by Michael Paul
I didn’t know anybody when I got off the plane in Mozambique. I got a teaching job and a chance to travel. After a few weeks of eating in my room, I wanted to take a chance and go out, so I stopped at a club/ restaurant called Bee-bop, not Be-bop the music of Dizzy, Bird, and Thelonious Monk. I met a few people, and started going there every day after school.
Bee-bop was my way into the Mozambican culture with good food and possibly friendship. It was my reward for teaching five classes of business English to classes of 30 to 40 students. This day Bee-bop was cool after walking a half-mile in the afternoon heat. Satyra appeared with a place setting and asked me something in Portuguese. She didn’t seem to remember me.
“Do you have groundnut stew today?
“Yes, sir, every day. You want drink?”
“Cola Nacional, please.”
I looked around the restaurant seeing only a few customers. No Andre, the manager, today. Satyra returned with my order.
“Thank you, Satyra. You have a nice name.” Then she seemed to remember me. “Well, that boy Andre, he don’t say Satyra, he say me Lady Day, Lady Day, who that?”
“She was an American singer. Her real name was Billie Holiday.”
“He say me sad, me Lady Day.”
“She sang sad songs.”
“And she was beautiful.”
“Oooh,” she said again, and she brightened a little before she walked away.
When I finished eating, I waved to Satyra.
“So?” Satyra questioned.
“Excellent, delicious, very hot.”
“So I a sad girl?
“Well, you work hard. You can’t smile all day. Do you have a day off? No work?” I wasn’t sure she understood me, but she smiled.
“No work Sunday.”
“Do you want to go out sometime, you know, a date?” I asked.
“What is ‘date’?” She made a face that was equal parts confusion and contempt.
“You know, go to the movies or dinner, you and me.”
“Oh,” she laughed loudly, “Mozambique women no date. Women have love, hate, marry.”
Now it was I who was confused.
Satyra put her tray down and gathered my plate, utensils, and glass. “Andre, he make me crazy.”
published 3rd September 2014