I was attacked this week. Not badly, I wasn’t hurt much and never had anything taken away from me but I feel violated, exposed, used and invaded – and so, so angry.
I walk just about every morning. I am a morning person and love that time of the day when the whole world is waking up and because there are not many people about, I feel as though I am a discoverer, an explorer. Wherever I have lived or wherever I have visited, I go on early morning walks. I never go the same way two times running and vary each and every journey with an unexpected twist or turn as to my whim. In more remote or unsafe areas, I never wear jewellery, never carry cameras etc and I always carry a stick of some sorts. The stick is mainly to ward off the dogs which often chase me!!
No matter how early you get up in Beira, there are always fishermen out on the ocean trying to earn their living; their wives and often their children as well, waiting for them on the beach, curled up together, asleep under their kapulana cloths if it is still too early and dark and chilly. The fishermen follow the tides. They lay out their nets and leave them for a turn of the tide, then row out in their small canoes, often made from a hollowed out tree trunk and retrieve their, hopefully, laden nets after the tide has turned.
Their wives and families wait on the beach and then clean the nets of the sellable catch, chucking the unwanted jellyfish and other inedible ocean occupants onto the sand. If these can survive until the tide reaches them again then I always hope they make it to live another day, but often I come upon piles of dead and dying jellyfish mixed with crabs which were too small and were left on their backs so could not burrow back into the protecting sand. This angers me as it seem such a waste of life and some days I spend hours trying to return some of their catch back to the sea.
The buckets of small fish and shrimp the wives take to the roadside markets to sell, it is the staple diet in Mozambique. If the tides are low and the sun is right they spread part of their catch out in a patchwork quilt on the beach and leave it to dry before gathering and selling in the markets. From our house we can smell the days when the catch has been good or when the sun is right for drying – the strong smell of ocean fish drying carries inland on the breezes.
Once the sun has risen and the canoes have not yet come in, the women dig for clams along the tide line. Long lines of upturned sand disturbing the glassy smoothness of the tide washed beach. Clams can only be dug in the mornings and must be kept as fresh as possible and they are also sold on the roadsides and in the markets, but only in the mornings. If they are still for sale in the afternoon you know they are no longer edible. Most of the clam sellers boil and eat them themselves by lunch time, which creates another market and roadside business for the ever enterprising peoples of this town.
I get on very well with the fishermen and the women and we greet each other happily as I look over their catches or check what is in their baskets. I have been walking the beach here for four years now and have never felt threatened or had a problem. Every morning is such an exciting experience for me I glory in the happiness.
Occasionally though, I have started taking my camera with me. When I know the tide is going to be out and the beach more interesting, the sunrises and sunsets are so stunning, the scuttling crabs pose so comically, the wave ripples and swirls so beautiful that I just have to try and capture the moment. I take it once in a while and try never to pull it out of my pocket when I am on my own, I normally use it when the beaches have awakened with people.
On Tuesday I took my camera and got some lovely pictures of the crabs and the dawn of the day. I had a lovely walk. My whole day held a feeling of happiness and joy because of my happy experiences of the morning.
On Wednesday I, very stupidly, took my camera again and followed the exact same route as for Tuesday. As soon as I walked onto the beach I felt a bad feeling inside me. I did not feel happy or excited, I felt… wrong.
The beach stretched welcoming and calling. The tide was at its turn and the waves were small gentle ripples in the bronze grey light of the dawn. Beira’s beaches are divided into portions by eroded and wave washed stone and concrete retaining walls called groins. The stretch of beach I was on was deserted but I noticed one other person two groins up from me digging on the beach. As I noticed him I felt the unsettling urge to move back to the road rush through me again. Looking back down the beach in the other direction I noticed about five groins away the fishermen launching canoes and getting ready for their day. The sun was not yet risen so everything was bathed in its pre-dawn bronze gold. It would be ok, I would take my shoes off and walk fast down to where the fishermen were.
Against the unaccustomed displeasure at my surroundings swirling through my body I walked down to the water line and started towards the fishermen. I remember feeling very disjointed and overly aware of everything around me. About half way to where I was heading I turned to see where the other beach walker was and noticed he was walking in the same direction as me and seemed to have gained ground.
At the same time as noticing him I saw the sunrise!! It was beautiful, stunning and orange. The beach was bathed in a rippling blanket of fire. Without thinking I took my camera out and happily clicked away. My intuition practically hit me over the head, but I paid no attention, put my camera back in my pocket and carried on walking. Fast.
I glanced back again and now saw this man running parallel with me, between me and the road. When he saw me looking at him he turned and ran straight for me.
My instinct really took over then and everything slowed down like a disjointed, jerky movie reel. I knew he was coming for me, I knew what he wanted, I knew what he was going to do but I felt absolutely powerless and fear froze me. He came right up to me, right into me space and spoke in Portuguese. I didn’t understand him and realised I had to act as if I wasn’t on my own. I side stepped away from him and pretended to wave and call to someone behind him up on the road. I tried to put space between us as if I had somewhere to go and someone to go to, just glancing at him, smiling and then calling to my imaginery friend. At first he believed me and looking up to the road moved away but just when I thought maybe I would get away he realised what I was doing and came at me again, this time throwing punches and grabbing at my shirt and my breasts. I started screaming!!
I screamed out of fear as I suddenly realised I was in a situation I had no control over. I realised I could get seriously hurt and I realised I had been very stupid not to act on my intuition.
I screamed with all my might, I shouted and then started hitting back. My walking stick is heavy and solid and I beat him as hard as I could on the head and shoulders. I screamed and shouted, beating and pushing and even kicking. Suddenly I realised I wasn’t scared anymore, I was angry. I saw in his eyes that I was hurting him but he was determined to get my camera. My small $30 happy snappy camera!! Somewhere inside me I realised that he was very confused by this unexpected anger and retaliation. He had not expected confrontation, he had expected an easy target. He had not expected the stick, the screaming and then he noticed that my shouts had now brought spectators. This was not what he had wanted. He started moving away, tried to start running, but now I wouldn’t let him go. I was so angry at him for messing up my beautiful morning experience that I was determined to make him suffer. I threw my shoes at him, threw my stick at his head, I chased after him, my adrenalin pushing me. But he made it away.
It took me a long, long time to calm down. I was shaking so much I could no longer stand so just sat down in the sand. My heart was beating very fast and the adrenalin was pumping through me. I sat there calming my breathing, staring out to sea, my whole body was shaking, watching the morning wake up but not noticing.
Slowly I came back to reality and noticed my stick and shoes had been placed beside me on the wet sand. I noticed people walking back and forth around me, but no-one seemed to be paying any attention to me. I could no longer see my attacker but I still felt threatened and very sad. My lovely morning ritual was spoilt, ruined. I would never feel safe doing this again.
Slowly I picked up my stick and shoes and walked back to the road where I sat on the pavement to dust the beach sand off my feet and put my shoes on. I had a half hour walk to get home but I did not feel like doing it. I felt so low and sad and disillusioned. I sat and watched the world go by me, glancing at each person feeling one of them may have been my attacker. Slowly I got up and made my way home but as I walked my disillusionment and fear turned to anger. I arrived home seething with anger. Anger at the man for spoiling my day, anger for missing out on a beautiful morning ritual, anger because I knew it would never be the same again and mostly anger at myself.
I was so angry at myself for not trusting and following my intuition. It was my fault this had happened, I only had myself to blame. The angels, the universe, buddha, the ocean, the earth, everything, had all tried to warn me. That is what intuition is all about, and I had not paid any attention!!
orange & gold