I’m back – but not for long ! Whats been happening ?

To be absolutely honest Im not sure how to start this blog and definitely don’t know how to end it !  The middle is looking a bit doubtful as well.  You’ve had a gap of almost 2 and a half months without having to put yourself through this drivel ( is that right or is it “drivle” or “dribble” or “dibble” – no definitely not that ‘cos he was an officer of the law – Officer Charlie Dibble, Top Cat, Spook, Benny the Ball, Choo Choo, The Brain, Spook, Fancy-Fancy – how sad am I   and I can picture them as well !!!!! !) Anyway I digress. Parts of this Im going to only touch on briefly and parts Im going to expand upon – I’ll probably get it the wrong way round but hey story of my life!

Some of you may wonder why I haven’t written this driv……. rubbish for such a while.  Well back in April I had to unexpectedly fly back home due to a health issue to Laura,  eldest daughter  or as they would say out here in Malawi – my first born !  This is the bit that Im going to briefly mention.  Suffice it to say that she is an amazing person and someone that I know all of us are truly truly proud of.  She is currently undergoing treatment and has such a positive spirit that it just blows us all away!



Love her  My first born with her third born – I think or it could be the second born by a couple of minutes !  Ill get it right which is which one day !



Anyway moving on swiftly ………… after lots of discussions I returned a couple of weeks ago to Malawi to see the rest of my time out and to complete all the necessary tasks that one has to do before leaving a country that they’ve lived in for 12 months -like selling a car ( now that really is a whole blog in itself and even I would fall asleep if I went through that one !; getting police clearance to leave; packing all the things that you left behind previously;  doing all the things that you had 12 months to do them in but for some reason you leave it till the last 2 weeks and then you can’t fit them all in; ( or is that just me and my procrastination – world champion at that for the last 20 years running !); and of course seeing all the people that have been so much a part of a very strange life for the last 12 months.


And return I did to complete my final 4 weeks in Malawi. I arrived to a much colder than I remembered Malawi and of course didn’t pack any jumpers as such – strange how you remember it being hot as its Africa when in reality its flipping cold in their winter – like now – particularly in the evenings.  But never mind Id soon be away from the coldness of the capital, Lilongwe to the warmer climes of Mangochi and the Lake.

Well I needn’t have worried about not packing a jumper as my bag didn’t arrive at the same time as I did. Readers of previous blogs know that this is becoming a habit of watching lots of brightly coloured bags going round and round until you’re just  left standing just watching a moving belt with just one pink bag that just keeps going round and round.  It’s not yours but you’re the only person standing watching it.  

Strangely I even took a photograph of my bag before I left the Uk – weird thing to do have a bag selfie ! but it came in very useful when trying to describe my bag to a Malawian official who was clearly at the end of his shift – I mean it wasn’t his fault ! and he didn’t speak much english – I mean why should he !  So with very small rucksack and just the clothes I travelled in I spend the next few days waiting patiently for the phone call – “Your bag has arrived” ! yeeeee ………….

On the getting to the warmer climate in Mangochi that didn’t go so well either as the powers that be found it difficult to arrange transport for me so that I could actually start doing what i was supposed to do ( my car having practically blown up on my journey to the airport in April – well nobody told me you had to put water in it ! )

Well after kicking my heels for a week in the capital, taking in a few “greens” and listening to some pretty cool jazz in a very un-Malawian bar , transport was finally arranged and I arrived to do what I had come to do but now all I had left was just under 3 weeks. So off I set ………

Up bright and early to get an early start.    Sit on the bike first thing in the morning (about 6:30) probably not quite awake and attempt to kick start it. Nothing happens. No life at all.  After many attempts still no life.  Then my friendly guard says,

” Petrol ?”

