Sunday Morning~ Blantyre
Mwamuna aliense ndi mwana wamfumu ku chipinda kwake~ Every man is a prince in his own bed. ~ Malawian Proverb
November 5, 2017
Well, the temperature is perfect, there is a soft breeze, canaries are flitting about, there isn’t a cloud in the sky, the mangos hanging off the tree are getting bigger before my eyes, and I’m sitting on my front porch taking it all in. I thought it would be hotter–– it usually is right before the rains–– but it’s delightful. I’m a little out of sorts, maybe a touch of jet lag, maybe because I didn’t go to mass this morning, maybe the readjustment to cohabitating is difficult, I’m not sure. Maybe some of each.
The last week has seemed like a month. Leaving Bar Harbor was a blitz: dropping the car in Portland, meeting up with Joe and Alan to transport me and my stuff to Massachusetts, Zack collecting me at Alan’s mother’s house with George’s car, dropping Zack at his house, getting over to Rachael’s to spend a little time with them before meeting my high school friends for the evening as a huge storm blew in from the tropics, driving ten miles back to Rachael’s that night in hurricane force winds and flooding roads––and that was just Sunday! Monday, I got prepped for the noon talk at a Rotary club near Boston, borrowed Mike’s car to get into Harvard Square to get my new glasses readjusted, met up with Julie from the Boston office of my organization and collected packages to bring back to Malawi, found the building at Tufts where I was giving a talk at 4:30, then rushed to return the car to Mike, grabbed the red line train to South Station, and ran with five minutes to spare to catch the 7 o’clock Chinatown bus to New York. I made it just before seven to find there is no seven o’clock bus on weekdays. Next one was at 8:30. This was hard to accept. I looked down at the sole of my shoe now flapping in the breeze as I’d tripped running up the steps, trying not to cry. I reminded myself I only had to wait an hour and a half! In Malawi it would have been twenty-four! How quickly I get spoiled. I checked out other options, but couldn’t get any transportation to New York sooner than an hour and a half. Honestly, that’s not that much time. So, I bought my ticket and used the time to collect my wits, find some free wifi, and send a few messages. That helped to keep my anxiety down as I contemplated how late I’d be getting into New York. I was also really tired. I’d stayed up late with my friends the night before, the howling wind and falling branches kept me awake most of the night, and my mind running a mile a minute trying to figure out how I’d get everything accomplished and organized to have a graceful departure on Wednesday didn’t make for a restful night. The car trouble really messed up my vision of a relaxing four last days of home leave. I called Ruth to see when the last metro train ran so I could get up to her place in mid-town. She didn’t know what I was talking about. “What do you mean, when is the last train? This is the city that never sleeps!” So that was good. I’d be able to catch the D no matter when I arrived. Then I only had to worry about my lack of sleep as I drove four hours back to Boston. I couldn’t find the zen. The bus, however, was on time and the driver went like a bat out of hell and I was on the deserted streets of Chinatown by 12:20 a.m.! That felt like a little gift. I wasn’t expecting to arrive until one! A half hour later I was sitting at Ruth’s kitchen counter drinking good wine and feasting on Mediterranean chicken and couscous. I love my friends.
Later Tuesday morning than I’d planned, I packed up the pounds of beads that Ruth had collected for my women’s cooperative project and, with her help, lugged it all down to the subway. A hug goodbye and two hours later, I was at my stop in Brooklyn. I did only minor damage to my shoulders carrying the beads two blocks to the car repair shop. There I unloaded a healthy portion of my checking account into their cash register and retrieved my little mini who looked great after her week at the spa. The new timing chain and rear brakes agreed with her and she looked years younger! Purred like a kitten. She even had a bath. If anyone wants a recommendation for a garage that works on foreign cars near the city, let me know. They were great. My GPS wasn’t working since I no longer had a phone plan with data, so the owner gave me detailed directions on how to get out of the side street and onto the highway. That seemed like a forgotten art, and with the Brooklyn accent it was theater, really.
The late start meant that I missed rush hour traffic so the drive back to Boston was cake. I unloaded the car’s six week’s contents and stashed what wasn’t coming back here with me into a corner (a big corner) of the upstairs room at Rachael’s. I felt a little like a teenager leaving crap at her parent’s house. Then it was a fun evening of trick or treating with Wonder Woman and Chewbaka as an American finale. Wednesday was goodbye to the grandkids as they rushed off to daycare, and kids as they rushed off to work. I had kind of hoped we could meet somewhere in Europe in February so it wouldn’t be such a long span until I saw them again, but that idea was met with more skepticism than excitement, so not sure if that’s going to happen. It’ll probably be a ten month plan, which really, I guess isn’t that long. It was a relief to have most of the day to get organized and figure a way to keep my two suitcases under fifty pounds each. I think I had fifty pounds of beads and another fifty of textbooks. That didn’t leave much room for anything else. Well, there was plenty of room, but no more weight allowance. I had to arrange my carry-on with most of the heavy stuff, which made changing gates and loading the overhead bin fairly unpleasant. Overnight to Amsterdam and I had a twelve hour layover there, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. My friend Chris works part time in Amsterdam, and the timing worked perfectly, allowing us to spend the day together in that beautiful city. We walked a million miles, had lunch, took a boat trip on the canals and were back at the airport in time to collect my luggage from the storage locker, drink a Heineken, share a goodby hug, and make it through security with an hour to spare. By then I was nearly sleepwalking.
