Thursday, January 29, 2009

a brief post....

Ignore my hair - it's going through an awkward growing-out stage. A couple pictures from Embangwei, a deaf school up north near Mzimba. The painting was hanging in the guest dining area - I love the quirkiness of it. (shoot. the pics failed to upload. will keep trying)

The seven day baseline survey/needs assessment of some deaf students was an eye opening experience for me. I returned Tuesday, settled in a new hostel and now nursing a cold praying that it will not progress into a flu since it's been going around. Next, I will participate and assist with Betty and Deaf Action (Scotland)'s 2nd phase of a six day sign language interpreting training starting this Sunday. It also include religious, medical, and legal themes so the training should be quite interesting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Minibuses (or Matolas) and the informal sector

They are the informal transportation used by the public in Malawi. Informal, in international development term meaning that is not under control or licensed by the government. Informal sector is the economics of those unable to afford the license and maintenance required by the government. Or, the government does not have resources – in the case of this post – for public transportation. Many times, especially in countries in Africa, parts of Asia, South America and even smack in the Chinatown area of New York City where illegal sweatshops sewing Louis Vutton bag duplicates thrive, informal is the way to eke out a living. The informal sector considered the grey market I believe.

Based on my observation, Malawi tolerates the informal industry such as the minibuses because it is the only way the majority of people can afford to pay MWK 50 a ride (or .34 cents in US money) to travel to their jobs, homes, and errands from a distance of miles – or kilometers (therefore contribute the growing economy by doing errands and being employed by whatever means). However due to safety issues, Blantyre places random traffic police spotchecks to ensure that the minibuses aren’t stuffed full of people or vendors carrying produce that can compromise not only the safety but for sanitary reasons. Once, I had the pleasure of sitting (or squished) next to a vendor holding a large uncovered homemade metal bucket full of sardines stinking up the bus.

Most of my experiences riding a minibus are good, but there are occasionally bad rides. It depends on how well the driver and the conductor care for their bus. Sometimes I would appraise the conductor and driver before boarding (or choose not to). Petrol and diesel are expensive, so the conductor would shout out through the window try to recruit riders out of pedestrians and bypass the three people to a row regulation. A minibus can hold three to four rows of seats and one or two rows contain an extra seat that folds out into the crouch/walk space. Each row can seat up to five people depending on how big or thin the passengers are. Small children usually sit on their parent’s lap to make room for others. Once in a while, a minibus would drive by with a conductor’s backside sticking out of the window. I have seen police halt a minibus or two at a time and force the excessive passengers to de-board, and inspect produce if a passenger is carrying any, checking whether the items were properly packed. The driver can face fines. Once or twice I’ve seen a minibus eject some passengers or passengers with produce if they see a police checkpoint ahead of time.

Riding a minibus is the top adventure I’ve encountered so far. No, I have yet to visit a nature park and observe lions, hippos, or hyenas in action like the Animal Planet on TV (Nicar is disappointed in me and now questions the accuracy of the cable channel). The wildest animals I have seen are geckos on my wall or ceiling in my hostel rooms in Lilongwe and Blantyre, and snails outside. Oh, there’s crows and a couple varieties of birds. Back to the point – I’ve a couple bruises from some seat hinges that stuck out, and a very surface scrape on my forearm because people do not wait for you to get on or get off. I’m glad I had a tetanus shot before leaving the States. I still haven’t oriented my physical space – I still bump my head, occasionally slip and/or stumble getting on and off. The motor of the minibus is between the driver’s seat and the front row. Some buses cover it with scraps of rug while others don’t. It can be hot to the touch and my shins have been cooked once or twice. If I’m lucky, I sit on the side or in the middle row, for optimal view of scenery so I know when to get off.

Sunday night, my colleague Charles and I were changing minibuses having arrived into the city centre from a Blantyre suburb. One minibus appeared questionable. Charles was confirming if this was the correct route and he had one leg inside. The driver (an immature one) slammed the pedal and the minibus shot backwards. Charles was able to skip and hop out to avoid becoming a road kill. The minibus went in full speed reverse up the street and a minute later shot down back to us, into a screeching halt (well I didn’t wear my hearing aids but I imagine it did screech). Strange. The conductor beckoned us to climb in, and Charles was wary and put a foot in. Either the driver didn’t check or didn’t care, stepped on the pedal again, and jerked forward. I snapped a sharp HEY! at him. Charles climbed inside and I made eye contact with the driver as I climbed in, daring him with my stare to pull that on me.

