Sunday Morning ~ Salima
February 11, 2018
Since George had an appointment Monday morning in Lilongwe, we decided to spend the weekend at the lake. There are three lake resorts on our list to visit before we leave here and of the three, we’ve been to only one, Domwe Island. We thought this would be a good chance, since we’d be driving this way anyway, to stay at the Blue Zebra, which is only two hours from Lilongwe. George called to make a reservation, hoping we’d get a “green season special”, a rate reduction for the rainy season when it’s hard to get around and the lake isn’t as appealing. The Blue Zebra, which came highly recommended with comments from friends like, “You HAVE to stay there” was closed for renovations. Bummer. So we could either bag the lake idea for the weekend and just drive up to Lilongwe on Sunday, or since we’d already set our little minds on a weekend lounging on the lake, we could stay at a resort that’s open. We chose the latter. There are loads of little lake resorts hardly inhabited–––we have no idea how they make a living. We asked around and got a recommendation for the place we are sitting at now, a secluded retreat tucked into a hillside easily within driving distance to Lilongwe. It’s not far from the Blue Zebra (we think, we actually have no idea where the Blue Zebra is or how to get there. It’s on an island somewhere around here and they have to come pick you up with a boat. We’ll figure that out when we stay there.) This place is sweet, the price includes all meals and a boat ride each day where yesterday we watched fish eagles come at us with laser precision to capture fish that the crew tossed into the water. It was a wilder version of Sea World, but really neat. We’ve seen lots of fish eagles sitting in trees looking around and have always wanted to see one catch a fish, so for our eighty bucks a night, voila!
There is a hotel in Lilongwe with the proper name of Kumbali Lodge, but it is known to everyone as “the place where Madonna stays”. When I asked someone familiar with Lilongwe if they could suggested a place on the lake an easy drive to the city they said, “You know the place where Madonna stays? Well, they opened second place on the lake and it’s nice.” So we gave that one a shot, and they were right! It is nice! Simple, eco friendly (which means composting toilets, no electricity or wifi, water pumped up from the lake by solar panel, and cool showers), and nothing to do but read, write, paint, and walk a little. There is no trail up the hill for a bit of a hike and it’s thick with native vegetation, so a stroll through the nearby village was all the exercise we got yesterday. I read one entire book, finished another, and chatted with other guests. That was the all we did to earn the three excellent meals we ate. Good thing we’re only staying a weekend or none my clothes would fit by Wednesday. It has been socked in and rainy (thus the special rates) but not being a sun bather, this is fine with me. I’m happy to sit under the thatched common area looking at the lake with the balmy breeze washing over me. It’s amazing how waterproof this thick thatch is. There are bamboo curtains that can be rolled down if the rain gets heavy and sideways, which would make it quite dark in here, but that hasn’t been necessary.
There are five other guests staying here. The individual bungalows are hidden in the hillside, and though we see little stone steps going off here and there, we can’t see the other bungalows. They all have their own toilet and shower (separate enclosures outside the bamboo rooms) so we don’t bump into anyone unless we want to. When in our perch overlooking the lake surrounded by trees it feels like we are the only people here. It’s a hike to get down to the beach and dining room, but unlike Domwe, these paths are smooth and the decent is facilitated by stone steps. There are mason-jar solar lights placed about every twenty feet. It’s more polished. I feel ridiculously pampered. I feel like we are on a romantic honeymoon about every third week. How did I get so lucky? It comes down to about a day and two thirds here, but it feels exotic and indulgent. We think we deserve it. We want to support the tourism industry. I’m good at rationalization, and really, eighty bucks a night for this? That’s one dinner out at home!
