It has been three weeks. I have been back in Thyolo for less than 24 hours when I decide to go to a local football match. Elvis is the coach and his team is number one in their division.
I am nearly at the pitch when I cross paths with a young girl of about 14. She stops dead in her tracks and looks at me with equal parts fear and confusion. This is a common reaction and I respond by taking two quick steps in her direction. She jumps backwards, nearly spilling the pot of water balanced so expertly on her head. Her fear quickly turns to embarrassment when she sees the broad smile on my face. I am harmless, the smile says. She laughs and continues on her way, making sure to give me a very wide berth.
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. Continue reading →
The rain stops but the winds continue unabated. The clouds race across the sky. An eagle of some variety circles, looking for easy prey. Elvis’ wife shouts at it. It flies off with a screeching promise to return.
I ask about the dogs I have seen scavenging in the yard. I mangle the Chichewa so badly she cannot understand. “They are dogs,” she instructs me in a tone that sounds harsh to my ears. Her English is excellent. “We call them dogs. They are just dogs.”
The Chichewa word for dog is galu. Clearly, I need to work on my pronunciation.
Later, Elvis and I are walking through the tea fields. Thousands of hectares of tea plants stretching out in every direction. It is beautiful. So beautiful. And so damn cold.
“You can see over there. There is the sunshine.” Elvis says, pointing to an island of warmth in the great green ocean of tea leaves. “Thyolo is being very cruel today, placing the sun so close but so far away. But do not worry. The sunshine will be arriving here for you soon. Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. The sunshine will be arriving here for you soon.”
Elvis and I are walking down a hill about 50 meters behind the school. I wrinkle up my nose at the pungent odor. “Now we are coming to the area where they do the slaughtering of the animals,” he informs me while pointing to a large patch of mud slightly darker than the rest. A short distance away, there is a man pulling a cow up the hill.
Site visit: Four days to explore the part of the country I will be calling home for two years.
Day 1: After enduring about forteen hours of nonstop wind and misty rain I ask my new boss/host, Elvis, if the weather of Thyolo District is always this bleak. “Oh, definitely no,” he replies. “It is only this harsh until November. Then the rainy season will begin.”