mark of my service. I left site with my duffle bag balanced on my head, sweating a storm, jumping streams and passing cattle, waiting for canoes, greeting locals. There's a feeling of accomplishment there.
In Mambone across the river I stayed with Saffiya and Kate. We encountered a giant scorpion spider with fangs like tusks. I ate unripe mangoes that tasted like lemons and we talked about life her side the river.
A neighbor of hers was found recently in the river, murdered. Another friend passed away from AIDS some days before that. Then yesterday I got word that my student's 1 year old daughter died in the hospital after fighting full body burns for a month and a half - some kind of allergic reaction, not caused as I first thought by hot water or fire.
Celeste, her mother, is a modest, beautiful, slender woman who travels each day to school by canoe to get to school. I've worked hard to motivate her to learn and had her over my place a few times for tutoring. I gave her vaseline along with advice on burn treatment out of my 'Where there is no Doctor,' guide, but now I see it wasn't superficial burns but something much more serious. The child wasn't eating for a time. Saffiya had visited her in the hospital a few times and last week said she was getting better. Now the family is dealing with her death. It's just awful to think of.
Two weeks ago, my best friend from Romania, her brother, an active basketball coach, fell into a coma following a brain anyeresum. They operated and it seemed he was doing better, but a week later he passed.
This was a family I spent three Christmas dinners with. Emi and Iulia and her mother would all play guitar and sing in their cramped kitchen. Their family is just wonderful. Emi encouraged me to play basketball with him. Afterwards he was all compliments despite my inexperience and insecurity. He touched many kids lives in Ocna and was incredibily energetic. I can clearly imagine the cemetary down the road where so many will have gathered for his funeral. The day of the dead, people leave candles and flowers and in the nighttime you can see the hill illuminated. It's beautiful. I regret I'm not there amongst the mourners sharing in the Huiculescu's grief.
I've come to Mozambique to get away from the Internet and have been successfully isolated from the world's trials and tribulations. When the tsunami hit Japan for example, I didn't read or hear much about it. I only learned about it through a friend. But, here crime and death seem to come closer at hand. Here, a bad case of malaria in three days can kill an otherwise healthy 23 year old. Here a child dying in birth is a too real possibility.
Speaking with a student, he asked if I was married yet or had children. When I responded that though I was old to be single for a Mozambican, for an American 31 isn't too old to yet be with family. He remarked: we Mozambicans marry young. And we die young. Hard to know what to say about such uncomfortable truths. Mozambicans are a fit group of people. Incredibly so. But poverty makes them vulnurable.
So...that's what I'm ending on.
I've been awful lucky to travel and relax during these weeks off, and perhaps I'll write more about that once I'm back in the states with more time to discuss that.
But for now, I'm just sad.