Sitting in a greasy spoon in Chokwe town on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.

The Sugestoes do Chefe are posted on a blackboard in a corner of the bar. Some of the suggestions are not available in this establishment today… Fish is not available. Vegetables also seemed to incur some surprise!

I’ve chosen the soup and chips… Patates con? asked the barman. Con frango? Biefe? No thanks, I’ll have chips with Soup… really? Me no lave mova… I don’t want meat, I said in something approaching Shangana. Just chips and vegetables if you have them… So I got soup with meat bones, beef and chicken seemed to form most of the stock.

I ordered a beer along with the soup and chips, a Laurentina Preta. A gorgeous sweet, malty stout-like drink, with a light head. It’s refreshing and malty and tastes like a pint of pure goodness. It doesn’t have the heaviness of Guinness, but at first glance it could fool you.

This morning I helped out at a WASH distribution in Canicado, a town just across the Limpopo river in Guija district. Canicado was badly affected by the floods, having over 2 metres of water wash through their homes. My colleague, Rosianto, distributed buckets, soap and Certeza water treatment there today to 120 families. I threw in 120 mosquito nets from the shelter stock.

Just as well for me as for the families! I had them in the bedroom in the hotel with me last night, and although I can now be quite grateful for the sheer absence of mosquitos in my room, I feel sure the amount of insecticide in the nets in the confined space contributed to me feeling quite queasy this morning…

It was interesting being at the WASH distribution, it’s really different to how our Shelter distributions are done. Rosianto explained to people how to wash their hands properly and how to use Certeza correctly. With the Shelter items, most people know how to use a tarp well and just want the material as fast as possible. We could spend more time explaining the use and possible home improvements, but I think that this is pretty redundant in most cases. I’ve seen some pretty impressive shelters people have built with the tarps we’ve given them. We’ll be working with a team of local builders to spread messages in the community of how to locate your building better to avoid or reduce flood damage, and what kind of improvements you can do to your house to render it more resilient to risks of flood, earthquake, high winds etc. etc.

At the distribution, I marked people’s thumbnail with blue permanent marker to show they had received something, and then handed them the bucket with soap, certeza and mosquito net. I find it really nice doing that work. You look into people’s faces and eyes and see part of their story. You see old women and young children, blaggards, and gangsters, people who have worked too hard at life, all their lives. Women with infants on their backs, young girls with dreams still alive in their eyes. Old men with clouded eyes but peaceful demeanors. Young boys with cheek and devilment and fun in every movement of their bodies, ready for life and excitement. Old women worn out by working on farms and in houses for little or nothing and seeing all they have earned washed away in one night. Still light in their eyes and tranquility in their faces. I hope I can be somebody like that. I hope that I don’t let bitterness fester in me and shrivel up and die instead of taking every little drop of life and enjoying every bit of goodness.

So now, I’m just chilling, drinking my Preta and wondering what to do for the rest of the day, at least until I meet up with guys from the Red Cross later on to discuss our plans for the next couple of days.

All is good, apart from a niggling little cough I have as a result of the AC in the car and the hotel room. I hate AC, but Chokwe has been insanely hot over the last few days. It’s humid and paradoxically sandy as well! I guess people are just relieved that there are no longer 2 metres of water everywhere, like there was just 2 weeks ago!

Business in Chokwe is back to almost usual, shops are open, hotels are open. The Galp petrol station was back open and running and serving the best espresso this far North of Macia. It hasn’t been open for the past 3 days and I was getting itchy from my caffeine addiction, so I asked what had happened, why was the station closed? I was told the owner had been shot dead in a robbery on Thursday evening or so. He was at home, I think, and somebody came for him and his money. Now he’s dead. I’m not sure if they got any money off him.

Like any other place where people are poor, life is relatively cheap. But despite that, I don’t feel in any danger in Chokwe, at least not in daylight hours. The night is another story. It’s strange how night changes the personality of a place, provides places for opportunists to hide and run away. Let them run, let them hide. We’ll enjoy what we can.

Even the three flies in my Preta don’t bother me!

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