Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The End of The Day in Mozambique

Allan Schwarz tends to Baobab seedlings in his nursery at the Mezimbite Forestry Center, outside of Beira, Mozambique.

Its late in the day, and hot. Hot like only the tropics can get after rain. Daniel, Alan Schwarz's assistant manager at Mezimbite, sits across from me, panting in the heat.

He is hot. He lives here. He is not as hot as me. I have lived in the tropics for more than 15 years, but this is too much. I am used to Namibia, to the dry ridiculous heat of the desert. 128 degrees is not that unknown for me. Today its only a hundred. But the humidity. Daniel keeps saying, in his very limited English, "hoo-meeditay! ...ah!" while fanning himself with his T shirt.

He is the perfect companion for a hot, fly-covered tropical evening. Quiet, good natured, friendly and generous with his coffee and smiles. Portuguese is important here in Mozambique. Vital even. I wish mine was better so I could get to know him better. Daniel is clearly a man to be reckoned with. He is whip strong and commands respect, not only because he is in charge but because he leads from the front, always has a smile and treats everyone as his equal, even a hot, bothered tall American like me. He rises early and has the coffee going long before George the cook arrives in the morning at 7.

Today was the first day of sunshine and no rain. OK, some rain but generally not much, and little enough that I was able to meet and interview some of the people who work here at Mezimbite Forest Products. David (last name withheld) comes from the wrong side of the political chaos in Zimbabwe, and worked there as a carpenter. "I never knew how much it matters that we replace the forest that we are using for our wood and timber" he tells me in good English. "Before I would just use wood, even waste a lot of it," he pauses, and looks a bit sad, scratching his chin, "But here, I have learned that we must replace what we use," as a car drives by and I have to pause the video camera, he brightens, "but now we can even get paid for that too, and its important, because I have seen a lot of forest disappear."

I am surprisingly suffering from something I have just put my finger on, prickly heat. Its painful, and feels like I am sitting on a cactus. I remember hearing about it, and maybe searching back in my memory on a trip to Florida to see my aunt I have had this before. I was a very tempestuous and sickly child, so its not unlikely. But its harmless. It spreads like a rash, and if memory serves me (no internet here) it comes from the pores of the skin, or maybe the nerves, or something, but rest assured it is caused by heat, circulation, and something to do with sweat or the lack of it.

Daniel and I sit back, our feet covered in flies, excellent coffee in our hands, and enjoy each other's company. There are so few moments like this. Make no mistake, this has been one hell of a job, replete with fights, struggles and successes. But sometimes these special quiet times mean more than everything.

Tomorrow I go back to Johannesburg, to my life and my flat and the struggle to make it all work together, but for now we are uncomfortably content, working on something we love, Daniel and I, and hoping against hope that whatever we are doing will be a success.

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