January 15, 2017
Sunday Morning~ Dedza
We are in a lodge in the mountains of Dedza, a village three hours north of Blantyre and an hour south of Lilongwe. George is teaching this week in Mzuzu at St. John of God College, and it’s a three day weekend here having nothing to do with MLK, but in honor of a man who led the resistance against colonialism. So even though we had just gotten home from a long trip, we set off again for a weekend away to this lodge where a thriving pottery business has been situated since 1987. We’d heard it was beautiful and have been wanting to visit, so this seemed like a good time. And the rumors were accurate; it is beautiful. A mountain village at 5,000 feet, with, yes, denuded mountains all around, mystical in this rainy-season cloudy light.
We left Blantyre yesterday morning, walked a few miles to the bus station, and boarded a bus with a reckless driver for the three hour trip. Fortunately there was not much traffic and the brakes were functioning. I was extremely happy to arrive at the Dedza bus station and didn’t care how far we had to walk to find this lodge. Men on bicycle taxis offered to take us, but I needed to walk off the fear of that bus ride, in which, we were passing huge lorries on blind curves on a narrow road with pedestrians and no shoulder. I watched the road as if taking my eyes off of it would get us killed. If I concentrated hard enough the lane we were in would be clear of an oncoming car. I’m still a little jumpy from my last bus trip and this didn’t help to alleviate any of that. I found myself recalling one of those questions on the SATs: If bus A is traveling north at 60 miles per hour at nine o’clock, and bus B is traveling south at 60 miles per hour at nine o’clock, and they are both 20 miles from Ntcheu, what time will they have a head on collision in Nsipe?
We hired a guide early this morning to take us on a hike up Dedza Mountain. We had inquired at reception yesterday when we checked in about climbing the mountain today, but when we woke this morning, after torrential rain and thunder and lightening during the night, we figured we’d bag it and just spend the day reading and writing. We couldn’t even see the mountains for the clouds when we woke. But at breakfast, a sweet man came over to our table, apologized for interrupting our meal, and asked if we were the ones inquiring about a guide up the mountain? We told him we were but we thought it wasn’t a good day to hike. He assured us if went early we would be up and down before more rain came. We looked at each other and said, “Sure. Why not?” So we grabbed our stuff and met him in front of the lodge and set off. He was spot on. We got up and down (an easy hike but not marked in any way) just as the real dark clouds came in and we were settled once again in this cozy place for the remainder of the day.
Tomorrow, George will get a bus to Mzuzu and I will get one heading in the opposite direction back to Blantyre. There’s no wifi here, so this won’t get posted until tomorrow, but I find I’m relieved. Not about being unable to post this, but about having another three days to stick my head in the sand and not hear or see any news. I found myself at the end of the week scanning the internet for anything I could find that would tell me that this has all been a bad dream and intelligent people in the world have found a solution to the….problem. Never has a word seemed so inadequate.
You’d think with all this unstructured time I’d be able to write reams. It seems like a writers paradise. But I’m stuck. I look around at all this natural beauty and think, “Is it possible that people have thought the world was ending before? And it didn’t?” And everyone just goes on in their little corner of the world, and lives and dies, some well before their time, and we fight for human rights and sometimes we make progress and then it all disappears and then we start again, or some people do, and others give up, and others bail out, and the earth keeps on adjusting to the assault?
There are rock paintings near here that are ten thousand years old. Ten thousand years! We are such a tiny blip. We don’t have time to go see them on this little weekend trip. We need a four wheel drive vehicle to get there. Imagine. We don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle so we can’t go see something ten thousand years old. We’ll have to come back some other time, with a vehicle that was designed to travel over roads so difficult to navigate it takes brilliant engineers to create them. I wonder if the vehicles will be here in ten thousand years?
To say I have been anxious since the election would be an understatement. This feeling of impending doom has magnified over the past week to the point where I feel like I’m having a panic attack all day. I can’t stand it. I get frustrated when George isn’t just as panicky. I don’t know what to do. I wish I were home to march, I don’t even care what city. I looked up sister marches and found them all over the world, but the only one in Africa is in Nairobi, a city we’re not allowed to go to. I looked for flights to London; they are all filled. I wrote to the Peace Corps director to see if we could organize one here. The answer was “No.” I wasn’t surprised with the answer, but I felt the panic rising in me when I read it. What can I do? It’s like watching a train wreck happening in front of me and I can’t do anything to stop it.
There are rock paintings here that are ten thousand years old…I focus on that. I think of our high school history teachers and us whiningly asking, “Why do we need to learn this?” I don’t recall what they answered. Maybe they didn’t. I don’t remember even learning anything. Dates. Treaties. Wars. Wars. And more wars.They all blur together. Lots of wars. I liked the pictures of the nurses caring for the wounded soldiers. Clara Barton or Florence Nightingale. That’s all I remember. Nurses cared for men who fought each other. I never learned why they fought, just that nurses took care of them afterward….in tents, with beds lined up against each wall. Just like they are here. Well, not here. Not in this mountain village where kids herd goats and cows on the hillside. Where a business thrives from the soil and pottery sits on the shelves to be strewn into kitchens, and tea can be poured from pots with zebra stripes. I mean here like in this country where the beds are like they were in my history books. Lined up against a wall. And the future is all murky in black and white and grey.