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May 29, 2003

Last Days in Mozambique

I spent my last days in Lamego trying to tie up all of my loose ends and to pass off a years worth of my work to my colleagues who have taken over my various tasks. My departure also coincided with the end of the "semester" at the vocational school. I administered exams and then frantically graded the exams for my English class and papers for my civics and morality classes. I even called an "action" with my housemates in order to grade all of the English finals and barely slept in order to read, understand, and grade all of the civics and morality papers that the student wrote. (Perhaps it was not smart of me to assign a paper in my last days…as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20!)

All of the last minute stress and extra work, of course, was worth it in every way. I was rewarded with a going away party that is the best of all final memories! I tried to tell my students and colleagues just how much my time in Mozambique meant to me. My tears cut me quite short. I would like to believe, though, that my tears spoke louder than any words that I could have said. We danced the night away to all of the Mozambican music that, after a year, I had grown to love and to the Brian Adams and Neil Diamond songs that I had at least gotten used to.

The next morning, I headed to Beira to buy my bus ticket and do some last minute errands. It felt as if I was just going for my routine, Friday trip to the city. And, as such, I was able to be fairly unaffected by leaving the gates of the ADPP Campus in Lamego.

I finished my errands in record time and spent much of my last day truly enjoying the city. I went to my favorite café and even found a bit of time to go to the beach! I ended the day at some friend's apartment. I arranged with Ali and her boyfriend, Jesse, that I would meet them at my favorite restaurant that night at 6pm. At 7pm, I had not seen sights of them at the apartment and decided to head to the restaurant. The restaurant just happened to be closed-a truly Mozambican phenomenon. On my way back to the apartment, though, 2 bad guys stole my bag. I was, as I am sure you can imagine, very emotional anyway, but this truly saddened me. I could only think that they had targeted me for being white and for being a woman. I was saddened because, after a year, I still was not a part of Mozambique. I still had not assimilated—if that is possible at all in Mozambique.

The main problem was that I had the equivalent of a Mozambican green card that gave me permission to be in the country and to receive a salary. This, too, was stolen along with the bag. My friends recommended that I go to the police department to report what had been stolen in order to facilitate the issuing of a new "green card".

Once at the police department, we discovered that I was the 3rd woman to be targeted by the same men at the same corner that very night! Why the police had not made their way to the corner, I still do not know. My ability to look on the bright side kicked in; at least I was not targeted solely for being white.

I left the police department with a very simple document typed on a typewriter. But, it had the all-important stamp. It just stated what was stolen and also had a lot of useless information like my fathers name and his age.

The next day, bright and early, at 4:00am, Ali, Jesse and I made our way to the bus. The "very official police document" nearly did not work at the bus! I was the one who bought the 3 bus tickets, but the driver-assistant-guy was skeptical. He expressed doubt that Jesse and Ali were not the intended recipients of the 2 other tickets. Laughable, really. It was just another example of someone trying to get money in any way that he could. Once I started crying, he backed off. Did I mention that I was "a bit" emotionally unstable?? My hopes for quickly and easily arranging a new "green card" were dashed. If the police document did not work on the BUS, how was it going to work in Immigration?

Still, we made our way to Maputo with little problems. Once in Maputo, though, we were stopped by the police and asked for our documents-a copy of our passports and my "green card". Of course, I did not have anything to offer. The police officers were unsympathetic and wanted to jail me for the duration of the weekend. We all quickly negated that idea. I think that Mozambique is one of the few places in the world where when a police officer wants to arrest you, you can just tell him "no, I am not going to jail". In the US, this is called resisting arrest! It all ended when we offered a bribe of about $4US to the two police officers. Not much when you consider that my last weekend in Mozambique could have been spent in jail. However, I was especially disconcerted by, yet again, contributing to the corruption of Mozambique. But, the system of corruption is developed. The system is in place. There is no way, except for prison, to avoid the corruption. What can you do?

My next three days were then spent in Immigration in Maputo. I was cranky and generally unhappy. But, in the end, I had yet another very "official" document, complete with the appropriate stamps. This one, though, just said, "Please let her pass through our borders without problems." My nervousness was not lessened. But, sure enough, a few days latter, I passed through Mozambican customs at the airport with no problems.

The last days of the voyage proved to be simple, perhaps as a reward for the previous days. I was especially lucky to have my teammate, Shannon, traveling with me. We made a good pair; we managed to coordinate our respective falling-aparts so that one of us could be there for the other and vice versa. She is a star.