“Of course I’ve got p…….”  mmmm maybe not.  Shake the tank and not a lot of sloshing about of petrol !!!  Why dont Bikes have petrol gauges ???  Right so off I go with my empty plastic 2 litre Ginger beer bottle and start to walk to the garage but they call it a filling station which is probably more accurate description………’cos thats what they do ….. fill……. that is when they have petrol which isn’t always certain by any means. And to b e fair they always clean your windscreen as well.  Starting to walk to the filling station I spy a passing “Njinga” thats a bicycle taxi to you and me. ( I think thats how you spell it ) N is silent as the p in swimming – ( the old ones are the best !)

“Eeeway” I shout   ( and thats definitely not how you spell it but it could be sounded out properly by an average Yr1 pupil ready to do his/her Phonics test of made up words !)  Actually it’s “Ewa” A quick translation from the Chichewa is  “Oi You”  Often used to young Learners when they are maybe doing something they shouldn’t !   He stops of course and waits for me to catch him up.  “Filling station” I say He looks at me like Ive just asked him to be my get away driver from a bank robbery !   “Its that direction” I say  He replies with a nod.  On the back I get clutching my plastic 2Litre Ginger beer bottle.


Well its no longer rainy season but the dry season and what Ive noticed is that they attempt to fill all the ruts that have been made in the rainy season with sand so that it sort of smooths out the road

Which is all well and good if you’re walking, and even if you’re good bicycle rider on your own.  But given a novice rider with a passenger on the back ( clutching his 2Litre Plastic Ginger Beer bottle ) and it makes things very difficult. The first hint of this was when I sat on the back and the front wheel reared up like it was saying ” right lets go”  This brought wry smiles from other passing Jingas, and I wasn’t sure if it was my fault for sitting too far back or the novice Jinga cyclist for not putting down pressure on the handle bars.  Well off we set.   We made about 10 yards I would say before the bike sort of skids from side to side in the sand coming to a grinding halt. We both kept our footing but as my Jinga turned around  the look on his face sort of said ” well you get off and walk and I’ll push the bike”.  I dutifully did so. We walked about 50 yards together like this.  The thought did cross my mind that I was actually paying for walking alongside a bicycle that was meant to be giving me a lift – clever !


After the 50 yards I mounted again and with a certain uncertainty we started off again , only to come to a halt some 50 yards further down the road.  The process repeated itself several times until we crossed the tarmac.  This was also done with a certain amount of trepidation as you can imagine.  Picture the scene over 100 bicycles coming along the road, both ways,  and you have to cross this road to get to the path on the other side.  In a car its difficult, on a motor bike its difficult, on a bicycle on your own its pretty difficult to judge it, but on a bicycle with a passenger on the back it take s a while to get up a head of steam, and by the time you start moving the gap you were aiming for has gone.   I was going to suggest that I got off and crossed the road on foot and met him on the other side, but as I had already walked half the distance I thought Id get my moneys worth. A couple of times his front wheel clipped passing Jingas who gave him looks which suggested ” Amateur or Novice” But eventually as we got to the other side my Jinga was heard to say in a very Malawian accent, ” Don’t worry about a thing”.  I did think he was going to burst into a Bob Marley number  but I merely responded with – “Me worried ; Nooooo” At this point he stopped, turned to me and said that we had run out of road.  What he meant was that he didn’t know the way.  So not only was I walking half the way I now how to direct him to the filling station.  Mission accomplished and now a full 2Litre plastic Ginger Beer bottle filled with petrol …… what do you mean unsafe ……… noooooo 😉

Hurriedly putting the petrol into the bike as by this time I WAS LATE  – I know thats difficult to uinderstand of me but occasionally it happens !  Bike starts beautifully once it has petrol.

