The Farewell Begins

Last night there was another random power failure that lasted over 2 hours. Guided by the light cast from my flashlight, I used the time to begin organizing my things to go home. I took over to Annie and Ben a bunch of things they could use for their remaining months in Malawi – and some things for the children in the village where they work. Being it was June 25th, we deemed it to be Malawian Christmas!! (After all, there were pointsettas blooming in the garden!)

I also took Patricia the soccer balls & hand pump I brought (for the youth group where she is volunteering) and a few things that she might be able to use for her final weeks in Malawi.

Later the group of us walked over to the Capital Hotel (in the pitch dark – with the benefit of Ben’s and Patricia’s head lamps !!) to do some internet in the lobby. We were joined there by two RCMP officers – Galib (from Vancouver) and Bud (from Halifax) – who Ben and Annie had met. They are in Malawi for 3 weeks to train Malawian police officers who wish to participate in UN missions, probably to Darfur. These RCMP officers were very interesting company….lots of stories about their missions and training assignments around the world. We were invited to join them for dinner on Friday night and we’ve agreed to go and make it a celebration of my last night in Malawi.

Friday morning I left the Lodge and walked to the WUSC office to meet up with Jacob. I brought thank you notes and small tokens of my appreciation for the WUSC staff – all of whom had been helpful during my time in Malawi. Jacob, Lawrence, Grace and Tamara were particularly wonderful to me.

Jacob and I drove over to the COWLHA office for our ‘wrap-up’ meeting with Daphne. The meeting was a chance to review the main outcomes and ‘next steps’ from my assignment. Daphne was very complementary about my time at COWLHA. Jacob seemed pleased and invited Daphne to submit a further proposal to WUSC for a person who could stay for 4 months or more. He also suggested that WUSC might be able to get some bikes for COWLHA members later in the summer. (This would be a big help for the women in the small village so they could meet for support groups, COWLHA advocacy and go to health appointments.) Daphne was very happy with this outcome.

Daphne presented me with a gift from her and Victoria/COWLHA ….it is my very own chitenje!!! I was so thrilled. It is beautifully coloured with peacocks!! (Those at my office will appreciate the peacocks….knowing that I have, on occasion, gone into “full peacock” to get something done!!)

I gave Daphne and Victoria some things to express my thanks, and also left a little package of things to pass along to Agnes.

We went to the nearby restaurant for lunch and shared a farewell meal of Nsima and beef ‘relish’. I’m afraid that while I enjoyed the meal at the time of eating, it did not sit well. Thankfully, given all the things that Daphne and Victoria needed to do to prepare for departure for Blantyre early in the morning, I was able to leave early. I helped them with a bit of paper work for the per diems to be given to the 100 COWLHA women who had been invited to join the President at the official government Candlelight Memorial Service in Blantyre. They had arranged a bus for the women going from Lilongwe and it was scheduled to leave very early on Saturday morning. The ceremony wasn’t until Sunday, but all of the President’s guests had to arrive in Blantyre by early Saturday afternoon in order to be provided security clearance.

I said ‘farewell’ to Daphne and Victoria. They felt badly that they would not be able to take me to the airport on Saturday, but I assured them it was all okay. They were off to do some important advocacy work…..and all I asked was that they make the best of the opportunity to gain the President’s ear while they were at the Candlelight Memorial Service!

When I got back to the Lodge, I rested for a while until my stomach settled down from the lunch. I then dropped in to see Ben; Annie was out with the RCMP officers – Galib and Bud – to participate in their training workshop for the day.

Ben joined me for a walk over to “People’s” (…or, as the sign out front suggests, the Metro) to pick up some Malawian food items to bring home as gifts. When we returned, Annie was back and Patricia returned soon after. We were joined by Chris – an architect from New York who had recently arrived for a 3 month work assignment. All of us got ready to go out for dinner and walked over to the Capital Hotel to meet Bud and Galib. We then walked for about 30 minutes over to the “Al Fresco” … a really nice little coffee shop with a brick oven. We ate dinner on the patio and enjoyed their really yummy thin-crust pizzas ….accompanied by a few Carlsbergs.

There was plenty of story-telling and lots of laughs as we shared our various impressions of Malawi and some of our other travel adventures. We got to know Bud, Galib and Chris – each of whom were interesting individuals with unique life stories to share. It was amazing as I came to realize the breadth of experiences and backgrounds that was captured by the group around the dinner table. And, there we were 6 Canadians and 1 American, finding each other’s friendship in Malawi!!

After dinner, we walked back to the Capital Hotel and met up with Hannings. Hannings is teaching the course with Galib and Bud…and will join up with Bud again later in the coming months to teach it again in Namibia. Hannings is the Assistant Commissioner for Training for the Malawi police department. He arranged for us to have a driver to take us out on the next part of our evening’s adventures – a visit to the “Diplomat”.

The Diplomat is a bar in Old Town. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my travels!! There’s a BBQ out front and a few ‘patio’ tables and inside it was packed. The ceiling was hung with bamboo rods with mens’ ties looped over as part of the ‘décor’!! There were ‘booths’ styled like huts on the one wall of the room and the floor was tiled….sort of…and a Malawian band was playing in the back. We found a table at the front window of the bar and squeezed around it. There were 6 bullet holes in the front window….a bit ominous!! But as we were there with Hannings plus 2 RCMPs….and Hannings wasn’t worried in the least ….I just relaxed and enjoyed the experience. This was my last night in Malawi and the place was hopping!!

Here’s a photo of Ben, Annie, Galib and Hannings at the Diplomat:

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Can you see the ties hanging from the poles above the bar?:

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The people-watching was absolutely ‘prime time’. We saw several remarkable things….including one patron who was literally dragged out the front door and pulled down the street where he would not be in the way. He seemed totally unaware of what was happening to him!!! We shared several beers together….and some Malawian vodka….and then got a ride back to the Lodge with some of Hannings’ men who came to pick us up in unmarked cars!

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