Lost and found in Maputo

Lost and found in Maputo

Lost in Maputo

I’ve been taking it super easy since I got to Maputo. Doctors orders. I’m filling my time with slow mornings, slow movements and slow activities. I even went out to buy  groceries to cook the other day, something I haven’t done properly since I started traveling. It feels grounding to cook my own food, another slow process if I do it my way. I’m in a weird state of mind where I don’t know where I am or what I am doing. When I go on my morning walks through the streets of Maputo I have a hard time orienting myself. Not back to the hostel but rather I have a hard time feeling that I am in Mozambique . Everywhere people are speaking Portuguese, which I don’t understand at all, but my brain keeps thinking it’s Spanish. The city itself reminds me so much of Havana, Cuba, that I catch myself thinking that I am there. The rundown apartment buildings, the city greenery, traces of communism in infrastructure, Maputo even has a beach promenade that is so similar, albeit shorter, to Havana’s Malecón. I guess that’s not so weird, after all, I have no references of what Mozambique is like. My brain is probably just trying to make the most sense of what it is seeing and hearing. It feels almost like having a bug in google maps, but in my brain: intellectually I know I’m in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, but the pin on the map keeps dragging me back to Havana saying I’m there. The heat is a lot more dry here than in Cuba, but at least it’s not freezing like in South Africa. I guess that my brain, just like my body right now, needs some time to adjust. And if there is something I have right now, it is time. I think it’s beautiful to have time for being lost, it’s the only way I know how to find.

 

I’m staying at a backpackers hostel called The Base, the only hostel I could find on google at the time. It’s a tiny hostel hosting a maximum of fourteen people in three rooms. It has a beautiful veranda that overlooks Baixa, an area of central Maputo, and the ocean. It would be perfect had it not been for the mosquitos, they are vicious! I have to make an effort and buy some strong repellent next time I am out. It’s a very tiny hostel for spending as much time in as I am. It is also currently packed, filled with happy, social tourists and travelers. They are super sweet and inclusive but I cannot deal. My social batteries are wiped out and their niceness makes me want to hide in the bathroom. Something I’ve actually done on a few occasions this week. I can feel the staff looking at me, I understand enough Portuguese to understand I am a topic of curiosity. They giggle as I stretch on the veranda, giggle as I sing in the kitchen or when I’m crying on the phone. There has been a lot of that since I got here. I think there is a combination of things: my health, leaving mom at the airport, leaving South Africa, all the impressions from the past months traveling. I don’t think I realized it fully before but following your heart does not equal it being easy. This is by far the most turbulent journey I’ve ever been on and I am just in the beginning. Yohh. The main feeling I am struggling with now is loneliness. I know it is ironic considering I have no energy to socialize but that doesn’t make me feel any less lonely. I had a flight ticket back to Sweden that I could have been on had I not decided to go to Mozambique and continue this journey.

 

Lost and found in Maputo
the global entity, lost in Maputo
Lonely in Maputo

Loneliness and solo travel

Perhaps it was the realization that I have made a definite choice to not go back home, that the flight had literally flown me by, that made me crumble. Or perhaps it was the warm hug from a stranger that made me realize just how lonely I actually feel. After a week and a half keeping to myself in Maputo, I allowed myself to talk to another traveler at the hostel. He had just been on a psychedelic spiritual journey in South America and was now going through Africa on a motorbike. He had daughters my age and I quickly found myself enjoying his company. We were as different as two people can be. Me being in a super soft, vulnerable flow and him being much more assertive, almost aggressive in his need to search and find. Despite this, it was beautiful to connect. Perhaps because we were so different we allowed ourselves to have vulnerable conversations about spirituality, absent fathers and the search and need for purpose. It was refreshing, I felt seen. Before he left The Base to continue his journey he gave me a warm, heartfelt hug. The physical contact shocked my system. I realized I haven’t had any sort of physical contact in a long time. Yep, that was definitely what triggered what came next. Before I knew it, it felt like the walls of my lungs were closing in on me. I wanted to creep out of my own skin, that’s how uncomfortable it made me feel. But instead of running away from that feeling, instead of distracting myself with something-anything, I stayed present with myself and the emotions.

