It came down in my kitchen. An earthquake above my head: my eyes registered the pressure tracing a fault line across the ceiling tiles. No time to move, only to accept. I bowed my head in resignation and, mostly, just to protect my face. The crack caved in on itself and the whole kitchen ceiling collapsed over me. I kept my eyes closed for a second. Maybe I could hide from the damage behind my eyelids. But the sky kept falling in a steady drip against my head. It ran through my hair and down the length of my nose. Drip. Drop. The rain won’t stop. I have a corrugated metal roof, but the rain slips in where the metal joins the center beam of cement separating my side of the house from my neighbor, Alberto. Duplo, they called it – a house divided in half to make two homes. The rain exploited the division. It invaded. It accumulated. It crushed my ceiling.
That was Sunday, December 21st – the first damages of the rainy season. On Monday, January 12th, the bridge collapsed. The rain, once again, sought a division to exploit. If you consult the 5th Edition of the Bradt Travel Guide, you’ll find the following sentences in the Introduction: “So far as tourists are concerned, Mozambique might almost as well be two countries. Linked only by a solitary new bridge that spans the mighty Zambezi River at Caia, and divided by the more than 1,000 km of road connecting Beira and Nampula, southern Mozambique and northern Mozambique offer entirely different experiences to visitors.” Fortunately, the Zambezi bridge remains intact. The Licungo River bridge at Mocuba, Zambezia province does not. It fell underneath a wave that surged during the flooding. Mocuba sits along the EN1 – the main highway running through Mozambique – in that 1,000 km stretch that the Bradt guide describes. It provides the main means of transportation between the north and the south. We are, to tourists and inhabitants alike, two separate countries now.
The energy went with the wave. A live feed on Google Earth would illustrate an illuminated southern Mozambique and a north enveloped in nighttime darkness. I wouldn’t know, of course, because I haven’t had power to check. I write now – Sunday, February 1st – via the power of the sun. Without electricity, I’ve put to use the small solar panel that my parents gave to me for my last birthday. If it didn’t rain everyday, my phone and iPad (on which I’m typing now) would probably operate at full capacity. As it stands, my energy fluctuates with the weather. In the United States, we’ve sought to bend the world to the hopes of man; in Mozambique, the world has shaped the hopes of the people.
A better sculptor than the world, however, I don’t think you will find. My hopes remain high. I know where to place the buckets in my house to thwart the bombing of the rain. The market still has food (though, I’ve stocked up on peanut butter just in case). And I’ve grown so accustomed to candlelit dinners that a light on the ceiling might feel impersonal and intrusive. My physical reality may be damp, but this world offers moments – moments of beauty that both dwarf and inspire any hopes that I, as a man, maintain. Moments I wish will live long, that I tell myself to remember in the back of my mind: New Year’s dawn at Lago Niassa, the Mozambican side of Lake Malawi. A drunken voice responds to the graying sky: “Guys, I think the moon is coming out.” The air grows brighter still. A line appears on the horizon, distinguishing water from sky. Two mountainous islands mark the distance. A wooden boat rests just offshore. The water absorbs the color and consistency of the sun. It earns its name: in Chichewa, “Malawi” translates to sol nascente: “sun spring” or “rising sun.” I hold on to moments like this. The sun will come, and in the daylight even Google Earth must show a northern Mozambique as brightly lit as the south.