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My Mozambique, A Story

Educating Africa’s FutureAfrican Ethics | African Poem | My Mozambique

 

By Guenda Dal Cin – from Ialia, Mozambique

 

To get out. To run away from here. It would be all too easy. Easy like stealing to make money. Leaving means giving up from the start, never truly trying to fight for what you believe in.  That’s how many think in Mozambique but I believe in it because this is my country. My parents raised me to feel strongly about my fatherland, they taught me Portuguese, our official language; I also learned our dialect and by “our” I mean that of the Chingana tribe.

African village

We’ve got 16 ethnic groups in Mozambique, each with their own language; as in all of Africa, the majority of us here feel a strong sense of belonging to our ethnic group and its centuries-old traditions. We don’t have that nationalistic pride to say “we’re all Africans” or “we’re all brothers”; it’s an important value that we are lacking in Mozambique.

I wish I could let everybody know about the beauty of this big and generous country, which gives us everything we need, while many leave and go where they think they can make a fortune, where they can make it big, like in South Africa.  My country is very poor; it was destroyed by the civil war and keeps getting battered by tornadoes and floodings; we’ve got social, economic, political, health, and legal problems, yes…but you’ve got to understand, it’s only a bit more that 30 years old. We had to start from scratch, after years of being under the Portuguese, who exploited our lands but also brought developments.

I am not trying to come up with excuses for Mozambique but I wish I could make my people see they can’t leave because only if we all stay, work, and produce can the country grow.  I really think the whole process needs to start from education because it’s like the foundations of a house: you can’t build it without its foundations. Education should be guaranteed for all, so it can fight ignorance and bring freedom, it can shape the youngsters and help them find work; it can even beat AIDS because we need knowledge to understand what must be improved, what is right and what is wrong.

I’m not presumptuous; I’m not a hopeful naïve kid who doesn’t know anything about life.

If I could change my country, I’d first improve education and then I’d build public infrastructures, a solid healthcare system and all those things that a population needs. I think about these things a lot and dream of becoming a politician but I have no chance of getting there. You can hope for that only if you have an education, and money…and I have neither.

African city

I didn’t get the opportunity to go to school. I have been working since I was 12 to help my family, after my parents died in the tornado that hit the south of Mozambique in 2000. I am the first born so my younger brother and I had to take on all responsibilities. Working the land wasn’t enough to feed my 5 brothers and my 70-year-old grandpa.  It’s almost a miracle to reach that age in Mozambique, you know; he’s the wise-man of the village, respected by all, but cannot provide for all of us. So I had to come up with a second job.

I would hitchhike to the capitol city or I’d take the “chaspa”, Maputo’s little bus – the only means of transportation if you don’t own a car. I’d get stationed on the crowded market street and wait for clients. To do what? I was a “sapateiro”, a cobbler, using my grandpa’s old and rusty tools. It’s a humble job, it only pays around 2,000 or 3,000 metacais per client, whether I polish or mend the shoes. Just to give you an idea, low-quality rice costs about 7,000 metacais, so with my pay I could just buy the essentials that I couldn’t get from the land: salt, soap, sugar, you know…

It was hard at first but then we got used to it and managed to get by.

Working the land was really hard and stressful; going into the city was almost fun, by comparison. You see, that’s when I first fell in love with my country. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked my village but until then, my perception of the world had been very limited, living in a remote place with never-ending fields and a group of shacks made of bricks, hay or metal sheets, here and there.

Rural African village

We lived in a small house with dirt floors and all the essentials, even a TV; so we weren’t really cut out of the world. But time almost slows down in these places; there’s a sense of calm that you can’t get in the city, of course, but I would feel so powerless at the mercy of nature and its catastrophes.  I would feel like I was missing something; at times I would almost feel short of breath, as if deep down I knew that wasn’t the right place for me.

Maputo was my place; a real city, alive, with more than a million people. The air is different here; there’s movement and action, noise and chaos, people talking, laughing, yelling, trying to sell their merchandise at the market, a tangle of stands with the colorful fruits blending into the hues of the women’s “kapulanas” (traditional fabrics).

The women go around town with baskets full of fruit on their heads, people walk along the streets paved in colonial times, or dusty streets full of holes. The cool thing about these streets is that you know right away where you are, just by the smell: of food, dirt, garbage, fish… Ok, they can be very unpleasant sometimes when it’s scorching hot but I’ve gotten used to it by now.

African kids playing with a ball

Maputo is unique and I feel one with it but I know that all that glitters is not gold.

This city is a contradiction, a fusion of poverty and wealth, with the rich’s row houses surrounded by barbed wire, as if they were elephants’ reserves. Then you turn the corner and the real Africa is right there in front of you, with its dilapidated buildings, the uneven roadways, the beggars, the swarms of kids playing with a ball – happy, even with so little.

This is Maputo, and this is Africa, really: the real values are not wealth and power, but those that keep a family together; love, sharing a small meal sitting by the fire, songs, and dances…this is the real happiness.

Every time I head back home at night, I know that’s true.