It has been a week almost to the hour since we arrived in Mozambique. It has been a hectic but wonderful time and we’re ready to start back at “work” on Monday. So many things have gone right this week – it is really quite bizarre! We’ve got plenty of photos and videos to come of our new house and our new home out here in Massangulo but today, it’s just words. So if you’re up for a bit of a long read of how the week went… maybe go make yourself a cuppa first and settle in.
As well as getting our Mozambican visas, we spent a fair bit of time in Johannesburg shopping. I really hate shopping, especially in unfamiliar places, but there are some things you just can’t get in Lichinga and so it’s always worth it! The second last day we were there, the boys had asked me to go to Builder’s Warehouse to grab some hinges and padlocks. We left in peak hour Joburg traffic and took the wrong side of the fork on a turn off and travelled for a while in the wrong direction but eventually we made it! The hinges weren’t too hard to find but they didn’t have the padlocks we were after. I rang Cam and explained that I couldn’t find what he wanted – was there any chance he could get them in Blantyre? He rang the hardware store there and they said yes but of course when he arrived, they didn’t actually have them. So began a day long search for someone in Joburg who could supply padlocks before we left the next morning.
While we were there shopping, Cam was in Malawi waiting to pick up our freight and getting new tyres and shock absorbers on the car. While he waited for that to be done, he rang as many places in Joburg as he could looking for the padlocks we needed. Meanwhile, the kids were utterly tired of shopping. I’d promised them that we were only going to Builders Warehouse and one other shop and then we could go to the Lion Park! The other shop we went to was a bit of a disaster! It was in the middle of renovations, a complete mess and had no water so the toilets were terrible! But we found one thing that we needed and made our way safely back to the car.
From there, we went on to the Lion Park. We had such a great time there getting to pat lion cubs and driving through all of the different enclosures. In the cheetah enclosure, we’d stopped behind a safari bus full of people who were watching one of the cheetahs. He must have been a bit spooked by them and seeking higher ground because he decided to jump up on to the roof of our hire car! The kids thought it was awesome! We couldn’t see a thing but all of the people in the bus seemed to enjoy it! After a while, one of the workers came in a ute and encouraged the cheetah to hop down and we were on our way.
While we were at the park, Cam rang to say that he had found someone who could supply the padlocks but that I would have to be there by 3pm at the very latest to pick them up. There was just no way that we were going to make it unless we left the park without seeing the lions which was not going to be a popular decision with the kids. So I told Cam sorry but we couldn’t get them and he tried to find another way. Not long after, he rang back to say that the lock man would come to our hotel at 630am the next day to drop off the padlocks before we left at 7 for our flight to Malawi! One part of me was thinking that was a wonderful idea, the other part was thinking he probably wouldn’t show up… there’s something about this place that turns you into a bit of a pessimist.
When we woke up the next morning, we packed all of our bags into the car. We’d started out with 10 suitcases – the absolute maximum you can have with South African Airways (they have a pretty generous allowance of 2 bags of 23kg each!). But after a bit more shopping and knowing that padlocks would add to our weight which was already teetering on the edge… we bought another bag. I had heard that our colleague from Malawi would be on the same flight as us but I’d been trying for a few days to contact her without any luck. I was hoping that she would be able to take an extra bag back with her!
So with the bags piled high in our hire car (it was a mini-van… just to fit the luggage) – we went around to have breakfast. Sitting there in the lounge room was the lock man! He had arrived early so that he wouldn’t make us late for our flight and had everything we needed. It was the start of a day filled with small miracles!
We finished breakfast, handed in our keys and piled into the car to head to the airport. When we arrived back at the car hire place, I parked and went to ask someone if where I’d put the car was ok. The Budget man I found said I wasn’t really in the right place but it would be ok. He then took a look at the van and seeing the bags piled up to the roof in back, offered to drive us up to the terminal door! Hallelujah – I’m not sure how we would have managed that many bags. Speaking of which, I’m not sure how I would have managed any of the trip without Stephanie! But even with the two of us and Jack pushing a trolley it was a bit of a struggle so we were glad for the man’s kind offer.
We found our check in counter and made our way to the front of the line. Just as I was starting the check in process, Stephanie pointed out Mel walking towards us like an angel with her two boys and just one bag each to check in! Another miracle! After a quick catch up, Mel agreed to take our extra bag and then we all journeyed together from that point on. Jack was stoked to see his mates after so long and it’s always good to have friendly company away from home.
I’d been told at the check in desk that I was supposed to have a copy of Cam’s passport with me (travelling with your kids and only one parent is a bit complicated in South Africa). I didn’t have it but the lady told me that if I first apologised to the immigration people and then showed them a copy on my phone, it would be ok. Phew! Not sure what the back up plan there was… leave the kids? So we hopped in the line for security and immigration and made our way about half way to the front before we realised we were in the complete wrong part of the airport. We finally found our way to the right section, made it through security and through immigration without even a question about any of our documents, let alone Cam’s passport copy.
