As I sit here in Johannesburg airport waiting for my final flight, I look back on the last 2 weeks and just go – WOW! They really did just fly by – I am the world’s biggest Procrastinator – ( a brilliant talk on TED on Procrastination – if you haven’t seen it it’s well worth a watch ) – “Don’t do things today when you can always do it tomorrow ! ” The trouble with that is – I did have an end date – i.e. 26th ! and with so many things to do and so many people to see I give myself an impossible task. There were people I didn’t actually get to see before I left. And I really did want to see them but for some reason my brain seems to work on a different time scale to GMT ! (so my apologies ) I think I can do things when I actually don’t have the days or hours to do it! Its the same philosophy as ‘it’ll only take 5 minutes to get there when in reality it’s a half hour drive ! I didn’t get the nickname for nothing – and those who don’t know it you will have to guess !!
A huge thanks to all those friends who wished me well, sponsored – me and VSO, and who follow this blog. And of course to the family ensemble. It really brings in to focus the saying that you may not see someone but you know they are there for you ( or words to that effect !)
Not only did I run out of days to see people, but the eternal question of “Have you packed yet ? ” brought the inevitable answer – “Not yet, but there’s plenty of time.
Have you packed yet ? Must rate alongside, in the taxi world, “Have you been busy?” Or “What time did you start? ” If after overcoming the Wow factor of “You’re going to Malawi – Conversation dies and you get – “Have you packed yet?”
Actually what I meant by my response was I haven’t got a clue what to take, how to take it or what I need to buy to exist for 12 months in a country that I had no real knowledge of or had visited before. A small shopping spree was called for, and what would we do without Internet shopping ! Apart from the clothing which had it’s own challenges, there were the electrical items, which could well prove to be totally useless in a country that only has 4 hours of Electricity a day, and then that’s not always guaranteed so first purchase was a small portable Solar Panel. I have no idea if this works as it wasn’t very sunny in the last few days so fingers crossed. If this is the last Blog post you see – the Solar Panel didn’t work ! Mosquito net, although one should be provided, its kind of belt and braces – ooooh that reminds me ………….. where did I put them ??? Not sure if I can survive without music so how am I going to listen to my music ? So the iPads, iPods Laptop all go in, Head Phones, Hard drives, mobiles both locked and unlocked ! All may be totally useless but we will see.
Oh then of course like a centre piece on a table – sits the Motor Bike helmet, In pride of place in the baggage – smack in the middle! Surrounded by clothes of all descriptions Fortunately this was a good container for the sun tan lotions, creams and everything else that people say – “Oh you must take this tablet, that potion, ! A very useful container to keep them all together Not an easy item to pack in the Hold luggage it has to be said, but that’s where it has to go and be part of the total weight allowance of 30 kg
Carrying on this blog post I am now sitting on the South African Airways plane flying to Malawi, having genuinely interesting conversations with the nun sitting next to me and the American lady who is helping support a High school to encourage girls to attend school past the age of 11.
I have to say the journey out here has been relatively flawless – I may be speaking too soon as I’m still mid-air and obviously need to collect my bags in Lilongwe, collect and pay for my Visa, then meet someone (?) who will take me to the country office. Besides for that all 3 flights, Dubai, Johannesburg and Lilongwe have gone well. Through the dreaded passport controls and searchers with laptops and electricals which were spread throughout my carry on bag, now sit all together as it’s easier to take them out in one go.
I was slightly confused in Johannesburg when arriving, I stopped to check my ticket. A fatal mistake as when I looked up everyone else had gone, no others to follow ! Walking down airport corridors totally on your own is very scary With no real idea of where you are going you just keep walking and hope for the best. Come to the sign Connecting flights ! Well thats me, so you dutifully follow
but in the back of your mind you also read the sign that says “Collect your bags for connecting flights”, but you remember the lady at check in in Manchester saying your bags went all the way on the journey, so you ignore the signs and cross your fingers while you’re walking. Still totally on your own you see the sign Connecting flights – International and Connecting flights Domestic ! Decision time – based on lack of geographical knowledge – is travelling to Malawi from Johannesburg, international or domestic – Snap decision as no-one else to follow ! Domestic – based on It’s in Africa and not out of Africa ( good title for a film !) …………….. wrong ! But was directed towards the correct place after queuing for 30 mins, by a very polite Customs guy ! Again the long walk, on your own, through the detectors which I set off 4 times as I forgot I was wearing a belt !
Suffice to say caught the connecting flight and landed in Lilongwe, Malawi. At Visa control the queues were enormous ! One desk to collect the Visa application form, another desk to stamp the Visa form, another desk to check the form and stamp, another desk to pay for the Visa, another desk to receive the receipt and stamp it, then a final desk to look at the Visa and ask all the questions which have already been answered on the form to thankfully allow me through !
Walk out into the Greeting area and tick a little box in my head as I look up and see someone standing there with a sign with my name on it !!!!!!! Love it ! I always wanted that !
Journey by car to my initial place to stay in Lilongwe. We pass crowds on the road selling
all sorts of things, from Vegetables, to holding up live chickens by the claw, to a young boy holding a rack of mice held by their tails whichI am told are delicious – I’ll take his word for it !
First night in Malawi, I undo the Mosquito net, tuck it in and then think maybe I should have got in first !! I’ll work that one out in the days ahead !!!!!!!