Best of 2020 (so far)

With this post I close Tales From the Sea. I’m not sure if blogging is over or if it’s me who has changed. Anyway, this is a great year for changes, learning and decisions. A lot has changed since I started in 2006. Still, I am only concerned with the present. The past and the future seem very distant from where I stand now.

One of the reasons impelling me to write was to understand love. More than ten years later, I conclude this is mission impossible. There is a Portuguese poet who describes love as a fire that burns without being seen, a wound that hurts and does not feel, an unhappy happiness, a pain that unravels without hurting. It is about opposition and addiction. It is everything and more.

Our perception of love varies all the time. If someone asks me at this stage what love is, maybe I will answer that it is a moment (with a length that varies from person to person) when we let ourselves escape from reality. After love, only reality remains.

The subject has always interested me. It comes back to me today after watching the retake of a BBC series. It is a story of love, betrayal and the tribulations to fix a few broken lives. The narrator is sometimes the betrayed wife and the most important lessons on reality are hers. As I don’t want to forget them, I took my notes.

Are men attracted to the same type of woman? At least it seems easier to cheat if the differences are small. Once in another relationship, men try to make the new woman look like the previous one. (The comparing thing. Aren’t women the same?)

Due to the problems that sooner or later arise, we stop believing in love. “That’s how meaningless it is”, she says. “Love seem so grand, but it means nothing. What exactly is marriage? We all get married thinking we’re meant to be, and we set our lives as collateral just for having sex and living together. But is it really worth all that? Even when you know you’re going to be unhappy? I still don’t know the answer to that. But one thing I know for sure is that you can’t raise your kid with a guy who will definitively end up hurting you.”

So the woman’s responsibility, to herself and to her children, is to choose a good man. That way, when the grand moment passes, unpleasant surprises will not happen. (Nothing new but something to keep in mind. It remains to be seen whether there are enough good men available.)

Another important point: “Gouging out our spouse you once shared the majority of your life with is like giving yourself up as well. The agony ends up spreading to you both. So when it comes to a marriage, maybe there’s no such thing as a sole offender and an innocent victim.”

The rest is “enduring the days to come without getting swallowed by the pain”. With a bit of luck, we shall never have to look at that person and think: “The man who shred my heart into pieces. My enemy I took the life of. The one I loathed but once loved passionately. My enemy who was also my partner. A man who was my friend but also my nemesis. My husband.”

Best of 2018


 

Ilha de Moçambique
I recently asked a Mozambican man how his children were. The answer was curious: “They’re fine now that it’s mango time.”

Mozambicans are an example that the world should look at. They make the most of what nature offers and ask for very little…

I expected a lot from 2018 and I finished the year with the feeling that I did so little. This feeling has dominated in recent years.

However, there are many reasons to celebrate, of which I choose Ilha de Moçambique, where I have been twice in the last year.

Certainly it was not “mango time” for this blog, but I have done my best to be “mango time” for this blogger. It has to be that way when we set priorities.

I have not decided if I will continue to write. This decision may not depend on me. “Mango time” is decisive.

Convictions


 

Even though I am not a person full of convictions, I recognize as important to have some. A little more than three years ago, I changed my life because someone presented me two strong convictions:

1) that being together was a unique opportunity that life offered us, since the chance of finding someone else was tiny;

2) that we came from problematic relationships and wanted a new and different life, based on important aspects where other relationships had failed.

I believed in such convictions and made them mine. However, the person who made me believe does not even remember them or does not even know what a conviction is and how a conviction should guide our lives. Worse than people without convictions, are people with false or weak convictions. It is toxic to live with them. Instead of someone with convictions, one day we look around and see someone full of uncertainties, someone who is not the person we let be part of our lives.

Best of February/March 2018


 

Renewal
No place shows us the capacity for renewal like Africa. In the last few days I had a clear idea of ​​this when I witnessed:

1. The fantastic weather in March.

2. Young giraffes in the reserve that we cross to get to Ponta do Ouro.

3. The first leopard in Gorongosa in 14 years!!!

4. Three months of incredible freedom!!!

5. The works in the church that finally seem to move forward.

6. Knowing that I am happy and will be happy whatever happens in the near future.

7. Although the new neighbors evoke the Gaza Strip, the truth is that I am the exception in an area where embassies, diplomats and government officials predominate. Until when can I fight the tide? This is a very interesting challenge.

8. It was good to know that I could easily dance in public, even if I would have trouble in getting my legs up or proclaiming the size of a woman’s (or a man’s) organ.

This capacity for innovation makes us feel strong and capable of facing the toughest trials. Africa is a woman, although for bizarre reasons some insist on considering it neutral. Long live the extraordinary women of Africa!

Fairy Tales


 

There are people who remind us of fairy tales. Do not ask me the reason. Yesterday I remembered that there is a child I call “the tall boots girl”. The reason is that when I first saw her, about four or five years ago, she wore boots that looked bigger than she. Today she remains a strong girl, despite her very fragile appearance. She has grown a little and is already in school.

She knows me (her brothers too) by Rapunzel. I do not think it’s just because of my long hair. Maybe it’s also because I live in a tower, always waiting for prince charming.

Aunts


 

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 explains what I am. 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 left alone in this 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 or do the usual stuff people do when they take short vacations.

Maybe because I was so fragile, I also felt sad remembering how 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 cannot wait for a 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). Food 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 all 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) Elephant suffered from constipation. 2) 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.

Why?


 

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 friends 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 sedentary period 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 close enough. I think she even cut her hair and did many of the things she dreamed about. The last time I heard of her, I was informed 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?