My Adventures in Malawi

26 Nov

CHAPTER NINE — 10/19/2007 — Malawian Food and Water Stories

Well, except for flirting with death on Saturday nothing exciting has happened this week.

Adventures at the office — Prepare to be bored: I was invited to a Malawian lunch in the BIG kitchen where most of the ladies at the office cook and eat together. But my colleagues were disappointed that the menu was limited today, no local veggies for the guest of honor (who, moi?!)…

I wonder if it means that they are going to invite me again! I hope so because it was delicious! Tiny little fishes that are so fried you can eat them whole. Bite-size pieces of beef cooked to perfection. Tomato sauce — no surprise. Of course all that was eaten with nsima, the staple of Malawian food. Yummy yummy.

There is no Malawian restaurant in Lilongwe, so I have had plenty of sandwiches and regular stuff, and of course Asian food at home, but never local delicacies.

We didn’t run out of drinking water this week (that is strange, but the week isn’t over yet…) but the tap in the ladies room ran dry for a while yesterday… I was left stranded with soap in my hands and we were (of course) also out of paper towels… But I don’t have an MA for nothing, nuhuh, I found my way to the kitchen where water was running freely! That’s called survival skills…

Office politics: the battle between the 2 wings of the H (the shape of our building) has been heating up. Before the debate was mostly about geography: east vs. west. Then someone said no, north, then it was north east.

Then it got ugly: emails started circulating to welcome 2 new staff in the “happy wing”… how low is that?! Now I know I made some not-so-nice comments about the choice of music preferred in my wing, but in spite of the fact that the two boys are gone, there hasn’t been any country music (or not loud enough for my sensitive ears to hear) and we are happy girls!

This afternoon we have been watching Big Brother Africa on line… My neighbor is back from her leave this week and we got temporary reinforcement from the Zimbabwe office (Exec Assistant). So, here is how it stands now: there is the “Happy Wing” and the “Happy People Wing”… to be continued.

Adventures at home — Radical to cure insomnia: I got home yesterday and… no water. I detect a theme!!

The staff were busy putting with a plastic container full of well water in the bathroom. “Not for washing” — No risk that I would bathe in that water, but thanks for the advice. They came back later to fill the tub because apparently the water was not coming back any time soon.

So I was huffing while watching the highlights of the Euro 2008 Cup qualifying matches, puffing watching a poker tournament (why is poker on a sports channel?!), and then they knocked again at my door to empty and clean the tub because the water was back.

Excellent excuse to interrupt the torture session before the allotted 15 minutes was up, because it is impossible to look dignified on that machine. The unreliable channel switched from the mysterious “sports” channel to… you guessed it: Big Brother Africa!!!

Well, it’s getting tense because Ghana got eliminated last week and the 2 men left (Cheating Tanzania and Boring Malawi) are nominated for eviction this Sunday. Go girls! But it was even more boring than usual, so I switched the TV off to read my book about… life in DC through the eyes of African American living at different times.

This book came from the care package received last week, but the good news is that I have managed to get to Old Town before the bookstores closed last Saturday. The first one was a disappointment because it was mostly intellectual stuff, you know when you are supposed to learn something… tsk tsk.

The second one was great and I spent a while there looking through the selection. The owner suggested Nervous Conditions, which I have already read and liked. I bought two more books… all that for $10. I could get used to this life. You know that my room here is bigger than my studio in DC… and the fridge is more modern.

Adventures in Lilongwe — Be afraid, be very afraid: So now you are wondering how could I flirt with death in a second-hand bookstore? I am sure that there are plenty of ways — shelves falling, choking on old paper, excited customers in withdrawal, etc. — but actually that happened later.

Armed with my books and a 1-liter bottle of water, I decided to cross the river and see the other side on foot — I had only been there by car once to see the regular market.

Well, when one says river, one says bridge… and anyone who knows me is aware that I despise DC bridges. Especially the really big one between Dupont and Cleveland Park, overlooking Rockcreek Park and the highway… it moves! And you have a choice between being too close to the cars going way too fast or too close to the big nothingness and splat on the concrete.

Gloop… i not feel so good… breathe in breathe out… happy thoughts happy thoughts flowers in the meadow lalalalalala rabbits and birdies where is my chocolate? aaaaaaaaaah feel better now.

So I look at the bridge over the Lilongwe River… mmmm parts are missing, but the cement looks sturdy, and it’s not high. The river is really a rivulet in this season.

I can do it!

And I did! Thanks for the applause, thank you.

But that was not really flirting with death, maybe with danger ooh aaah. I walked up the hill for a while and past a really nice mosque, which came to life suddenly at prayer time… and made me hungry. So I headed back towards the river but through the informal market this time. Nice nice nice… oh! a no man’s land, the end of the market.

I turned left in direction of the river… nice nice nice and look two tiny wooden bridges with spaces in-between the planks… lovely. I am afraid of a million things and if I always listened to those fears, I’d still be… oy oy oy.

So, I breathed deeply. There was no chocolate readily available so I pretended I was eating some and courageously put one foot in front of the other on the bridge that looked sturdier… everything is relative.

Of course you don’t want to look down but you have to because your foot might get stuck in the empty spaces!

Happy thoughts happy thoughts and then some idiot came running down in the other direction! As if the bridge wasn’t moving enough! arrrrrrrgh!!

My ego helped and I managed to keep my head high and my smile plastered on my face. The relief when I got to the other side!!

Until some guy started following me saying “10 kwacha private bridge 10 kwacha private bridge” — oh puuh-liiize! Crossing this bridge is never worth K10 (about $0.07)!

Anyway, that was the big near-death experience of this past weekend with my life passing in front of my eyes — Snickers – Mars – M&Ms – Bounty – Lindt – Crunch – M&Ms peanuts… Aaah what a full and beautiful life!

I feel hungry, how about you?

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10 Responses to “My Adventures in Malawi”

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  1. Malawi: A Growing City and its Pay-to-Cross Footbridges · Global Voices - 15 J00000010Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] they were in Air Jordan basketball sneakers. A Swiss blogger, Janique Racine, wrote in 2007 about being frightened to death upon crossing a swaying bridge. She said: Of course you don’t want to look down but you have to because your foot might get […]

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  3. مالاوي: مدينة مزدهرة ودفعها مقابل عبور جسور المشاة · Global Voices الأصوات العالمية - 15 J00000010Australia/Sydney 2011

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  4. Malawi: i ponti pedonali a pedaggio di una città che cresce · Global Voices in Italiano - 15 J00000010Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] blogger svizzera, Janique Racine, nel 2007 raccontava della paura terribile nell'attraversare un ponte sospeso in Malawi [en]. Chiaro che non vorresti guardare in basso, ma devi farlo, altrimenti rischi di rimanere con […]

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    […] It made me reminisce about my time at the World Bank, and the highlight of my time in Washington, ironically, is my trip to Malawi in September and October 2007. […]

  8. A Growing City in Malawi and its Pay-to-Cross Footbridges | This Big City - 15 J0000008Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] Swiss blogger, Janique Racine, wrote in 2007 about being frightened to death upon crossing a swaying bridge. She […]

  9. Malawi: Una ciudad en crecimiento y sus puentes peatonales con peaje | This Big City en español - 15 J0000009Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] blogger suiza Janique Racine escribió en 2007 sobre tener miedo a la muerte al cruzar los puentes colgantes [en]. […]

  10. 馬拉威:都市發展與收費橋樑 | This Big City 城事 - 15 J00000010Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] 瑞士部落客Janique Racine曾在2007年提到,走在搖晃不已的橋上讓她差點嚇死: […]

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