I lived in the south of Mozambique, in the Maputo province for six months two years ago. I arrived there at the end of May 2016 and left at the end of November that same year. My aim there was to work with an organisation called Humana People to People in a project that was taking place as a collaboration between the government and an NGO, named Food For Knowledge.
I arrived there together with two colleagues from the Institute that we had enrolled in – a part of its programme was a six-month period of volunteering in a third world country. Our aim was to give all our resources, our time and energy into doing something that was going to help the local community and the development of the project in any way possible.
For a while now, I have been trying to put my experience into words. I would like it if you believed me, but not take what I say for granted. It was my experience at a certain point and time in my life. It is my output of what I have felt and seen; it is Mozambique seen through my filters of emotions, fears, likes, and dislikes. To put things into perspective, I will start by telling you how I arrived in Africa.
After travelling in south-east Asia for three months and going through some of the most enriching experiences of my life thus far, it was time for me to start a new adventure.
I knew I was going to a new continent with customs I would not be familiar with: new languages, high temperatures, and food I’ve never eaten before. In spite of all these things, I felt that I was prepared to deal and go through all the new things that were going to come my way.
I was expecting novelty in everyday life; I was expecting to be surprised, sad, happy, confused and frustrated. Having said that, I also had the feeling that I could successfully manage with all that while making a positive change in the project and in the lives of the people I was going to meet. Looking back on it now, I would say I was drunk on the feelings from my successful travels. I felt I had gained so much information in the past months and from my past travels that there was little chance I could learn something new that would leave me in complete awe.
I am proud to admit that I was wrong and slightly closed minded!
I remembered the presentations that had taken place in the school (where we received our training) from people who had already returned from their projects. I remembered them trying to tame our naïve desires to fix the world, our spirit drunk on passion, lack of experience and soulful youth.
They were trying to prepare us for the experience in the best way they knew how, and that was by sharing their most difficult times with us. Surprisingly, I did not feel intimidated; on the contrary, my desire to succeed simply increased. I did not manage to truly place myself in their shoes, I was listening with an already set answer in my head. That I will be stronger, more prepared and extremely protective of my goals. Yet again, I can now see that it was quite foolish of me.
I thought to myself that I would not lose my motivation, I would do my best, I would keep my expectations low so not much could surprise me or go wrong. I clearly remember telling myself repeatedly that if I manage to make a very small difference in one person’s life, that if I left someplace someday just a little bit better than how I found it, that my time there was going to be worth it. My starting goal was to make someone smile, and I truly believed I would be satisfied with myself if all that was going to come out of my work was a smile on a human I had never met before.
Thinking about it now, almost one year after leaving Mozambique, my feelings about the beginning are mixed. I somehow smile with a little bit of pain. I smile because I treasure that part of myself that was untamed and so set on believing in change regardless of any other limit; knowing less was beneficial to my spirit. I had all the goodness in my heart required to do beautiful things, but I had little to no knowledge. Now I have some more knowledge, but considerably less blind faith and enthusiasm towards positive change.
It’s not that I’ve lost my desire to bring good to the world. I was just hit very strongly and aggressively by the reality of this beautiful world. Knowing more, I am more aware of the immense amount of work and energy required in order to make a very small change. I understand that we are blind to the chaos that is happening around us; I understand that some of us choose to live this way, but I trust that there are others who just don’t know they have another option. With this in mind, I will start to tell you the wonderful experiences of my time in Mozambique which changed and shaped me more towards who and how I am today.