Site visit ends. I wake up early on another chilly morning to catch a bus to Lilongwe. I tried to arrange a night in Blantyre with friends but the Overlords wouldn’t allow it. “We cannot justify you only traveling the short distance,” they say. I could think of a dozen justifications as to why I should travel to the city I will be living next to for two years and exploring, but I decide the time for testing the length of the leash is best left for a future date and a better cause.
Elvis has agreed to take me as far as the bus terminal. We catch our first minibus – going to Limbe. As we drive, a flock of birds flies in front of us. I hear a pathetic thunk as we hit one. The driver’s foot never leaves the accelerator.
“Do you remember the overturned car with the smashed windscreen we drove by?” Elvis asked me on day 1. He then went on to tell me the vehicle had struck one of the men employed as a security guard at the school. On day 2 I met the bursar, a rather severe looking man with a rather severe looking head, and he, along with Elvis and a member of the PTA authorized the release of funds to visit the man in the hospital.
By day 3 I learned the extent of the man’s injuries. “He has many fractures to his head,” I am told. I ask if he will be ok. “Yes, he will recover. If God allows it.”
As we enter Blantyre I get my first real chance to see the city. And it is a city. Trimmed hedges, roundabouts, cars that don’t look like they are held together with duct tape and silent prayers. We pass the only shopping mall in the country. I see a billboard for KFC that reads “So good” and my stomach rumbles in agreement.
We board a second minibus; this one drops near the bus station. It takes some time because they need more passengers. The maximum capacity is fifteen. We collect seventeen.
I see multistory buildings for the first time since arriving in this country. They are by no means skyscrapers, but some of them look like they might at least have elevators.
We get off the second minibus, just in time to see a big coach drive by. “You missed your bus,” Elvis says. It is 7:05 AM. I guess things occasionally run on time here.
We walk to the bus depot. Elvis has been carrying my bag the whole time. The bag is quite heavy, as the Overlords told me to pack many unnecessary things and I always over pack.
As we near the depot he shifts the bag. I think he is tiring and am about to ask if I can carry it. Then I realize he is just reaching for his phone. The ringtone is a gospel song and the glory of the Lord is being praised as he answers. “Hello?” he says. He speaks to the person on the other end briefly then puts the phone back in his pocket. “The man in the hospital has passed away,” he says.
We walk in silence. I stop briefly to take off my coat. The sun is shining and it is going to be a very warm day.