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On The Road In Malawi

Monday, May 20th, 2002


May 20, 2002
Up 5 am and out 6:30. Most of the day is spent traveling to Zambia. A bridge is out on the road south so we have to double back to Mezuza and take another route. Stopped off at Mezuza again for a couple of hours in a frustrating attempt to get e-mail.

Back on the Road
I turn around to say something to Bob two seats behind me and see Rod lying in the aisle asleep-recurring Malaria he thinks. He stays there for two days and then gets up but he is a rag. His head hurts and he is weak. Bob starts reading about Malaria. There are many kinds with symptoms all the way from feeling like you have the flu to feeling a piercing cold that makes you tremble and shake. During these times you want a heavy thing to mash you down and keep you still…you wish you could die.

Rod warns us to use mosquito repellant but Bob has his doubts about it’s effectiveness. In the tent at night we use a towel to kill off any mosquitos we find before we go to sleep but invariably during the night they mysteriously materialize-buzzing in your ear…keeping you awake until you finally get up and thrash around with your towel again.

The Malaria carrying mosquitos were especially bad around wet marshy areas like Dar es Salaam and Lake Malawi. Sunday is our day to take our Larium but it makes us have vivid dreams at night. One night I dreamt that some people had cut my chest open and was slicing up my heart and eating it!

To pass the time on the long haul today I read Edward Said’s memoirs “Out Of Place.” As I read I gaze out of the truck from time to time wondering…what to wonder…what to think…Edward was born a Christian in Palestine, had ancestors from Lebanon, grew up in Cairo but isolated from the muslim community, went to English schools which he hated, was educated in the United States and now teaches at Columbia University in New York and has become a spokesman for middle east affairs. “Out of Place” is a good title; I have felt that way myself.

Las Vegas Bottle Store…pass one woman chopping wood out behind a mud hut and two men sitting in front…”makes me mad!” Melissa from New Zealand says…children literally scream out their greetings…villages are perfectly neat no litter or pieces of paper or the proverbial third world plastic. As in Moroccan casbahs you would think absolutely no one lived there at all because they use and reuse everything over and over until there is nothing left to become garbage.

Cleaning The Lenses
I am feeling comfortable and at home in Africa. The lives and cultures of the people in these countries at least seem to have integrity…congruity. The way they live makes sense in relation to their history, geography economics and culture-not to be compared to any other place. Rather than judge, a friend says she tries to engage “others” with a “reverent curiosity” to describe how she travels. We are intentional-we borrow her idea and make it our own-we call it “reverent inquiry.” We want to respect the dignity of those we are coming to visit.

I want to be transparent in sharing my struggle with my own ethnocentric/class biases I have learned from living in my culture…insofar as I can become aware of them. Where are you from, he says…America, I say…which America, he says? And there it is again. I could cover it all over with political correctness but I want to explore-I want to peel the layers off the lenses-I want to write with integrity. Traveling is a seriously important business. Rod says 90% of Americans don’t have a passport which means that many Americans have never, in a substantive way, experienced any other valid way to live in the world. Isolated. Insulated. For how long? We cannot be a “superpower” and not be inter-dependent with the rest of the world; the world is going to force us to look and listen to it. It has begun with 9/11. And we thought the Cold War was bad!

I made the mistake of remarking to Rod that we liked the fact that our drivers were Africans and none of the other trucks had African drivers. He reminded me that he was African, which he is, and that even some of the British and Australian drivers have been at it for 15-20 years and know Africa well. There I did it again-I used the term African when I really meant black African. Assumptions can work both ways however. I have a friend whose husband happens to be black and when he visited Africa he had to explain that he and his brother were Americans born and raised in New York.

I ask Rod if the local people can tell that James and George, who are Kenyans, are not from this area. Yes, he says, because of their size and they are very dark. And people here don’t speak Swahili so they have to use the common language-English. Rod says that Malawians and Zambians are more friendly than people in the north and south of Africa because they are not around western tourists enough to become inflamed with desire for the material things we have that they don’t have. In the north and south the feeling is that “You’ve gotten yours, now it’s my turn to get mine-no matter how.”

