Tag Archives: mozambique

M Is For Mozambique (Nostalgia)

Mozambique, the land of my birth still evokes tightening of the heartstrings whenever I visit. It’s been too long…and I feel the call again. Here are some pics of some of my favourite locales…making me feel so nostalgic…

Considered one of the world’s most beautiful train stations, the historic Maputo Railway Station (Estação Central dos Caminhos de Ferro) connects Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. My great-grandfather was once its Station Master.

In 2009, the American magazine Newsweek ranked the station #7 on a list of "Train stations as grand as the journey", and described it as "probably" the most beautiful terminus in Africa. In 2011, the American travel magazine Travel + Leisure included it in a list of the world's 14 most beautiful railway stations. In 2016, the station was included on a list of nine beautiful train stations published by The Financial Express, an Indian business newspaper. (Source)
Isn’t it beautiful? The historic Maputo Railway Station (Estação Central dos Caminhos de Ferro) – it connects Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Considered one of the world’s most beautiful train station buildings, my grandfather was once its Station Master.
©2018 Regina Martins

It was inspired by the original old central terminus in Johannesburg, but much grander. The original wooden revolving doorway into the train station, beautifully preserved.

Original wood revolving doorway into the train station, beautifully preserved.
©2018 Regina Martins

People and vehicles disembarking the ferry from Maputo to Catembe – this is the Catembe side. The ride takes about 15-20 minutes.

Disembarking from the ferry from Maputo to Catembe – this is the Catembe side
©2018 Regina Martins

Beautiful panoramic view of the city, as viewed from Catembe.

Beautiful panorama of Maputo
©2018 Regina Martins

Panorama of Maputo from Catembe, providing a good view of the Polana area.

Panorama of Maputo from Catembe, good view of the Polana area
©2018 Regina Martins

A popular venue for weddings is the iconic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Maputo, the pristine white of its facade blinding when the days are bright.

Many a wedding takes place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Maputo
©2018 Regina Martins

Maputo is a mere 45-minute flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg making it easy to reach this popular tourist destination, and the gateway to the rest of the attractions in Mozambique, from beaches of white sands and azure waters to diving coral reefs to safaris at its many game parks.

I hope that you will visit it one day.

 

Writing 101 Day 4: Story of Loss – Menino Candulo Senhor Comandante

Day 4’s assignment is to write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

This post is not coming easily to me. Almost a year ago my Uncle Guilherme passed away. Last night my Aunt Salome died. When my Uncle passed on my Aunt honoured his memory on her Facebook page. Today many of her friends are honouring her memory on her Facebook page. They were not related as they came from different sides of the family.

Both loved books. My Uncle wrote books in Portuguese which were translated into other languages. My Aunt adored books and read in many different languages. Both were children of Mozambique.

In April of 1974 my Uncle, Guilherme de Melo wrote a book called “Menino Candulo Senhor Comandante”. This is the translation of his dedication page:

“Everything in life has an explanation. A why.

The why of this book then – it is for the little people, but one which adults can also read – simple.

It happened that, one day, I arrived at the family home for dinner, like all human beings, citizens or not – naturally do. My young great-nieces were playing with each other. The youngest, almost five years old, busied herself with colouring-in books. The eldest read fables with fairies and dragons – she was a playful eight year and in the third grade. My Mom, great-grandmother to both little girls, was very proud of her gifts which she loved telling visitors to the house about.

“Tio, why don’t you write a story for us?” the eldest asked me with a serious look on her face as soon as she saw me enter the house.

“But you’ve got so many books already with which you can entertain yourself and read aloud to your sister. ” I objected.

With a petulant expression on her face she said, “Oh! I’ve read them all. And the books Granny brings me all tell the same stories – princesses, witches, giants and the big bad wolf…But why is it that there are no stories for children that take place in THIS country Tio…?

They actually do. That same morning, the newspaper where I work had run such a story, a small insert sent from the correspondent in Vila Cabral:

“Five children from the area of the Luissa village, some 20 kilometres from Vila Cabral presented themselves to the Portuguese authorities. They had been kidnapped by Frelimo last May, together with a group of men and women. Candulo Bonomar, 11 years old, Anete Anjida e Lua Uinasi, both 9 years old, Adaima Aide, 6 years old and Abide Bara, were taken to Tanzania, where, on the northern banks of the Rovuma River, the kidnappers separated the adults from the children. The children and adults – it is not clear how many there were – were taken to the so-called “Escola do Macheje”. Candulo Bonomar planned an escape, telling his four friends about it. Under the pretense of going down to the river to wash their clothes, they made their escape. After walking through the bush for many days they came upon a Portuguese military patrol who took them to Pauila, and then to Macaloje. They were finally transported to Vila Cabral and Luissa where they are now.”

