Thursday, May 2, 2013

In the evening...

Today I was reminded that at noon in the USA, it is almost nightfall in Mozambique. I spent a few minutes thinking through what nightfall in Tete is like for some of my friends. I'm feeling a little more homesick these days. Africa calls and I can't be there right now. I can remember and breath a prayer, though. Read along and maybe you will, too.

The sun sets quickly in the tropics... instead of long, lingering sunsets, the orange ball nearly drops out of sight behind Kalawera mountain at the edge of Tete town. In the shadow of the mountain, the breeze picks up from down river and there is a bit of coolness... or at least a marked relief from the strength of the sun. The light dims and birds fly home. Cattle wander back to the corral moved along by young boys with long thin sticks, dusty clothes and tattered flip-flops. 

Women are home and fires are lit for cooking or heating bathwater. There is smoke in the air and that smoke and dust are what make an African sunset so colorful. You don't taste the sunset in the pictures. I do...

Children mostly move in small herds as well. They choose to roam the streets and back alleys until it is too late to avoid getting home. Hunger brings them back to their families, just as it does mine. They are told to wash... just like my kids. They are told to help... just like my kids. Then a reed mat is spread and the bowls and plates are brought with steaming food. Tin plates burn fingers as they are lifted from the mounds of maize porridge and stewed greens with tomato and peanuts.  All share the meal from the same serving plates dipping bite-sized balls of ntsima in the stew. Pumpkin leaves are my favorite...

In some homes they will pause to thank God for the food... in some homes they will share enough and extra bits get tossed to the dog slinking in the shadows. In some homes, the porridge will be served with too little stew. Dad gets his first. Then the kids. Then Mom will take a little from the leftovers. Maybe she snitched a bit before dinner. I hope so. 

In some homes, Dad will not be home. He will be working the night shift... or he will be working far away in another city or country and manage to send money to his family and visit once a year. In some homes Dad will come after dark... after sitting in the bar and drinking too much and there will not be enough money for stew and Mom will have to remind the village elder that her husband is not caring for the family and there will be meetings with the neighbors and he will be told AGAIN that he has to give money for food. He will be told AGAIN that he shouldn't beat his wife too hard when there isn't food if he doesn't give her money to buy it. 

After the meal and after the bath from the bucket, the mats will be shaken and moved inside and spread on the hard earthen floor. The mosquito nets will be hung and capulanas will be spread and children will be tucked under the nets lined up a bit too close to be quite comfortable. The door will be bolted and the lantern will be turned out. It isn't quiet, though. Neighbors play their music loud enough to share with those who don't have the privilege of their own radio. Passing footsteps thud on the dirt path just meters from the mud wall that encloses the family. Roosters crow and dogs bark and howl. Bicycle bells chime and motorcycle engines rev. Shouts from friends greeting each other ring through the evening. 

Finally it is completely dark and silence falls and even those passing by remember to whisper... if they haven't been drinking too much. The crickets and grasshoppers sing. Frogs croak and chirp in the run-off water behind the bathhouse. Mosquitoes might buzz outside the net. Steady and even breathing fills the hut and there is that peculiar crackle of zinc roof sheets as they cool down. 

Maybe it is time to say that little prayer for my friends in Mozambique, now...


  1. Yes, a beautiful reminder of life in Mozambique.

  2. jeni, what a great writer you are. And for all who are impressed by her marvelous style: All she says is true, too. Take it from somebody who has lived in Mozambique for more than a decade