Soon as I found my seat – the driver hit the gas. He is the most undisciplined driver I’ve seen so far. On the average bus, the conductor would communicate with the driver and their coordination works well. The conductor tends to be in charge of how the bus move and stop, I’ve noticed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A store was selling Obama chitengas so I snapped one up. Woot!

Monday, January 19, 2009

What I encounter and observe on Chileka Road, leading into the city of Blantyre are broken down into the following:

I typically leave Grace Bandawe Hotel and Conference Centre at 8am and join numerous pedestrians walking up and down the road, depending where they are going. School children, most of them dressed in white and blue or green (blue skirts or jumpers for girls, blue sweater for boys with school initials embroidered into their sweater) walk up to several schools, past the hotel. Adults, who I assume are teachers and administrative of sorts walk up too. The other professional dressed ones walk to town, I'm assuming they work in the bank, businesses, and retail stores. Most of them wear professional clothing in various degrees of style and newness or wear and tear. Few women wear traditional chitenga wraps over their work clothes.

Hawkers and peddlers – all women, men, and children carry their wares in baskets or bundles on their heads walking down to the city, rarely out of the city. I sometimes see them carrying luggage on their heads too. I’ve observed them putting the bundles on top of their heads – depending on the weight it’s usually the task of two people. The first person held the bundle in her (and sometimes his) hands, and the other to help heave the bundle onto the first person’s head. When they reach the balance they’re content with, the second person lets go. Most of them are poor, wearing secondhand clothes – women often wear chitenga wrap and rarely without children in tow (or tied to their back). Boys sell small meat pies, bread, nuts, cigarettes, and hard candy. Some of them walk among the people selling the wares and others have fixed spots along the road waiting for a passerby to show interest and stop. I’ve not tried them yet – I was warned by someone that my Western digestive system may not tolerate them. One day soon, I’ll ask a colleague of mine to point out anything that I can eat or not. Lastly, but not least – the phone people with plastic tables containing the Top Up logos. They remind me of the phone ladies in “Banker for the Poor” by M. Yunis. There are many of them dotted alongside the road and in the city – with a wireless phone and “top up” stubs for mobile phone units costing around 100 to 200 kwachas, depending on the company brand. I think in town, maybe half a dozen or more would line up on each side of a block. A fair many of them are women with a child or two, and there are a number of men also. Some men would stand on the road or highway median in hopes that someone stuck in traffic (usually by the roundabout or at the traffic lights) would be tempted to reach out and purchase a stub to increase their mobile units.

People outside working: Instead of men mowing the lawn, there are men and young boys swinging machetes the size of a slender hockey sticks cutting down the grass in even and steady arcs. They seem to follow the hockey rule – do not swing higher than your shoulders. Several older men would keep one arm behind his back as a precaution. On much larger lands, I saw a couple gas powered lawn mowers and even an electrical lawn mower, the man taking care not to mow over the electrical cord (think of trying to vacuum a room and holding up the cord). At the large shopping mall outside Blantyre, a man using shears cut grass on a tiny island in the parking lot.
There is a large marketplace, consisting of shacks selling mobile phones, shoes, clothing, repairs, very similar to the one Allen and I walked through in Lusaka, though not as big and sprawling. Some shacks and hawkers even placed themselves on the narrow footbridge across a shrunken creek. The peasants invaded perhaps half the city’s public lands, usually by the highway, the creek, some odd place here and there growing cash crops. The other day I saw a small patch (maybe 6’x6’) of corn. Now it’s been hacked down.

I see quite a number of cars and overland trucks bearing the logo or picture of a NGO office and EU offices driving around town. I’ve spotted a few offices on the outskirts of town. The only major development in works visible is the construction and maintenance of a nearly completed highway between Blantyre and Limbe, sponsored by Japan. The pathwalk alongside one side of the highway is completed and many pedestrians (including myself) walk alongside it. The pathwalk on the other side (towards Limbe) is still being constructed. There are many local workers working on beautifying the median between the roads (decorative stones cemented along the road) and roundabouts. Occasionally I see Japanese foreman and surveyors (both Japanese and local Malawians) checking in on progress and thinking over any snafus that occurred. I saw in the newspaper over the weekend that China is giving more aid to Malawi, and part of it goes to improvement of another highway between two cities somewhere in the southern region I think.

