Monday, March 14, 2016

Into the Mild: Misadventure in Mozambique

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Mozambique and I got off to a bad start.

After less than 24 hours at my new job in coastal Mozambique, I decided it was time to leave. My new boss had changed his mind or been misleading about a couple of key things, then wouldn’t be available for several days to answer questions. I had a bad feeling. So I left.

click to enlarge Ilha de Mozambique
  • Ilha de Mozambique
First I wandered onto an island nearby and asked a hostel if they needed help. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t. I went to a hotel, asked the same question, and got the same answer. I decided to look for work at a hostel in a nearby city where I had grown impatient previously because there was nobody working in the morning. I grabbed my backpack and flagged down a van, stuffed to the gills with 25 people people and their bags. It broke down 30 miles into the 120-mile trip. The driver of course didn’t offer a refund.

I flagged down a Toyota Tacoma and rode in the bed for the next 30 minutes, then was left at a fork in the road. A passenger from the first minibus helped me find another ride and jumped into the bed of a farm truck with me.

We spent the next hour driving down a small highway, constantly surrounded by green plants, palm trees, and small hills. It was perfect. But the approaching grey clouds made us nervous.

click to enlarge A wall of rain waits in the distant Mozambique countryside
  • A wall of rain waits in the distant Mozambique countryside

We ducked under the tarp when we ran into the grey wall of rain, leaving an opening just big enough to watch the rain come down sideways just behind us. The rain blurred the greens and browns of the road while rhythmically beating against the side of the truck and created a surreal sensation. We watched all this through the gap between the tarp and the truck’s tailgate.

We lifted the tarp after the rain stopped, but I got nervous and quickly ducked under again. “Come out, they don’t care! And if they did it would be a cheap bribe anyway,” My new friend teased me as we passed a police checkpoint.

We spent the next hour watching the sun set over the canopy of palm trees that surrounded the road, with lightening in the distance periodically highlighting individual trees and mountains. The wind of sitting outside at 80 miles per hour made it impossible to talk. You meet and speak with new people every day, but how many times do you have a perfect palate of colors, sounds, and sensations to observe? Not being able to speak may have been a blessing.

I arrived at the hostel in Nampula that night and asked the owner if they needed help. She said that she would ask her husband and get back to me the next day. Life experience taught me that this was a polite way of saying no. I spent much of that night talking to the maid and a Portuguese guest in Portuguese, trying to show that I speak enough Portuguese to get by and am charismatic enough to represent their business.

The next morning the owner’s husband told me that the usual receptionist was on vacation and that I could stay for free if I was willing to work.


I had quit my job with no backup plan, been dumped on a rural road by a broken minibus, yet came away with the most beautiful car ride I’ve been on and a new job. It had been sink or swim. And I swam.

Life is good.

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