The sea was an alarming cobalt blue, hinting at shades of azure and turquoise when the sun hit it just right. In all its glory, the sky looked like a drawing from my childhood, with fluffy innocent clouds and careful shading. Yes, the blue-hued background of Pemba, Mozambique was a natural wonder, drawing my eyes, but only for a moment.
“Salaama!” The singsongy voice of children brought my focus back to the foreground. Heaps of trash swelled at the edge of the path and large black flies buzzed lazily about. A thin layer of dust seemed to cover everything within this small community, located at the very edge of a garbage dump within the city. The precious little ones flocked about, eager to hold my hand or play with my hair. The adults were welcoming, but weary, a tiredness evident within their countenance.
I was here, in Africa, to love people. I was here to bring hope, sustainable aid, and lots of hugs. On this bright day full of sunshine, I marveled at the juxtaposition of beauty and suffering. The Indian Ocean was a sight to behold, contrasted by the poverty surrounding me.
I was struck with gratitude. My adventures to natural places are such a gift, one that I am able to enjoy because my immediate needs are not in danger of going unmet. These children bear the marks of malnutrition – swollen bellies, skin blemishes, and tiny frames. They live day-to-day, finding appreciation in a warm, starchy meal or discovering a piece of trash they can turn into treasure. My heart broke for this country and these people.
So I wholeheartedly chose to look at the beautiful faces of those around me. The landscape was awe-inspiring, but I found an even greater wonder within the resourcefulness and kindness of a community that faces challenges I’ll never have to worry about.
I looked down at the kids clinging to my arms. Carefully cupping a small boy’s chin in my hand, I gazed into his eyes. They were an astonishing chestnut brown, hinting at shades of gold when the sun hit them just right.
In all its glory.