Chegada - Dr. Ryan Meili - June 2010
Returning to Mozambique, a place I have lived, loved and left, is a strange thing. I spent months here, knew it well. I came first as a student, later a a resident, a doctor, a teacher. I have seen it change and I too have changed. Yet no matter how connected I feel when i'm here, how hard I try to keep in touch, upon returning home the channel changes. My grip on the place slips away until it becomes a blur of snapshots and select stories. Caught up in the life of home, family, friends, profession and purpose, it rarely comes to mind as more than a warm feeling, a vague affinity.
As I return, however, the vaults open slowly as my mind starts to re-map. It starts with packing, pulling out books of Xitswa (the local language) and Tropical Medicine. Later on the plane I see the faces change as we go from Frankfurt to Johannesburg to Maputo. The first real detail to arrive is geography as the mind prepares to orient itself. First streets and landmarks, then faces and names. Upon landing the heat and smells bring you further back. With the first snippets of language comes a flood of recognition: speech patterns, accents, odd expressions. I recall that breakfast is matabicho and a bus a machibombo, and that constipação means your nose is plugged not the other end. I laugh out loud remembering how after meals, having confused nzi xurile with nzi swarile, every time I thought I was telling people I was full but really kept telling them I was ugly. Very ugly. Funny how long it took for anyone to correct me.
Maputo is a marvelous city, the cultural centre of the country, home to theatre, music and art, to good food and fascinating people, to crumbling colonial architecture and revolutionary recollections. Samora Machel, the first president and hero of the independence movement, is the Che Guevara of Mozambique and as ubiquitous a symbol on t-shirts and murals and statues. The streets, named during the first days of the socialist revolution, give rise to historically impossible and fascinating encounters, where Karl Marx meets Ho Chi Minh and Lenin runs into Lumumba.
Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony located on the East coast of Africa, noighbour to Tanzania and South Africa, among others. The Frente de Liberação de Moçambique (Frelimo), led first by Eduardo Mondlane and later Samora Machel, overthrew the Portuguese in 1975. This was followed by a brutal internal war of over 15 years between Frelimo and the Resistencia Nacional de Moçambique (Renamo), a resistance force supported by Rhodesia and South Africa. In 1992 Frelimo and Renamo signed a peace accord that has seen the opposing armies become political parties in parliament in the capitol city of Maputo.
For us, Maputo is a haven between the real world of Saskatoon and the just as real and responsibility heavy world of Massinga. A few days of transition here give a chance to adjust to temperature and language, to catch up with old friends and familiar sites, and to prepare for the journey north and the intense but rewarding work of a rural hospital.
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