October 24, 2012


I am thankful for the little home I have here at Zimpeto. It’s about 23 square feet, a room with a bathroom and an extra little study area in the back. When people walk in, their usual comments are “It’s so peaceful”, “It’s calming”, “It’s whitnov 12 278e”, “It’s so ... you”.

My home has a terracotta-tiled floor, white walls, a high roof (with several leaks but I’m working on that), a cane wardrobe and drawers and the most gorgeous, floaty white mosquito net in existence. I love walking in past the purple aggies near the front door and breathing an “Ah, I’m home” sigh after I’ve been away.

There is plenty of room for my things and me and, if the chairs are strategically arranged, there is also space for three people to sit and chat if one person sits on the bed. Once, I managed to squeeze in a table for a three-person dinner party: flowers, candles, tablecloth, the lot. We had to shift the table as each person sat down and one person couldn’t get to the bathroom all evening, but it was worth it. For one night my bedroom/living room/lounge room/store room became a dining room.

I’m thankful for my little home (the open door on the right, below) and yet, this week, I’m ever so thankful that I’m staying in a “house”. It’s a real house, a house with a kitchen and spare P1190892rooms and a fence and a back yard and a laundry. It is a house whose gates I can lock at the end of the day and know nobody will come knocking on the door at 11pm because “I saw your light on...” This is a house I can wander around rather than step across; a house with a kitchen that I can walk to without needing an umbrella in the wet season.

The kitchen in this house (yes, “in” this house in the literal sense) has hot water steaming through the tap: the only hot water in my kitchen is water we boil on the stove. This kitchen has cupboards and a griller and a fridge big enough for my food. It even has matching crockery – oh my!

The upside to sharing a kitchen with nine people is the variety of companions and conversations on offer at all hours, day and night. It is impossible to be lonely in my kitchen. Every decade from teens to 60s is represented; male, female, married, single, divorced, dating. Each of us has different jobs and timetables, histories, personalities, expectations, dreams for the future. It is a miracle in the making as so many disparate individuals become one pliable, unique, often hilarious, occasionally P1190905messy band.

I am thankful for my kitchen which is grand by Mozambican standards with two fridges, two ovens and two ceiling fans. I’m also thankful for a respite for a week from the constrictions. I am fully expecting the kitchen will split at its concrete block seams and collapse if we try to squeeze in one more chair or plate or fork.

For this one week I have an oven in which I can cook whenever I choose. There is a washing machine all to myself, in a real laundry with a real laundry tub. Even the laundry has hot running water. Again I say, “Oh my!” I don’t have to get up at dawn to dump my clothes in the line-up of piles across the kitchen as we take turns to use the machine. My clothes have never been cleaner than this week: I feel the need to do a load at around 10am every day just because I can.

For about two hours now I have been sitting out the back, enjoying the cool breeze and rumbling clouds as a storm approaches from the south, and not one person has walked past. I’m sure I’ll Mangoes at my doorbegin to crave conversation again in a day or two but, for now, I’m completely at peace with the lack of interaction.

There is so much to be thankful for and, today, I am thankful for my beautiful little home as well as for a house to which I can withdraw for a few days’ rest from the hustle and bustle of regular life.

This week I am thankful for a house and for a home. And I am thankful that a change truly is as good as a holiday.