A love declaration to my friends

Market in maputo

The goodbye party

The past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions. Mostly good ones. I’ve been continuing to hang out with my two Brazilians and their amazing group of Mozambican friends. They have shown me how to drink beer like a true Brazilian, colder than ice! Mostly they have shown me incredible kindness. Some people in this world have a certain something within them, an energy that makes everyone around them glow. Brenda and Igor have that. In their company I can feel myself being more myself, doing things I’ve always dreamt of but seldom dared. Doing it with joy and curiosity instead of crippling nerves about the outcome or how it will be perceived. I believe there is some of that essence in the Mozambican social culture and norms too. An acceptance to the many human errors, a natural inclusion as the bottom line of every social interaction. Overall, I feel that there is space for playfulness and imperfections here, which makes the social settings a lot less stiff and awkward than what I am used to in Sweden. Obviously, I’ve only been here a month so these things should be taken as observations and reflections of the context and experiences I’m having right now, rather than generalizations. But I’m not going to lie either, with very few exceptions, this has been my impression of Maputo ever since I started socializing with people again. Which was what, two weeks ago? It feels a lot longer, time is strange like that.

 

Brenda and Igor’s time is running out here in Mozambique and last weekend everyone gathered for a huge goodbye party. We were supposed to leave Maputo in the morning to go together to a friend’s house in the neighboring city Matola. At four thirty in the afternoon everyone started showing up… and nobody thought that was weird! I wasn’t stressed about it but that’s only because it wasn’t my event. This would absolutely have driven me mad otherwise, like the true Swede I am. When we are finally on our way in two full mini buses, we only drive about ten minutes before we stop. We are apparently first making a quick stop at Kwetu, a bar hosting a daytime event. As we enjoy the drinks and the music, more of our friends arrive. After an hour or so we are all gathered and start driving again. The next stop is at the outskirts of Matola at a small house. The paint on the walls is peeling and inside the house there are more boxes of alcohol and beer than I have ever seen in such a tiny space. We buy what we need and get going again, the music is loud in the xiapa (minibus) and the energy is excited. We arrive just as the sun starts setting. It is a beautiful space with a pool and even more people, the party has already started! We dance and drink and laugh. It’s a beautiful, hot night and DJ Jambalão is playing like his life depended on it. When the first Brazilian funk song starts playing, the dance floor becomes fire! We realize eventually that nobody has made a plan for food and at this point the beer is finishing as well. The host of the house gracefully takes it upon themselves to remedy the situation and leaves in a car. But where do you find enough food, at a reasonable price, for fifty happy, drunk people, in the middle of the night in Matola? When the host does get back it is well after midnight and everyone is about ready to pack up and leave. He gets met with cheers as the delicious chicken and fries get unpacked on the tables. A few musicians entertain us with their improvisation and eventually we are all packed into the minibus to go home.

Friends in Maputo
Kwetu restaurant Maputo
theglobalentity with friends

First encounter with the Mozambican police

The ride back to Maputo takes a lot longer than when we were going to the party. Due to the late hour, the driver is driving everyone home to their doors. In order to avoid police and road patrols, he goes out of his way to drive on safer, smaller roads. Not because we were doing something wrong but because the Mozambican police have a notorious reputation for its corruption and extortion. That, in combination with the fact that the majority of us were either western foreigners or Rastas, two of the police’s favorite groups to target, made us extra careful. At the time, I was blissfully unaware of these aspects of Mozambican society. Instead, I was sitting in the back trying to not get annoyed that everything was taking so long. When we finally arrive in Maputo it is almost three am. Another discussion about which way to choose erupts in the bus and causes another long wait. Somebody mentions that the hostel is only a few blocks away and before I know it, the group of us who are staying there are standing on the curb of the road. The wind is a bit chilly but after ninety minutes in that bus I am relieved to be out in the fresh air. We shout goodnight to the people left in the bus and start our walk. I am hungry again and start planning the massive breakfast I intend to eat in a few hours. I don’t get far in my thoughts before a police truck turns its lights on and speeds up only to stop right next to us. Four police officers get off, everyone is armed and two of them have huge rifles across the chest (I’m no weapon expert, it might be called something else completely). They ask where we are coming from. They want to see our ID’s and of course I have forgotten mine at home. In Mozambique, you must be able to show your passport and visa at all times when asked by the police. I try to explain to one of them that I have it at home, just a few hundred meters away. The police immediately cuts me off, almost like I have offended him by trying to speak to him. The situation feels tense and I let my friends take the lead. The Portuguese is way too fast for me to be able to understand and I keep on thanking my lucky stars I am not alone right now. Just as it feels like they are about to let us go, one of the older ones starts pointing at an empty cigarette package and yelling angrily. It is the same brand as one of my friends smokes.

