Where do I start – since the last lot of jumbled thoughts and generally random events were reported we’ve had Christmas, New Year and now January is almost over. Well many of you will know that I whimped out spending the holiday here and went back home to see family and friends. As I suspected I didn’t do a quarter of what I wanted to do or see everyone that i really wanted to see but as it says on a book that someone very kindly gave me – and those who know me well know that I like my sayings –
S o it was absolutely fantastic to see my brilliant family and a number of great friends. Ill catch the rest of you when I return – that is if you’ve remembered who I am ! Thanks to everyone for giving me a brilliant break. Loved every minute of it – except for the weather that is I mean who’d have thought you’d have rain and snow in December and January – huh ! But now its back to Sun, rain and temperatures that average 34 degrees Im not complaining – well I am really but more about that later haha and sitting in my little Garrett (or was that the name of Billy The Kid or the Sheriff that caught him? ) its late at night but its still flipping hot – can’t open the windows otherwise be surrounded by even more mosquitoes Still can’t complain – well i am really ……. oops already said that !
So back to Malawi, and Mangochi in particular. Evening flight from Heathrow to Nairobi, change at Nairobi – and please remember this as its relevant later on ! ……Catch a flight from Nairobi, and land at Nampula airfield in Mozambique – not scheduled but hey I’m not comp …………. ……….Land in Lilongwe Airport in Malawi mid afternoon. Get off the plane to the heat etc along with all the other passengers. Feel really pleased with myself as I can now walk through the Malawi residents gate – well when I say gate its more like two tables pushed apart – as I now have my residents permit. This also saves me $75 entrance fee into Malawi. Feeling pleased with myself arrived back without too many mishaps, I proceed to the Baggage collection travellator (?) along with all the other passengers. The obligatory solitary brightly coloured bag is going round the travellator. Clearly fast on the mark these baggage handlers – first bag off – brightly coloured bag !
We all watch it go round ………and ……. round ……….and ………..round …………..and …………..round – no other bags decide to join it – ……….none – ………not a one ! By this time after a good 30 minutes of waiting …….Im tempted to pick up the brightly coloured bag and pretend its mine ! There are some pretty irate Malawians and other African Nationalities and various Nationalities from all around the world all expressing their views and opinions. A single Malawian official then walks very slowly to behind a desk – they never run ! and he is besieged by irate passengers – I of course take the typically English approach and stand at the back of the queue – although when i say queue thats a very generic expression for a pack of baying hounds ! Thinking aw well – never mind – Im sure the bags will turn up one day ! After much shouting, form filling in and general chaos we are told that whilst we changed planes in Nairobi our bags did not ! They are all still in Nairobi – Picture the scene … well I’ll let your imagination do that suffice to say Im at the back, smiling, last to fill my form in, describing my bag and on leaving the poor beleagured official say – “Thank You” in a very English way ! Bags turned up 3 days later ! And for information the brightly coloured bag is still probably going round as no one picked it up!
Anyway starting back – very much back in with a bang – trying to visit all the schools that Im responsible for which when I arrived was 5 and now has grown to 17 and when they are 100s of Kilometres apart thats no mean feat. I haven’t got round them all yet. My focus for the first few weeks is on the schools that are using the iPads and the OneBillion app for Maths and Chichewa. With the holidays and the lead up to holidays and the coming back from holidays it takes some schools a while to get back into their stride – as indeed it does in the UK as well – never mine of course but thats another story ! . Here it also takes a while for the Learners to return to school and out in the remote rural areas in which I work it takes the first two weeks for the learners to return and even then some just don’t come back at all. Quite sad really. But off I start all refreshed to re-energise my schools. As its been a while since Ive been on my motor bike – no contest – who needs a car when theres the open road (track) ……. I don my summer leather jacket, summer gloves, jeans and helmet …….. and all kitted up I jump onto the bike and roar off into the remotest part of Malawi.