The city centre is compact, filled with many stores and business. Several times I failed to pay attention because at the edge of the city centre the scene suddenly changes into a leafy suburb, sort of like Minneapolis since half the city is suburban. I’m still learning the streets and shortcuts around the city centre so I often have to backtrack to the city centre. There are some parts of it I’ve yet to explore – mostly due to my energy stemming to fits and starts of MANAD (Malawi National Association of the Deaf) and the distance of my hotel from the city. I’m usually carrying my bag full of stuff in anticipation of going over them with MANAD.

By the time I think about exploring the other parts of the city, I’m slick from sweat and covered in dust, and my chest begins to complain from breathing in the diesel fumes from the city’s many, many minibuses (an informal public transportation). Soon I will dedicate a post on minibuses or matolas. I tend to be out and about from 8am to around 2pm. Once in a while I’d stop by Doogle’s a hostel by the bus stop for a beer – if I’m in the mood to walk across the lumpy parking lot full of holes and rocks, minibuses and large buses belching diesel fumes, saying NO to taxi drivers pursuing me asking if I needed a ride. It’s a very popular hostel for mazungus and they have some meals there as well if I’m in the mood for burgers and lasanges. They make WONDERFUL garlic bread. Heavenly. Once I return to my room unit, I’m taking off the sweaty and dust covered clothes then step into a cold (and refreshing) shower feeling clean again. Some reading and a siesta follow. Puttering around my room, walking among the hotel’s gardens, wash an occasional clothing item sort through my pictures and writing, then go to dinner at 630 pm.

My online course begins after MLK Jr holiday and basically waiting for MANAD to actually meet so they can have me follow them to places where the Deaf people work (some weaving factory outside Blantyre employs all disabled folks) and meet, visit Deaf schools near Mulanje, and plan the next survey trip upcountry.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Week in Blantyre III

I think the toughest day for me was Thursday. After finding a very reasonably priced and fast service internet café, explored the city a bit and had a delicious and cheap lunch at a Chinese restaurant (noodle fix!) – I encountered child beggars. Back in the States I’m accustomed to men beggars and some local crazies – but child and disabled beggars. I’d seen some of them in Lilongwe but seem here in Blantyre, they’re awfully persistent. One boy pursued me half a block until I finally faced him and shooed him away. A small toddler emulated the older child beggars and it was sort of like a game for her. Ouch. I was feeling like crap but I know there’s nothing I can do for them – there are existing services for them. What really set me over that upon arriving back to the hotel, Dee, a young deaf woman I’d befriended the day before, was waiting for me and was about to give up (after 4 hours wait) once I arrived. I was amazed to see her, and I couldn’t recall agreeing a visit from her. She informed me that there is a possibility of renting a room (one room together – eh) and after chatting about random things, she didn’t appear to be ready to leave. Dee mentioned something about a long walk back home. I’d just rented a DVD in hopes that it’d be subtitled, so I took out my laptop to see if it would work (and kill time with Dee). The movie wasn’t subtitled. Shoot. How else to entertain her? I showed her a digital key chain of pictures my boyfriend took of us together and a couple books. She began inquiring about the cost of them – something was a bit off. Then the red flag sprang into my mind. Dee blurted out that the banks are closed and she wanted to borrow MK 2,500 (about $12 or $15) and I flat out refused. She pressed me why – I finally told her that as a foreigner student on official funds, I can’t be loaning out money for emergencies. I showed her the door. It also helped me decide not to be roommates with her – it would suck if I had to cover her rent.
First, ignoring the beggars on the streets (including a child leading a blind woman) and this with Dee happened in my own room within the same day. I was cranky and vulnerable. The following morning, during an online chat with my boyfriend, who was raised in a third world country, helped me bring back to my senses – that I don’t have much of a choice, it’s either a) be depressed and succumb to give money, or b) focus on why I’m in Malawi in the first place.
In a way I’m faring much better here in Malawi than I did in Ireland back in 2001-2002. Malawi is the second country I’m residing in – my first few months was rough in Ireland, despite a Western country, but different types of culture, food, transport, deaf and hearing Irish – it was stressful. I think my experience working as a case manager, then as a group home manager for five years in New York City exposed me to stressful (and yes, dangerous) conditions, and taught me how much of my limits I can push, and when to stop.
With the experience under my belt, the transition in Malawi is much smoother so far. It really helped starting the trip with Allen in Zambia, him holding my hand for the first few days before we parted ways in Lilongwe. And having a journal to write about the events of the day, vent my thoughts, and feelings as well as e-mailing really made a difference for me. And blogging. In addition, making introductory meet-ups with the Deaf professionals I’ll be working with – Euphrasia, Juliana, and Charles a priority – another smooth transition. Mom – I’m eating very well here so far, no worries - not like it was in Limerick. I hope (and gosh darn it, WILL be) using this vibe to last me through to the end of April.
On the upside of this post – the internet’s been restored in my hotel. Yay! But it’s not at the luxury in my room and using my laptop. Better than nothing – least there’s a place in the city, cheap and fast. Now that I’m pretty much settled in, I will begin to coordinate webcam times (hint…). There is a possibility I may be moving to Limbe, a town 5 kilometers from Blantyre, closer to FEDOMA. Or, I can remain in Blantyre at a different hostel where development workers reside. Networking would be awesome.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Second Week – Blantyre II