Now the sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed that on my motor bike there are two stands for two wing mirrors but only one wing mirror.  This is because when the dirt tracks and myself meet, the wing mirror is one of the first things to get damaged.  And to only have one wing mirror is a disadvantage to say the least, particularly when passing goats and cows who suddenlt decide to change direction.  The cost of a wing mirror in Malawi is 30,000 Kwacha ( or so my guard told me – hmmmmm)  which is approximately £30, thats because you cant buy one.  Well not wishing to spend that I sourced some Malawian Super Glue which is said would hold 3 ton !  Should do the trick nicely, spending all evening gluing the mirror back on.  Success, in the morning I checked and it seemed to have done the trick. So Bike full of petrol, two wing mirrors  – sorted

After about 10 minutes the wing mirror falls off ! Clearly Malawian Super glue is not that super and may not even be glue ! The rest of the day is mono-mirror and to be honest the rest of my time in Malawi ! But it does make a great Helmet stand though

Then after a few minutes came across this scene which I have now learned to my cost that you take seriously.  What has happened is a bag of grain has fallen off either a wagon or a Njinga ( and you now know how to say it ) and spilt across the road.  The first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure what to do so just drove careful through it – followed by a crowd of irate Malawians chasing after me !   I thought that they would just dispose of it but of course they don’t  All the traffic stops and everyone lends a hand to sweep up the grain and re bag it – Nothing is ever thrown away in Malawi – the ultimate recycling – use and re-use and re-use and re-use.  What you dont do is drive through it   You just wait until every grain is swept up and I mean every grain !

So not the best start to my return, with baggage, no car, delay in arriving in Mangochi, no petrol,  no wing mirror and late ! but undeterred I carry on to visit my first school.  And that is actually, as the say,  where the day turns around.  I walk in though the door of the Learning Centre and see 30 Learners so intent on their work on their iPads that they dont look up, ( well a few might !) they just carry on with what they are doing.


The teacher just quietly walking amongst them, supporting here and there. A scene of absolute focussed on-task learning. Ofsted “Outstanding” !  Ouch did I really say that word!  You may ask what are the curtains for – i’s a school initiative and I’ll let you guess – tell you in the next blog – hehe


You may say well thats exactly how it should be, but this is a million miles away from a typical Malawian classroom of 250 Standard 2 Learners ( 7 year olds in general but some or even many are not !) with a teacher teaching at the front or even sitting at the front. And in many circumstances in their classroom which is a tree




And to cap the day off as I drive into my compound these three cheeky girls say the usual Malawian expression -“Hi How are you/ Very Well thank you ! ”  and

I nearly fall off my bike laughing

I have briefly mentioned in a previous blog the sort of things that I’m involved in while in Malawi, but I feel its worth a separate blog, Head Teacher training, Teacher training, setting up Learning Centres, Supporting the use of Learning Centres,  Inspector training and PEA training – what’s a PEA I hear you ask, well it doesn’t come in a pod ! .  And with less than 2 weeks before departing back to the UK and boring everyone with my exploits ( free bookings taken for schools of course ! – seriously) thats I challenge that I will accept

9 thoughts on “I’m back – but not for long ! Whats been happening ?

  1. Inspirational stuff yet again Mr B – you’re going to have enough material here for a book!
    Been thinking of you recently. Will get a drink lined up for your return.

  2. Hi Mike, glad you seemed to have settled into life in Malawi again. Your bike ride reminds me of a certain Beijing biking experience!!!!!
    Will catch up again when you are back. Enjoy your last few days. Did your baggage turn up??

  3. Just got around to reading the blog!!!
    I did enjoy it very much but wanted more as I already knew about case going missing etc
    Well done and fabulous pictures!!

  4. Well done you Mike. Sorry to hear about Laura’s illness and hope things are progressing well for her now.

  5. Have loved reading your blogs Mike and like Julia said the last one brought tears to my eyes. Well done you, full of admiration. Everyone sends their love. You have to write a book if only for your grandchildren to read when they are older.

    Love Jackie

  6. I have loved reading your blog Mike, and can also report that my elderly blind friend has enjoyed me reading them to her. She can’t see you photos, but pictures the events in her head from your vivid descriptions. We loved the Eid procession, and imagined you dancing in the street like Mike Jagger and David Bowie.
    Like Jackie, I am full of admiration. Safe journey home! Lesley xx

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