03 November 2009

2009-11-03: Ten letters


This was not an eventful day at all. I woke up late, decided it was too late to go to Makoka, spent the rest of the day writing emails, had dinner with my housemates, and spent the evening hand-writing letters (ten of them, to be exact - so it was a productive evening, but doesn't make for an exciting blog entry). As a postscript, I describe several interesting tidbits from the past week, such as a soldier on a very delicate mission, and a rare airplane sighting.

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I should probably just leave this entry blank, since that is more or less how the day turned out. It began with, unfortunately, what has become my normal routine: seven o'clock, alarm goes off. "Uggghhh," I say, "it can't be time to get up already." (hits snooze) (hits snooze) (zzzzzzz)...

This morning, I got a phone call at nine, and by the time I wrapped up the conversation, ten o'clock was approaching. By the time I got out the door, it would be ten-thirty. I'd be arriving at Makoka just at the hottest part of the day. That didn't appeal to me, but I'd have to suck it up. Maybe I would lie down again for a little while first...

When I finally woke up, it was lunchtime, and I was very cross with myself. I suppose yesterday's victory of getting up at 6:30 was short-lived, and partly responsible for today's failure.

* * * * *

Since I only had half a day, I decided to stay at home and write some follow-up emails regarding fellowship applications. I also wanted to go to the main market and find a tailor who could make some litterbags for me. (I've decided to outsource that job this year; last year it took me nearly three days to make 36 litterbags!) But the afternoon glided away so quickly, I found myself rushing straight from home to the Internet cafe. I'd have to commission my litterbags tomorrow instead.

After I sent my emails at least I felt as though I'd accomplished something, but it was not nearly worthy of a whole day's labour. I didn't feel as though I had earned my dinner. But I shared dinner with my housemates anyway.

After dinner, I didn't feel like spending any more time on my computer, since that was how I'd passed the whole afternoon. So instead I decided to write some letters that I'd been meaning to write ever since I got here. I sat at my desk with my lamp switched on, armed with paper, pens, envelopes, cards, scissors, and glue. By the end of the night, I had produced:

      3 hand-made thank you cards;
      3 postcards;
      2 handwritten letters;
      2 small packages.

It was a satisfying feeling to put the stamps on these and put them in a stack one by one. The packages would need to be weighed at the post office, but for letters and postcards I already knew the standard rate: K115 to the US or Australia; K110 to Europe. This is about US$0.80, which would be reasonable if only the letters arrived a little faster! Last year, I seem to remember the average was about three weeks. All the more reason to get these in the mail sooner rather than later.

* * * * *

Since today was so uneventful, I will conclude today's entry with some miscellaneous happenings from the past week. I think these events were interesting enough to mention, but for one reason or another, I didn't describe them on the day on which they occurred.

  • One night I felt like a late snack, so I went into the kitchen to see if there were any leftovers. There was nsima and stew, but I didn't want something so heavy as stew. So I decided to try eating nsima as dessert, with honey and butter (sort of like cornbread, I reasoned). Nsima doesn't make a very good dessert, I am sorry to say - especially not cold. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained...

  • When I was on a minibus on its way out of town, we stopped at the Army barracks, and two soldiers boarded. One of them was carrying a crate of eggs. (Egg crates in Malawi are similar to the paperboard egg cartons in US supermarkets, but are open-top and large, usually holding 30 eggs.) It was an incongruous image, the soldier in his camo fatigues and black boots cradling the egg crate on his lap. I imagined how this had come about: "We have a top secret and very dangerous mission to carry out! Any volunteers?"

  • On another minibus trip, I was surprised to see a heavily pregnant woman board. Visibly pregnant women usually don't appear in public in Malawi - I think I can only remember seeing one or two others in all my time here. I wonder how they manage to run their households if they can't go out in public? They get help from mothers and sisters, I suppose? It turned out that this woman was going to Namikango Maternity Clinic at Thondwe, so she had a very good reason for breaching the usual rules.

  • When I was measuring seedlings with Peter at Nkula Field, I heard a familiar droning noise from the sky, and then realised that in this context it was not familiar. It was an airplane. It's surpassingly rare to see an airplane over Zomba; there's no airport here, and although there's a small aerodrome nearby at Chinamwali, the nearest proper airport is 70 kilometres away in Blantyre. This airplane was flying right over Makoka; it was a small white prop plane (not a jet), and that's all we could tell. Where had it come from? Where was it going? Who was flying? We'd never know. I thought of the book I am reading, West With the Night, the autobiography of a female British pilot in colonial Kenya. She describes vividly the freedom of flying over the unmarked African landscape, effortlessly traversing plains and forests, mountains and lakes. I wonder what Malawi looks like from up there!

Chichewa word of the day: -limbikira = work diligently / bravely


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