I arrived at Maputo exhausted and exhilarated after my long flight, and stepped out onto the tarmac of the airport thrilled to be in Africa. Africa - the word alone is thrilling, and I knew little about what to expect save for the traveler's confidence that somehow everything would be okay.
I ate a rich meal of mixed seafood grilled with butter and retired to my hotel room to rest. Mozambique was a pleasure at first glance. Outside my tall window, an impossibly full moon rose out of the ripples of the Indian Ocean and Maputo Bay that first night and disappeared into the fronds of the palm trees, which rustled audibly in the cool winter breeze.
By morning, the breeze had dissipated and in its lieu, dozens of small sparrows were hopping from table to table in the morning sun, nibbling from the hotel guests' breakfasts and dashing off to the low hanging branches of the garden on all sides to eat their prizes. Nights I'd return to my room to await that moonrise, awe struck by how brightly it filled the night sky and melted the African coastline into shadows. I saw none of the suffering one expects when Africa is generalized into one homogenous continent of corruption and suffering. Rather, Maputo was no worse off than Managua was, and it even managed to charm me. I made Mozambique my home for two weeks with the exception of a few days I spent in the north near the Tanzanian border, and over that time I came to enjoy not just Maputo but the Mozambicans in general, who I found warm and polite and a lot of fun.
In two weeks in Mozambique I searched halfheartedly but continuously for a fatal flaw, something I could pin on the Mozambicans--incompetence, laziness, filth, anything. But the best I could come up with was this:
The beer is mediocre.
Rather, I found more than one reason to really love Mozambique. Maputo was clean - ridiculously clean, nearly devoid of the brightly colored plastic bags and other roadside detritus that characterizes many a Central American highway. The town was orderly if a little boring, and the people were warm and friendly. It's tempting to compare their personalities to the Nicaraguans I know so well but though humanity makes us all parallel, the Mozambicans were very much unique: similar enough to Nicaraguans in their joy of life and their warm sense of humanity to be similar, yet different in a way I didn't stay long enough to put my finger on. Maybe that's the Mozambique touch I never got to know.
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