Just Another April
How Can I Spoon-feed...
organisational adjustment More...
trip to Nsanje was about relaxing" More...
A Wonderful Wedding
(and only) VSO wedding More...
On April Fool's day Rachel left. Despite
this, April was still an enjoyable month: I visited the hot-bed
that was Nsanje, and I attended my first VSO wedding...
How Can I Spoon-feed Without a Spoon?
SO ONE minute I'm busy,
busy, busy! I'm making final adjustments to version 2 of my Introduction
to UNIX course - get rid of this; add a bit of that; oh, and that's
a good idea! The next minute: no computers! No computers for the
students, no computers for me, and even worse, no computers for
In laymen's terms, one
moment of 'organisational adjustment' and I can no longer teach
my UNIX course in Blantyre. (And course development now means I
have to play 'Hunt the Computer'.) Of course, no one in training
knew anything about this 'adjustment'. I wore my wry-smile face
So what does 'organisational
adjustment' mean? Well, I think it means that Data Processing Department
is no longer responsible for the payroll system. Instead, Payroll
now belongs to the department of Accountant General. (It was the
Boys from Accountant General who swept into Data Processing and
not-so-stealthily 'recovered' the PCs and the UNIX machine.)
So how does this affect
Data Processing Department? Good question (well done for asking
it!) If Payroll and other such computer-related administration are
now to be undertaken by Accountant General, then I think (again!)
that this leaves Data Processing Department with little else left
to do but to train (though not to train in UNIX).
So, what does this mean
to me? Well, if I want to spoon-feed students 'the truth and nothing
but' about UNIX I will have to do so in Lilongwe (where all the
'recovered' machines are destined), and to students belonging to
Now Lilongwe - a sprawling
and un-pleasant place - is some four hundred kilometers from Blantyre.
The spectre of relocation to Lilongwe there-fore looms. What also
looms is the notion that, after my having put in a good year's work
developing the UNIX course, we may cease to offer it at the training
centre. After all, with no machine there can be no course! (So does
anybody know of a good home for a set of slightly-used teaching
MY TRIP to Nsanje was
about relaxing. It was about uncluttering my thoughts, albeit temporarily,
and enjoying the stimulus of a new environment. It was also about
visiting Kevin & Rosie de Mello, who live in Nsanje. As the
southern-most town in Malawi, Nsanje rarely benefits from the wandering
VSO. So I took a few days off work and headed 'way on down'.
At one point on the route
to Nsanje there was a descent of 1000m to the Lower Shire, in just
a few miles. The view is of a vast rolling country-side that stretches
as far as the distant horizon. (And at the time, I preferred to
be amazed by the panorama, than to remember my exhausted efforts
of cycling UP this road, with its sweeping hairpins and shuddering
incline.) The bus tiptoed downwards, its whole frame squeaking nervously.
Other distractions included little boys that struck fierce Kung-fu
poses in our direction, or tinier faces that stared in bewilderment
of the mechanical beast that passed them by. (In Malawi, travelling
is an unending source of images.)
I arrived in Nsanje at
about 4pm, after taking a local bus from Bangula (A real wild-west
town, Bangula; replace the bicycles with horses, and the black faces
for white and voilà! "Ride 'em cowboy!".) Local
buses are fun too. It's always an intimate squeeze; and the bus
stops, seemingly, at everyone's doorstep.
I digress. On arrival
in Nsanje I innocently cajoled a stranger - Edgar - to help me find
the de Mello's home. We took a circuitous route but we found the
place nevertheless. Rosie greeted me with a hug and hello, whilst
Kevin waited for us at Ghobwes - a favourite bottle store. We consumed
some Greens (aka Carlsberg!), and talked. (Unfortunately, a multitude
of mosquitoes consumed too, positively feasting on my very bare
and very non-repellent flesh.) Back home, we ate our Nsima &
beef, talked, and went to bed. 9pm.
Thus the pattern for
the weekend was established. Each languorous day consisted of meal-taking,
of talking or reading, of drinking a couple of Greens, and of early
to bed (for me anyway, as they were at work some of the time). Perhaps
life wasn't quite so simple. I am forgetting the permanent backdrop
that was feeding or tending the animals (chickens, pigs, dogs and
stray birds). The thrice-daily feeding, was a regular 'Good Life'
experience to me. I was also able to visit a fish-smoking project
Kevin was involved in - he works in appropriate technology. And
Rosie is an English teacher, and she was marking essays with titles
like 'Describe your ideal partner'. We larfed and larfed!
So, the weekend verdict:
Nsanje is a go-slow place, in perpetual siesta; it massaged a little
calm back into my life (and packed up them troubles).
A Wonderful Wedding
I WENT to a wonderful
wedding. It was the wedding of Robert Donnelly to Rachel Whyatt.
It took place at St. Montford's church, Blantyre, on Saturday April
13th. It was a VSO-wedding: Rachel the volunteer, and Rob the NGO
type. Apparently, so the Best Man's speech goes, Rob met Rachel
in the north; they met again in Blantyre, he got her a job, and
after 9 months of pursuit he got the girl. (Simple eh?)
So why was the wedding
wonderful? Well it helped that it was a warm and sunny day. And
all the guests - VSOs, friends, colleagues, and family - all were
smartly attired (an unfamiliar sight on some).
It was a wonderful wedding
because inside the large catholic church - with its tall stone pillars
that reached the roof - inside sat a Malawian choir. They would
sing the hymns and psalms, and they would sing them with such beautiful
and harmonious voices. And at the end of the wedding this same choir
led the procession of well-wishers, all of whom gave their brief
congratulations to the bride and groom.)
It was a wonderful wedding
because we had a wonderful priest - a kind of Dave Allen of the
cloth. He began the service in a jovial and friendly way, asking
us: "Why are we all here?", and joking when none of us
replied: "Rob, they don't know why they've come today!".
He asked us all to pray to our god for a long and happy marriage
(not necessarily a Christian god, but a god that represented each
of our individual beliefs (hence the Dave Allen comparison)). As
Catholic priests go, he was a revelation to me.
And not least of all,
it was a wonderful wedding because it was very short and very sweet;
over in no more than an hour (including the signing of the registrar).
The service flowed so, that we didn't even realise that they were
married (until the priest announced it to us all!).
With its blend of traditional
Malawian and British ceremonies, this wonderful wedding was the
best wedding I have been to.
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