March 8th, 2011 by Dr. Tom Nighswander, MCV Board Member
You can never anticipate how many ways your plans can be thwarted. Today it is deaths in the village and student riots in Blantyre, yesterday it was petrol.
Yesterday when I awoke and told my lovely wife I loved her, her affectionate reply was “I want petrol”. So while I met with the District Medical Officer in the morning, Ruth, accompanied by Victor, one of the villagers who serves as our handyman out here, were on the search for petrol. They found it! When you ask her where she got it? “ If I tell you, I’ll have to shoot you” Translation…. from the Black Market well away from Mangochi. Petrol is again absent from the country. But we had a full tank! So off to work! It was not to be.
Today Florence, the HIV/AIDS outreach worker was to travel to the villages with Ruth to hand out school uniforms. She called this AM to say that her Uncle had died in Dedza about 2 hours from here and she would be going to the funeral. This was shortly after our night guard, Patrick, came back from his nearby village to let is know that his 24 year old niece also died last night. He needed extra money for the funeral arrangements.
To understand the impact of death, beyond the emotional trauma to the family, you need to understand the ceremony that surrounds the death and burial of your family member or coworker. I think it impacts the gross national product of this country.
If your coworker dies, it is your employer along with the family who makes the arrangements for the burial. The whole office or business shuts down. Large numbers of friends and coworkers gather at the deceased’s home, women are inside, men are outside. From inside the house continuous wailing can usually be heard (some from professional wailers). The men sitting outside are in small groups usually silent only speaking greetings when another arrives. Food is served to all. In the Muslim community here, this is traditionally a 24 hour to a several day process . The Christians are a bit faster. But funerals are a big part of daily life and they take a lot of time.
So if there would be abbreviated village visits this day, at least my friend in Blantyre would be able to secure some additional car parts for the 1996 Subaru. We had it on consignment and were considering buying it from a good friend. We need a shock absorber, Subaru spark plugs, and some rubber boot covers for the drive shaft and steering column. At exorbitant costs (about 30-50% more expensive than in the States) they were available from the dealer in Limbe, the town contiguous to Blantyre. It was not to be.
The College Students were rioting and the road between Blantyre and Limbe was closed. They should have been rioting because of the Inspector General of the Police had visited and questioned one of the political science faculty on why he was discussing in class the recent events in Egypt. (The faculty took this one on in a protest). The students were upset by the way the government was changing the requirements and payback for student loans.
Our friend never made it to Subaru before having to return to Mangochi. So much for this plan! You always have to have a plan B and C and for safety D also and be prepared that none of them will work.
It is hard to explain the difficulty of getting anything done in this country. Everyone complains about it, especially middle class Malawians. We see the humor in it….government bureaucracy gone wild. There are many examples. Petrol and lack of foreign exchange is just one. Upsetting a bunch of folks was the governments decision to invalidate all passports, and issue new ones. Felix, the deputy at MCV, had a passport good to 2015. . ..now no longer valid. They opened the offices from 6 am to midnight. People started lining up a 4 am. It has been a mess.
The reason for this Felix suspects was the government needed the money Who knows?? It has never been explained to anyone’s satisfaction. And everyone who owns a vehicle talks about the two day process to get it registered .only in the two major cities…and so it goes.
These and other stories make the success of the Malawi Children’s Village even more remarkable. Started by Malawians in 1997 with the help of a former Peace Corps Volunteer from the Mangochi area, it has assisted over 8000 orphans in the 37 villages that surround the Center. The earliest orphans are now returning as teachers, clinical officer, agriculture extension workers, physical therapists and nurses.
They would never have had a chance. We personally know a dozen or more of the graduates. They are wonderful young adults, making significant contributions to their country. It is a testimony to the vision, tenacity and perseverance of the Malawians who run MCV and the many individual contributors and USA Rotary clubs who have made this happen.
Success does not get any better that this.