Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oh Mozambique!

Yohani in his airplane seatbelt, required on a Mozambican flight.

Our return to Mozambique was a little too “eventful” for me (to say the least). It takes three days to get from Seattle to Nampula and the first two days went perfectly. On the third day we were waiting for our flight to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, when there was an announcement that our flight was cancelled due to (guess what?) “civil unrest.” Protests over rising food prices turned into riots and the previous flights into Maputo had been turned back to South Africa in mid-air. We spent the next several hours speed-walking, pushing gigantic carts back and forth between two airline counters (which just happened to be the furthest apart in the entire airport and were not even on the same floor) until we got the only flight not cancelled, into the midst of the civil unrest. Somehow we thought this was a good idea. I don’t know what we were thinking - we were just so anxious to get back to the orphanage.

We arrived in Maputo after dark. The airport is small and dimly lit with no air conditioning and it was hot, humid, and full of mosquitoes. Most flights had been cancelled so there were hardly any other passengers there. When we walked out onto the curb we found the parking lot filled with security personnel and dozens of police/military guys with big guns, zooming around in the backs of pick-up trucks. We were informed that anyone leaving the airport had to go in an armed convoy because angry mobs had blocked the roads to the airport and turned over and burned cars and people had been killed. The few passengers there were just standing there looking around, not knowing what to do. We could hear gun shots and even machine gun fire and my dad found shell casings on the curb at our feet. This was kind of an overwhelming reintroduction to the country and I can’t imagine having a more stressful first day here.

We decided it would be safer to stay at the airport than to try to leave and we SURE didn’t want to not be able to get BACK to the airport the next morning. Besides all of the above, the thing upsetting me the most was that there were mosquitoes everywhere and I didn’t have a net to protect Yohani. I am hardcore determined not to let him get bit by a mosquito (until someone invents a vaccine for malaria if I can help it). So in the midst of all this crazy gun stuff going on in the parking lot, I sat down on the curb, put Badger anti-bug balm all over Yohani’s head, and then – I kid you not – I stared at Yohani (probably without even blinking) for over 5 hours straight. It was exhausting but my adrenaline was pretty high. I also survived not having any water all night. Actually as I write this it is now 3:37am so I don’t yet know if I will have survived – but I assume that if you read this on the blog then I did. At one point while I was sitting there crying, other ladies came and sat with me and were crying too and we were all petting Yohani’s head. So at least I got to experience some immediate solidarity with some Mozambican women.

And on a side note – well I don’t know if this is a side note or should have been the point of my story, but since my parents are traveling with us, I felt really responsible for them being put through all the airport speed-walking and gun shots and sleeping in the dangerous, police with machine guns in pick-ups guarded, mosquito infested airport all night. When Victor was on the curb getting stories about what people had seen and I was maniacicly staring at Yohani’s exposed skin, my mom and dad (after finding the shell casings and watching the military escort trucks speed off after close by rounds of bullets) told us they were going to go find a place to sleep. I was pretty shaken up about having Yohani in the midst of this and totally focused on him. And then I heard a sweet melody coming from back behind us in the airport. It sounded like a New York subway station (in a good way). It caught me so off guard that I didn’t even realize right away that it was my own dad playing church choruses on his saxophone. He was bringing the saxophone for the kids, but when I heard it I felt like it was a gift to me and everyone else scared and stressed out in the airport – the way the atmosphere turned sweet with the melody of his sax playing hymns to God. Much later I went upstairs and found my parents sleeping on a wide balcony overlooking the runways. I started apologizing to them for the whole situation. But they interrupted me so we could take pictures and then they told me that the whole trip was probably messed up because we were with them, since they have never yet arrived in Africa without experiencing the WORST luck in the world (you can ask them about the time they were re-routed through Nigeria or couldn’t find their passports the morning we were leaving for my wedding or the times they were scheduled on flights that didn’t even exist or when their flight was cancelled because the entire crew had food poisoning). So really I was the only one not handling what was going on. I am really grateful for my parents and the good attitudes they have in the worst situations. And I am relieved to say that Yohani did not get bitten and the next morning we easily got on the first flight our of there to Nampula.

The good pleasant flights at the beginning of the trip.

About to land in Maputo, not having any idea what lay ahead.

Staring at Yohani's head for over 8 hours so that no mosquito would bite him and infect him with malaria.

My parents sleeping on the airport balcony.

My dad playing the sax in the airport in the midst of the civil unrest.

Trying to get a flight out the next morning.

To anyone who is planning on coming to Mozambique or who has kids who will be coming . . . This is not a normal thing here and the “protest” was announced days in advance. This means that you can avoid being in the capital when it happens if you don’t fly through Maputo the week of a protest or don’t find another flight if your first flight was just cancelled due to “civil unrest.” Also – this is very very far away from where we live (2 hours by plane) and there are other ways to get to us. This situation lasted three days and is now completely cleared up and all life is back to normal in the capital where it was happening.

1 comment:

Jamie Bagge said...

Praise God for protecting you all! Glad you are safely back to Nampula. I'm so glad your parents were able to go with you and see you safely home. Was praying for you!