Elephants and Monkeys
party in Liwonde More...
A Keyman Evening
cooks delicious Sri-Lankan food) More...
leaving party. More...
Mary Whitehouse Bans...
After the paint-drying excitement of
July's news-letter, I've decided to return to tall tales of
elephant-wrestling, and other such weekend fun. This is all
about how I spent my August weekends (doh!).
Elephants and Monkeys
VOLUNTEERS come and volunteers
go. And going often occasions a leaving party: one last gathering
of remaining friends; one last visit to the lake; or one last serious
imbibing of the Green or Brown stuff (Carlsberg). Georgina - a teacher
in Mangochi - had decided to have one last visit to Liwonde National
Park (a game reserve). Rachel and I went along too!
We stayed at Mvuu campsite,
in the cheapest of cheap-seats - a bring-your-own-tent (and eat-your-own-food)
patch of grass, that was enough space for the nine of us. (The alternatives
just cost too much in US dollars, and we all wanted to go on the
next day's 8am boat trip along the Shire river. Anyway, cooking
food over an open fire, and sleeping beneath the stars - it's fun,
8am. It sounds early,
but when camping in Africa it's more like midday. Life on the Shire
river - which bisects the game park - had squawked, grumbled and
croaked into being, hours ago. As our motorised boat chugged gently
out into the open waters, I wondered if we would see any animals
- wondered whether they were already taking their siesta.
And for a good while,
all we saw were various exotic birds: drifting as a flock; or skimming
the river at speed, barely a foot from the surface; or just sitting
proudly and colourfully atop a jutting branch.
Then elephants were spotted,
close to the left-bank, partially hidden by the deep rushes. Such
magnificent creatures, with nothing to fear except man. As we circle
back to get another look, a lone elephant was spied feeding on the
trees, this time on the right bank. We got closer, and closer, and
closer to it. No need for bin-oculars, to see the wizened folds
of grey skin. Every camera clicked to capture this close-up opportunity.
The elephant just continued to rip out leaves with its trunk, and
eat them. Every so often, as we got too near, it turned towards
us, nervously but determinedly. And I felt nervous back.
As we returned to the
campsite, an even better spectacle awaited us. A baboon had climbed
to the top of a tall tree and, ignoring the distressed chorus of
onlooking cormorants, had just raided one of their nests. It tore
the flesh from a young and still-live cormorant, and ate. Right
before our eyes - the savagery of nature. The bird snapped its beak
towards the baboon, in a pathetic show of self-defence - but the
baboon continued to feast. For about ten minutes we just looked,
A Keyman Evening
KEYMAN IS Rachel's worker-cum-cook,
who specialises in Sri-Lankan food. He's also the answer to nearly
all of my anxieties, when it comes to my throwing a dinner party.
(After all, I still have to organise the evening - who to invite,
how much food to cook, what food to cook, and have I got enough
pots and pans.)
So Keyman did the hard
work that Saturday, as he cooked a chili bean dish, a dahl dish,
his speciality aubergine dish, Masamba (a green-leaf relish), vegetable
samosas, and his spicy tomato sauce - for twenty guests. I just
bought the food, and tried hard not to worry.
Keyman cooked from 9.30am
until 5pm; and I had been organising the evening all week. My guests
arrived at about 7pm and left by 11pm. I got four hours of their
time (it never seems worth the effort, does it - even if it's not
my effort!) But I owed dinner to quite a few, and now I don't. (The
food was pretty good, but it did taste a bit burnt - or does food
always taste burnt at your own dinner party?)
I WENT to Zomba to say
goodbye to Tracy (whom I'd only just got to know a few weeks earlier).
I also went to hear Ricardo playing his Spanish Guitar. Friday night
was Ricardo, and the nearest I've come to being part of an all-white
and all-intellectual audience. (Bit scary!) Saturday night was Tracy's
leaving do - "just come to the bottle store, buy your own beers,
and I've bought 10kg of meat".
The bottle store was
probably the main attraction to me, that weekend. It was filled
with friendly Malawians - both sexes, but mostly older types - who
were easy about our presence in their bottle store. There was none
of the drunken happiness to see us, or the even-more-drunken attempts
to dance with us. (It reminded me of the Star and Garter, in St.
Pauls, Bristol - a friendly West-Indian-owned pub cum front room.
In the end, 10kg of meat
was far too much. Not many turned up for Tracy's farewell (mainly
because her Malawian friends had simply run out of money, that week).
So, Rachel and Tracy and I just talked, and quietly said goodbye.
Mary Whitehouse Bans Gratuitous Football Weekend
FOR A brief moment on
Saturday morning it looked like I would be playing three games of
football that weekend: one game for Computer Solutions at 10am,
and two games for Stagecoach the next day. But Friday night had
been a late one, with a visit to the Taj Mahal night club and lots
of dancing. Also, I had a guest staying at the flat (and no she
wasn't called Mary!) So I just rolled over, and went back to sleep
(to dreams of glorious hat-tricks).
On Sunday morning, I
just woke up thinking that I'd much rather play the afternoon game,
than the morning one. So that's what I did. (3 games in 2 days is
a bit excessive, and probably bad for you. But I don't care what
Mary W. says, scoring goals is a natural act and nothing to be ashamed
of - I had to do it! (Just once.))
A Variety of Volunteers, Visit
A BLANTYRE-WEEKEND is
always en-livened by the arrival of out-of-town volunteers. The
social dynamic changes, albeit briefly, as different voices are
heard, each telling their own Malawi stories. This last weekend
of August was witness to several volunteers arriving in Blantyre.
They were coming because of a VSO Development Education visit, to
a couple of Blantyre orphanages. (These trips are organised so that
we, the volunteers, can begin to understand and experience some
of the complex issues that development raises.)
It's only when volunteers
gather together that you realise what a mixture of folk we are.
Even though most volunteers (in Malawi) are in their twenties, there
are usually a handful aged thirty or forty-something. But the real
difference lies in the volunteers' professions. In this grouping,
we had two Occupational Therapists, a teacher, a business adviser
(for a company that makes recycled paper); we had a couple of computer-types,
an executive officer of the Sports Council, an agronomist (specialising
in the harvest of kidney beans), and a nurse tutor. Real Heinz 57
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