I just had an uncle. I could describe him as a hard-working, friendly and peaceful man. The rest were all aunts. A week ago I found myself thinking about the contrast between my aunts and if that contrast would explain what I am as a person. Let’s see…

There were three aunts on my father’s side. My Aunt C was the oldest and the only one who married at the “right age.” The remaining two, aunt AL and aunt AD, married late to ensure that they would not be alone in the world. If I had to describe them, I would say, for example, that they were good cooks, good housewives, very clean, serious, demanding, rude, wild, suspicious, greedy, unsociable, and suckers for a good intrigue.

There were two aunts on my mother’s side. The middle one died in her teens, leaving only aunt A, the eldest, and my mother. I tend to think of them as inclined to indolence. They showed little interest in domestic things and they were gourmand, careless, affable, credulous, passionate, submissive, cheerful, friendly and sociable.

Looking at the very different characteristics of these women, I can not help but admit that I may be a sort of “mixed salad”.


Three Years Ago


Three years ago I was celebrating “change and our chameleonic art of adaptation”. By mid February I was away, in Johannesburg. I almost forgot that trip because I was too sick to tell. Even though I am not sure of what happened to me, it seems I was a victim of one of those European winter bugs people insist in exporting to Africa.

Looking back, I think it has been the second time I felt so sick in my entire life. I was unable to shop, as I normally would, enjoy food and do the usual stuff people do when they take short vacations.

Maybe because I was so fragile, I also felt sad remembering that everything changes. It’s not only new people we learn to love and enjoy. Things change at an amazing pace. The places where I usually shop are now boring and repetitive. New places are emerging and I can’t wait for the next opportunity. No bugs.

Four Years Ago


Four years ago I was organizing newspapers, right before a road trip to the neighbouring town of Nelspruit, when occasionally I read my horoscope. Basically, it said two things: 1) From Wednesday on I wouldn’t have to worry about money ever again. 2) I would feel so incredibly energetic that people would be surprised with my vitality. It made some sense since money is reported to be a good source of energy. I referred to this generous prognostic on our way to Nelspruit, more as a positive note than an assertive fact.

We had a very nice stay. But, during the return, the child traveling with us vomited up his food. The last shop I needed to visit was already closed and we were caught in a construction stop promising 20 minutes of wait, but it took more than one hour before the line (20km of cars at least) was authorized to move. It was the longest (in time and length) road stop we have ever faced. The sunset turned into night and we were waiting and waiting. There is only one word capable of explaining what has been happening in the road to Nelspruit: a-b-u-s-e. No reason they evoke will ever be able to explain what we are submitted to. And strangely, it’s been months since the lines of sheep-like cars wait without a visible reaction against that abuse.

And as if that wasn’t enough, once in the Mozambican side we were almost sandwiched between 3 large trucks, those transporting 40 tons of raw sugar to some Maputo deposit, from where it is shipped to somewhere else in the world. Two of the three trucks were heading to Nelspruit, most probably empty. Sugar or no sugar, that wouldn’t make a difference to our fate. In fact, Andy perceived the criminal maneuver and decided to stay in his lane, avoiding the usual reaction when a collision is about to happen. Many accidents occur just because we overreact to an eminent danger. In order for you to perceive what really happened, I summarize it.

Truck number one, heading to Maputo, had stopped on the left (our lane), after the yellow line but still on the road. We were just passing and noticing the fact that there were no visible lights or triangle, when one of two identical trucks coming from Maputo decided to cross the road (from the right lane to the left), also without any warning sign, with the intent to reach the stopped truck. In matter of seconds we found ourselves between part of the stopped truck, on the left, the truck still doing its very risky maneuver, in front, and the third truck moving towards Nelspruit (right lane) with the prohibitive speed they allow themselves as soon as they cross the Mozambican border. The space for us turned to be just enough. The risk, as Andy perceived right away, was to turn just a bit to one side or the other to avoid the collision. It would be fatal in both cases.

It was only after the trucks that I realized that the meaning of my horoscope could be a very different one. If by now I were dead, I wouldn’t need money any longer. As for the energy, who is out there to prove me that there are no gyms or hardwork after death? It was a very long stretch before we reached home…

Five Years Ago


If you need a good reason to keep a diary, see the difference between who has it and who does not… Can you tell what happened to you five years ago? Many times I can. Five years ago I was here:

By mid February we went to the Kruger Park, a natural reserve delimitating a good stretch of the South Africa/Mozambique border. The only regret that I have was the delay at the South African side (and our breakfast at the Stop Café, on the route to the Crocodile Gate). Appetite apart, what is the problem with the South African border? Besides keeping people on endless lines for passport control, we witnessed kilometers of trucks waiting to enter into Mozambican territory. As most of them looked to be transitory goods, I can only conclude that South Africa is not supportive of the Mozambican economy – a real shame. I suppose I don’t have to list all the reasons against such policy.

