Week One – Arriving Home
In 2013 I spent two weeks in South Africa with my family volunteering for Daktari Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage. Now, nine months later, I have returned with my elder sister to volunteer for her and her charity Born Positive in Mozambique for four weeks. From my last experience in Africa I had some idea of what to expect, but at the same time I was apprehensive as to what was waiting for me over five thousand miles across the world. In order to arrive in Maputo, Mozambique we took an eleven hour flight from England to Johannesburg. After this we drove for five hours north east from the city towards Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province. After a few well-needed days rest we continued the final leg of our journey via coach south east across the Mozambican border and towards Maputo.
Our coach was meant to pick us and our suitcases up at 12.00pm on one of the streets of the town. However two hours later, we still stood: slouchy and tired against the bags, waiting by the side of a busy road in the midst of a small market for the coach to finally arrive. While we were waiting, trying to ignore the rumbling in our tummies and the aching pain in our feet and backs, we had time to look around and witness the organised chaos which was Africa. Directly in front of us was a main road, heaving with a range of vehicles including trucks, scooters, buses, and the occasional shopping trolley; accompanied by a man desperately trying to steer his way in and out of the traffic. Behind and to each of our sides was a small market, where stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables were being sold, along with various other goods. After what felt like an eternity, the coach arrived. However as soon as it did, so did a crowd of other passengers who were just as impatient and tired as we were. Once we had loaded our bags and found two seats, we settled down for the journey which would take up the rest of the day by tucking into a well deserved sandwich.
The first part of the journey was still within South Africa and during daylight hours. This meant that we could pass the time by gazing out of the window as we left the city behind, and take in the new views such as the mountains and the villages. As the sun began to sink towards the horizon we started to approach the Mozambican border. With our passports in our hands and a brisk pace in our feet, we left the coach and headed towards border control. For someone who had little recollection of what crossing a border was like, I was quite nervous. So as we got closer to the queue I was grateful I was with someone who knew what they were doing. Incidentally, I had nothing to be nervous about. I already had my VISA organised, which meant that we went through the border quickly and easily. But after seeing the waiting line for those applying for their VISA, I knew that I would always prearrange one. And so, we had crossed the border and started towards our coach again so that we could start the final part of our journey.
Once we were back on the coach and comfy again it was getting dark, even though it was only around 6.00pm. At the time I wasn’t sure whether it being dark was a good or bad thing. It could be good in the idea that it meant I wouldn’t have a culture shock immediately, however it could have also been bad in the idea that I may expect the worst and give myself a culture shock. Neither my sister nor I knew which way I would take it. But what I did know was that there is a huge difference on the Mozambican side of the border than the South African side. Immediately after the coach had pulled away I saw how much rubbish littered the road and earth, and the amount of people either walking or standing shoulder to shoulder in the back of pick-up trucks was almost unbelievable. But don’t get me wrong, South Africa was by no means litter-free, but the extent of it in Mozambique couldn’t be missed. At this point I was grateful it was getting darker. It meant that for now, these comparisons could be put on hold. And so, for the next few hours we tried to catch some sleep. As the only thing we could see out of the windows were distant fires, we had nothing better to do.
After the coach had dropped off the first set of passengers, and the momentary rain had passed, it was our stop. Once someone has spent the past four-five hours sitting on a coach, not to mention the last few days worth of traveling, you can understand that they may not be in the best of moods. This is in fact was what the taxi drivers found out once they had been waving their signs at us from the second the coach doors opened. We had already arranged a lift with Dumsane, the manager of AACOSIDA, Born Positive’s partner orphanage. Who we would be living with. So our frustration with the taxi drivers began to rise when they didn’t understand that we weren’t in need of their service, even when it was said in Portuguese. And so we found ourselves standing, once again, with just our luggage on the side of a road. The only difference being this time it was dark, and we were accompanied by various taxi drivers who were determined to get a customer.
Eventually after battling through Maputo city centre traffic, consisting of all kinds of cars, trucks, lorries, livestock, and the incessant sound of car horns we made it Matola, a town in the suburbs. We turned left off of the bustling highway, straight onto an even busier dusty dirt track which finally lead us to a large white, metal gate with peeling paint and rust. After three toots of Dumsane’s horn, a little hand could be seen fumbling with the padlock to let us in. As the gate slid open, half a dozen curious little faces welcomed us. And so, after twenty hours of traveling, we arrived at AACOSIDA orphanage which was going to become home.
Within ten minutes, all of our luggage had been carried and dragged into the main house by eager helpers, and after a quick dinner of a Mozambican traditional dish, matapa (the closest comparison would be spinach and rice) we were shown to our room. On first impression, and in all honesty, I wished to be back on the coach for the night. The room had three single beds and a cold, concrete floor. I turned to Amy and said, shivering “Its freezing. Maybe we should shut the windows?” to which she replied with “Hunny, there are no windows”. Since then, I have been shocked with the coldness off the evenings and mornings in Africa. I had no idea that their winters were so cold. I wished I had brought more jumpers and even a hot water bottle. However two days later, with glass windows fitted and two pairs of socks on, I already looked forward to tucking myself into bed under my mosquito net and gazing up to the corrugated iron roof. It feels like home.