The name Mozambique comes from an Arab trader, Mussa Bin Bique, who first visited the country around the time of Vasco da Gama. It was July 2016 and I was moving from Dhaka to Maputo, Mozambique. That was the moment we embarked on the most unique adventure of our lives.
Exiting the airport gates, it felt like a different world. At first glance, there was the stunning blue sky, unrivalled by any other sky I've ever seen. The fresh, clean air and the light breeze from the Indian Ocean running through my hair. It was crazy to think this would be the place I would call home for the next three years. Maputo was such a unique place with amazing food inspired by the Portuguese, South African, and Indian cuisine. Driving through this coastal city, you can still see the architecture from the Portuguese era. Mozambicans are very warm and hospitable and will always greet you with a smiling "bom dia" (good day).
Mozambique was where I became aware of conservation issues. I learned about the devastating effects of climate change and the simple choices that we can make for a big impact. How the material of your soda bottle, be it glass or plastic, affects the ocean. Maputo being right on the coast, the bay was heavily overfished and the lives of the local fishermen got harder and harder. I also strove to find solutions. With friends, we sold plastic to a company that recycles it into furniture and we used the money from that to donate to a local soup kitchen to help the hungry.
I went on safaris and saw amazing animals, from the majestic lions and the abundant zebras to the giant elephants and rare rhinos. Once after sunset, when we were driving, a lone elephant approached us out of nowhere and our vehicle skidded to a stop. Upon seeing the elephant, fear had grasped me for a second before sheer wonder and respect settled in at the beautiful creature before me. Our guide whispered, "Don't be scared. They are more afraid of you than you are of them." That was such a touching moment for me. How could these giant animals be afraid of us? What could we as humans have done to cause this? The answer is saddening. An estimated one hundred elephants are killed every single day. We stared in awe at these beautiful animals, looking so dignified where they're meant to be, in the wild where they belong and not in zoos for human entertainment.
From our stay, I have learned that there are so many things that we have yet to learn, how diverse and magical the world actually is, and that we have urgent environmental problems that we must work together to match with solutions. I was incredibly sad to leave Africa behind but I was equally excited to meet the new adventures that our new home would bring. My time in Mozambique was truly a memorable one.
The writer is a grade 8 student at British International School Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.