After taking a gap year, I was determined to go to Africa to do volunteer work. After a lot of research, I found a perfect company (All Out Africa) that offered a six-week program where you would visit three countries. I applied and before I knew it, I was on the airplane on my way to my new adventure!
The schedule of the program was the first week to Kruger park, after that we had two weeks of volunteer work at a NCP (Nursery Care Point) in Swaziland. Teaching the kids the basics of the English language, preparing food for them and of course a lot of playing outside and showing love. The fourth week was a party week on the most beautiful beach of Africa, Tofo Beach in Mozambique. And the fifth and sixth week were again teaching in Swaziland. The most amazing trip, recommend it to everyone who is thinking of doing volunteer work!
During our fourth week in Mozambique, we had some awesome activities planned for us. One of them was on a Wednesday, the ocean safari. This means you go on a boat out on the ocean looking for whale shark, dolphins etc. Once you see one, you get your snorkel and you jump in the water to swim with them. I was extremely scared of boats and the ocean, but when do you get the opportunity again to go on Ocean safari in Mozambique?! So of course, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and went with the group on ocean safari.
During our two-hour boat trip, I had a lot of eye contact with the skipper (driver of the boat). One of my group members asked me “do you know him? What is that between you two?” but I was just too busy with holding myself tight to the boat, making sure I would survive..! So I was not really that busy with what that might be. The only I do remember that I thought was that he was too cute for me, so I had no chance.
Wednesday evening we had a party at Bamboozi Beach Lodge where we stayed. It was an open party, so everybody was welcome to come and join. It was amazing, with a live band, live performance of dancers. It was perfect.
The skipper was also there. But I just really did not know what to do with him. He tried to talk to me, tried to get contact with me but I was just really too shy. He didn’t give up.
The next day we didn’t see him, and also Friday not. So I was kinda bumped about that, because I did really like him, I was just too shy to say so.
Friday evening was our final evening, because that night (04:00am on Saturday) we had to get in the bus back to Swaziland. So it was or sleeping all night, and get in the bus, or party all night and sleep in the bus. You can already guess, nobody went to sleep.
One of the best places to party in Tofo is Dino’s. This is a beach bar where they play awesome music and the vibe is super chill. Tourist and locals party here together, which makes it even nicer.
In the back of my mind I was truly hoping that the skipper would come, because I also still didn’t know his name. After a few hours, he and his friends finally showed up. I couldn’t be happier. He bought me a drink, and finally introduced himself to me. His name is Ino. We had an amazing time at Dino’s. We danced, laughed, kissed and just had a blast. All my group members had an amazing time. Around 03:30am we had to walk back to the lodge, this was still a 20-minute walk over the beach.
Ino walked me back. Along the way we talked, kissed, laughed, holding hands, it was just perfect. When we had to say goodbye, he gave me his number. And then we really had to say goodbye. He gave me a ring, which I had to give back to him when I would come back. This was just the sweetest thing ever. Sometimes you meet people, who give you the feeling you have known them already your whole life and you just continue where you left off. This is the feeling we had together. As if we knew each other already, before we met for the first time.
Back in Swaziland, I tried to call the number that he gave me. It didn’t work. The whole time it gave me an error. I showed one of the organization people the number and they said that I was missing a number… So I didn’t have his full phone number. I was bumped… What now?! How would I ever come in contact with him again?
The next group of volunteers went to Mozambique first and then the fourth week they would go to Kruger Park. I asked Bob (one of the tour guides) if he could give a note to Ino from me. He said it was fine, so I wrote a little letter to Ino, saying that I tried to call him but his number didn’t work. I wrote down my full name, email address and that he could find me on Facebook. (I don’t know why, but I never wrote down my Dutch number… kinda weird thinking back…). Fingers crossed, and I gave Bob the note.
Didn’t hear anything from Ino.
18th of July was my final day in Swaziland and I had to say goodbye to everybody. I’m not good when it comes to saying goodbye, but I knew it was not going to be a true goodbye, more of a “see you later” bye.
