Life here is always an adventure. It’s not always a major adventure like sky diving; sometimes it is much more subtle than that, but life is always interesting. There are several examples from this past week. The first is that we lost water. This is not unusual as we will occasionally spend a day without running water but it usually returns in the evening. This past week, however, we were without water for three days. It may not sound that bad, but think about all you need water for: drinking, coffee, cooking, washing dishes, the toilet, showering, washing clothes, cleaning the apartment, etc. Three days is a long time to go without water. You learn to ration what you have and beg friends to borrow their showers. Sandy was desperate enough to shower during a party at a friend’s house on Saturday night.
We have also been losing power more frequently. On Tuesday I went to a circuit exercise class at the high school right next door. There were fourteen of us who circled around the gym doing crunches, lunges, jumping jacks, etc. About half way through the session, we lost power. Feeling exhausted and out of shape, I was relieved and ready to put on my coat and go home. But no, these hard-core exercise fiends decided to continue the circuits. So we continued our huffing and puffing but in silence since we lost the music. The large gym was lit by a single lantern which cast eerie shadows of us on the walls. It was like a bad dream!
The best adventure, though, was this past weekend. A group of ten of us decided to drive two hours to Liwonde national park and spend the night at Chinguni Lodge. We were going to all stay in the dorm, do a few game activities, see some elephants, have a great dinner, and enjoy some wine around the big camp fire. Unfortunately, when we got to the park gate there was a sign advising guests that Chinguni had been closed by the Government.
While we dithered about what to do, Sandy bought a souvenir shirt that came in two sizes: small and “marge.” It really was labeled marge! It even had a big red ‘M’ on the outside of the bag!
We paid our park fees and decided to go to the lodge anyway to see what was going on. At Chinguni, the manager met us and explained the situation. The government owns all of the land and lodges and each business has to pay rent, insurance, and a concession fee to the government for the right to operate the business. Apparently, Chinguni’s concession had not been renewed which meant they were no longer legally allowed to operate. That meant they were in a state of limbo where they expected new management to come in or to be told that they could resume operation. The manager invited us to relax and have a drink while he made a few calls to see if we could stay anyway. We had about thirty minutes of cold beer and hope that we would be able to stay and enjoy our evening. Unfortunately, the manager came back and told us that if we stayed, the police said they would come, arrest, and forcibly remove us. We practically ran to the cars.
Still, we decided to make the most of it and drove around the park along the Shire river. We saw elephants in the distance, waterbucks, and impala. On our way back, one of our friends saw movement in the trees on the right side of the road. We pulled over and jumped out. Slowly, two large elephants and a baby emerged from the bush and posed for us. It really made the whole trip completely worth it. So, you know you’re in Malawi when things don’t work out exactly as you planned, but are still an adventure.