The week had been administratively busy. I am definitely not cut out to sit in an office all day. I can’t stand it. But I was applying for a grant to get the model ward off the ground and grants have deadlines so I bit the bullet and sat down to fill in the blanks. It probably would have been more efficient to do it in the evening at home, but since I get frustrated with George for woking at home all the time I vowed to complete it in the office. We are still waiting for the final approval from the hospital director, who told us he saw no problem with the idea but wanted to talk to a few of the doctors before he gave his final consent. I swallowed my disgust at that comment and, since we had already talked with the head of the department at the College of Medicine who loved the idea, hoped that closed meeting wouldn’t sabotage the whole thing. I am very leery of anyone meeting without the people who know about the project since if they have questions we aren’t there to respond and they can make up all kinds of problems, but we had to nod politely and accept this. We were told we’d be informed the following Thursday. On that Thursday, (ten days ago) I tried to find the matron who was invited to the meeting to find out if it was a go. Couldn’t find her anywhere. Called her phone, went to her office, she was nowhere to be found. Friday, late afternoon, I found her getting ready to leave for the weekend. I asked her what had transpired? She told me they hadn’t met yet, that it was postponed until the following Tuesday. Ok, glad it wasn’t a no, but a call would have been nice. I explained that I was writing a grant for seed money for the project and it was due on Thursday the 8th, so I really needed the information by Tuesday and asked if she’d call me as soon as the meeting was over so I could proceed. She agreed, we shared phone numbers, I called her cell phone as I stood there to make sure it worked, all set. Tuesday came and went, no call. Wednesday came and went, no call. In the meantime, I’d finished writing the grant, met with my colleagues to make out the budget and I sent it off a full twenty-six hours before it was due. I went with the no news is good news theory. Thursday (grant due day) at five p.m. I got a call from the matron saying they had met, but still needed to discuss it with us further and we would be included in the next meeting. In the meantime I should not send in the grant application as they needed to be involved with writing the grant. I said, well, it was due today and I hadn’t heard from you so I sent it in. But please let me know when the next meeting is, we would love to be there. And I hung up and got ready for my women’s class on Friday. Not even giving that another thought. Not going to get frustrated. Nope. Not me.The grant is in. They didn’t call. I’ll figure out how to finesse that if we get the grant.
I can really see why so many people start their own projects here. It’s so much easier to just do it than jump through all the ever-moving hoops. I could see raising money to start our own maternity center and set our own protocols and manage it the way we wanted, and we’d all live happily ever after. There are hundreds if not thousands of little projects around the country like that. It’s really quite easy to just build your own hospital. If you’ve got the money, no one cares what you do. It’s even easier if you toss a little to the local chiefs. But that’s not sustainable and I have no desire to go that route.
One of the guests staying here is a consultant for UK AID and has tons of experience with NGOs and work in developing countries. He’s from London and we’ve had a great time talking with him this weekend. In the course of our conversations, the getting to know each others where are you froms, etc. he said, “Oh, you’re from Maine. I’ve been to Maine.” And the conversation continued, etc etc etc, later in a lull I asked what had brought him to Maine, and Bethel at that? He said he had a good friend who lives outside of Boston, British but married to an American teaching in a small town high school. They’d gone up to Bethel to ski. I asked which town outside of Boston? Always curious when someone says “outside of Boston”. He said, “It’s a tiny place, maybe you’ve not heard of it, it’s called Maynard.” Ok, I laughed for several reasons, not only because that’s where I grew up, but because his prelude was how I always describe the town…you’ve probably never heard of it….Then I asked, “Have you actually been there?” And he said, “Oh, yes. Many times. He lives on Bent Ave.” Which happens to be two streets down from my little dead end street. Bent Ave was on my paper route. I can’t wait to ask my friends who are still there if they know him. What a hoot.
So that was the excitement for the weekend. Fish Eagles swooping around us and meeting someone who’s been to Maynard Massachusetts. In a little while we’ll head up to Lilongwe, I’ll meet up with some students in the morning, do some business at the Peace Corps office, then the five hour drive back to Blantyre. The women’s group will meet without me tomorrow morning, but it’s gotten into a comfortable routine and I left Chimemwe with all the instructions to set it up. I feel like pretty soon he’ll be teaching the class himself.
Love to all,