Remember I mentioned my excitement about Hostellerie de France? Well, it turned out to be a huge disappointment – I lasted one night and left for the Grace Bandawe the next day. It was way out from the city, isolated, no internet (as it was advertised), and no people around. I think I was the sole guest since I did not see other guests. The French couple that ran the hostel was very out of touch, acted superior to their African staff, and two German Shepherd dogs patrolled the area (they turned out to be darlings I found – I miss their affections and wonder how they are doing). The pros about the place: clean, hot showers, real coffee, efficient staff, and excellent view of the Rift Valley. Something about the place rubbed me the wrong way. It is ideal for those who can’t book a hostel elsewhere, come in groups of people, and have no interest in the city.

Juliana, the Chair of MANAD helped me get into Grace Bandawe, a Central African Presbyterian Church operated hotel and conference center. Malawi National Association of the Deaf and I believe, Federation of Disabled Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) used the place for retreats and conferences, so they’re accustomed to having deaf patrons. Juliana assisted me because, me being a foreigner the Grace will overcharge (not uncommon in Africa), and that Juliana is well known, the hotel agreed to book me at a reduced price. Interesting note and I’m not sure how to interpret it, Juliana persuaded me to rent the whole unit (at a cheaper price anyway) so an African patron will not share the unit with me, because I’m white and too different in lifestyle from the African. I’m not the first mazungu Juliana has set up accommodation for. I’m here for two weeks while Juliana searches a room for me to board. The last volunteer before me, Judy, stayed at a deaf school outside Limbe, but she mainly worked with children. So I’m not sure where Juliana will place me.

The Hotel is very pleasant – two rooms and a bathroom to each building unit, many thatched gazebos for reading, relaxing, and small groups to meet, and plenty of plants and flowers to admire. It’s closer to the city – though still a longish walk, but there are pedestrians and cars passing by in front of the Hotel gates so I feel more connected to humanity. The staff is all African and they manage the hotel and conference center, I see a number of other patrons. I’m content here but: no internet and no hot water (my coping method is to think of it as camping, by soaping and scrubbing myself before turning the cold water back on). Least the cons is only two .

A hostel down the road – Doogles – a hostel catered to foreigners, have internet and a bar. I go there at least once a day since it’s halfway to the city. I avoid the tourists there because they seem so…. flighty. So I’m a snob now (after a week and a half!).

Second week – in Blantyre I

I consider Tuesday, January 6 my second full week in Africa. It is also the day I left Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe for Blantyre its business and NGO (non governmental organization) capital of Malawi. It is also the oldest European settlement in the country. I hope to visit Zomba – Malawi’s colonial capital until shortly after its independence from the British – during my 4 month stay here. I did not see much of Lilongwe – except for the Old Town part where I stayed and patronized. The first president, Banda, made it capital and used Apartheid South African money to build road and governmental buildings. I’ve heard there isn’t much to look at but I will make the effort the next time I go through the city.

