WRITING is very important to Joao Bitlande Bande, because he cannot speak or hear.
Asked his name through translators, he reaches for my notebook and spells it out on the page in large letters.
For all his handicap, Joao, 40, does not have, or want, a life supported by others.
He is a fisherman and a small farmer who plants an edible shrub called cassava, sweet potato and sugar cane.
He has had two wives, one of whom left him, and four children, one of whom died.
He became deaf and dumb as a result of an illness when he was aged 10.
What was the illness?
He does not know the name. This is a country where there are many diseases.
“The whole body was in pain,” is his description, relayed in sign language.
Speaking to Joao requires a chain of translators.
First, my question is translated from English to Portuguese, by a Concern worker called Carlos from the Philippines.
Then his words are translated by someone else into Sena, the local language.
Then Rui Cesar Veloso, a 53-year-old man from Nhangalaze village who has improvised a sign language with Joao, translates again.
Finally, answers return up the chain to me.
One question intrigues me. Joao is impoverished and deaf and dumb, yet always active and smiling.
“He is very happy, no problem,” comes back the answer, after multiple translations.