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.
Day nine at site. I leave the house early to attend a meeting at the school. The wind whips around me as I leave the house. Thyolo is a district of wind. It comes down from the mountains and whooshes through the treetops. Often, I lie awake in the middle of the night, listening as it catches on the tin roof of my house. The noise is rather sinister, the sound of many hoofed beasts escaping perdition as the howls of the damned scream after them. As I walk to school I am grateful for my jacket and my baseball cap.
I arrive at the school at 8:11AM. There is no one around. I sit. I wait. A young girl of about eight emerges from the gray mists surrounding the tea fields. She is quite thin. She carries a stick in her hand and a baby on her back. She shuffles past me. I wave and she responds in kind. She adjusts her chitenje and turns slightly, allowing the infant a chance to gaze upon the strange pale creature from a far away land. The baby does not seem terribly interested. “Iwe!” the girl shouts to some unseen friend before disappearing back into the fog. 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.”