We had a lot of goodbyes over the last few weeks in Nampula. Missionary friends, expat friends, teachers at the school, people at our church, pets, neighbors. We tried to plan as many of them as possible: “We’ll say goodbye to these three people at the school event; we must plan dinner with X and her family. Let’s be sure to stop by the corner a say bye to the fruit merchant, and don’t forget to call Y and wish them well before we go.” This went on for weeks and weeks! It was important to not offend anyone by forgetting them, and there were many dear faces we needed to see one more time.
The morning we left, the kids moved around restlessly, packing and repacking their backpacks with the few items they were bringing along. As people stopped by the house to say goodbye to me, I rushed to get ready to go, pulling my wet hair into a ponytail and shoving the last items in my carry-on bag. Then it was time to get in the car and all I could think was, “I’m not ready!” The kids took a few minutes to say goodbye to the dogs, but I went straight to the car – I couldn’t cope with any more farewells at the moment. It felt surreal.
At the airport, several of the monitors came to see us off, which was a sacrifice on their part because they had to walk a long distance, or get off work, or walk on a painful knee. Someone’s cousin drove them to the airport in his taxi and we stood around not knowing what to say, knowing that each of us was going to experience a great many things before we met again. There were hearty handshakes, a circled prayer, and waves as we went in to immigration control.
There we fumbled for documents, needing to have letters of exit stamped and dated. We didn’t dare have a mistake made, or our return might be very difficult and expensive. Finally all the paperwork was done and we went on through security, to be asked for one final bribe for the cash we carried legally. We laughed – this is Mozambique!!
The plane was a hour late in arriving and leaving, but when we finally walked out on the tarmac to board, each of these dear friends was still standing at the rail above us, waving with big smiles. I remember when we left on furlough five years ago – there was one solitary Mozambican waving goodbye to us. What a joy to see the faces of these men – who will carry on the work this year and make the program truly local-run.
Settling into the little plane, we watched the earth fall away; knowing that the sight of the little mud houses out the window is one we won’t see for a long time. What a shock it was to land in Johannesburg, with superhighways and towering office buildings and huge malls! I feel such a sense of dislocation sometimes as I think of the sights we saw every day in Mozambique, and compare them to what I see out the car window here in the USA, a feeling that somehow I belong there, yet slipping so easily into living here. -C