Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stories of on the Road and More

We go to Netherlands next week for the Veterans’ Day celebrations, meeting up with seven of Lloyd’s family members; we are all being hosted by local families in Markelo. How generous and respectful the Dutch are toward Canadians. Thank you. Looking forward to having access to a real shower (and, yes, there have been dreams about chicken wings and Caesar salad. Is that sick? when there are such good fruits here like mango and avocado pear?) It’s not at all difficult to ingest enough fruits and veggies in Malawi, but my personal favourite – salad – is not recommended by the local (Peterborough) Health Clinic, and we follow their advice completely. So far, all is well health-wise. That said, I planted some parsley last week and hope to use it in mid-May.

The Weed Man emailed that he has done the spring clean-up at Armour Road and is coming next week to cut the grass. Is it possible we missed winter in Canada? What a shame! Here, winter has just begun with a temp of 18 degrees (ahh) and a day of rain.

We are becoming more adept at doing the shopping here; it is so difficult compared to our customary pattern. A fifteen minute walk to the bus stop, a minimum one-hour bus ride and then we must be careful to buy only as much as we can carry and/or hold on our laps on the bus ride home. We can get a selection of fresh produce at the corner (that’s the fifteen minute walk) so yesterday, we did that on our way home. The full bags were even fuller with bread, tomatoes, potatos, and pears. Lots of heat too. The frozen meat is no longer frozen by the time we’re at the flat. If you do the math …. Going to the nearest Shoprite, purchasing two to fours bagsful of items, perhaps a trip to the bank machine because all / ALL transactions are cash transactions (**) is a minimum of 4 hours. Argh! Yes, some days I feel my time is being wasted. Lucky for me and my fellow traveller, we are easily amused with sights from the mini-bus and such, so it’s not a great hardship. Still … four hours?!?

Oh yeah, and then it’s a 10 minute ordeal to get all three of the stiff locks and padlocks unlocked. (Move on, Claire.)

It’s necessary to plan enough drinks for the trip and not leave oneself short washroom-wise. Finding a clean bathroom is quite easy in Blantyre and there is a wonderful pizza restaurant (Jungle Pizza) in the mall where we get the groceries; that has become a regular part of the trip. There is a outdoor food court, roofed, with purchasable internet access. The clientele is pretty evenly distributed between whites, east Indians, and blacks, while the pizza joint is owned by a Portuguese couple.

One full-service mall in a city of 1.5 million is hard to believe, but that is an indication of the poverty. Elsewhere in town there are many stores, thousands of stalls at the market, and street vendors everywhere so you can get everything you need, if you know where and how to find it. It’s common knowledge that there are two prices for everything – one for the locals and one for outsiders.

To save ourselves trips to town, we have befriended the owner of the small store at the corner (dry goods – he has no electricity in the store) and he travels by mini-bus to town and market for us to get the heavy bottles of water and pop and milk. He’s offered to take us to the market as we’d like to make some purchases. He said he’ll scout the prices first on his own, then we can come with him. Strange eh? There are people looking to pick pockets there too, so it’ll be good to be with him, and, as we discovered today, there is huge competition for riders on the mini-bus. Boys were running up and down the roads, trying to snag riders for their bus before they hopped onto one waiting at the ‘regular’ stop. Jeepers! It felt downright dangerous but I feared if we got off we be might torn from limb to limb. That may be an exaggeration but I can’t be sure.

So we stayed on our first choice of buses which entailed an extra transfer for us, but the trip brought us right to our door instead of dropping us off to walk the last 15 minutes. Was the stress worthwhile? Today, yes, as it was raining. And we may do the same thing again. After all, it is all about the experience.

We have met two writers here at the University. C. is a visiting professor of Anthropology from South Africa, who says she hasn’t time to write down her poetry but she does write. I hope we’ll be invited to see or hear some. She is rumoured to be working on a poem for a hip hop artist so stay tuned. J. is a secretary here and she has given us two short stories to edit as she’s entering them in a contest. Great, realistic, heart-touching stories. We purchased a book on writing English – the rules, idioms, forms – that sort of thing, to give to her, as she has a birthday coming up and it seemed appropriate and useful. Writers are everywhere; storytellers are ubiquitous.

It has been about 8 months since I’ve been to see my hairdresser. Luckily there is just one small square foot mirror (purchased by yours truly.) Did I hear someone say camping? I keep my hair up, usually in a French braid. I have a pretty excellent tan – face and arms and shoulders only – even the other blogger is a little bit darker than usual, although he doesn’t handle the sun well. And my feet have sandal-stripe tans. A great start to the summer season in Peterborough.

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