Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Life in Malawi

I am sitting on a balcony adjoining our room overlooking the Shire River in Mangochi, Malawi, Africa. It is 6 PM and dusk is at hand. There is a welcomed slight breeze brings the strains of a pulsating African rhythm closer to my inner dancer. It is a most enjoyable moment. Then the power fails and everything is dark. The hotel’s generator kicks in to provide general area lighting, but the moment is interupted.

I decide that this could be a metaphor for life in Malawi, at least for a Westerner.

For every rewarding day or moment of feeling “life is good”, there are constant streams of items that come up that require problem solving and/or patience. But to a Malawian, this is normal.

Yesterday, we were invited to witness a male circumcision event that was to begin at 10:00 AM at one of the nearby (I estimate about 15 miles) villages. Keep in mind that we are in a different time zone here called African time or time. This is the type of time where things take place an hour or two later (or more) than expected.

We show up at 10 AM Malawian and talk to the traditional authority (chief of all the villages in the district) and find out things are not ready to happen and to come back at 11. Apparently he hadn’t received his honorarium (a chicken) from the village sub-chief who has arranged for the ceremony. Also, the men are still building the thatched roof of the ceremonial camp. So instead of waiting around for another 30 minutes, we saddle up and drive another 20 minutes to another village to assure things are all set up for the main circumcision event that is our primary goal which is to take place on Monday. After our colleagues talk to this chief to make sure that indeed everything is set for Monday, we return to the first village at about 11:30 knowing that 11 o’clock didn’t really mean 11 o’clock.

We are told to come back at 2 PM. We are hungry by now and there is no restaurant nearby, so we return to Mangochi and eat. Again figuring 2 PM didn’t really mean 2 PM, we come back just before 4 PM to find out the circumcision just took place about 10 minutes ago. Four men including me go to the circumcision “lodge” and observe what is happening... I am allowed to take some photos.

We arrive back at our hotel just before 6 PM and shortly after, the power goes off again.

The kitchen here has a limited menu. Still, so far they have temporarily run out of milk, eggs, Coke, and bananas. The internet café next door has no ink for their printer. And at this announcement I noticed that neither Judith nor I felt any frustration but accepted the news. And I thought this is how you need to adjust your attitude while visiting here because there is nothing you can do to control or change things. Just try to work around them and learn that this is life in Malawi.


GETkristiLOVE said...

That's exactly how it was in Tanzania too - we were told to be ready at 9am to go to the gate of Kili and then the trucks would show up a couple hours late.. then they load up everyone and then go get gas.

I notice not too many Africans wear a watch.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Can't wait to hear about the circumcision! Hope you got a picture of the moil!

vikkitikkitavi said...

"I am sitting on a baloney adjoining our room overlooking the Shire River in Mangochi, Malawi, Africa."

Dang, DadE, that must be a mighty big baloney.