Being back in Holland, still didn’t hear anything from Ino. I contacted Bob via Facebook, asking if he gave Ino the note. He told me that he did, but Ino was not able to go on the Internet because of the low salary he gets every month, and he didn’t have a phone that was able to…
I didn’t know what to do. But then, 17th of September 2011, I got a Facebook invite from a guy called Inocêncio… I was like who it this!? I don’t know anyone called that way. I checked his picture, and it was Ino. Never knew that his full name was Inocêncio. I couldn’t be happier. I looked on his Facebook and found his number.
It probably took me 100 times of calling and hanging up before I finally had the courage to let the phone actually ring. Ino picked up, told him it was me and he was soooo happy. So happy to finally hear my voice, to know I didn’t forgot about him.
We called for hours and hours, talking about what not. Until the point my mom said to me “You know what, please go back to Mozambique and find out if this love you two have, also exist when you are together.”
Christmas 2011, off I went to Mozambique by myself. I was extremely nervous. What if there was nothing, what if it was just fun on the phone but not in real life, what if, what if. My mind was spinning.
The moment I landed at Mozambique, it felt like home. Did I ever leave? Or was I just away for a day and came back home? It felt unreal but yet again so real and comfortable.
I took a taxi to Tofo, which was about a 30minute drive. Talking to the driver about why I was there, I got the funniest surprise. “Oh you are the girl Ino has been talking about? You are finally here; he can’t wait to see you. I am his friend Chicco”. I was flabbergasted… Didn’t know what to say, I could only smile.
We arrived at Bamboozi Beach Lodge. It felt so safe, so good. I checked in (because I did book a room, just in case it didn’t work out with Ino, I did need a place to stay of course).
After dropping my bag in my room, I went up to the restaurant. The restaurant was next to Liquid Adventures where Ino worked. He knew that I was coming that day, but he couldn’t get a day off. I was standing on the deck of the restaurant and I could see Ino was preparing the boat to go on the ocean for a dive. I knew that he would be gone for at least two hours. I walked down to the beach, and sat down. One of his colleagues came to me after he helped to get the boat in the water. He told me that Ino would be back in two hours, and couldn’t wait to see me. I was so excited but so nervous at the same time. Two hours went by as if it was 2 minutes.
The boat came back. I didn’t know what to do with myself when I saw Ino walking towards me. He smiled, sat next to me, took my hand and said “Welcome back Love!”. It was perfect. We continued where we left off. Nothing weird, nothing awkward, it was just perfect. Ino had to work the rest of the day, which gave me time to settle a bit in my room. In the evening we had dinner together. I can’t describe it better than that it felt like home. It felt as if it just had to be like this. Three weeks together were just too short, but I couldn’t be happier that I went, because it confirmed for me that there was definitely something between us, something beautiful.
After Christmas holiday I had to go back to Holland to go back to school. I was back for 3 days, and I already booked my next ticket for July and August.
This went on for a bit, went back with Christmas 2012 again as well. We were together for 1,5 year after we broke up. But I have to say it was one of the most amazing relationships there was. I have made friends for life in Mozambique and I am still friends with Ino this day. We broke up as friends for personal reasons, but it had nothing to do with the distance or different cultures.
Our relationship went very well, despite the different cultures. We were very open towards each other when it came to things I was used to or he was used to. We were always able to find a way in between. It was always like “okay if you try to do this of my side, I will try to do this of your side” and it worked perfectly. People were surprised how easily we got used to each other.
I got a lot of questions of people asking how I was able to hold on with this long distance relationship for such a long time. The only thing I could tell them is that you have to trust each other and when you feel that it is something good, you know it is worth the wait. The feeling of not seeing each other for 5 months sucks, but the moment you are going back, the moment you finally see each other again, the moment you can finally hold each others hand again and actually have him next to me again, was worth the wait.