It is inescapable reality that every positive has its negative. The situation of this house, nestled among the sand dunes of Moçambique, within spitting distance of the Indian Ocean, to all intents and purposes is absolute paradise.
One of the attractions of this location is the moderate climate. As we go into early spring and I look back over the past couple of months, if the temperature dared to drop below 16 degrees we all shivered and cried about being banished to Greenland! So what happens come summer? The whales flee southwards to cooler waters and we roast. The beach is too hot to walk on a few hours after sunrise. In February temperatures climb towards the 50 degree mark.
It is at this time that being surrounded by fairy tale dunes becomes a little less idyllic. The reflection of the sun off the sand causes the house to become a sauna. My solution to the problem was to get planting. I found out about the best grass to plant, how to plant it, and began looking for indigenous trees to provide shade. I am not sure if there is anyone else who has attempted to plant a lawn on a beach, but let me tell you it is challenging to say the least.
I am ably assisted in my endeavours by the ever faithful Jaime who you have already met. I say “assisted” with a set look on my face. Jaime is not only imbued with great generosity of spirit, but he also has boundless energy and does not understand the concept or need for patience. He is severely ADD, but as he never went to school he has never been diagnosed as such. Not that I think a diagnosis would make much difference, but an understanding of how to manage him early on might have helped him progress a little further in life.
So, there is no sooner a sheen of moisture on the grass when Jaime darts out from the shade to move the sprayer. The game begins. I hover in the wings, waiting to catch him before he gets there. “Não, Jaime, não”, I call, and crestfallen he turns back, but only to a position where he can see where I am. I no sooner move out of sight than he again shoots forward to grab the sprayer.
He is indefatigable in his determination to water all the plants as expediently as possible. After an hour or less of this I am exhausted! I have dubbed Jaime “The Duracell Man”, stolen from an advert which shows toy bunnies wound up and running around, but one by one they all fall over as their batteries run out, until only the bunny with Duracell batteries is still up and running. The name has stuck and continues to be true of the man.
The wind can come up at any hour of the night, and Jaime will be there to rescue cushions and get chairs to safety. Let one car onto the sand, and Jaime will be there to eradicate its tracks with his rake. Guests arrive; Jaime’s head will pop up from his room under the house to check who they are, making sure they are friend and not foe, and greet them.
You may be wondering what the downside is of someone who displays so many positive attributes, and sadly there is a downside. I have come across this trait before in those who have been denied the basic right of education that so many of us take for granted. I’m not sure about other cultures, but here in Africa we tend to equate a lack of education with a lack of mental acuity. To be blunt, we regard anyone who is not educated as being unintelligent.
Have you ever noticed that people frequently become how they are adjudged to be? For someone like Jaime, it seems it is easy for him to behave as though he is unintelligent, because that is how he has been treated all his life. He has learnt that it doesn’t matter when he does things incorrectly: he will be excused because he does not “know any better”. This is not true. His ignorance is only with regard to learning as we know it, not with his ability to observe or reason.
Many, like Jaime, are quite obstinate in their ignorance, unwilling to change or progress. But I am not prepared to leave him like that. I am determined to prove my own theory that with patience an uneducated person can be encouraged to use their brain. Slowly, I am getting through to him, and slowly he is responding.
My reward is the huge smile that broke out the other day as he finally understood how to get the garden sprayer to spray where he wanted it to, instead of being filled with abject misery when it kept watering the deck instead of the garden!
©GMS September 2012