It’s Friday night (well now it's being posted on Sat morn) and we’re settling in at the Ku Chawe Hotel atop Zomba mountain. It has been an event-filled couple of days. We arrived in Lilongwe on Monday and settled in easily to Annamaria and Ketema’s home. Their daughters, Yodit (age 13) and Pomi (age 12) have been great playmates for our collection of kids. Their house is filled with great things for teens – ping pong, trampoline, window paint, music and movies. We were major loungers on Monday. Tuesday was our day in town, but gettin’ up and at ‘em was not really atop the list. By the time we left the house for our city tour it was 45minutes til lunch time so we wondered through a few shops, ate dessert first and then sat for lunch at a place called Momma Mia where many of us overordered pizza because of a misunderstanding about what “plate—sized” would mean. After lunch, we headed to the Lilongwe market. It is a wonderful maze of shops selling clothes, fish, fruit, live chickens, hub caps and other spare parts, baskets, novelties, and what not. The girls found a Minnesota t-shirt where the vendor was disappointed that they only wanted to take a picture, not by it. We’d hoped to get to the hospital but ran out of time as some of us booked massages for the afternoon and we had to switch out the rental cars (which is a long and funny story I am opting to largely skip at present. I will just say the van we rented from Sputnik car rental did not suit our needs though our redo of the Little Miss Sunshine van starting was very hilarious for all involved.)
We headed out of Lilongwe on Wednesday morning on our way to Lake Malawi. This country lacks road signs so finding the right road out of town proved challenging. Luckily, we had Henry Solomon with us. He speaks the local language – chechewa (sp) -- and could help us understand the directions that the gal running the roadside stand gave. We ended up on a dirt road more often traveled on foot than by car. It had good sightseeing, challenging driving and the first of several dirt road detours we would take. Finally atop the tar road, we headed for the lake. What was supposed to be a 3 hour drive extended longer and longer - yes a bit like Gilligan’s island, but without being marooned. Finally, we got to the shores of Lake Malawi and enjoyed a late lunch at the Sun and Sand resort. We stayed the night at the Florence Guest House which is run by a friend of Henry’s named Charles. We lounged in his seaside gazebo, star-gazed and crashed early.
This morning Meredith, Alli, Pomi and I got up early to see the fisherman coming in with their catch from the night fishing (we’d listened to them singing all night on the water while they fished). We hit the beach at 6:30 and discovered the boats had already been moored, the catch of the night was in. We needed to have been there about 45 minutes sooner. The beach was busy with net untangling, fish buying and the village ladies doing their laundry. Tonight is a big night in the village as their young men will be circumsized. This was the cause of much singing by the laundry ladies.
We headed down the road to Zomba and had a great, but short visit with the family of Henry Zimpita. He is a friend of Henry and Barb’s friend Titus who lives in the States. Henry Z passed away last June. His sister, Vivian, mother, Catherine, and daughter, Tamara, live in Zomba village. It was a wonderful visit under the trees. We strolled down to the family cemetery. Catherine’s mother had just passed in May at the age of 99. She was the village chief. There are two wonderful wise owls keeping watch with the spirits there. They took flight as we entered the graveyard – it was very cool. Catherine also provides day services for orphans in the area. Like many other countries, Malawi has been hit hard by HIV/AIDs so many children are without parents. The kids were darling, the area beautiful and this village also was preparing for a circumcision celebration.
Then finally, after a quick visit to Crecor, a local NGO that received a book shipment from Books for Africa and dropping Henry Solomon near his home, we headed up the mountain to our lovely accommodation for the evening. Henry S suggested a short cut – a dirt road that shouldn’t be too bad. As we travelled along this tiny dirt road with lots of rocks and humps and holes, we are reminded that our insider information is provided by a man who walks everywhere. It was eventful and surprising, especially when we came upon a large soccer game in the middle a colletion of huts. It seems cars are a rare sight and the gobs of kids came running to the car. It was at this point that the lead car (Barb, Henry, Meredith and Alli) became confused about the instructions we’d been given – turn right here or after we get to the tar road. Our attempt to back up was hampered by the gobs of kids all around the vehicles. We were grateful when the coach/ref came over to clarify which road went to the Ku Chawe. It’s the stuff trips are made of.
So tomorrow we will head to Mua town and the mission there. It is the last stop on our grand Africa adventure for Group 1. Mua is a beautiful area with wonderfully designed accommodations and good simple food. We’re hoping to attend African Sunday services before heading back to Lilongwe to put our happy Group 1 travelers on their long flight home. While they travel back to the States, Henry and I will be regrouping for our second group of travelers who arrive in Lilongwe on August 18. More later.