Sometime last week, the sun decided to reclaim its identity as a blazing ball of fire. Mozambicans everywhere took cover. Market vendors became mobile, carrying their stands and products as they trailed the ambulant shade. Many cut their work days short, took extra showers, opened their windows, but it was no use. Asphalt melted. A fresh bottle of water turned tepid in the time it took to unscrew the cap and place it on my lips. Five minutes later it was undrinkable. The hot wind blew into the city like a hair dryer you couldn’t escape from.
And so it was that I found myself dehydrated and strapped to an IV at a Maputo hospital, staring up at the florescent light bulbs as a patient next to me roared in pain, wondering, for the millionth time, what in the world I am doing here.
Living in Mozambique is like a constant game of fear factor. Every week, I have to face up to some longstanding fear. Shootings, riots, mudbaths full of lizards, flying cockroaches nesting on my pillow, power outages, tiny planes in violent thunder storms. Sometimes they all combine into one super episode. Last week in Durban, I walked into my deserted lakeside cabin to find thousands of flying ants, insects the size of butterflies. This time of year, they gather around any light source, mate and die right away. There they were, mating and dying all over my bed. There were so many I couldn’t see to the other side of the room. My only option was to wait outside where hundreds of frogs were croaking in anticipation of their dinner, head up a pitch-black hill, my flashlight hidden as to not attract the flying aunts, to the public bathroom, where I took a shower in standing water.
This week it was my fear of needles. I’m so terrified of needles that I’ve never given blood. Until this year, doctors would still take samples from my finger. I’ve befriended countless nurses through the air-tight hugs I give them while their colleagues take my blood.
But suddenly, here I was, all alone, in a hospital with a nurse, Preciosa, who had no time to hug me, let alone put my IV in properly. She tried for 10 minutes to dig and twist the needle into my arm with no success. When she pulled it out blood spewed all over the sheets. She absentmindedly reached for a few paper towels and dapped them on my arm.
When she asked to try my other arm, I refused. “No no, I’m fine. I’m just going to go home now and just drink some of my hot bottled water, its fine.” But Preciosa wouldn't have it. She did let me cry for about 20 minutes before coming back in and saying, “Ok, enough is enough. You are going to have to be brave.” And she dug the needle in once again.