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Diary of a Volunteer





Feb 1997
Jan 1997
Dec 1996
Nov 1996
Oct 1996
Sept 1996
Aug 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
Feb 1996
Jan 1996
Nov 1995
Oct 1995
Sept 1995
Aug 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995

Quiet Times

I'm Home - What Next?
Another 'day in the life of 'More...More

Bike Troubles
Another problem with my
bike More...More

DIY? (I Think So)
Another reason to Do It Yourself More...More

Another Football Story
Another Gratuitous story of football derring-do More...More


July 1996

Image of my sink, fully repaired apparently!

It's not all exotic African adventures, I'll have you know. Life here can be quiet, sometimes isolated, even dull. So to illustrate my point, read all about those quiet times

I'm Home - What Next?

WHAT NEXT indeed! Every week-day evening I have to fill the hours from 5.30pm to bed-time. Now this doesn't mean goin' down the pub, or vegetating in front of the goggle-box! Nor does it mean having friends over, or ringing them for a natter! Reason: Malawi has no television (and I cannot afford a video recorder); getting a telephone installed is (almost) as unlikely as the UK government admitting it has erred; and darkness, without transport, prohibits all other social opportunities.

So, I usually spend each and every evening at home, alone. I read yet another book, or write yet another letter, or maybe I listen to that Public Enemy tape again (on my ever so powerful Sony-Walkman, with speakers!). And if I don't have the laptop - because Rachel has custody of it that week - then I don't even write letters! (You have seen my handwriting, haven't you!)

Is that it? Is that all? Well, I do listen to the radio a little. Let's see, there's Focus on Africa at 5.00pm; at 5.30pm it's Outlook; at 5.55 it's Words of Faith; at 6.00 it's Newsday; at 6.15 it's Money Focus or the Jive Zone or ...; at 6.45 it's the World Today; at 7.00 it's Newsday; at 7.05 it's Focus on Africa; at 7.45 it's Sports Roundup (Alan Shearer cost how much!?); at 8.00 it's Newsday (same episode as 6.00 and 7.00)... Get the picture!? (And I haven't even mentioned the morning.)

I do enjoy the BBC World Service, but I don't think that listening for over 3 hours each day is that healthy. There must be more to life, than listening to crackly short-wave repeats of how Boris Yeltsin is fit, and how Mr. Karadjic will soon be stepping down from power. (Oh yeah!)

So, I listen to the radio. But I sometimes exercise at the same time - steady on! I'll do press-ups, or sit-ups, or a 20 minute skipping session.. Maybe, I'll cook as I listen to the radio: some huge tomato-kidney-bean thingy, to last me through the week. Or, I could have a bath after all that exercising (or even cook and bath). Or maybe - as the world spirals ever downwards, through reported genocide, mid-air sabotage, or another coup d'etat - I'll wonder, in my inimitable and positive way, why no bugger ever visits me! Is it any wonder I'm in bed by 9.00, most days!?

(And you think the weekdays are bad. This month, I spent 3 out of 4 Saturday nights in. That's just a little bit too much recovery-time from an over-indulgent week-end, even for me!)

So, when you've got your feet up, with your take-away pizza in one hand, and the video remote in the other, think of me eh!? I might be gazing at gazelle, or marching up Mulanje, but I may also be Boring in Blantyre!

Time to switch the radio off, I reckon...!

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Bike Troubles

I'VE BEEN having a spot of bother with my bicycle. The left-side pedal doesn't want to stay connected to the bike. Rather, it prefers to gradually loosen until, if not corrected, it falls off! Hmm! One pedal - bit of a rum do!

(Can you believe that a keen-eyed pedestrian followed me for about a hundred yards to give me back... my pedal! He just held out this pedal, and I looked at him blankly, and then I noticed that my bike did indeed have one of its pedals missing. Blank became incredulous. Just don't ask...!)

Now, tightening a pedal back to the frame requires a special kind of tool - a 14mm socket spanner, or equivalent. But none of the bike shops had one, and none of the volunteers had one either. The only tool I could find was a mini-socket-set-spanner affair, that just couldn't apply enough torque! So I'd tighten the pedal, and fifteen minutes later my right leg would be circling as normal, whilst the left looked decidedly drunken and clown-like, as the pedal wobbled all over!

And even when I found the right tool, the pedal still refused to stay on for more than a day at a time! Eventually the 'man who can' paid me a visit, and gave the bike a complete overhaul. No pedal problems again, but then the chain fell off. (But that's another, just as interesting, story!)

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DIY? (I Think So)

I MADE a bit of a blunder, this month. I complained about my hot water tank leaking, not once but several times! The men from Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) had little choice but to investigate the problem! And investigating the problem means - have you guessed it yet? - it means removing the tank from my flat, until further notice. No tank, no hot water - and it was cold!

I only know that that's what happened to my tank because Annie, my worker, told me as such. The men from MHC have no need for such communication, to its valuable customers. So something else I didn't do much of this month was - take a bath!

Well and truly in Malawi-mode, I left it for a while - a week! Still no tank, though! "It may be ready Friday, otherwise it will be ready on Monday". It wasn't. "Sorry, we ran out of gas [for wielding, I guess] - it'll be ready tomorrow [Thursday]." It wasn't. Nor Friday. "Can you be at home, this afternoon [Monday]?" Yes I can, why do you ask? Then - da, da, da, daa! - on returning from work Tuesday, I found my tank had been returned. There it sat, outside the toilet, looking fixed and fine but not looking very plumbed or installed! (Loud inner scream!)

Throughout all of this, through all the excuses - which, in this country, were probably valid - did I lose my temper, or raise my voice, or even knock someone's head violently against a hard wooden door? No I didn't. But did I think about doing it? Yes, I bloody did! (It was fixed the next day!)

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Yet Another Gratuitous Football Story

IT SEEMS no newsletter is complete without one: a glorified description of my latest footballing exploits. Not wishing to disappoint...

Well, really there was nothing that special about this particular social game of football. I was playing for Royal Insurance, and our opponents were called Carlsberg Brewery. Nothing exceptional here, even despite the rather impressive green and red strip that they wore.

BUT - and here comes that goal - I did score a bit of a beaut'! One of those goals where the forward takes the defender on, pushes the ball past him, beats him for pace, and then running flat out, fires the ball low and hard to the bottom left hand corner! It simply...!


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