Upon my arrival in Beira I was given several safety warnings: Be home by dark. Don’t talk or text on your cell phone in public. Never carry money or a phone in your pocket. When you get on a chapa (public mini-bus) carry your backpack in front. Always watch your bag. Be careful taking a camera out in public (and don’t do it at all in crowded places). Be careful walking away from an ATM machine. Especially be careful during December because that’s when thieves are most active (to get Christmas presents).
Essentially what these were all telling me was to be absolutely paranoid at all times. And so I have been. It seems that I may avoid mugging, but apparently there is no way to avoid theft. I’ve already been robbed twice. Both times in my host family’s house.
The first time was a few weeks ago. I discovered a pair of jeans and several pairs of earrings missing from my locked room on the Friday afternoon. After an awkward weekend with my host family – the parents feeling much shame after they had assured me their house was secure, and me not trusting their niece or empregado (house help) who were the only two suspects and whom I had quite liked up until then – my jeans were found on my bed with the earrings in one of the pockets on the Monday afternoon. Forgiveness was expressed (although who accepted it I still do not know) and trust renewed. Expat friends who had said I should keep my eyes open for my jeans in the market rejoiced with me and said it was unheard of for stolen items to be returned.
Again I was robbed yesterday. I discovered a pair of pants missing as I was packing to leave my host family. It was not how I wanted to leave my family – me feeling violated and untrusting again and them feeling even more shame that this is how they had treated a guest. Amazingly, after a couple hours of conversation in the kitchen and then in the living room with the couple from Oasis who came to pick me up (and help me communicate!), I went into my room to collect my bags and noticed that the pants had been thrown back in, filthy from having been hidden under or behind something dirty, but returned nonetheless. So my departure ended with smiles.
I still feel positively about this family and look forward to continuing the relationship with them through regular visits. I am also learning to be less attached to material possessions here. An American friend here said, “You learn to hang onto things in Mozambique like this,” as she opened and closed her hands.
(On a related note of thievery, the other day I was walking through a market and noticed a pair of Keens for sale. They looked about my size, and I almost stopped to check them out. At a Mozambican market, surely they wouldn’t have cost more than $8 or $10. But I stopped myself wondering which American missionary or NGO worker they had been stolen from.)