I awake alone in Patrick’s Airbnb property. It is a chilly morning, but ample blankets keep me warm. The owner commutes to Manzini, a city in the center of the country from where Kombis to Mozambique leave every day. He agrees to drop me off at the bus station and help me find my bus. He also takes it upon himself to give me a tour of his country, and we catch glimpses of the King of Swaziland’s Palace, the national archives, and the hills where it is rumored that the nation’s royalty are buried, the grave site protected and kept secret by one Eswati clan over the nation’s history. When we arrive at the station, the last bus has just left, and I am sent away to print out a reservation in Maputo. If I do not come prepared, Mozambican border security have the capability to deny my entrance, though any internet searches tell me that a bribe can get me out of nearly any border jam.
I print my booking and eat a shopping mall lunch of beef ribs before returning to the Kombi. A few people have arrived, but almost all of the bus is still empty, so we wait.
And wait some more.
From 10 am to nearly 5 pm, we wonder if we will even depart that day, until the bus is finally full. I am thankful I don’t have to find a place to stay in Manzini, but a night ride into malarial territory seems equally unappealing. At the border, though I communicate with the guards in Portuguese, no one can explain to me why “10 Years” is not an acceptable answer on the immigration form field asking for my passport’s validity. I end up letting the immigration officer “keep the change” and get my visa processed almost immediately.
Three days of nothing but napping and studying, killing mosquitoes and eating Mozambican burritos leads me to realize there’s something more out there than country-counting and culture-binging. I get an interview request from a tiny school in Micronesia, and tell them I’ll happily interview via Skype. Rebecca, the interviewer, seems excited to talk with me, and confidently says she will recommend me to her boss if I am interested. My only other offers are still in Taiwan and Thailand, places I have already been. In this first teaching job, I want to delve into a completely new culture, and deal with new travel challenges. Micronesia likely being one of the most remote countries, surrounded by hundreds of miles of open ocean, I am tempted to take the job despite the low pay. Fortunately, housing is included, and after talking to both my parents and friends, I accept the job the following morning, actually grateful that I’ll be able to take a break from constant traveling for a little while.
This new decision liberates me, and I find a new desire to discover Maputo. I finally visit the beaches and see some of the many impressive churches in the city. At night I visit an Indian restaurant across the street for a bowl of mushroom mutter and a beer, and befriend some of the regulars there. Among them are businessmen who give me their cards and tell me to call if I get into any trouble in Maputo or need the number of a reasonable taxi fare to the airport. I don’t entirely know if I am going to the airport yet, but I take the card anyway.
The plan was to return to Swaziland and South Africa, see Lesotho, and continue through southern Africa. But, this new job offer and the rigmarole of coming to Maputo via Kombi makes me just want to fly. After all, I will be returning to work in a few weeks, so I should make the most of my freedom by seeing as much as I can, and not wasting time waiting for buses. That night, I buy a ticket to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a flight scheduled to depart the following afternoon. If I am leaving Africa, I sure as hell am going to see the Horn, my most anticipated part of this continent.
On that last day, elections are being held in Mozambique. The results will almost certainly be faked in favor of the incumbent party. My driver is upset, but he voted anyway. I find one place open where I can buy a breakfast of Portuguese pastries before I travel to the airport, jamming to the driver’s unexpectedly bumping playlist. I content myself in the airport to buy short-sleeved, collared shirts for my new career. I realize that where I am going to teach will be hot like this, and short sleeves will be a necessity. I have an arm-tattoo of the world, and I just hope it isn’t one of those “hide your tattoos” establishments. A bright green Mozambican shirt catches my eye and snatch it up before passing through immigration.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.