Time, Walking, Women

Sunday, May 19th, 2002

Time, Walking, Women, Waiting, Matatus and Plastic
In Africa these things work together in a synchronous whole says Ryszard Kapuściński in “Shadow Of The Sun.” Rattle-trap matatus-minibuses that serve as public transportation-all seats and the space in between and the space full from floor to ceiling whiz by. What time does the bus leave for it’s destination? The answer is when it fills up. Time for on most of this continent only has meaning in relation to events. If you ask when does the bus leave it makes no sense. The bus will leave when it is full so one must wait…quietly with unseeing eyes…when people are waiting…for this is what they must do before something can happen…they do not react to anything around.

But people are happy to wait for the bus because for eons before this Africa walked-indeed they still walk in the rural areas which is most of African countries and they carry whatever has to be transported on their shoulders or heads. Entire cities and everything in them were carried into the interiors on the heads of the people in the 18th century when there were no roads-only paths.

On this ancient system of paths people walked silently and single file and they still do today even if they are traveling on one of today�s wide roads. And it is the women who do the transporting…they may have to walk several miles every day in one direction for wood and often in another direction for water.

Modern technology has made their lives easier because instead of heavy earthen urns for water they now have red, green and blue plastic buckets. A woman will squat down and place the bucket on her head. Then straightening up she will carefully balance herself. Stepping with an elegant, smooth even gait she walks silently and resolutely down a forest path leading to…a place we will never see. When we pass in the truck she may turn her body slightly and wave. I am immensely impressed. They learn early how to do this…we see a girl about 7 years old walking down a path with a huge heavy bucket of water held up on her head by her tiny neck. When the woman has collected the wood for a fire and the water then she can begin cooking the one meal of the day…

The women carry water, chop wood and work the fields; the armies of men for the most part are unemployed. But they could help the women carry water and wood and work in the fields, we say to each other! But this is Africa and it won’t happen!

The younger men trek from the rural areas to the city in search of work but they find neither jobs nor a roof. They should do something…But what? What should they do with their unutilized energy? With their hidden potential? What is their place in the world? They squat idly on all the larger streets and squares of cities we have been in. In less stable countries, with the promise of shoes or a meal they are recruited by local chieftains when they need to recruit armies, organize coups or foment a civil war.

Malawi Village Walk

Sunday, May 19th, 2002
PZmR20gwby0cg19rXgklIw-2006197131657399.gif Sun May 19th 2002 Village Walk Africa does not really exist. Africa is a geographical name for a continent. Africa is made up of countries but people, especially in rural areas, don�t ... [Continue reading this entry]

Dinner & Dancing On A Mat in Malawi

Saturday, May 18th, 2002
PZmR20gwby0cg19rXgklIw-2006197131657399.gif That night Rod has arranged for us to have dinner at the home of a local family. We each take a bowl and spoon from the truck and are led down a series ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cross Dressing At Kande Camp

Saturday, May 18th, 2002
PZmR20gwby0cg19rXgklIw-2006197131657399.gif Sat 18th 2002 Town of Mzuza We get off the bus and go to the market in Mzuza to buy clothes for the Cross Dressing Party at Kande Camp-we have drawn names of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chitimba Beach Camp

Friday, May 17th, 2002
PZmR20gwby0cg19rXgklIw-2006197131657399.gif When we pull into the camp compound there are three trucks aready,, and written in huge letters across the sides.The camp bars in Africa are open-air like they usually are ... [Continue reading this entry]

Slave Trade At Malawi Lake

Friday, May 17th, 2002
PZmR20gwby0cg19rXgklIw-2006197131657399.gif We are headed to Malawi Lake which is huge-of Malawi�s 118,000 sq km 20% is taken up by the long narrow lake which nearly runs approximately 500km down the length of the thin sliver ... [Continue reading this entry]

Muzungu At The Malawi Border

Friday, May 17th, 2002
PZmR20gwby0cg19rXgklIw-2006197131657399.gif We stop at a small town for supplies and "toilet stop" near the Malawi border and to spend the rest of our Tanzania shillings...scores of young boys in dirty and unbelievably tattered clothing surround ... [Continue reading this entry]

Nairobi to Cape Town Overland

Monday, May 6th, 2002
HF0m0NezqDnitkljwNP8lg-2006188104829364.gif May 5, 2002 We left for the 4000 mile seven week trip in a Mercedes Benz truck overland from Nairobi to Capetown. As Bob suspected there would be, there are 17 kids all under ... [Continue reading this entry]