Sunday Monrning ~ Savannah, Georgia
M’dziko umayenda, umaona agalu a micombo. ~ When you walk in the land you see dogs with different navels.
~ Chewa proverb
I’m not sure humans were supposed to travel through so many time zones so quickly. Not that 36 hours is quick in this day and age, but it is very disorienting. Lack of sleep is a factor I suppose, but going between two different worlds so abruptly isn’t healthy. It helps to travel home slowly, making one’s way through different cultures and landscapes, slowly letting the travel fatigue set in, inching toward the land of excess, gradually.
When we drove from Mt. Mulanje back to Blantyre a few weeks ago, we took the long way through Thyolo so we could see the tea plantations. Miles and miles of green rolling hills covered in tea. The light green leaves are shiny and the mountains in the background frame the scene beautifully. These plantations employ thousands of Malawians. I don’t actually know what their working conditions are, though, they are paid at least minimum wage, and have housing on the plantations. This beautiful, rich, black tea can be purchased in any little shop, any market, any bottle store, in Malawi. It’s really good tea. Plain black tea. Drunk with milk, it is wonderful.
I’m in Savannah, and it’s Sunday morning. It’s the week of annual midwifery meetings, education sessions, networking, and sharing. There are around 2,000 of us here. These annual meetings are held in big convention centers, opulent and enormous. The hotels cost over $350 per night for a standard room that doesn’t include breakfast. When it was part of my employment benefits, I stayed in those rooms, sharing with my friend Kathy to reduce the cost. Being convenient to the meeting is helpful. It’s a jam packed week and getting to the sessions is a challenge if you stay away from the venue. Meetings start at seven (or earlier if you go to yoga) in the morning until ten or later in the evening. This year I’m footing the bill for this, and it wasn’t cheap to get here, so I got an AirB&B and am sharing that with another midwife. It’s in a run down neighborhood, and a good half hour walk to the ferry that takes us across the river to the convention center, but the whole week is costing less than one night in the hotel, so it’s worth it. (Well, I think so. Not sure my roomie does.) Anyway, when we finally got here I went to buy a few groceries to make supper and get some tea for breakfast. There is a health food store four blocks away and I dropped my bags and hurried over there, starving and tired and wanting to eat and go to sleep.
Going in a grocery store is always shocking on re-entry and even though I always prepare myself for it, it’s disorienting. The milk and bread choices always amuse me. This health food store was small but close by–– a neighborhood market the kind I like to support. I expected to pay a bit more and that was fine with me. But when I got to the tea section, I crumpled. I was overtired, yes. I wasn’t myself. I was hungry. School children have been shot again. Again. My country is on the brink of war it seems. We are creating enemies all around. People, men with blood stains all over their groins are protesting circumcision outside the convention hall. Everyone in this country seems to have gotten tattooed in the past two years. There were many things to cry about. But this time it was tea. In this store was a wall of tea––hundreds of types to choose from. My eyesight, blurred from progressive lenses and lack of sleep, couldn’t focus enough to read all the labels. I tried, but could not find any simple black tea. Just a plain black teabag. Anything! Even over packaged black tea disguised as a health food I would have paid for. I finally gave up looking through all the flowers and herbs and nuts that they make tea from now, and defeated, paid for my other purchases and left.
As I walked back to this apartment, I saw people sitting on their front steps. I greeted them and they returned the greeting, smiling and welcoming. A man on the bus offered me his seat. The cashier (tattooed beyond belief) was incredibly friendly and helpful. When I asked directions several people gathered around to concur they were accurate. People are good. All around, people are really good. My day was brightened with that because really, no one needs that many choices of tea. It’s just not right.
Love to all,