You have to love a country when in the midst of a national fuel shortage; theÂ parliament is debating legislation making flatulenceÂ a crime. Â âSince the countryÂ embraced multiparty politics 16 years ago, people have felt free to fart anywhereâÂ said Constitutional Affairs Minister George Chaponda. Â âPublic farting has beenÂ encouraged by democracyâ
We arrived two days ago. The first challenge -getting from the airport. Â We hadÂ warning. Â We received a brief email missive in JoBurg from old Malawian friendsÂ from Peace Corps days. Â Dr Dick Chilemba and his wife Leona were with us at NhkataÂ Bay Â 45 years ago.. âSevere fuel shortagesâ¦â¦working on getting you from the airportÂ to our homeâ. Â As I write this we are grounded at their home. Â The search forÂ petrol is on.
We are in Blantyre- the commercial capital of Malawi. Â It was named for theÂ birthplace of Dr David Livingstone (Blantyre, Scotland) the first non African toÂ see the âLake of Starsâ (Lake Malawi) so named by the sparkling reflections of theÂ noonday sun..
We are on our annual trip to Malawi ChildrenâsÂ Village-up country, 4 hours from here. Â It is also our annual trip to the have-notÂ part of the world.
As a good Anglican friend, one of our MCV Board member colleague from NorthÂ Carolina says âIt is good for the soulâ. Â Once you settle in and get into theÂ rhythm of life here, new insights take on many dimensions. Â There are new lessonsÂ each day.
You donât realize how dependent we are on oil-world over.â¦that is until you donâtÂ have it. Â Buses donât run, private vehicles sit idle. Â Workers stay home. Â NormalÂ activities of each day are put on hold.
At times like these here, those living in subsistence fare much better. Â TheyÂ hardly notice. Â They donât use petrol nor do they have electricity. Â Oneâs dailyÂ food almost exclusively is from what they raise and have stored form last year. Â AÂ cash economy does not exist. Â Put away any idealized notion of what this life isÂ like. Â Subsistence has a great price: lack of clean drinking water; pit latrines orÂ the bush for a bathroom; Â a thatched room , even good ones, that will leak in theÂ blinding rain that frequents this time of year; lack of access to medical careÂ especially Malaria a frequent killer in the lakeshore area where weÂ live when we are here. Â This all equals high infant morality, and a shortened lifespan. Â When weÂ arrive soon at our cottage we will hear of those whom we know have died in the lastÂ year. Â There will be many.
Malawi is not a place for the impatient. Â Those who live by a well planned dayÂ would not do well here.
This was yesterday. Petrol was found; we were packed and planned on leaving a 1 pm.Â Shuqar,the driver, had arrived at 6:30 am, early enough so the car could get anÂ updated registration from the Motor Borough. Â We were well ahead of the curve!!!Â Or so I thought.
We sent Shuqar (who works forDr Dick Chilemba) off for the registration but had notÂ heard from him by 12. Â I called on his cell phone (a useful innovation widely usedÂ here). Â The registration had not happened today, but maybe tomorrow. Â Confused, IÂ called Dick who had the real story. Â When Shuqar arrived, they first asked to see
his license which had expired. Â The car was impounded!!
Fortunately Shuqar called Dick (who is well known and one of the senior physiciansÂ in the country) who went to the police station, paid a fine, got the car, andÂ started the registration process. Â It involved a lot of queues: one for the initialÂ paperwork, another to pay the fee at a bank, a third for issuing theÂ certificateâ¦..and the queues are long and the bureaucrats are slow. Â As our MalawiÂ friends say with a smile, âThis is Malawiâ.
Long story short, we were in Blantyre for 2 Â½ days before we left for our cottage.
As I have noted in the past, at home when I am taking a shower in the morning, I goÂ through my plan for the day. Â It usually happens. Â Here I use to do the same,Â however here no day goes as planned. Each day is a new adventure and there areÂ always plenty of them.