The Mozambique we returned to in October was not the Mozambique we left in June. After a three month absence in the UK on home assignment that encompassed a third ceremony for our marriage, two surgical procedures, speaking engagements at nine churches and the submission of my Master’s degree dissertation we arrived back in Beira wondering what our next term will bring. In the meantime temperatures had soared from a pleasant and mild twenty something celsius to a searing, claustrophobic 40 plus. I had almost forgotten how the effort of simple acts like brushing your teeth and putting on a shirt can produce dripping rivulets of sweat that cascade off your nose and leave you wondering whether you forgot to actually leave the shower before dressing.
The suffocating heat extended to the AMAC office where thieves had broken in last August, pilfering AMAC equipment, computers and spitefully making off with our only fan. Thankfully a new fan has been bought and we are in the process of replacing the other missing items, thanks to the generosity of our friends and supporters. As we continue our desk-bound labours we can now enjoy some respite from the elevated temperature. This has afforded me space to consider other changes that occurred in our absence. One of these is the onset of mango season, heralded by an occasional dull thud as a matured mango departs its leafy haven and splits its saccharine contents onto the dirt outside our window. This simple occurrence constitutes a claxon call for a whirlwind of activity that I have come to call the ‘mango wars’. I have enjoyed standing at the office window following another thud, waiting with anticipation to see who will be the victor of the latest mango war. Passing schoolchildren guiltily survey the scene before leaping the wall and stuffing the ripe fruit under their shirts. But not always, sometimes the security guard spots them early and, as the students run laughing from the scene, he also performs a swift reconnaissance as he hides the mango in the hollow of a breeze block. At times one of the local mothers will happen to pass at the right time and seize upon a falling mango to deliver to her waiting family. However, my role shifted from spectator to participant once Annet told me how romantic it would be if I were to run outside and bring her back a ripe, juicy mango. Now I find myself embroiled in a war not of my choosing, competing with children and adults alike for the tree’s next offering.
I also sensed another difference in our office environment upon our return. As I wrestled with translating yet another document into Portuguese an unnerving feeling tugged at my consciousness. I felt the unsettling sensation of eyes upon me. I spied shifting shadows out of the corner of my eye, dark shades darting around the room’s borders. As evening arrived it became clear that the lingering presence belonged to a family of furry squatters that had moved in to the office whilst we were overseas – rats. Only what had at first appeared a family then revealed itself to be more like a community. A brief survey of the filing cabinets uncovered files decorated with incisor marks and dirty pellets. These unwelcome visitors are currently in the process of being evicted.
So the heat, mangos and rats have ensured that our first month since returning to Mozambique has been a sweaty, sweet and dirty experience. There are some of you I know who would be thinking of something else when you first read this blog title, but I’ll say no more and leave you to contemplate the nature of your own imagination!