The bus trip down to Blantyre from Lilongwe was pleasant, taking a total of four hours and half. The scenery (until the bus stewardess – yes you read this right – sort of like being on the Hampton Jitney) was interesting and pleasant until the conductoress (?) played a Whoopi Goldberg movie, Sister Act II. And it was subtitled! I’d seen the first movie years ago and never saw its sequel. The story setting took place around 1993 – oy, flashbacks of hair, clothes, the lingo –whew. The scenery outside the bus was much more interesting than Zambia. Malawi though its land is a tiny fraction of Zambia -100 miles width and distance about the same as east-west Pennsylvania I think, has a larger population of 13 million than Zambia’s 11 million. The villages were plentiful – some nicer or shoddier than the next one - and like Zambia, mixed huts with concrete structures, and thatched roof (bamboo I think?). And so many farmland – with the success of fertilization coupon scheme pushed by the government there’s been a surplus of crop vegetables. However vendors and some government officials exploited it, overcharging farmers and peasants, and there are still pockets of poverty all around. Those who did not benefit I suppose. The fields look so fertile that one could swear that valleys, boulders, and even mountains sprang up. Eastern Africa’s Great Rift Valley runs through most parts of Malawi so it’s rare not to miss a mountain or valley peak when you’re in the city.

Having grown up among valleys it was very pleasant for me to stare into the scenery through the bus window. As opposed to the Appalachian mountains in the Eastern United States smoothed by the glaciers, the Rift Valley seemed to be more random and sculptural.

Blantyre, the largest town in Malawi, definitely qualifies as a small city with many shops, restaurants – African and Western, and Chinese – businesses, banks, lodges and hotel. I have not ventured into the markets like the one Allen and I went through in Lusaka. I saw few mazungu people along with Indians and Arabs but not until I went to the (new) Mall south of Blantyre, to another town of Limbe. I’ve never seen so many Africans with mazungus, Indians, Muslims (both African and Middle Eastern) and Arabs in one place. One department store called Games was full of every other person of race or color. Games reminded me of K-mart and Wal-mart. It would have been a scene in an American city populated with different kinds of races and creed, but the security guards checking receipts and purchases wore military style uniform (down to high topped boots and color bars on shoulders) with Security Guard tailored into their uniforms made it distinctly African in a way.

The deluge of rains continued – my second night in Blantyre and first at Grace Bandawe, I woke up to a strange sounding thunderstorm. The thunder seemed to choke or drag on itself every time, like a rumbling straining to boom. Like belching without the consequential release of a burp. I think Friday was the worst I’ve been stuck in so far. After a day and a half of heavy gray and white clouds, the rains were finally released. I had left the mall and gotten onboard a minibus moments before the first drops fell. The bus made a stop at a large truck refueling place, with a large and flat canopy. The rain created curtains of water spilling down the sides – every few minutes, a wind would blow the water onto us. Many people – riders and pedestrians – huddled under the canopy waiting for the rains to pass. The more of us grew, the more irritated the security became with us. We were blocking the minibuses and large trucks. The guard with an energetic german shepherd wearing a muffler not unlike the one worn by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of Lambs, each time he yelled and corralled us into one side, the dog would echo him by barking insanely. Both the guard and the dog’s eyes appeared to be crazy and twitching, bloodshot. The thunders were booming and sometimes it felt like someone was banging the canopy roof. In a short time, leaks from the roof formed and eventually people shifted around forming holes where the leaks dripped (or flowed). For a long while it appeared that the leaks continued to form here and there. Nearly an hour later, the rains became lighter and people began braving to go out. I gave up on waiting on a minibus with my destination (and breathing in all the petrol and diesel fumes) – I walked to the hostel. I'd misplaced my umbrella. Again.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Old Town, Lilongwe

I’m inside a restaurant, Nando’s – a reasonably priced Portuguese inspired cuisine with chicken and vegetarian burgers, and salads. For a very early lunch I had a platter of lemon flavored yellow rice with two marinated chicken kebab. Delicious. This place has wi-fi access – though the connection is very strong, much better than the camp (too weak to go online). However, the online registration doesn’t work and it’s pouring rain outside. I took the opportunity to polish the Week of Firsts blog post and now, this post. With one hearing aid on, I can hear the chatter of people outside waiting under the concrete alcove, for the rain to pass. And it’s windy outside. Not good.

My errands finished earlier than I expected – I exchanged a couple traveller's cheques(I’d run out of cash) into kwachas, walked up the hill to the immigration and visa permit office only to find out I didn’t need one after all. I pressed the officer to clarify that I am volunteering for four months in Blantyre. That seemed unimportant to him. He instructed me to check in for an “extension” in Blantyre as needed. O-kay. Least I have it in his writing in my notepad .The Axa coach line was next door (the Shire coach line recommended by my guidebook is in rubble - really), so I took an opportunity to book a 7am bus to Blantyre. The trip takes four to five hours so might as well get an early start.

