|Bicycle taxis drivers waiting for fares|
This evening we listened to Sam, the woman who owns and runs Cool Runnings, talk about the various projects she's involved with in the village of Senga Bay. Sam is a nurse. She's from Zimbabwe, lived there with her husband on their farm until they got kicked off their land, then went to South Africa (her husband's homeland), where they lived until he was killed some 10 years ago. She then moved to Malawi, which she considers home (since she spent the first 8 years of her life here),built Cool Runnings with the help and support of the village, and uses her business to support the good works she does. She's been the chair of the community police for years, and the people won't let her retire. She helped build a library for the village by getting the children to collect all the plastic bags in the area over a four year period, which she then took to Lilongwe to sell to a company that turns them into buckets and such. They raised enough money from this to actually buy the bricks and other materials to build it! She helped start a program to build wheelchairs out of recycled materials for people. She started a primary school and hired teachers who want to teach. She takes care of the people of the village, treating their emergency medical problems, takes them to the hospital, and advocates for their care once they're in the hospital. I don't know when she has time to sleep! Sam has two volunteers living in the dorm right now who are assisting with various projects, including teaching the people about planting a type of tree that grows very fast from a cutting off another tree. They can use these new trees after just a year to make charcoal. They are also testing a different type of stove that uses only a fraction of the charcoal their conventional stoves use, also saving the number of trees in the area. Sam is always thinking about new ways to improve the lives of her village and is, in a nutshell, an amazing woman.
|Garth from Seattle, on a long adventure of his own|
|First bath in Africa for our little piggies|
Later in the afternoon, now safely out of the sun, Re and I found ourselves chatting with Sam and a couple of her British volunteers. While we had heard of fuel smuggling across Lake Malawi from Mozambique via the local ferry, and while swimming earlier, I couldn't help but notice Sam's speedboat with attached 40 hp Mercury engine. So later, while we were chatting, I wondered aloud, about how many liters of fuel her boat could bring back across the lake. Doing a little bit of quick math, it was determined that, with the driver and guard along, it could haul approximately 800 liters back to Malawi. Fuel at the dock on the Mozambique side was going for the equivalent of 350 kwacha per liter, and if one could sell all 800 liters at 1000 kwacha per liter, that would net a tidy profit of over 3100 USD (less expenses). Of course, I would never advocate for breaking the law, but pointed out that this could be considered a mission of “mercy.” When we left them, everyone was smiling and laughing about the idea, but maybe the seed was planted. Then, we were back to being beach bums for the rest of the day.
10/21 Third verse, it's getting worse. With a strange feeling of deja vu, I walked up to Sam's office, asked the same question, and got the same answer. No petrol today, and no black market available at all. Maybe there will be black market fuel available tomorrow from the Mozambique ferry. And I was also “glad” to see that no one broke the law at my suggestion and made their own private run to Mozambique. Sigh. Overnight, a new couple had arrived at the campground. Marc and Katie are an American couple who have been volunteering in South Africa for the past four years. Funnily enough, Marc and Colin seem to have the same good taste in swimwear, as they were wearing matching bathing suits. Their time on the continent is almost up, and they decided to have one final hurrah and camp their way through southern and central Africa before heading back to the states in February. We spent several hours talking with them, and it was good to get their perspectives on Africa and the role of NGOs here. We spent much of the rest of the afternoon out of the sun (@!#$% sunburn) working on RRs and blogposts in anticipation of finding internet access tomorrow. After a dinner of some things that Re found in the local market, good news arrived. Sam came and found us to say that petrol had arrived at the Caltex station in town and was also due later in the day tomorrow at the BP. Since she was going anyway and had a permit to buy (legally) 200 liters in jerrycans, she said she would pick up 13 liters for us at cost. I really do love this woman! This was the best news we'd had in days. Since tomorrow is Re's birthday, I decided to get her the gift of unleaded. The news got even better a little while later, when Sam realized she needed to empty one of her 20 liter jerrycans in order to take it with her tomorrow. I grabbed our cans and ran to the generator room, where she filled them with 13 liters of sweet, sweet love (in the form of hydrocarbons). Well, this changes everything. We've been stopped for so long that we were going to have to remember how to get back on the road. We headed to bed early in anticipation of forward movement.
The dinner I made was our first vegetarian meal in quite some time. It's funny that the only options we were offered at the Cool Runnings restaurant all have meat, since Sam is a vegetarian. Marc and Katie had asked this morning if we knew where the market was in the village, and since I've gone each day, I offered to lead the way. After lunch, the four of us headed through the village, past the school, over the sand dune that doubles as a soccer pitch, and into the market. I bought rice, dry kidney beans, tomatoes, onion, okra, and a tiny bag of oil (they divvy up liter bottles of vegetable oil into smaller bags, so you can buy like two tablespoons of oil at a time if it so moves you). At home, if I cook beans, I always buy canned ones, so I had no idea how long to soak the dry ones. Figuring hot water would work faster than cold, I asked at the restaurant kitchen for some hot water, but the power was out, so they had none. Fortunately, another camper had started a charcoal fire in the braai to boil some eggs, so I moved in and used the heat for my beans for the afternoon. Well, it unfortunately takes more than the three hours I had for beans to soak, so they were a little firm (but not crunchy!). The veggies were great though! And after dinner, when we spoke with Sam, Colin mentioned our surprise over the lack of veg options on their menu. She was surprised herself that we were not offered the full range of menu options, since they have many pasta, TVP (fake meat), and vegetable choices available. We didn't mean to get her staff in trouble, because what we did eat was very good and told her so. She just smiled and said they have been naughty lately and would need to have a talk with them.
|The mob at the gas station. Notice the soldier with the rifle.|
About the biscuit snatcher- I'm certain it was a woman. It was a very strange experience- we sat there on our bikes, and I have no idea where she came from, she just appeared out of nowhere. She was frail looking and never said a word, she simply kept reaching for our food. I've never felt so guilty about drinking a bottle of juice in front of someone before. After Colin gave her some of the biscuits, it was like she vaporized, but I saw her in the crowd of people walking along the roadside after we pulled out of the parking lot.
My birthday dinner was a delicious surprise! I was happy enough with the gift of gasoline, let alone aloo mutter, lemon rice, and naan, among other things.