Sunday, January 9, 2011

Verdant Transformation

I arrived at the Maputo airport on Thursday to pouring rain which, in addition to my hefty luggage, was reason enough to cough up 350 meticais for a taxi to the chapa stop. It has continued raining on and off since I returned. Rain brings cooler weather and it has helped my transition from Maine winter to Mozambican summer. It also brings the landscape to life. The dry, dusty, dun-colored Mozambique that I left has transformed into a verdant paradise.

This morning I went for a run with Rex. Tall flowering grasses had overgrown the school compound and I picked my way through carefully. When we made it out to the rutted muddy back road my skin was speckled with seeds. At 5:30 in the morning the bird songs were raucous. It seemed that every bird I’ve ever seen was out singing and chasing off competitors. It was beautiful and distracting and I kept slipping in the mud, much to the amusement of women walking to the fields.

I started watching my footing and noticed interesting tracks in the mud: small rodents, goats, birds and something that looked like a weasel. A rodent skittered in front of us and Rex followed him into the grass but didn’t make it far through the thick growth. The trees were heavy with fruit and standing water had created an abundance of insects. The tall grass looked like great habitat for birds and rodents alike.

I wondered if snakes were taking advantage of the abundance too. One time I asked someone why most people’s yards are swept dirt. They explained that grass attracts snakes. That rodent running by would be good snake food, so would bird eggs… The more I thought about it the more nervous I got. I’ve been told that black mambas, the most poisonous snake in the world and a common sighting around here, are territorial and if you make the mistake of trespassing they’ll go after you. Looked like prime territory to me.

The snake phobia finally got to me and I turned back early but I won’t let it keep me from venturing out again later with my binoculars, though I think I’ll stick closer to civilization. You don’t see too many snakes near people’s homes because they’ve all been killed. I respect the mamba but I’ll let her have her territory and we’ll have ours.

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