I’m excited about this French hostel I booked in Blantyre – for a week I’ll have a room to myself, free towels, a swimming pool and they have a wine bar. I’ll really have to discipline myself. I’ve been told that FEDOMA outside Blantyre is anticipating my arrival and my accommodations are planned. I hope. To spoil myself a bit, I will keep my reservation at the Hostellerie du France. In a way it’s sort of a poke at me. A former roommate of mine, Guthrie called my old apartment in Hell’s Kitchen – Hotel du Breen – because I often had friends who were between apartments or out-of-towners staying over.

The hostel/camp I’ve been staying since late Thursday night is pretty decent. The staff there is nice, and there are three large dogs and a black cat lounging around the grounds. The cat mainly sticks to the dining hall and the dogs basically follow their muzangu owners (who run the hostel) around. There are a lot of young and old folks from Europe - far as I can tell and some native wazungus (wa is for many white people).

I’ve been very, very fortunate in terms of meeting deaf people. In Lusaka, I ran into Euphrasia, a deaf woman who I will be working with on her baseline survey travels around Malawi. She’s completed one or two travellers I believe. On Saturday afternoon, a large yellow 4x4 caravan bus arrived with 24 people stopping in Malawi along its 4 month trip from Egypt, wending down through countries (the Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and Burundi so far). Malawi is its halfway point to South Africa. Two of its travelers are Deaf British – one of them having worked with the Deaf in Blantyre so she knows people who I will work with. Very small world and how random is that???? She showed me some video on her camera of deaf children she’s worked with (her primary tasks were collecting and documenting Malawian sign language – that part I may assist between MANAD and my online class tasks) and a gathering of disabled and deaf Malawians at FEDOMA (Federation of Disabled of Malawi). She was able to help facilitate a meeting point for me and Charles, one of the people I will work for who lives in town. I was very grateful for her assistance! The next day, I met up with Charles who gave me some insight on Malawi Deaf – to basically focus on tasks on hand and try to remain neutral, not to let the Deaf gossip distract (or bother) me. My overwhelmed reception skills – attempting to absorb conversations mixed in with ASL, Zambian sign, International Sign, BSL, and now, Malawi signs thrown inside – is on the fray. I probably understood – or absorbed – maybe 50 to 75 percent of information since Saturday evening.

So far, my stars have been good – perhaps because I was able to see part of the constellation at night while travelling through Zambia. When I’m not moving and standing in one place with lights turned off, it’s not cloudy or raining I hope to get another look at the night sky.

The Week of Firsts

- Taxi cab from the airport to town: Once I was in the taxi with Allen, during chatting I took in some scenery. I observed a number of women carrying mounds of bags on their heads and the men, on their bicycles mostly carrying charcoal.

- African meal: a piece of chicken with nsima (maize ground into a firm porridge that you ball a piece in one hand, and use it soak it up with tomato sauce) and a local variation of broccoli rabe. No utensils and napkins! During an IM chat with Nicar, I proudly told him I ate using my hands. The chicken was tough, had to pull it apart with my hands in order to eat some hard to reach meat.

- Deaf interaction: at the Zambian National Association of the Deaf, then at the marketplace. A deaf tailor working on a linen shirt commissioned by Allen, and two deaf shoppers dropping in – a priest and a teacher of the deaf. The next day, Allen chatted with a group of deaf men from Zimbabwe who were looking for work, saying things are very bad at home.

- Township and marketplace visit: Many, many people walk everywhere especially on the highway alongside speeding automobiles, buses, and trucks. Riding a taxi in Lusaka, the driver will basically drive through people, and occasionally bumping arms with the sideview mirror. After visiting the ZNAD, Allen wanted to show me what it’s like walking through a busy marketplace. It’s sort of like Chinatown in New York City where you’re shoulder to shoulder walking among people trying to avoid stepping on wares or being brushed by a car or minibus. Many women sat or squatted on muddy ground selling and bartering their wares such as oranges, mangoes, onions, clothes, rubber boots, crafts, kitchen appliances, machine parts, and everything you can possibly imagine. What impressed me most, their babies or small children tied onto their mother’s back or side in a wrap, mostly quiet, asleep or watching. I’m accustomed to seeing restless children back in the States. Inside the legit marketplace supported by roof and walls – I say legit because those who sold their wares can afford the booth fees – sold similar wares as these outside, but better or diverse quality. There were also tailors, hat and dressmakers. Allen met a friend of his, a deaf Zambian tailor who’s been working for 18 years and he has regular customers. Two deaf shoppers stopped by to chat – a priest and a school teacher.