I was really looking forward to getting home. It’s funny how much this feels like home right now. I was looking forward to seeing George, but getting a little nervous that he wasn’t answering any of my emails and texts. I knew they’d been allowed back to Blantyre and knew he’d arrived but my little updates along the way were not met with the enthusiasm I was expecting. I thought maybe he was busy getting the house ready for me, but that wouldn’t stop him from answering a text. I thought maybe he was outside picking flowers? Hahaha. Why do I always do that to myself? Why? Does this fantasy of the perfect reunion ever get more realistic? Why don’t I ever learn? It’s so self-destructive. By the time I got to Nairobi at six Friday morning I was worried he’d forgotten I was coming back, or didn’t want me to come back. I got onto the airport wifi, sent off an email, a text, and a What’s App message frantically worried that something had happened. He replied that he’d thought he had replied to my other correspondence, but apparently didn’t, which is bullshit since you can see when the message is sent. So that seemed a little cruel to me, but by then my sleep deprivation had given way to paranoia. By the time my flight left for Malawi, most of my excitement had evaporated. I could see we were in for an “adjustment” to being back together. I braced myself.
When I got off the plane he was waving from the baggage claim. I wondered how he’d gotten in there since you have to go through security? He just walked through (so he says). Not sure if he had to spin a tale or not. But it was lovely and smooth and all my luggage arrived and we went out to the parking lot and got into his new car and it was all luxurious and comfortable. We seemed a bit like strangers, though. It was weird. Something’s off. He got defensive when I harped on the fact he hadn’t responded to my messages, which, I told myself flying over Lilongwe not to do, but then again, that’s never stopped me before.
I will say, the guards seemed happy to see me. I love the way their faces light up. It made me feel loved and welcomed. Catherine is now the night guard and she arrived just before six while we were sitting on the porch having tea. I ran to the gate to let her in and she whooped and picked me up and swung me around. It was hilarious. And touching. I felt loved.
The tension inside the house escalated when I walked around putting things back where I’d had them before I left. George had locked himself out of the house while I was gone, so has an elaborate system now of leaving keys in certain places so he won’t forget them again. I messed that up when I put a basket (containing his keys) on a different shelf, not understanding the strategic placement. I also opened every door and window. Those of you who know me, know I like doors and windows open. In fact, I like most things open. George thought closing everything up would keep the dust of the dry season down. I’d rather dust every day (and since he banished Catherine from the house, I’ll have to). So it’s tense. It’s hard living alone then having someone invade your space, I get that. When we were all starry-eyed in love it was different, but that phase is over. Now we just seem to annoy each other. We’ll figure it out, hopefully without a knock down drag out fight, but it is a bit of a downer. I’m not living in a house with closed windows. In the tropics. No.
There has been no violence here associated with the bloodsucking incidents for the past two weeks. Because of that the Blantyre volunteers were allowed to come back, but we still have a curfew. We have to be in our house by 6 p.m. and can’t go anywhere outside the city during the day. That’s a drag, especially now that we have a car. Yesterday we went to an art/poetry exhibit about Mount Mulanje at the cultural center and it made me long to climb that mountain again. It’s currently off limits so I hope the curfew is lifted soon. I was remarking about this to my friend Sophie and she said, “Don’t worry. The rainy season is coming. No one fights in the rainy season. They are all too busy planting.”
The garden is overflowing! There are new lemons on the tree, peaches (which I didn’t even know grew here) covering the peach tree, avocados forming, and mangoes everywhere. The flame trees are in bloom, the beets, kohlrabi, fennel, chard, and carrots are all ready; we will not be lacking vitamins. I was telling Chimemwe how lucky I feel to have a full time gardener. He asked if I have one at home? I said, “No, it’s mostly wealthy people who have gardeners at home.” He just looked at me, confused. I said, “I know we seem wealthy to you, but at home we are not.” He wanted to know if gardeners in the U.S. were well paid? I told him I have friends who are gardeners and they make a good living, but the season is short. It doesn’t last the whole year. He said, “Oh, I see.” and went back to his work as if that plan was foiled.
Despite my lack of sleep I managed to stay up talking with George late enough to get onto a local schedule. I go back to work tomorrow and am looking forward to seeing everyone and getting back into a routine. I won’t be able to go out to the district hospitals while the curfew is in effect, so will try to make myself useful here. Maybe focus on getting the model ward going. Early this morning we got out the travel guides and started planning our Christmas trip which, seems a little ridiculous since I just got back, but hey, Christmas is coming whether I just got back or not. And there is so much of this continent we haven’t seen yet! Hard to fit it all in to one lifetime.
Love to all,