africa: the arrival.

after nearly 2 1/2 days of traveling from dulles to jfk to senegal and then johannesburg… we finally began to make our descent on beira, moçambique. the clouds parted and the desolate wasteland – resembling the browns of arizona’s landscape began to slightly change. instead of stark browns of dead winter, green splattered the ground. here and there were oasises of lush green with palm trees, bush and water. some parts looked like marshes or swamps. then we could see the coast, and the mouth of beira. it appeared to be a small city. just a few presidios kissed the edge of the water. it definitely wasn’t like flying into jo-burg the night before with endless lights and busy roads and life. jo-burg was reminiscent of flying into mexico city or são paulo – massive city with no end – but something still felt very different.

my initial observations…. the majority of the advertisements and billboards feature black africans. we drive on the opposite side of the street. i am in love with the south african accent, the languages… french, english, afrikaans, zulu… i definitely need to come back with more time to entirely devour south africa visiting durban, soweto, pretoria and the cape. they really do say hey here like i’ve read in books… at the beginning and ends of sentences for emphasis… like, “it’s hot today, hey.”today before flying to beira they told us there was a “weight issue” with the plane since they downgraded to a smaller one. that meant five of the nine of us were bumped from the flight and put on standby. then they decided to just get everyone on the same flight delayed from a noon departure to a 4pm departure. 

when we got on the tiny plane the pilot assured us most of the problems had been worked out(!) right before we touched down i saw the sun slipping behind the horizon – a large hot pink ball that screamed african sunset. we landed at what looked like a 2-story motel 6. two men in uniforms waved the airplane over. we pulled right up to the glass doors. we waited in line to show our passports and get the appropriate stamps. then to the mandatory searching of the bags. they were pleased and shocked to discover i spoke the language. but that didn’t stop them from interrogating me suspiciously about yarn, crochet hooks, boxes of pencils and sharpeners and used children’s clothing. rachel’s donations of the beadies bracelets for the children went untouched… they kept repeating that some of the clothing was brand new. it wasn’t. all was used and donated but maybe to their eyes it was new.

we piled all of the bags into one pick up truck. i squeezed into a van with everyone else. we drove down bumpy, dimly lit streets. kids walked dangerously close to us, in uniforms just getting out of school. it was about 7pm. the kids in my group are surprisingly and sometimes painfully young… asking questions that now seem like common sense to me. but maybe i asked those same things while riding in a combi in the middle of mexico.
although i was in a foreign country… from the moment i stepped off the plane it smelled of something familiar. possibly the things burning nearby in the night reminded me of similar burnings in brazil.
our house is better than anything i ever had on my mission in brazil – which isn’t saying that much. we got settled, had a quick meeting and then four of us went for a run along the road that skirts the beach. passing cars slowed. people stared. children said, “hey.” we ran.
i din’t fear my surroundings so much as i feared the mangy dogs on the other side of the street, staring at me. probably smelling my fear and calculating their attack.
on the other side of the word it’s 8 hours ealier, and asia is probably just feelng the anethestic kick in for her 9th surgery in an arizona hospital….
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