SEPTEMBER 13, 2010
I was warned there would be dust. And yes, there is no question about it my first impressions are of dust. At times during the drive from Nampula a passing vehicle created blizzard conditions, with smoky red dust blocking our view. I held my breath as we drove on and braced myself in case we needed to swerve to avoid a cow, a bicycle, or another car. I was thankful for the drivers’ skill and patience and the light traffic. No crazy swerving roller coaster ride this time! I congratulated myself on refilling and remembering to bring my new asthma inhaler which I usually only need in polluted cities. The cashew trees are close to fruiting, but every river we crossed was dry. No houses in sight, I caught a glimpse of women with buckets clustered around a deep hole in the ground. Without irrigation can vegetables grow here? For a moment I unreasonably pout, and think “does anything grow here?” I know the rains will begin in November, but what happens over the next two months? It is clear why farmers don’t grow tomatoes at this time. Without irrigation I wouldn’t either. If the seeds even managed to sprout in August, the seedlings would shrivel by September. My host would like me to train farmers on the increased profits to be gained by growing tomatoes out of season. As I learned in 2009, in December, January and February very few tomatoes are available on the market. But I wonder if the profit would simply be lost due to the necessary increased costs of production and if irrigation is feasible at all. I remember the dry season in Maputo, but in my twenty year old memories there is just not this much dust. Perhaps this is because back then I was lucky enough to swim in the ocean nearly everyday after work. I’m already dreaming of a trip to the beach at Angoche next weekend and a dip in the salt water to clean the blackness from my nose.
Inside the government guest house I can escape the dust,
but the over head light bulb does not give my 40 something eyes enough light to read. I can’t figure out how to flush the toilet much less turn on the light in the bathroom. Perhaps both are impossible. There is no one to ask. Two other people are staying here but their rooms are dark. A small motor cycle is parked in the hallway. The smell of oil drifts into my room. At least my empty room wasn’t as empty as the room in Mexico. Upon arrival there were curtains on the window and a bed with a mattress.
In the few hours since then I have received a plastic chair, some sheets and a towel. I’m glad I packed my own little green travel pillow which I had taken in and out of the suitcase several times before allowing it to stay. If I had known that I was coming here I could have been and absolutely would have been much more prepared substituting my nice, proper city meeting clothes for my sleep sack and other camping gear. I would have at the very least brought a roll of toilet paper. I wonder if I will be able to grit my teeth and stick this out. I wonder if I can make my vague assignment clear and useful for the people here. I wonder if I have lost my sense of adventure and simply gotten old. Music is playing somewhere outside. I’m thankful it isn’t too loud, seems to be mostly soft African Reggae, and at the moment not too many people are singing along.