Macua Bath


In the middle of one of my tae bo lessons, I noticed my teacher’s approval look towards my punching efforts. It took me months to realize that punching is not only about arms. It involves the whole body. I guess this learning process started to show through in the way I move, and above all in the strength of my attacking arm, because the look on her face was of pride and appreciation.


Such look is just the kind we may read sometimes in a lover’s eyes. Unfortunately, that type of message is very rare and when it happens we aren’t usually attentive or trained to recognize it. Though I assure you that the eyes language is the only one we can really trust. Once you have learned it, you will know what I am talking about. Those quiet messages make a strong impact on people highly sensitive to that form of language, as I am.


The result of the spontaneous approval look of my teacher was an extremely hard working student. I punched, I hopped and I kicked like never before.


The class was particularly strenuous. We know it when the teacher stops 15 minutes before the due time for a yoga cool down. While I was lying on my thin blue gym mat, teacher approached a knockdown Seabell and put her hand on the back of my neck, correcting my stretching position. Only at that moment I realized how soaked in sweat I was. Thus, instead of relaxing, my mind started to repeat a Math’s equation: hot boiler out of order = cold bath.


Once at home, Paul instantaneously confirmed my fears:


“We’ll have a new boiler tomorrow. After a short discussion, Italian plumber-electrician and I have decided it is time for a replacement.”


“Well…” I sighed with resignation. “I am up for a cold shower.”


“No, you are not. I’m preparing you a Macua bath!” And a concerned and resourceful Paul started to prepare my bath.


Macua is the largest group in Mozambique and also the word for the language they speak, which, by the way, my father speaks fluently too.


Last year, while on Ilha, Paul noticed an odd aspect: most of the houses don’t have toilet facilities, and this includes the impressive reddish palace. Even in the hotel were we stayed, toilets are a clear improvisation. The only decent bathroom we were able to see on Ilha was that one in the ruins where I once lived, with its clever black and white floor, and huge white bathtub, still the way I’ve always remembered it.


If people don’t have such important commodity, you may wonder how on earth do they do it? I am not revealing all here, but I can explain how they bath.


As far as I remember, the Macua bath can be very sensual. Picture a woman at sunset, when the heat of the day gets quiet, in the privacy of her small backyard. A shy drape covers part of her body. She stands beside a large container filled with tepid water. Standing above her, a friend or a lover scoops the warm precious liquid and slowly pours it over her head.


Without expensive bath milks or colorful bubbles, she rubs her shinning dark body with the soap molded by her right hand, melting under the pressure of her long fingers. Luminous rivulets on her skin wash out sweat and earth, wash out secrets and mysteries. Waves of silk. The soap dancing round dreams and stars. Spices and tears. Incurable wounds. The scooped rainfall. Winds on naked skin. Petrifying reality.


The day seems to crumble at her feet into promises for the night. The whiteness of her smile provoking the laugher of the falling water. A sculpture against the orange sky. Palm tree on soft ground, standing until the last drop falls through strings of her hair, dark as the approaching shadow, down her proud body to her gazelle’s legs. The flame of the day and the last drop of her bath at her delicate bare feet, planted on the same ground.


What about a Macua bath for yourself?