Chapter Four Day 3

We boarded a 2 hour flight to Lilongwe, the present capital of Malawi at 11 am and went through customs there and presented our passports for stamping. All went smoothly and we exited the airport to find Tom and Jocelyn, Hayden Boyd, and Jim Nussbaumer, awaiting with trucks and vans for our 3 hour trip north to Embangweni in central Malawi. The first team of volunteers, having completed 3 weeks work in the “warm heart of Africa”, were going in the opposite direction and embarking for the “land of freedom”. Up the tarmac (hard road) we traveled, through towns and villages teeming with people on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, all gathering to socialize in the manner of Malawian’s. Alongside the tarmac all manners of transportation was visible, bicycles, motorbikes, a few cars, ox drawn carts for example. We had been advised to be most careful when driving in Malawi, as no shoulders were available to pull over to park on, just a drop off of a few feet, if and when mechanical problems were to occur. Just simply stop in the lane you are traveling, on your side preferably, and then gather and spreads tree branches on the road a few yards from your breakdown, as a signal to approaching vehicles, of trouble ahead. If your “gallimoto” breaks down, then it sets where it is awaiting repair. and I recall observing some vehicles in the road for at least a week, still awaiting repair.
At Jenda, a fairly large town, we passed through a military checkpoint with ease. It was tended by 4 rather large soldiers wearing berets and camouflage, bearing some type of automatic weapon. They were non communicative and seemingly very serious, as they visually checked us out and apparently recognizing who and what we were doing there. Bustling natives and people passing through on their way to somewhere and they lined the streets ignoring the vehicular traffic most of the time until it seemed that surely our driver would run over someone. Five hours of travel on the Tarmac or hard road.
Then it happened! We embarked upon the bumpiest road that I have ever encountered traveling 30 miles to reach our destination, Embangweni. This was to be our “home” for the next 3 weeks. The Donald Frazer Guesthouse. The road was the main road to our home away from home and I was to discover that all main roads off the tarmac, were of similar construction.Dirt, bumpy, rutting roads, and that was mostly all right as there are not many “gallimoto’s” (vehicles) traversing their paths.The road condition is similar perhaps to the country roads in Union County Illinois up to the 1950-60’s, and the upkeep of those roads in Malawi were dependent upon the local residents for there maintenance, with most of their work being done with their hoe’s, it appeared. That is just the way of life in rural Malawi in the year 2008. The native Malawian’s are perhaps in better physical conditions due to the fact that their main mode of transportation is 2 feet on the ground, rather than 4 tires on the pavement.
Where the volunteers of Marion Medical Mission travel there are either dirt roads, footpaths, goat trails and various major routes for foot travel, branching off into the “bush”. Without the able assistance of “local guides” or supervisors employed by MMM, the mission would be impossible to accomplish. Field officers (native Africans) perform that function as well as the duty of total supervision of the villagers that live in the village where the shallow well is being constructed. That work consists of digging the well to the water level, firing the bricks after hand molding of the bricks, bricking up the floor of the well as well as the walls and hand pouring of the cement, to create a sanitary, sealed, clean shallow well, whereas prior to the construction, the main source of drinking water, was a distant water hole in the ground. The main job of the females, is to travel to that hole in the ground, to dip their vessels into a wet but unsanitary water supply and then to carry that dirty water filled vessel on the top of their heads, as you may have seen from pictures of Africa, home to drink and cook the meals and provide for other uses around their home. Many of them just happen to be carrying an infant in a sling created for that purpose in performing the dual task of water procurement and caring for their infants at the same time, traveling perhaps for hour to the source of water and then returning to the village.
We had finally arrived at our point of destination and unloaded in the darkness of this world. We were assigned rooms and mosquito nets, and then we gathered for an evening meal consisting of rice, beans, chicken, dendi (tomato sauce) and collard greens, served by a most accommodating staff. We met Mr. Mwali, the general manager of the guesthouse and we enjoyed the company of Mr. Vyalema Khosa. Mr. Khosa is a very gracious, delightful, individual and he is the leader of the 10 Field Officers employed by MMM on a year round basis. They are all natives of Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia.
A very tired, (jet lag) and bumpy roads, in beautiful country, Malawi Africa. We had flown from Jhoannesburg South Africa to Lilongwe Africa and then traveled by van transportation to Embangweni, a distance of several hundred miles. We had reached our destination and home for 3 weeks into the future, not fully knowing what to expect, but looking forward with anticipation, what lay ahead.
We were ready to retire and drop the mosquito net over our bed and climb in to rest and be ready to arise at 4am and prepare for the duties that were part of being a volunteer for Marion Medical Mission. The installation and dedication, to the “Glory of God”, Uchindami Kwa Chiuta” of a clean, sanitary source of a shallow well to be performed in approximately 800 more villages that had been anxiously awaiting that well, in some cases a lifetime of 70 years perhaps for this most positive event. At last. Cool, Clean, Sanitary Water. Truly a gift from God.

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