It took me a few days to notice that Mr Steak had disappeared from school.
“I have not seen our friend for a while,” I say to Mr Jerry in the elliptical vernacular that is common in this part of the world. He looks at me quizzically. “That one,” I say, motioning in the direction of Steak’s desk.
“Oh. He has gone to get a transcript,” Jerry says, “In Mzuzu.” Thyolo is in the South of Malawi. Mzuzu is in the North. Nothing unusual about the journey taking a few days.
The music adds people. The people multiply into a crowd. The crowd divides into groups and subgroups. Students. Non-students. Boy childs. Girl childs. The curious. The bored. Mendazi merchants. Beggers.
Two students have been stationed at the door to stamp hands and collect the entrance fee. One is the boy with the jaunty hat and the “OH SHIT!” shirt. The other is a girl with pink jeans and sunglasses. Her shirt says “California”. Her cleavage agrees.
The lack of parental supervision reminds me of the film “Bugsy Malone”, in which a young Scott Baio and Jodie Foster played Prohibition era gangsters in a world without adults. As if to prove my point, a seven-year-old girl walks by wearing high heels. Continue reading →
It is 1:30. I am a few hundred meters from the school, but can already hear the music. I cross the dirt road and walk past the primary school. The thump…thump…thump in the distance is calling.
I arrive at the school. A classroom has been converted for the event. A speaker is turned outward to maximize the noise pollution. With each step the music becomes more potent. The noise penetrates my body. Deeper and deeper it goes. I feel it throbbing within me. Assaulting me with an aural wall of scrunching electronic bumps and bass.
Just outside the makeshift disco, the boom is deafening. Inside it’s not much better. When I walk in I find about ten children. All boys. All under the age of twelve. Half of them are shirtless. Most of them are shoeless. They bump and grind with imaginary partners. The deejays sit in front of an old CRT computer monitor. They fiddle with some dials. They look bored. It is something of a massive letdown. Continue reading →
Day 20. Friday. 2:15 PM. The first week of the term has ended. Exam results are not yet in, which means I have taught exactly zero classes. I have made few friends. I decide to get a drink with a colleague. His name is Mr Steak.
On my way to the bar I encounter some children. They don’t look at me. They goggle. Offhand murmurings of “azungu” ring in my ears like the low-pitched thrumming of an electrical generator. It is a constant, inescapable tinnitus that follows me everywhere. I try to ignore it. I fail.
The bar is conveniently located directly behind the church. Calling it a bar is a rather generous assessment, though. Even by the standards of the local bottle store, this place leaves something to be desired. It is a simple storefront; with a pair of large speakers on the bar and a steel cage in the back that appears to hold nothing but a few dozen boxes of Chibuku. Continue reading →