-Bus trip: a 10 hour trip to Lilongwe from Lusaka, via eastern Zambia, and the border crossing into Malawi. Eastern Zambia comprised of valleys, bunched up together, or at distances looking like pointy mounds separated by miles, and eventual grasslands dotted by trees, large and small fields of crops. There are deforested spots here and there, and you often see tree stumps in gardens and fields. Many villages of huts dotted along the road, children looking at our bus as we passed by. The deeper in the rural country, the more huts we saw in grouping of huts, some walled with thin stapling trees, and those without, serving as meeting centers. The women wore traditional chitengas (something like sarongs) in various prints and colors in more frequency and a different wrap style than the city women. The bus drove so fast that the villages and scenery blurred by. Allen, sitting on the aisle seat with a better view of the driver, saw the bus nearly hit the people riding bikes on several occasions. He once observed that cars or all forms of transport comes first, those on bikes come in second for their right of the way, and various other transports until the pedestrians come last.

-squatting on my haunches over a rectangular hole to relieve myself. Enough said. Let’s say I was successful and didn’t wet myself in the process. The latrines were inside a small concrete structure with two holes separated by a wall. This happened at a rest stop along the bus route, deep in the country. Public bathrooms cost a fee and evidently, this is a good business for locals to maintain. A bonus: a large bottle with stopper handy to wash your hands. Cholera is rampant in Zimbabwe and it’s spread into north of South Africa (last I heard). Evidently Zambia and Malawi aren’t in any serious danger from the epidemic from Zimbabwe. I’ve seen many billboards sponsored by the Ministry of Health in Lusaka reminding all to wash hands and retrieve water from safe wells.

-Washing clothes by hand. I decided to wash some shirts, underwear, and pants and found it to be rather tedious work. A bottle of beer helped keep me company. The shirts and underwear were the easy part until I did the pants. The pant, especially the seat where the fabric is heaviest, my arms shuddered from the effort to lift the soaked pants out of the soapy water and under the tap. With the humidity it took a day to dry. The morning after the thunderstorm, in direct sunlight – I hung the clothes in better proximity (from the inside of the washroom). It dried in several hours and I was able to get them inside before more rain arrived.

- African rain: though it rained hard in Lusaka but it was late at night or early in the morning so I only saw the results. My second night at the hostel camp in Lilongwe, a thunderhead appeared and some time after dinner a deluge of rain poured down. Worse than cats and dogs. Allen said this is African rain since this is a rainy season beginning in November until April or May. September and October in Zambia was very dry, the land and gardens were very brown and desolate. The previous dry and hot winter (our summer up in northern hemisphere!), there were very random light rains. Allen marveled two or three times a day how green it is and how fast everything grew from the ground. Back to the thunderstorm – it was very close to the camp and loud. I was reading “The Poisonwood Bible” (thanks, Pat!) which really gave me insight on the weather and people – African and mazungu(white)’s mentalities or state of being. Allen says mazungu so much that it’s caught on me. It’s sort of being in reverse where the majority here is black Africans and I’m the mazungu deaf woman. Off the point again. The thunder boom was so loud and hard that I could feel the hostel shudder under my bed. Looking outside, the lightning lit up the ground like a camera flash. The power went off briefly – perhaps for half an hour. Some of my clothes I’d washed that morning became increasingly damp. With the rains, I began to see the wisdom in concrete floors and mini irrigation canals not only on the campsite, but in town as well. The bathroom and shower area, being on the ground flooded (I found out the hard way by stepping my bare foot down needing to go to the bathroom). When I set my foot down, I think it went past my ankle before I quickly yanked my foot out of the floodwater. After the thunderstorm stopped for good, I saw some workers mopping up and disinfecting the bathroom and showers. As the Borg would say, efficient.

Fast Food – I met with one of my supervisors, Charles at the Hungry Lion, a chicken and hamburger fast food place, and it is Halaal approved (so says the sign behind the cashier). It was very greasy but decent – two pieces of chicken; wing and a breast I think with chips (I offered them to Charles) and a slender glass bottle of Coke.

Tuesday, I depart for Blantyre – some more of the country to see.