Only 15 Shopping Days Left Until Christmas!

[Above photo: Our new garden gnome, with a bit of rain on her head, looking puzzled.]

10 December 2017

It is remarkable to have the pressure of buying gifts off of me. I drove to Zomba to evaluate a very prominent Malawian figure who has been moved from prison to Zomba Mental Hospital with the idea that he is “mad”.  We wanted to make a weekend of it and stay at the Forestry Lodge, which reportedly has great food, and hike on the Zomba Plateau. Not yet cleared by PC.   “Mad” doesn’t mean angry here; it means crazy. After the evaluation—and I don’t believe he is crazy, crazy, just ill-advised by his personality disorder to behave in an entitled and reckless manner—I went for lunch to African Heritage, a cute outdoor restaurant that serves great wraps and salad. They also have a gift shop and I bought Linda a bracelet which is beyond my ability to describe with words. It is like a thick shaving from a carpenter’s plane of a very dense, dark hardwood with some fenestrations cut into it. See, I told you I couldn’t adequately describe it. The point is, she loves it, or at least says she does.

Midway on the hour-long return drive to Blantyre are a few pottery shops. One has fantastic, simple, unglazed statues, from 14’ to 20’ high, of people and heads of the same material. We have a collection of 7 on one of the chests in the living room and they feel a bit like a very quiet children’s choir. I bought a larger woman with a quizzical look and I also bought a head, as well as an unglazed bowl. Linda was very happy. It wasn’t Christmas but I so much prefer buying something when there is something I want to give, rather than aiming for a Hallmark date.

We have both hit the wall and need to vacate in the worst way. I’ve been so exhausted that we both wondered if my lung cancer had returned—coming home from work and going right to bed on one occasion.  This weekend has been very relaxed and I’m feeling better. Cape Maclear is a lovely spot, by all accounts, on the lake and has been favorably screened by PC.  We’re heading there for 2 1/2 days in less than a week. Then, three days after returning we’ll pack up and head North—“heading North to Alaska, going North, the rush is on”—remember that song from the 50’s? Along with “Mule Train”. A disk jockey in Seattle allegedly locked himself in the studio and played Mule Train continuously, with some commentary, for 24 hours straight. Maybe Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or a late string quartet but I think you’d get to the meat and bone and marrow of Mule Train pretty quickly. Like eating a potato chip—a crisp, as the Brits say.

Anyway, we’ll head to the north of Malawi for 2 ½ weeks, up against the border with Tanzania, and visit interesting and beautiful spots all along the way. It’s a shake-down for us and the car before our two month sojourn to Namibia next summer.

I saw a girl well known to us, a teen by the name of “Funny”. She has Down Syndrome, had meningitis at 3yo, has little language, and appears to have some sort of organic psychosis going on. The name could not be less appropriate but I suppose it was given at birth, before this cascade of tragedy tumbled down on the family. I admire the mothers of learning disabled (Brit-speak for developmentally delayed or mentally retarded) kids so much when they manage it with love and patience. They can get a lot more from their kids by doing that. It seems impossibly difficult to me that they can, given the poverty, demands, and 5 other children to clothe, feed, supervise, and love. Single mothers have always amazed and inspired me, not that I can hope to seriously emulate them. I doubt I’d be that strong. Women, being the carriers and carers of the future of the species, are physiologically superior to men, I believe. Men may be larger, more muscular, and faster but women live longer, apparently do very well in Space, and generally are the glue in a family. I guess we complement each other. I certainly compliment Linda a lot on her superior cooking!

We’ll have supper with friends tonight. The sky is growling and intermittently cries. It feels to me like it has a thorn in its paw. The rain is so good for Malawi. It is turning into an emerald world, hiding the ubiquitous little blue sapphires (plastic bags) that everyone tosses aside after eating their chips or whatever was in them. The grass grows and they vanish from sight.

I was thinking of unhappiness. It is easy to be unhappy in a wealthy country, even if you are wealthy or if there is a safety net to keep you going. Understandably. But when I see people who are often quite happy despite having an LD child, dire poverty, no education, often an AIDS-deceased spouse, and few prospects that the conditions of their life will improve, it is confusing.  I suppose, other than a war or frank starvation or an epidemic, happiness depends on how you feel about yourself and how your relationships are with others. Accomplishments, good health, freedom from financial worry or political persecution, a nice trip, or a new possession can add a bit but even very accomplished, healthy, wealthy, travelled people living in freedom who buy whatever they want are often miserable. How hard we chase the $ in the US, working ourselves to the bone!  This new federal tax bill is going to add to most people’s struggle, more rocks in the backpack. It is wrong and some people will die because of it, not being able to afford health care or a new tire for that bald one on the left rear. I think when poverty crushes the social fabric, as it hasn’t so much here but has, and shall, in the US a lot, then relationships fall apart and misery sets in. I am rambling here, with Chimwemwe pushing the lawn mower in between cloudbursts as background noise.

I must stop, a sign of my burn-out. A meagre offering to those of you who read this. Oh, I can suggest a well-written and entertaining book, The Brave Are Forgiven by Chris Cleave, about WW2 Britain. So witty and well-drawn. I’ll pay a bit more attention this week to my outer world, since I’m rested and the week won’t be tough, so that I can write more of general interest next week. Funny, this started as a diary but now I am hearing from people I don’t know who read it. How does that happen?

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