After a night on the plane I feel surprisingly well and energetic. I look at the travel route on the screen map and see we are almost there.
In fact the captain has already announced our descent to Maputo. Again the screen shows us the course taken: a straight line from Lisbon to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Almost eleven hours to get us there but then I remember the sixteen hours it took us back in the seventies to get to Lisbon from Johannesburg; due to apartheid South African Airways planes were not allowed to fly over many African countries so they had to get around the continent. The alternative was of course to fly TAP, the Portuguese airline, that included at least one stop in Luanda.
It has been a good trip. We booked Emergency Exit seats so that we might stretch our legs and it proved to be a wise decision. I read and watched movies and even managed to sleep for about four hours – not bad at all.
Now I look forward to the first impressions. I have many visual memories but it’s been a long time and maybe I have kept some illusions too. Many things will certainly have changed, as they inevitably should. I ask myself, will I recognize the airport surrounding area (not likely); the road that links the airport to the city, of bad memory due to the uprisings of 74 that killed many people; the roads and avenues, the smell of Africa, the Acacia trees, the sky? Or will I be a stranger to my homeland, having lost connection after so many years away? Am I coming back as a tourist or as a daughter who has been away for a long time and now comes to make amends? Will I be emotional and cry or simply feel I don’t belong here anymore?
So many questions and the answers lie below, in the city that I have left forty three years ago with a broken heart and the strong conviction that I would never return. But life always has the last word and here I am, the prodigal daughter returning home, hoping the land will receive me with open arms, as loving parents usually do.
When I set foot on land I believe I would like to do as Pope St John Paul II did every time he visited a new country: he knelt and kissed the ground. Of course I won’t dare but it might be the appropriate thing to do as I set foot on my homeland. However I will certainly let myself be invaded by the heat wave and the smell of Africa as I come out of the plane. And then…I don’t really know how I will cope with the turmoil of emotions.
Anyway, it’s only a question of minutes until I have the answers to all these questions. We are almost there and I have had a first glimpse of the landscape below, a yellowish green land under a stark blue sky.
A few minutes more – the plane has landed and I am really here. I am back in Mozambique!