Three days ago we arrived in Bilibiza, a small village located in the Province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique. Here time passes slower than in any other place, days start at 5am and end around 7pm. I feel the days are shorter here. Here there is not electric power, at least in our hut there is nothing electric.
The first day we arrived, we had to go to the small hospital to look for Damiao, a close friend of Hanaffan. He has pneumonia and was there for few days until he was out of danger.
While we walked through the dusty streets we saw many people getting out of their huts just to see us, specially little kids. It was around 12am aproximately and it was there when I first started heard the word ‘ocuña’ over and over ‘ocuña ocuña’ the children said. After a while I got to know that such word means something referred to foreigners, meaning something like white person. I guess this thing wasn’t about me since I was already very tanned!
We stayed in the house of Damiao’s bother, a nice hut with a small kitchen and two bedrooms.
Hanaffan and Damiao are good friends from long ago and our visit was so suppressive that we made a big revolution in the entire village. Many people came to see us and to introduce themselves. They were very curious and seemed happy to shake hands with us.
Here the poverty is hard, I don’t really know if calling this fact poverty. Lets say the humbleness is extreme but it doesn’t look like an embarrass truth because there are no signs of misery here. There is no garbage on the ground, there are no symptoms of depression, there is no accumulation of old objects in the corners, there are no sad faces or tear full eyes. Everything is clean, tidy and everything they have is used as long as possible and if it breaks it is repaired. Also, there are lots of children running and laughing around all day long. The women doing their difficult labour also smile, although it is not a secret that many of these people spend days without eating properly and sometimes without eating at all. Many people is hungry but they don’t complain…they don’t beg.
Some are afraid of Hanaffan who is blond. I find it amusing and chuckle while I sit down on a nice mat that our hosts have placed in front of the house. People look at us very curiously and if I laugh they laugh. Some girls aged around 7 and 10 come closer and touch my hair, they try to speak to me but unfortunately I don’t understand their local tongue which is Macua. They tell me “Salamaaa” and I reply “Salamaaa”, they approve as I am doing it all right. It seems like this is the way they greet each other. Something close to “Hello, How are you?”
Damiao has ordered them to go home because the ocuñas are going to eat!! Umm, so good! a home made dish!
We go inside the hut and they serve us a typical simple dish called Matapa with Xima. Xima is a dough made with grounded corn and served warm and the Matapa are the green leafs of the plant of cabbage cooked in a tasty sauce. In general it was our daily diet in BIlibiza, it was delicious and sometimes we were able to enjoy this dish with some fish or beans.
The welcoming ceremony continues but this time inside the hut. Now we are only with the family but everybody leaves us alone after serving our meal. Everything is so clean, everything is done with so much care and diligence. I feel happily overwhelmed.
Now its time to take a nap but soon we will continue discovering!
The family has given us the best bed to sleep with a mosquito net already installed and a room with door. In the other room 4 children sleep with their mother. The man of the house sleeps outside the house on a mat. We have a candle and a box of matches plus the water that the women bring everyday from the nearest well. I feel a bit ashamed for all the attention they give us, so the next day I wake up around 8am to try to help with the tasks of the house. I ask them what should I do to start? But they reject my offer, I only get soft laughter from them. I tell them in Portuguese that I want to help but they don’t understand me and I don’t understand them. They don’t speak Portuguese because they didn’t go to school for a long time. Only the men attended properly and can speak well. Damiao explains to me that the house work starts around 5am and by 8am everything is done. Mainly these tasks are to go to fetch water, clean the house inside and the surroundings, grind the corn, cut the wood to use in the kitchen, feed the children and invest some time in the activity of the day which can be going to the lagoon to wash the clothes, peel the corn or any other thing.
My face blushed of embarrassment, I felt like a parasite so I tried to grind the corn. I took the big thick wood stick and started singing the song that my ancestors used to sing in Venezuela while doing this task.
DALE DURO A ESE PILON
QUE SE ACABE DE ROMPER
QUE EN EL MONTE HAY MUCHO PALO Y PAPA LO SABE HACER IO-IO
I only got to spill the corn and hurt my hand with the friction of the thick wood stick, a long time of laughter and fun making from the girls.
This story reminds me of a saying from Agustin de Hipona ” It’s not richer the one who owes more but the one who needs less”.