I received some news yesterday at work that made me very sad. It isn't official, but it seems Hugh Marlboro intends to close the fresh produce warehouse where my friends/lunch partners/beer companions work. Ahmed, Paulo and Raimundo were briefly told by their supervisor that we will stop importing potatoes and onions. Without the imports, there is no need for the fresh produce operation, and consequently not much of a justification for the boys to retain their jobs.
These boys are some of the hardest workers I've come across in Mozambique. They are dedicated, honest and pleasant to be around. I don't know what is behind Hugh Marlboro's decision (assuming he does actually intend to close the warehouse), but it is a shame for the company to lose such good employees. Furthermore, I find it hard to stomach that nobody will be straight with these guys and say, "You know, you might want to start looking for other work options. The warehouse will close in 1 month." (or 2 months, or whatever) None of the boys have signed contracts, so not even the super-pro-worker Labor Law of Mozambique will safeguard their jobs.
Obviously I am sad about this possibility because I will be losing something that has grown very near to my heart. In the last 3 months, Ahmed, Paulo, Raimundo and I have developed a special and unexpectedly close friendship. I will miss our communal lunches, our text messages throughout the day, the carpool rides back to Maputo, the gifts and snacks sent up to my office, and the general feeling that we are a team at work, we have each other's backs, despite the fact that they are in the warehouse and I am up here on the administrative/management floor.
Obviously this news is not 100% certain. Hugh Marlboro has yet to come into the office and bring me up to speed on the month of work that I missed while on vacation. He promised to do that today, but as of now still hasn't shown up. I want to hear what he has to say, what is behind this decision, becuase - all biases aside due to the fact that the boys are my friends - the fresh produce operation seemed to be bringing in a lot of cash.
My hope is that, assuming there is no pressing reason to close the warehouse, Hugh Marlboro will change his mind. He is notoriously impulsive, and I take most of what he decides/promises/declares with a reasonably large grain of salt. I hope this warehouse story is something he said in a moment of stress, financial worry, strategic misdirection. Whatever. I just hope it's not true...
Last night I invited Ahmed and Paulo out for beers. We sat for hours at the restaurant, talking over this uncertain news. I realize that good things can't last forever, that situations change, and people move on...but I wasn't expecting to feel the pang of saudades for my dear colleagues and our amazing bond quite so soon. I know that I can still see them outside work, we will still be friends even if they have jobs elsewhere, but it won't be the same, and this makes me very sad.
Yesterday, when I came to work for the first day, I distributed chocolates and presents that I'd brought back from Brazil for the boys. The cowboy boots were delivered and much appreciated, as were the Levis, the designer sunglasses, the t-shirts, the surf shorts, and the hat. They loved everything.
What I didn't expect was that the boys would have gifts for me as well. They gave me a beautiful silver necklace and bracelet set, and a really cool dress that is basically a white tube top with a flower-print halter dress layered on top, with a cinch tie at the side. It is a dress I'd never have picked out for myself, but they actually managed to give me something I really like! I tried it on yesterday, and it fits perfectly...