Up over the mountain looking at the amazing views that were once all a very dry brown now a very luscious green due to the “Rains”, ….. along narrow paths that were once much wider but now seemed to have narrowed due to the “Rains” Feeling the wind against me, back in the saddle again (Name that tune ! hehe) I approach a police road block, of which there are many along all routes. These generally consist of two metal bars across the road balanced on 3 metal oil drums. Or alternatively there are just traffic cones instead of the bars and three or four policeman tucked away somewhere. I know this Police Road block fairly well as travel through it almost every day, on fairly good terms with the police who man it, so that by now I just generally wave and squeeze through a very narrow gap between a rock and the first oil drum, which means that the police don’t have to come and lift the barrier. I have become quite expert now at being able to wave with one hand and manoeuvre the bike between the rock and the drum. ……… Pride comes before …………… Waving away I pass by the rock and the drum, well thats what I meant to do but Im sure someone must have moved the rock closer to the drum because on this occasion I hit the rock. Keeping my balance, and feeling incredibly pleased with myself – as Evil Kenevil (?) does it again to the roar of the crowd I ride on only to feel the bike become slightly wobbly, and then even more wobbly. I look down and my front tyre is almost flat – a puncture ! It was at this moment that the “Rains” decided that today was the day!
In the middle of a huge deluge I just managed to limp to the nearest Trading Centre to ask a group of men on the side of the road if they knew anyone that could help. This is Malawi so of course they did – and even if they didn’t they would say they did anyway !
They took me to a sort of straw lean to, that underneath had a number of men sheltering from the rain. Out of this group of men appeared an elderly gentleman followed by 3 or 4 others who then proceeded to take my bike off me, wheel it under the shelter, took my helmet and instructed me to sit down on the bench surrounded by a group of people while they mended my puncture. I sat and watched while the amazing craftsmanship of these people just took out the inner tube revealing a 2 cm hole in the tube and a valve which had completely ripped out …….. and they just mended it ! No sucking of teeth; no shaking the head; no “Oooooh this is going to cost you guv!” They just did it ! …… Brilliant……… I was charged the princely sum of 2,000 Kwacha roughly £2. They all smiled and wished me a safe journey. I was absolutely amazed by their skill and I have to say it just echoed the view that Malawi has some of the friendliest people on this planet.
The rains had abated so I thought …. why not I’ll carry on to my schools only another 50 or 60 Km to go.
Well this is as I said before the rainy season – after 2 minutes it started to throw it down again, and this time it didn’t stop it kept on all day. Undeterred i carried on, ….. and on … and on in my summer jacket. gloves and jeans. For those who know me once Id decided to carry on I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me. ………………. Foolish !! At my age you’d think I’d learn ! But no …… Carry on I did…….
After about 40 Km, every part of me was soaked through. I did not have a dry part of my body at all. I found out that summer Motor Bike jackets are not waterproof, nor gloves, nor jeans, nor anything else that I was wearing. Do I turn back or carry on …. it was still pouring with rain and by now not only was I wet but starting to get very cold – probably for the first time in Malawi – my fingers started to turn blue …. about 5 km from the first school, I decided that it probably didn’t look very good to turn up a wet shivering specimen coming to tell them what they should be doing with their iPads, and to be honest at this stage iPads was not at the forefront of my mind – It was survival !!!! I turned round in the middle of the road and headed home – and for the whole 80 Km it didn’t stop raining ! And if ever you’ve been on a Motor Bike in the pouring and I mean pouring rain you’ll appreciate how cheerful you need to be !!!!!
Pictures are my attempt to show the rain when I got home – I failed dismally but you get the gist
When at last at home I of course struggled to open the locks due to my fingers being so cold and as already mentioned the locals usually stand and stare just out of curiosity; on this occasion despite the rain I think they must have all called their mates – “Hey come and have a look at this Masungu trying to get into his gate – its really funny !!!! They watched as I attempted to open the locks with fingers that now had no feeling in whatsoever and were slowly going to sleep one by one
Once in, I emptied my pockets of water and the rest of the contents, two of which were my 2 mobile phones. I had forgotten that they were in my pocket and had effectively been swimming in water for the last 2 hours – needless to say ……….. and despite the old bag of rice trick ………what I call my english iphone i.e. my english number and contacts etc has refused to work. So if you haven’t heard from me for a while thats why !!!! My Malawian number still works for Whatsapp etc All other usual communication channels are working – I think – but you can always leave a message /comment on here.
So now I take a good look at the sky before deciding which mode of transport to use.
When I relayed this story to my Malawian friends – response …………..
WELL IT IS THE RAINY SEASON – DOH!
(didn’t know they watched the Simpsons )