Maputo is a taste I can't put my finger on. It's like a flavor that I've experienced before, but yet at the same time is totally different. It's as awkward on the tongue as my infant-like Portuguese. It's as delicious as the food we're eating as we stay in a home for traveling missionaries. It's as suddenly spicy as the instant my life flashes before my eyes as a chapa speeds around a corner and misses me by inches. It's as sweet as the smiles from my CCM coworkers as they welcome me to my "second home." It's as flavorful as the salty air that bounces in over the fish markets along the banks of the ocean. But yet it's an unfamiliar taste like one that can only get better with time.
Priscila, Stephen and I have just completed our third day bumping around Maputo in a daze of excitement, exhaustion and wonder. I still feel a bit numb from our whirlwind weekend of traveling and all that lead up to our arrival. We flew on two overnight flights in a row to get us from orientation in Akron, to a long layover in London, to a short goodbye to Elise in Johannesburg, and finally to Maputo. But we have made it (even with all of our luggage!), and are staing safe and well-fed under the provision of Casa Koinonia staff.
I still have trouble realizing that I'm actually here. All of my planning and preparation is done, all of my farewells have been said and all of my fundraising is taken care of. Maputo is now my home. And in many ways, I feel that this is a homecoming rather than a new beginning. The headaches that plauged my head before I came have been replaced with the quiet and ever-present nudging that this is exactly where I need to be. The red dirt, the blue water, the green palm trees, the orange trash on the street, the white walls and the brown eyes all remind me of the aching in my heart ever since I left Ghana. This is certainly the beginning of this chapter, but it is not the beginning of the story.
My Portuguese is improving every day (thanks to the lessons from Brazilian Priscila), my jet lag is weaning, I'm more used to traffic coming in the opposite direction and I'm indeed feeling more and more at home. I've discovered bits and pieces about my host family, such as the facts that they were solidified the day before I got here, they have two daughters and they live an hour and a half from Maputo. I'm not thrilled about the three hour daily commute to work, but it will give me a chance to explore the city more and become proficient in the transportation system of chapas, or minibuses.
This afternoon, we spent some time in orientation and reflection at the home of Joel and Jenny, two MCC workers who have taken us under their wings. Jenny challenged us to spend our year seeking the ways that God is moving in Mozambique, even if "kingdom-bringing" looks quite different than what we're used to at home. It reminded me of the passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus talks about Christians' presence in the world, among other things. Don Davis, an occasional guest pastor at Mars Hill, calls us to be the light of the world and salt of the earth in terms of "get your shine on, and bring the flavor." I don't feel very shiny yet in Maputo, but I'm definantly feeling the flavor.