This is a brief peak into my journaling life during my two year stint in Malawi with the Peace Corps. Hopefully there will be much more to come – thoughts, stories, expressions, states of mind, etc. It’s all here. This particular story took place on March 14th, 2010 a mere 4 months after moving into my new African home:
I walked for three hours today.
Why, you ask? Well, as it turns out, for no reason at all. Let me explain.
It’s Sunday and just after the first week of my second term as a teacher here in Malawi. I slept in, until 7:00 a.m., and got up surprisingly energized. I ate some breakfast, which is more of a feat than it sounds when you have to start a fire to do so. Then I did a little laundry, another noteworthy thing when you fetch your water at the borehole and wash it by hand. All this before it got too hot around 8:00 a.m. and when I was finished I had thoughts of making a trip to Chintheche, the closest town to me with internet (which, at about 20 miles away makes me one lucky volunteer).
As it turns out I’m just about to run out of money almost 3 weeks before I get paid again (keep in mind that I get paid every two months). Funny how that works.
Some of you might be asking, “Why didn’t you just get some money from your American bank account at this point.”
HAHAHA…Oh wait, that was a serious question wasn’t it? Um, I don’t know how to put this, but I didn’t have any “American” money at this point in my life.
So, it’s going to be a tight few weeks to say the least. Now, I did have a little wiggle room to travel to Chintheche and use it’s wonderful internet facilities. And so last Wednesday, I did that.
There was hope though. Last Wednesday I travelled into town by way of bicycle.
Travel Cost via bike = 0 mk (malawian kwatcha)…should be noted that 160 mk = 1 dollar. For those of us not keeping up… 0 dollars.
Upon my return I figured I could afford another trip as long as I once again could side step the cost of travel.
To give you a little perspective on the “cost of travel” that I refer to here, the cost of traveling via minibus (the only real option besides hitch hiking) is about 200-300 mk round trip. The cost of using the internet for an hour is about 300 mk.
Here I am, at my house in Chifira, approximately 20 miles from Chintheche. There are three options for travel: walk, bike, minibus. We’ve already discussed my financial situation thus ruling out the minibus. I rode my bike last week and that turned out to be a lot of work. So that leaves walking. I mean, I do have all day. And it’s not really all that hot…yet. Why not, right?
I should also mention here that my main motivation for making this trip was to charge my electronics. Cell phone, ipod, computer, everything was on the verge of death and they were a major part of my at site entertainment.
So I begin the walk. At first it’s fine. It’s good to be out and about, walking around, greeting my fellow brethren, making chit-chat as they say. At this point in my service I’m getting comfortable with the language and get a chance to hold my own in a few conversations along the way. All in all everything is going well, it’s not too hot, I’m keeping a decent pace, I get sucked into giving my number out to two people and that’s it. One of them was a younger lady who starts chatting me up in English and then, at an appropriate time in the conversation, asks me for my number. Sure, you seem nice enough.
The next guy was walking the other direction and was far too excited to greet me. It went something like this.
“HI BROTHER MAN!”
“GIVE ME YOUR NUMBER!”
Now, the conversation carried on for much longer after that and it took a while for him to finally have annoyed me so much that I gave him my number just so he would go away.
But I’m drifting from my story and it’s a good one.
I’m walking. It’s been almost two hours and I’m a fair mixture of sweat and burnt skin by this time. I think I’m close but being close in a car and close on foot are two entirely different things I’ve learned.
Alas, I make it to the city of Chintheche, three hours older.
I walk to the place where the internet is usually had, and the stars must have been aligned on that fateful day because it. was. closed.
Alright, no big deal maybe he’s out to lunch or just late to work. Even if he’s not here I can live without internet. I’ll just walk into town, buy some food and drink, charge my phone and be on my way.
The electricity in the whole freaking town is out. For the whole freaking day. Internet guy probably isn’t coming. Wasted trip. Wasted three hour walk. Wasted energy. Right?
Actually, not wasted anything at all. I had a great time and met some great people and I can say that I walked to Chintheche today. I probably wont every do it again but it was an adventure and it was worth it. I need to start having more adventures like this while I’m here. Two years is going to fly by and I need to make sure I take time to enjoy myself and not get hung up on the little things that may go wrong along the way.
Photo Credits: Kelly Rathburn/Casey Lum