 

After a few hours of that and Wash over me with TEEKS on repeat in my headphones I reach the peak of it all. My heart feels like it’s cramping and just when I accept that this is blowing into a full on panic attack I hear a little voice. It says to me that everything is okay now, I don’t need to hurt like this anymore, I have done the work, I’m allowed to let it go now. At first I feel skeptical, whose voice was that? Can it really be that easy? But then I think what if it is just that ‘easy’, show up for yourself so that you can let go. I take a few deep breaths and with every exhale I can feel the tightness over my chest releasing. The sadness and loneliness becomes less prominent. Within minutes I am sitting straight up again. I feel lighter than I have in weeks. Not even two seconds later I get a text inviting me to a dance social, talk about Divine timing! I’m sharing this experience for several reasons. Firstly, I want to live in a world where we can talk about mental health in a non-stigmatized way. Secondly, it is so easy to glorify and romanticize the traveling lifestyle, when in reality, it has its ups and downs just like any life. Thirdly, it’s the most exciting part of this journey! Don’t get me wrong, being this sad sucked. Almost having a panic attack, definitely not something I recommend. However, I can feel myself growing. I’m getting to know myself more, the good as well as my not so charming sides, and I can see how I show up for myself differently now. That, the inner journey, that is what’s exciting! Furthermore, I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way sometimes. Maybe you are also in the trenches trying to follow your heart, whatever that may entail. Maybe sharing this will make you feel less alone in the process of it all. When I get the text inviting me to dance, I smile. It feels like I am being guided: you’ve done what you needed to do solo, now you need to raise your vibrations, you need others.

Social dancing at Bela Madalena

The guy who texted me was Fumo Frias, a Mozambican dance teacher that I met while he was teaching tangokiz workshops at the Mother City dance festival. I had reached out a few weeks earlier to ask about the dance scene in Maputo. He chose the perfect day to get back to me! At the time I was so grateful for the opportunity to go out and dance that I didn’t even have time to get nervous as I usually do. When I get to the restaurant Bela Madalena two hours later I am dressed up and ready to dance. I’ve asked Amanda, another Swedish girl from the hostel, to join me. As we enter I see we are representing the Swedish flag, me in a blue dress and her in a yellow. I’m glad to have a kind person by my side as I get ready to break my isolation. There is a mix of tourists and Mozambican people present and people are already dancing when we get there. Before I know it, I am up on the dance floor as well. It is such a relief! When I get back to the table after my first salsa, Amanda exclaims “Woah! You look completely different!” and she was right. The joy of salsa, the joy of community and connecting with another human being can truly be transformative. This is good for me, this is what I need. I talk to Frias who invites me to their dance school DanceSpot the following week. Apparently they teach everything from salsa and kizomba, to tango and swing. How exciting! This makes me happy! It doesn’t take long for the salsa teacher Amino to catch on that I can lead. He invites himself to a dance and gosh how I sucked! I haven’t led anyone in months. Amino however, is kind and encouraging, we laugh loads together and once again I am reminded that dancing is the answer. To everything. Always. Maybe a tad dramatically expressed but nonetheless true for me. When we are on our way home I look out the car window at Maputo swishing by. I am filled with gratitude for being able to be here. Even though some parts of this journey are really triggering and difficult, I do believe I would be dealing with these doubts and fears even if I was still living in Sweden. Perhaps just at a slower pace. There is something about traveling that accelerates internal processes. And I know, loneliness and all, I would much rather be lost and found in beautiful Maputo, doing this inner/outer journey, than at home feeling equally lost. Thank you God for this life!

Sunset over Baixa, Maputo

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