“Perhaps time is measured in words. The words that you say. And those that you do not say”
(Dulce Chacòn)

Mesa, the village where I was born, was a very simple place, just a handful of houses far away from everything.

The day in which I decided to come into the world, it was impossible to find a means of transport to take my mother to the hospital.

So I was born at home. But it did not all go well! My mother began losing a lot of blood. Three days went by before she could be taken to the hospital.

When she got there, she was in a bad way, but they were very good and managed to replace all the blood she had lost… and life began again.

I thank my mother every day for the gift of life that she has given me; but I would like to know why, in some places, the line between life and death depends only on having or not having a means of transport at your disposal!

When I was three, I arrived in Mocimboa da Praia where my dad had found a permanent job. The family got bigger: there were five other children after me.

It is then that I began to form memories of my own.

What I remember about my childhood is playtime, games played outside with the other children. Skipping games, songs and dances, the little shows us girls put on when it got dark. Mum and the neighbours were our audience.

And then, there was the game that all the little girls in the world do: playing with dolls.

Mine was a rag doll which my mum sewed from pieces of material of the dresses she made for her customers. I learned to make them too and sewed them for my friends.

The dark place in my memories was the daily struggle with my little brother. Even now I do not know why but, even though I was bigger and, therefore,he should have respected me, he hit me all the time, it was one long quarrel with him. I was weaker than him and my only defence was to go crying to my mum. Instead of making him be good, my mum’s scoldings just made him even nastier to me.

When I was seven, I started studying. I was lucky, I got through school without a hitch and, in Mozambique in that period, this was not possible for all children.

I liked going to school and studying, but I did not like some of my teachers.

They were terrible, they hit us a lot with a thin wooden stick which to them was a fundamental tool for their job.

When I could not take the beatings any longer, I ran away home.

I remember my teacher in the fifth class. She punished me every day because I arrived late. That year I had something wrong with my foot that forced me to walk very slowly. She, however, did not want to know and hit me every time and punished me by putting me in the group of latecomers. So unfair! What had I done wrong?

I met her in the street not long ago and I reminded her of this incident, but all she could do was laugh and say to me, “but I was right!”

After the seventh class, I continued my studies in another city, at the secondary school in Mariri.

At the beginning, I lived in my mother’s uncle’s house. His niece also lived with us who claimed she was a closer relative to my uncle than me and made my life impossible.

I chose to move to a college. I spent four happy years there: studying, doing theatre and lots of sport. Perhaps it is a little hard to imagine that someone like me, so calm and quiet, could have been a good eleven-a-side football player.

But I was. The football pitch was a stage where I showed off my grit and determination.

But in that period, I experienced the first great blow in my life: the death of my grandmother. I had spent every day of my holidays with her, enveloped by her sweet love. The news of her death took me by surprise and I was overwhelmed by a deep sadness.

Meanwhile time passed and my college years came to an end. I moved to Pemba to continue my studies and there… I met what I thought was my eternal love that turned out, however, to be far from eternal.

I soon got pregnant and when he heard the news, he did not know what to do other than take fright and run away.

I had to stop going to school because, at that time, pregnant girls were not allowed in the classroom.

At home, I could not pluck up the courage to tell the truth and every day the lies I made up to explain my absence from school got bigger and bigger.

Meanwhile my body was getting increasingly round and the t-shirts I wore increasingly large, but they could not cover such abundance.

“Ana, why are your breasts getting so big?” asked my mum. “I don’t know, Mum, I keep asking myself the same thing”, I answered.

Why did I deny everything? What was I hoping would happen? Sooner or later the truth would have been clear! But I was immersed in the full flood of my fear and I just let the current carry me along!

And then I confessed the truth…pandemonium let loose and I did not help calm the waters with the answer I gave my father when he kept asking me who the father of my child was, “I don’t know, I can’t remember!”

But in the end, everything sorted itself out … and my baby boy, Dudu, was born. It was 2005.

I went back to school, got my diploma and moved to Palma where I began working in a notary’s office.

One day I really did meet the love of my life, a great love sealed by tattooing our names on our feet.

My life is peaceful, happy together with my partner and my three children: Dudu, Alima and Laura.

I am a calm person, not at all prone to sudden fits of anger…in actual fact, you might say that I never lose my temper, not ever.

Here in Alcatraz, mama Tiziana calls me, “the mysterious woman”, who knows why!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that, when I came to Italy, I put my favourite capulana in my suitcase, the one with the face of Josina Machel, the freedom fighter, our heroine in the war of independence in Mozambique.

Perhaps this is where my mysterious side is hidden?