[Photo: Nelson Mandela’s cell at Robbin Island, S. Africa]
14 May 2017
It was dense fog for most of the 5 hour bus ride from Lilongwe this morning. And it remains cool, foggy, and very humid. Good for the complexion, I am certain. Malawians have gorgeous complexions, generally, and need no assistance. I walked down the hill to Kamba market (our go-to open-air market cum hardware shops cum bottle shop) to buy eggs and a watering can in shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip flops, passing on the path between the rows of sweet potatoes, the maize having been harvested. (I didn’t realize that, at best, maize here gets only two ears/stalk. I haven’t looked it up to see why or if it is different in Nebraska.) All the people walking up the dirt track were bundled up as if it were winter, which it almost is. This is their November. They looked at me as if I were a bit strange, which I am here, of course. It is so nice now to buy food in an open market, bargain a little (If you don’t, they generally toss in an extra tomato or two, out of pity for someone dumb enough not to bargain.) (This paragraph appears to have more parenthetical expressions than otherwise.)
We just learned that our regular taxi driver didn’t fulfill a paid obligation, which irritates and disappoints me. He was given 8000MWK (about $10.50) to drive to town, pick up two foam mattresses, and deliver them to one of our volunteer’s previous guards. He kept the 8000MWK but didn’t buy or deliver the mattresses. He simply gave the woman the money he was given to purchase the mattresses. When our volunteer called him, he hung up on her and wouldn’t return her call. Guess I’m done with him. He makes a lot from PC volunteers as we were given his name when we arrived, don’t have cars, and so must taxi when we go out at night, in particular. He had a golden goose here and just sacrificed it. Dummy.
We just returned from our Close of Service conference. It was especially for the GHSP volunteers among us who are returning to home or to a fellowship, roaming the world, or otherwise leaving Malawi, having fulfilled their 1 year commitment. Two have gone home already; one felt her work was at a natural completion and the other had to prepare for beginning a fellowship. Two didn’t attend for personal reasons. But the 18 of us at the pleasant seaside resort bonded, swam, laughed, ate a lot of pretty good food, talked, and drank. During the days there we shared our experiences and our ideas to improve those of the next cohort of GHSP vols coming in 2+ months. Four of us will extend our stay for another year.
It is not easy for Peace Corps and Seed, screening all of us for suitability and compatibility. While cordial with and ready to assist members of our cohort, Linda and I spent most of our social time this year with others in the community. Most of our group is considerably our junior—well, all of them are considerably my junior! One pairing blew up early on. It is much easier to be a part of a couple, I think, for most of us. I’ll see soon, as Linda will be in the US in September and October when I have returned to work here.
Striking to me is how certain people I found quite intolerable during our 2 ½ week training in Lilongwe last July-August, I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend. And two or three I thought I would enjoy as friends I haven’t. But I can find something to like and respect in all, part of sharing a foxhole, I guess.
Linda’s youngest son, Jordan, arrives in 4 days for a 10 day visit. He is an engineer who followed a girl to Poland and fell in love with the country. He’s fluent, has a good job in his field, has purchased an apartment he is renovating in Warsaw, and has been travelling all over eastern Europe. I’ve only talked with Jordan on FaceTime and am looking forward to getting to know him better. I must work during the weeks as they move about Malawi but shall travel with them on weekends. Linda is planning a trip with him to the north of Malawi, either the Nyika Plateau or Karonga. When she was here in Peace Corps in 1979 she and her husband spent the Christmas holidays at Nyika; they were based on Lake Malawi in Karonga: think hot, malarial mosquitos, venomous snakes, and crocodiles. The only ways to approach Karonga in those days were by airplane or by steamer, the ancient (then) Alala. It still plies the lake. I want to go there, to see where she worked and played back then but it will have to await a later trip.
We are looking into purchasing a vehicle. Likely a used 4WD diesel Toyota or Nissan of some stripe (a HiLux or Hardbody pickup or a Prado). We are planning a 1 ½-2 month sortie across Zambia after we conclude our service at the end of June 2018, stopping to see S. Luangwa Game Reserve (lots of up-close lion and leopard viewing) and Victoria Falls. Then on to explore Namibia for the bulk of the trip, returning via the Okavango Delta in northern Zambia. We want a roof platform for sleeping to discourage carnivores from sampling us. Such a vehicle will make exploring Malawi next year much easier. Minibus travel is cheap and accessible; it just doesn’t go everywhere and takes awhile. Plus, it is dangerous with many fatal crashes occurring regularly. We are gradually closing in on purchasing something. I’ll still use my bike, and Linda her feet, for daily local travel.
This is scattered, probably because I feel scattered, having travelled for 14 hours over the past 5 days, slept in three beds in two locations, and greeted and said goodbye to numerous people. Time to settle back in at [our current] home.