Newspapers sizzled with this news.

From which this book happened.

For all the children of my country to read. And the adults to meditate on it.”

My Aunt’s free-spiritness is something I will always remember and be inspired by.

My Uncle, Guilherme de Melo is the reason I write!

Notes:
"Tio" is Portuguese for "Uncle".
The country is Mozambique, until 1974 a colony of Portugal.
A violent war was waged for many years, mainly contained in the north of the country.
Frelimo was the liberation movement.
Mozambique is now a democracy.
Frelimo is the current party in government.
Vila Cabral, Pauila, Macaloje, Luissa are all towns in Mozambique.
I haven’t been able to get information on the Escola do Macheje which I assume was infamous.
I don’t know what became of Candulo Bonomar and his 4 friends.

A paucity of information on my Uncle exists on the web - I guess it is up to me to right this.

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The day I left

The then present

Kneeling on the back seat of the taxi, I looked at the diminishing form of my grandmother, weeping on the hot concrete pavement. She was staying behind. Not coming with us.

Framed by the rectangular back window of the taxi, I watched my grandmother becoming smaller and smaller. She disappeared as the taxi rounded the corner and it was then that her memory started to become bigger and bigger in my heart. That’s all I had left of her. She became larger than life – the one whose cool touch would no longer soothe my fevered brow, whose reassuring voice would no longer tell me real bedtime stories from her life, who would no longer teach me to sew or crochet, and who would never again pick me up when I fell on the concrete pavement in front of our house.

The rest of that day was a blur, me a bit player, following and doing what I was told. Arriving at the airport, I remember white gloved security officials searching through our bags before allowing us to pass through to the boarding area. I remembering feeling afraid of not being allowed to pass through, of not being able to join my Dad waiting for us in a strange land,  of being left behind. We were on our way to a new country, a new home, a new language, new friends, new everything.

Plucked from everything familiar, I knew anxiety and fear for the first time in my life. I spent the entire flight being sick. Arriving on the other side, my Dad was the first face I saw when we came out the sliding doors to the waiting area. He’d positioned himself right at the front, and I remember his gentle relieved smile full of love as he saw us for the first time in many weeks.

The then past

I should have suspected something was afoot when my grandmother had asked me, a few weeks before, how I would feel about moving to a new country.

“I don’t want to go” I remember saying, “English has a different alphabet, how am I going to learn?”

I don’t remember much more about that conversation. I don’t remember the process of packing in my house. I don’t remember saying goodbye to my neighbours and friends. I don’t remember saying goodbye to my nanny since birth, Eliza, or our cook, Armando, who used to make special dishes for me, lightly spiced, so that I would gradually get used to eating hot food. I don’t even remember saying goodbye to my uncle and my aunt and my great-grandmother. All I remember is my grandmother making new dresses, for me and my sister, in her little sewing room under the stairs. The room I loved to hide in, escape from homework, to spend time watching her making beautiful clothes.

The then future

Even though I was with my Mom, Dad, sister and brother in the new country, I later came to realise that overriding the fear and anxiety on that day, the 25th October 1974, was a sense of abandonment. Even though I had moved forward to a new life, I had left a part of me behind, in the land of my birth. I had left a part of me behind in that house in front of the hospital, in the little sewing room under the stairs, on the concrete pavements where I had played hopscotch and skipped with my friends.  The large extended and close-knit family of my initial years was gone, involuntarily split forever on that day.

To my 9 year old mind that was as bad as it got. Trying to make sense of that single defining moment, for decades I marked the day in my mind – it became a count-up to the number of years spent in my adopted country and the number of years apart from my grandmother. I stopped counting in the year that she died – 2008.

The now future

The story narrated above was not unique. It played out in many families at the time in the land of my birth. It is still being played out, as you’re reading this, in countries and families too many to count without feeling a sense of desolation. 

And as I often relive the memories of my Grandmother and of the country of my birth, I am reminded of something Marcel Proust, author of the French novel “À la recherche du temps perdu” (“In Search of Lost Time) said:

In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer!
 - Marcel Proust