About 60 kilometres out of Maputo there is a teeny tiny town called Bobole, if you have ever read Lucky Luke, a very accurate comparison is Crazy Town, in fact for years I called it Crazy Town. Bobole is on the only road that links the south to the north of Mozambique, there is no other way to pass from point a to point b, as I said it is tiny and from the road if you are passing through there is nothing but bars, that we call `barracas´ on both sides of the road where mainly truckers stop to drink before reaching Maputo. For years as we passed Bobole on the way to Xai-Xai I paid little to no attention to this tiny spot in Mozambique, a speck of dust that you wipe off your shoulder and is forgotten in a blink.
In general I avoid the news mainly because after watching the news or reading it I feel sick all the way to my soul. Yesterday I was reading about ISIS´s destruction of precious history, monuments, books and scrolls, besides everything else they have been destroying it made me think how terrorists have changed the way I view my surroundings.
And yes, in case you are wondering, this is linked to Bobole, but wait I´m getting there. Terrorism, whether these people are active in my country or not, they forcibly make me look at the world and my own country with different eyes. A few years ago when there was a manhunt going on for Osama Bin Laden, as we drove through Bobole I told my husband that if he were hiding there nobody would ever find him, ever.
About two years ago as we once again approached the teeny insignificant spot on the map, we saw, what at the time was a recently constructed madrassa (for those of you that don´t know a madrassa is an Islamic religious school) and about two kilometres down the road we saw a group of young Muslim men walking in a single file wearing thobes (a long robe worn by Muslim men) and ghutra´s (head scarf), you gotta love google (sorry). Anyway these young men were walking quietly minding their own business with their backpacks in the direction of the recently built madrassa.
Had I seen this scene before Al Qaeda or before ISIS I wouldn´t have paid any attention to this, but sadly I had watched or read the news as horrified as the next person, and whether I wanted to or not I was not be able to look at those young men going about their lives without raising an eyebrow or raising questions. Why on earth would they be out here in the middle of nowhere? Why are they so isolated? Are they terrorists in training?
Why couldn´t I just see those young men for what they probably were, young scholars in a quiet place doing their own thing? That is the problem with reality, once something happens you struggle to look at the world without suspicion. Even though seeing those young men led me to immediately create my own fiction, a story in my head but there is no doubt that it was influenced by the very real threats that I am exposed to every time I watch the news.
As much as I would like to blame this on terrorists alone, the corruption and poverty of Mozambique has a lot of influence in this too. Where the police have little to no means and their salaries are appallingly low, where politicians earn a fortune while the people struggle to make it through each day, in a country where people have so little it is so easy to buy their silence or acceptance, in a country where majority of the people don´t even know that ISIS exists or that there is a threat to peace, they see religion for what it is (or at least should be). In a country where people are more concerned with their daily survival with no access to international news, it is not so far fetched to make assumptions because reality contributes to that.
The point is that more often than not I avoid the news and stick to fiction in my beloved books and I try very hard not to make assumptions just because the opportunity arises.