 

That is all it takes. Inside the cigarette package is something they claim is a finished joint, very illegal in Mozambique, at least on paper. It’s not ours and my friends start arguing with them. I don’t understand much but when one of the police officers takes my arm to load me onto the truck I get ice cold inside. I figure that since I am the one without a passport, they are pinning it on me. Four armed men with the authority of the law, want to drive me away, alone, in the middle of the night in a country where I know neither the language nor my rights. To say that I am terrified is an understatement. I try to ask them where they will take me, what station. Bad choice. My English is perceived as arrogance… or something very insulting. Either way, I feel like I have committed a crime. Brenda, my wise, brave Brenda, intervenes on my behalf and with a honey sweet voice and submissive, apologetic body language explains that I am new in the country and don’t know any better. It seems to calm him down somewhat. The oldest one, the one who seems to be the boss over the group of armed men, decides that everyone is guilty by association and proceeds to load us onto the truck. Guilty of what is unclear at this point. I quickly follow after Brenda onto the truck before anyone can tell me to sit on the other side with my back to her. I look at her to read her face, I feel so ashamed for the situation that I feel I have caused. Instead of fear or irritation, she looks at me with steady eyes, her whole being transmitting calm and reassurance, yet, careful to not move even one muscle of her face. She didn’t want the police to see what she was communicating. Everything was going to be fine. What proceeded next was a forty minute drive through the empty streets of a sleeping Maputo, stopping in small, dark alleys, being scolded by the oldest. The two younger police officers, with their arms across the chest, kept walking around to our side, wanting Brenda’s attention, trying to flirt. The disgusting power dynamic of this in itself, doesn’t need to be pointed out. I have no idea of how common that is here but men with license of violence, in a corrupt society, hitting on you while not allowing you to leave – is not only disgusting but scary. At the same time, it also makes this whole thing performative, the accusations, the car ride, the stern talks. Eventually, after a lot of scolding from their part and a lot of what I can only describe as buttlicking, from our part, they let us go. Properly shaken up, we make our way back to the hostel. We hug each other before we finally get to sleep. Despite the exhaustion it takes me hours to fall asleep. 

 

Touring Maputo
a declaration of love to my friends
Market in maputo

In the early afternoon, we are all awake and gathered at the outside living room in the hostel. Brenda and Igor share with me in detail their previous experiences with the Mozambican police. They make sure I know that I didn’t cause this but was rather a victim of systematic corruption and how it looks on the individual level. I still can’t let go of the guilt I feel. The energy is heavy as we sit there and discuss the events of the night. Mozambique, somebody says and in resignation sighs deeply. There is a moment of silence and all of our eyes eventually land on a no-smoking sign. The irony, as there is always somebody smoking here, is too much. Truly nothing is straightforward in this country, everything is context based. We start laughing, the kind of laughter that comes from the stomach, the kind that releases stress and anxiety. It is what we needed to let go of the heavy energy we were all carrying from the night’s events. The last days before Igor and Brenda leave for Brazil, are spent together. We go to markets, hang by the beach and go out, making the most out of Maputo’s nightlife. I am sad to see them leave. Their last night in Mozambique we spend together at the beautiful Prahna restaurant. Brenda and Igor are leaving the very next day and the feelings of everything that comes with moving away from somewhere, are very present. They have spent a year here, built a life here. I am well familiar with the sensation and I feel for them. It is not an easy process to go through. For the first time since we started going out together, nobody is dancing. We sit and talk quietly about everything that has been and what is to come.

 

When we come back to the hostel nobody is ready to say goodnight. Luckily, Lino, the bartender/receptionist, is still awake and holds us company while we drink another beer and talk about life. The absolute siblingship I feel to these people is beautiful. I am so lucky! For most of my life I have walked around feeling like an alien, never really belonging anywhere or being part of any community. But for the past couple of years, through the love and interactions with beautiful souls like Igor and Brenda, something is changing within me. I don’t feel that way anymore. It is like I am relearning the way I relate to myself and the world around me, perhaps best described as relating and experiencing the world from a place of abundance. It is a truly beautiful and expansive process.

 

As we sit there around the table, a song comes to me, a song I haven’t heard in years. It is the song Historia de un amor, sung by Cesaria Evora. For those of you who haven’t heard it yet, it is full of melancholy and love. It encapsulates all of the emotions that are present in this moment, on our last night together. I feel I want to give it to them, sing it for them. For a moment I get super nervous, the perfectionist within saying I haven’t sung in over four years and my insecurities telling me who am I to take up that space?! I look at them and I realize that it is all love here. If there is any time that I should break my four year break, it is now, surrounded by all of this love. They won’t mind me taking up the space, they will receive it as the gift I intended it to be. I take a deep breath and ask them if I can sing a song for them. I am met by a resounding and enthusiastic “SIM!” (yes in Portuguese). And so I sing and I do it from the safe space of abundance. It is a beautiful moment and I realize and accept, for the first time in my life, that my voice is a gift. The moment affirms something that I know to be true now. The people that love you, will always want to see you shine your light, in whatever shape or form it may come. On that note, I want to give a huge shout out to all of my friends back home and the friends I have been blessed to meet through my travels. It is a crazy mix of beautiful souls that have given and continue to give me so much. You are all a part of my process of becoming and I am eternally grateful to you, new as old. Your love heals. 

7 thoughts on “A love declaration to my friends”

  1. Ohhh such a beautiful writing, you definitely can transmit the emotions you (and I, as being part of some of ther stories) were feeling. I truly felt on my heart everything about this post. Loved it. It will be a day of nostalgia for me as I will be remembering all of this feelings, the love around us and the feeling of belonging we were all having together.

    Thank you for you blog, thank you for sharing such important reflections ❤️ we live together and we learn together. That’s beautiful.

    1. Ahh my friend🥺❤️ thank you for showing up when you did, including me in your circle and life, allowing me to write about it and now your kind words. Nostalgia is definitly the word for it. And gratefulness to have lived this with you guys! Estamos juntos❤️

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