Manga, the city of Beira, Sofala Province, Mozambique. As I write it is six am, dawn has arrived and the noisy neighbourhood cockerel is leading other, more melodic birdkind in a sunrise refrain. Their song is punctuated by an occasional blare from passing freight trains and the soft padding of our guard’s boots as he goes about his duties. In a short while the hooting horns of chapa minibus taxis will sound and the locals will tune in to the rhythmic African beats of the local radio stations. These new sounds swim in my head, mixing with new language, new culture, new people, new smells…
I have spent some time in Africa previously, working as a volunteer in Kampala, Uganda for seven months. Yet nothing can really prepare you for relocating to a new country with its own unique identity, people and places. Whereas the people on the streets of Kampala hailed me with a gregarious ‘Yes Muzungu (white person), how are you?’ the locals of Beira glance at me with what seems like a cautious curiosity and sometimes venture a friendly but reserved ‘Bom dia’. These differences evoke the challenges of adjusting to a new culture, but the prospect of building relationships with people so far removed from my own life experience is thrilling.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned here and I am certain to make many mistakes and suffer an excess of embarrassments. One incident that springs to mind occurred as we shopped for household items in Beira city centre. A man approached me offering items to sell, a usual occurrence here and one I felt I was growing accustomed to. I have been told that a direct refusal is often considered rude and so in place of ‘no’ my fellow mission workers took to replying ‘ja’’, which roughly indicates that you ‘have already’. I hastily replied ‘ja’’ before realising that I had been offered a variety of pink Barbie DVDs and toys, leaving my fellow mission workers wondering what I had brought in my luggage!
A lesson learned thus far is to be patient in the face of delays and leisurely paced bureaucracy. For example, both my luggage and myself arrived at Beira airport on Thursday 6th June. However, I didn’t receive my luggage until 10th June after gathering numerous documents with the assistance of Pastor Moises and embarking on several journeys to and from cargo, customs and even Beira’s sea port!
Upon reflection, I thank God that I have settled into my new home well. I have received a warm welcome and as I sit here with the sound of traffic and daily bustle rising around me I am filled with optimism for what lies ahead.