The flight to Malawi was uneventful but when we arrived at the airport, the line for visas was ginormous! Of course, after filling in four forms, we were at the back of that ginormous line… settling in for a long wait. Mel had made it through the line already and very kindly retrieved all of our luggage off the carousels and put it together on the trolleys waiting for us on the other side of immigration. After about half an our, Sydney hurt herself somehow and started crying which worked in our favour. Shortly after, an immigration man came and took all of our passports to the front of the line to process our visas! Another little miracle! It still took quite a while but we were thankful for the help. While all of that happened, Cam managed to talk his way into the baggage collection area and took all of bags and loaded them into the car (that wouldn’t happen at Perth International!)
We left Malawi straight away, hoping to arrive at the border with Mozambique before it closed at 6pm. The trip went pretty smoothly, we made it across the border at Malawi and then arrived in Mandimba to find one of our old mates working at the border post that day. He was pretty stoked to see us all and none of us had any problems getting in to Mozambique. There was a little bit of a hiccup when they noticed that Matilda hadn’t been stamped out of Malawi but a quick trip back to the Malawian border (5 mins away) fixed that up. I know the getting into Mozambique thing probably doesn’t sound like a big deal seeing as we all had valid visas and all… but so did Ben and Sam a few years ago and they spent over a year waiting in Malawi! So in our minds… it was another little miracle!
The trip to Massangulo went
smoothly… ok so it was smooth as in nothing disastrous happened but the road is TERRIBLE at the moment and it was dark by this stage so it’s pretty torturous even when it goes well! (Check out the super dodgy video below if you want to get a real feel for it) Nevertheless we arrived safely in Massangulo to our incredible new home full of all of our boxes ready to unpack and settle in. Which reminds me of another miracle! While Cam was waiting to pick us up from the airport, Jonno had gone to collect all of our boxes from another part of the airport to take them back to Mozambique for us. They had all arrived, intact, got processed through customs with no problems and he was able to take them across the border without having to open a single one! Amazing!
The first night in our house was great – we all slept pretty well! We spent Sunday trying to unpack as much as possible and start working on some of the finishing touches. We found a few little issues… a broken hot water system and no power to some of the power points but on the whole – everything was incredible! Jonny has done such an amazing job! We’re feeling so blessed. By the end of Sunday we were absolutely stuffed but the house looked pretty great!
On Monday morning we headed off to Lichinga (about 1 1/2 hours away) to go in to immigration and get our DIREs. So DIREs are different from visas. You need the visa to get into the country in the first place but then once you’re here, you have to apply for a DIRE which is a year long residency permit. We have to renew them every year (as many of you know, it’s been a drama almost every time!) Knowing that Cam had already done his, I was hopeful that our process would go pretty smoothly but you just never know. It took all morning but we got there in the end. We all have our DIRE receipts… the actual cards take months to come. We also presented Stephanie – just to let them know she’s here.
After so many things going right, and not just right, but incredibly smoothly… even I started to wonder what on earth we were so worried about. So I don’t blame you if you’re back in Australia wondering what we’ve been making such a big deal of all this time! But then I went and chatted to a friend of mine in Lichinga. She’s been here for ages so she knows the system well. I don’t get to chat to her often but it seems every time I do, she has something wise and profound to say. She said it was miraculous that it had all gone so smoothly and if ever there was a sign from God that we are supposed to be here – that was it!
With DIRE receipts in hand and ignoring all the shopping I was supposed to be doing… I headed out to visit as many of my friends as possible. I arrived at Dayana’s house just as she was walking someone out of the yard – I think we both had ridiculously big grins on our faces as we greeted each other, I hugged her kids and then we sat down to have a chat just like no time had passed at all. Those are the best friendships! After that I dropped in to see my friend Ania who was also pretty stoked to see me it seemed. It was just so great to sit with her and catch up on all that had happened since we’d been apart. She was happy that I still understood a bit of Chiyawo! After staying for a while I walked back through familiar little laneways, my heart singing, happy to be home.
We had an amazing dinner at the Cranes place on Monday night with our whole team and then on Tuesday after some more shopping, buying a replacement fridge, trying to sort out our internet connection and many more visits… we headed back to Massangulo. We’ve spent our time since then getting the house set up – putting up towel rails and curtains, cleaning and properly unpacking. Cam has managed to fix both the electrical outlets and the hot water system! Stephanie has worked her guts out setting up the school room and she’s all ready to start on Monday with the kids!
Steph and I went for a walk into town and met some of our new neighbours. Even that was successful – we found a car servicing pit for Cam to use if he wants. We found out that the big markets are on each Wednesday. We found a place where we can buy fresh bread – you just have to arrive at 6am to beat the crowds!
If we don’t learn Chiyawo pretty quickly out here then there’s something wrong because pretty much no-one speaks Portuguese. My technique of nod and smile seems to be working ok for the most part but it probably won’t cut it for long! Great motivation!
The kids are really happy. They’re loving the new house and having lots of space. They’ve been helping out a lot setting up and getting back into old routines. Sydney is counting down the days until school starts… Monday for us. Jack went with Cam into Lichinga last night so that he could go to Youth Group (10 years +) for the first time. He loved it! One of his best mates is coming to stay for a few days soon while his parents go to Malawi! Tilly is madly making plans for her birthday in June… we might have to do a trip to Zomba.
Life is good!