This is the first, and perhaps the most difficult post I will make on this blog. Not just because ‘the first step is always the hardest’, and not just because it is nearly impossible to describe arrival in a new city without resorting to cliche (see above).
No, it is difficult because my arrival here in Maputo coincided with the departure of someone worth more to me than I think I will ever be able to comprehend. A mere blog post is not worthy of her. But it is difficult to talk about my arrival without thinking of her, as she has become irrevocably intertwined with the memories of my first few nights alone here.
She was a great and intrepid traveler in her time and even in her last year, despite the damage dementia had wreaked upon her brain, she was able to offer astute advice. I remember one afternoon before I reluctantly left for Chile, we were sitting on her old sofa, holding hands which had become our habit ever since she had become unwell, knowing that every parting could be our last and letting that gesture say everything we weren’t able to put into words. And she said, “Just think who your new best friend will be.” Such optimism has been and will continue to be a great comfort to me as I navigate all the loneliness and uncertainty which comes with living abroad alone.
My arrival here was as intimidating, chaotic and rewarding as expected. But those first snapshots I have of the city, of women wrapped in colourful capulanas walking along the side of the rode from the airport, of bustling streets lined with acacia trees, of the warm smell of the sea breeze scented with frangipan, and my own anxiety as I listened to the noise of an unfamiliar city at night, unable to get to sleep for the heat – those first snapshots are also tainted by grief and profound regret. I miss her and think of her everyday. And will be so pleased if my experiences here in Mozambique bestow upon me even a fraction of the wisdom and intelligence she possessed.