Thanks to bureaucracy, we missed the lions and leopards signaled early morning near the entrance gate. Forget the large breakfast. People usually don’t eat well when their initial expectations are spoiled by doubtful agendas.

Well, it felt strange once inside the Kruger. The day was hot but not that hot to justify the heavenly quietness of the park. I only understood that peacefulness later on when I witnessed the massive number of elephants. Usually, if we are lucky, in a one-day visit, we spot one or two groups of less than 10 elephants. This time they were everywhere and in large groups, always with one of them working as a sentinel. Zebras, gazelles and wildebeests must have felt somehow pacified and protected. If such a giant is so peaceful, then the universe has to be peaceful too…

They walked near and between the cars with their quiet and solemn manner. One of them came from the bush and placed its potent grey body right in front of our car, precisely the moment my camera went on strike. Instead of turning to the right, where our car had stopped, the elephant turned left and followed the road towards a small white car whose occupants must have felt some panic, since they kept reversing as the elephant progressed straight towards them. This walk lasted almost half an hour. The elephant only left the very hot tarmac after defecating, forcing me to conclude that: 1) The elephant suffered from constipation. 2) The elephants use the roads we cross as a toilet. (And if you think this was enough for one day, precisely the same happened a couple of hours later when my camera behaved and allowed me to capture the moment the elephant entered the road and, instead of crossing it, decided to turn left and face another white car, forcing a wise second speedy retreat. Maybe I should add a third conclusion here: 3) White cars bother large grey elephants.)

Besides the elephants, I spotted rhinos and buffalos. To meet the Big Five I would have to cross a different South African border. I also watched small birds, large hippos, young and old visitors, men and women, a rainbow… Because of my “elephant day”, this is my “elephant month” too.



Very close to my birthday, I found myself thinking about old friends. By circumstances that have to do with my character and others that have more to do with my personal history, I am kind of alone.

One thing I have discovered is that most people have friendships that have to do with family relationships. They are family friends, often made through parents, siblings, uncles and other family members. I do not have such kind of friends (nor school friends), because we lived in too many places and my father always stayed away from relatives and his hometown.

I can say that my father was nomad and my mother, who liked to settle anchors and cultivate friendships, was sedentary. Looking back, she only managed to have a period in her own way when, for about eight years, she lived apart from my father. This allowed us to make friendships that later, due to a new interference of my father in our life, were lost in time.

It is curious how, on my birthday, I remembered one of these friends, made through family ties. She had a queen’s name and the beauty of a goddess. Her eyes were the most perfect green and her long hair was always caught in two thick braids that resembled a medieval lady. I think it was a tradition, in her family, to just cut their hair when they got a great deal in life, like going to college, getting a good job, or getting married.

She was not one of my best friends, but we were pretty close. I think she even cut her hair and did many of the things she dreamed about. The last time I heard of her I knew she had committed suicide. She had a husband and teenage children. At a time when I face gigantic difficulties, I look at the case of some friends who committed suicide and I cannot understand. Their cases have nothing to do with money or personal success, whether family or career. What would have happened to those few good friends who grew tired of living? By the time I celebrated my birthday, facing so many problems that could bring me down, I can not help asking this question: why?

What Men Want


Paraphrasing the movie “What Women Want”, I think I’ve figured out what men really want. My conundrum is based on real cases that I observed:

Case 1: Young man left a nice girlfriend and explained: “I want to go to parties, drink and enjoy life. She would never understand”. A little while later, he began to date someone less serious and much more sympathetic to partying habits.

Case 2: Middle age and divorced. When I asked him why he preferred to be alone, he answered me with certainty: “It is not that I lack women. I want to do my life without them always coming to me with reproaches.”

Case 3: Middle age, after ending a relationship due to communication problems. What are these problems? “We do not know how to communicate or overcome our differences.” I asked him what he expected from a relationship. That she would leave him alone? From his smile I saw that I had hit it.

Case 4: Almost in his seventies. He was able to lie, to hurt, to almost destroy a relationship that they are fully aware of being a gift from the heavens. What is wrong with him? He does not prioritize anything that women think is decisive in a relationship: attention, gentleness, intimacy, romance, and the like. What does he prioritizes? He prioritizes that the woman next to him is tolerant towards the space he needs, to his moments of bad mood, to his addictions, to his routines, to his inattention to her and to their relationship, to his absences, to his forgetfulness…

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I thought I should say what I feel about what men want. It is not that women do not want tolerance from their partners. Of course, they do. It is important that they be understanding about our culinary failures, our veins in the legs, our extra pounds, our bad hair days and a lot more. The difference is that for us this tolerance does not seem to be so absolutely decisive for the success of the relationship.

African Rain


Summer here has some breaks when we least expect it. Rain is a blessing, especially when there are areas of Africa where water is scarce:

This weekend is going to be rain. It is not possible to make many plans. It is a disappointment and a concern. The concern is because the rain is often punishing and comes associated with storms. Let’s hope the rain announced for tomorrow is the friendly kind.