I felt a cold sensation and tiredness all over my entire being. I was lost in the thoughts of the series of ordeals and events that I had to experience for the past few days of which I was hurt most by the parting of my hard earned $100 to a corrupt immigration official at Pemba. My thoughts also strayed how I could have been in the prison at Pemba and the possible delays that would have caused to my overall travel itinerary and possible encounter with the inmates of the prison. Unexpectedly, a large cockerel crowed from a few yards from the window. The thoughts of my telephone which was lying down undisturbed by the cold under my bed got me excited. What’s up on the socials, I thought to myself as I adjusted the thick blanket I had used for covering the previous night to ensure my legs were not the reason I was overcome by the cold. I lifted the mosquito nets and made it for the phone.
Bom dia mister! Ordem and Paulo greeted from their mat when they noticed the illumination of my phone screen on the other end of the room. On responding to this greeting, I discovered had just lost my voice to the cold – that never bothered me. Paulo and Ordem have the habit of refereeing to each other as mister each time they conversed in English, the reason used the title for me all through my stay with them in Beira. I also had noticed that many Portuguese speakers especially in Southern Africa pronounced my name as Mr Ozebo and not Osegbo. This is because in Portuguese, when S comes after a vowel, it is pronounced a ‘Z’. The ‘S’ sound is rather represented with the ‘Ç’ character which is not used in English. They also had some problem pronouncing the ‘gb’ in my last name.
The bright blue sky is dry. A mother hen and her chicks were having what I thought was breakfast and unperturbed by the cold – maybe they’re used to it. I reached out my hand to the metallic handle of the bathroom door outside the house. The noise of the opening zinc door got the attention of the hen and her chicks, who quickly moved further away from the scene. I went into the bathroom with a bucket of warm water for my first comfortable bath since I arrived Mozambique.
We had a breakfast. Tea and bread with some butter. Afterwards, we headed out to see the city. Our plan for the day included a visit to the port, beach, train station, a few other important places and then to visit Delvio – a friend I met the previous day who lost his mother. It was going to be interesting to learn the local culture of how to traditionally pay condolence to a friend who has lost a parent. The ‘uno-onwu’ (condolence) visit was one of the things I really looked up to doing for this new guy that day. I was however disappointed my friends Ordem and Paulo did not know the Bantu tradition of how this should be done. They just suggested I we would go there, encourage him and give him anything we have for him.
This ignorance of the local culture by so many of us Africans is beginning to become a thing of concern. My friends even confirmed to me they cannot speak their local Bantu language dialect and that most of the young people in Beira cannot speak the language but would rather speak Portuguese, I became very furious. Culture is a living thing and if we fail to live it, it dies.
Ordem left for school as he had lectures that morning while Paulo and myself headed for the city center. Our first stop was a Bureau de Change where we would get some cash for the day’s adventure. The rates were not as good as the one the immigration officer helped me to change earlier in Pemba. I was given 60 Meticais to a dollar but in this shop, I exchanged 58 Meticais.
It was nice being in Beira, the capital and the largest city in the Sofala region of the country. The first place we visited was the train station or the Estação do Comboio. We took lots of pictures and there was not much activity there possibly because there were no trains in circulation. The sun was getting a bit aggressive. We had to take shade under some of the trees before we went to the Beira Port and beach (Praia). Those sights were just normal. We just took pictures in the absence of not so much to see.
As it would be expected, I started getting hungry after visiting these places and walking several long distances between them. Fortunately, we ran into a woman preparing rice and stew with roasted chicken. Apart from the pleasure of watching the chicken roast in our presence, we decided to stay behind to enjoy the vast shade provided by a big tree close to the beach front. Each of the plates costed 180 Meticais.
Ordem informed us when he was done with his lectures and we decided to go join him in his school. He attends Universidade Padagogica, one of the public universities in Beira. He took both of us on a tour of the university facilities. We saw the lecture theaters, student hostels, some of his classmates and several things of interest. I took interest in the secondary school there of which he informed me that there are three different school sessions per day for students and that students are free to choose any of such sessions that they wanted. The first starts in the morning from around 7 o’clock in the morning till around 12pm. The second starts from around 12pm till 6pm while the last session starts from around 4pm to 8pm.
I was impressed with this academic schedule. I however was not sure if students could assimilate things they are thought when it is not morning.
We met a couple of Ordem’s friends and classmates. One of them had a four-year-old son who weighed up to 20Kg. The boy was very heavy that I could not carry him for too long before taking him back to him mother.
We visited the American Corner in Beira. Prior to that time, I had no idea what was done at the establishment. I even did not know it existed in Nigeria before then. According to the US government website, the had this to say about it:
“American Corners are a type of American Spaces that provide public programming spaces and supports the five core programs: English language learning, Educational advising, Alumni activities, Cultural programs, and Information about the US. American Corners are partnerships with host-country institutions. The partner provides a physical space and staff, and the Public Diplomacy Section of the U.S. Embassy provides multi-media materials about the United States, training and technical support. They provide accurate information about the U.S., including education and cultural programs; access to English language resources and connections to alumni.”
I understood well Ordem wanted the time at the American Corner because a young girl he crushed on was there. He introduced me to every living thing in the room that cared to notice someone entered the building.
At my request, we walked down to the business district. I wanted to confirm the details of my flight reservation and be sure I would not be facing any problems leaving the country the next day.
A few minutes from then, it was time to go for the condolence visit at Delvio’s residence. Ordem spoke with him for a few seconds over the phone then communicated a positive impression that read ‘let’s go!’
Two long benches and a plastic chair were in front of the compound. Even though it was already sunset, the thickness of the shade provided by the trees which clustered around each other would have provided the same comfort under a scorching sun. The environment was serene and there were no signs of any sign of mourning yet. Delvio was delighted to welcome us to his residence. A member his extended family was around and he introduced us to her. He even called one of his extended relatives who was a Zimbabwean to come speak some English with me.
We sat, had a few conversations to encourage him to be strong and be encouraged that his mum was in a better place. Ordem who came up with the idea did most of the talking since he spoke better Portuguese than myself. The older relative who was impressed by our visit was preoccupied with our entertainment. We had soft drinks, fresh pineapples and home baked bread. She thanked us for coming and wished me a safe journey whenever I was travelling back to Nigeria.
Delvio had informed us he would be going for a band practice that evening and sensing it was getting late, I motioned the gentlemen it was time to go home. We all left together and at the parting path, I squeezed the little cash gift I had in his hands and was quick to jokingly blame my friends for not knowing the tradition on how to visit a friend who has lost a loved one. Filled with emotions, he thanked us and we went on our way.
Inside the the bus taking us home, there was a funny incident that happened. One of the passengers, a young boy that should be around 25 years of age tried to fool security officers in the bus who checked to confirm each passenger purchased a valid ticket for our trip. They found out he did not and he was given an instant punishment which was to pay for 5 of those tickets or else face prosecution. One other passenger in the vehicle made jokes of the gentleman all through the journey. People seemed to like his jokes. All I could pick from all he was saying was that the young man should be smarter the next time he wanted to play the type of trick he intended to play.
We arrived home late, though before 9pm. We had dinner that evening and then afterwards, went back to our room.