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Diary of a Volunteer





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

Dreaming, or did I actually return to England!?

I'm Dreaming of a...
"I had the weirdest of
dreams" More...More

A last thought
(No sneaky peaks!) More...More


Dec. 1996

'Lifebouy, for health' Oh yes!

December was an eventful month: I taught my last UNIX course, I had my first bout of Malaria; and as for Christmas day, well...

I'm dreaming of a...

I HAD the weirdest of dreams. I'm wandering around this shopping arcade, looking for McDonalds. (I don't know why, I don't even like McDonalds.) There are tired-looking shoppers everywhere; but they carry suit-cases rather than shopping bags. My Caterpillar boots clump-clump on the dazzling-white floor. I'm lost. Circling, ever more frantically - a feeling of lateness gnaws at me.

When I find McDonalds, it's different, wrong; and I can't see Andy or Chi. Is this North or South? Then they arrive, breathless. There's a story about their car not working, and I'm listening but not really - it's just great to see them both. We sit down in a bar and eat apple pie. There's lots of talk; we're all inquisitive, eager. As I leave them, wave goodbye, I am scanned by a metal detector. And Marcus is telling me to hurry up, as the video has just started. (But I have to make a phone call, several phone calls!)

The video is called Heat: it's meant to be good, but I can't hear it. Marcus' flat is brim-full with his friends, all talking at once: "... and the guy nearly drove into me!", "When's the baby due Joanne?", "Great food, Marcus." Slops, actually - Marcus calls it Slops! (Whereas I would (sadly) call it my pièce de resistance.) I turn the volume up, but people just talk louder. Up, louder. Up, louder. NOISY! ("When are you going home, Steve?" I AM home, I reply.)

So I turn the video off, and then sit back and watch the Christmas Day Queen's speech. Diana, Princess of Wales(!) is doing it this time. She seems tearful. Not surprising really, with that Raptor dinosaur chasing after her. So lifelike - her tears, that is! Humphrey Bogart looks on: "You played it for her, now play it for me!" (Rick's Café Americain looks as exotic as ever.)

Thank goodness Mum returns from work, and I can turn the TV off. Christmas day begins! Gaily-coloured presents are removed from under our Christmas tree, twelve foot tall. Gift after gift is opened, but none are for me. Shelli opens all her presents via the telephone. She's all excited when she hears she's got  y e t         a n o t h e r    p a i r    o f   s o c k s!

We start to eat Christmas dinner. It's turkey, roast potatoes, gravy,... and a never-ending supply of sprouts. Sprouts everywhere; and no-one eats them but me. The sherry trifle tastes good, but I'm frightened away from the dinner table by a couple of menacing steroid-pumped bananas. They chase after me, begging me to eat them; so in the end I do. They're tasteless, though. After dinner, it's time for games but I'm tired -don't know why, it's only 7pm - and Mum's not well either. It's Christmas Jim, but not as we know it! (Star Trek is now Deep Space Nine and Klingons are now Borks. Dreams!)

As I waken from this dream it's 6am, but total darkness reigns outside. And it's cold; this can't be Malawi. Am I still dreaming? I open the bathroom door, and step into Sainsbury's. My basket is littered with an assortment of treats: Greek-style yoghurt (with honey); Fruit'n'Fibre cereal; reduced-calorie French-style mayonnaise; a large slab of mature Cheddar... I want to leave, but I'm trapped. Inside a never-ending queue, I'm forced to keep picking from the shelves. The queue twists around the whole store, like an all-consuming snake. A gentle voice broadcasts the message: "Welcome to Sainsbury's on Christmas Eve. Do look out for the special offers, throughout the store." The tone changes, becomes more sinister: "OH! AND DON'T THINK OF LEAVING UNTIL YOU'VE SPENT ALL YOUR MONEY. HA HA HA!" Time to pinch myself hard, I think.

Ouch! It's night-time. I'm still standing in the queue, but it's an outdoor, freezing, queue. Young women show off bare goose-pimpled legs, and rouged cheeks. Drunken men gawp. We jostle forward slowly, cursing the queue-jumpers. As I advance up the queue, a dull throbbing can be heard. It gets louder; faster; more intoxicating. Inside the VISAGE night-club, boys are crammed at the bar, and girls sit cross-legged, nearby. Sexy. Where's the dance floor? The beat implores me forward: "In the Naughty North, in the Sexy South!" Bodies are everywhere - going wild: I join them.

I'm dancing alone, keeping up with the bass-line, moving into the gaps; turning, twisting, bobbing. Going hard, sweat dribbling around my face. Tune after tune, hour after hour - first Julie, then Daz, then both dance with me. Around me are good dancers. Crazy. We listen for the next line, and the next; just dancing, absorbing the music.

The taxi takes me home. Marcus is the taxi- driver: "Where too, Guv?" It's a cold, grey day, and we're somewhere between Leeds and Huddersfield. The roads are so, so... organised! Dual carriage-ways, filter lanes, busy round-abouts - vehicles flow along them like finely-honed clockwork. Every car is shiny and new. Queues of cars wait patiently for the lights to change from red to green. Elsewhere, smiling-driver faces wave each other out at junctions. Harmony on the roads. (And even Marcus drives his Automatic sensibly, unhurriedly!)

Then it happens. Behind us, a horn is being hooted. It's a noisy and irritating sound, belong-ing to some beat-up sharrabang. Is this Road Rage? Our smooth tarmac changes to a bumpy farm-yard track, and we have to swerve suddenly to avoid a deep pot-hole. The sharrabang is gaining on us, still tooting its horn. Watch out for the pot-hole! We drive straight into it; swallowed hole. We don't crunch into the bottom, though; just descend, and fall. Falling.

"Sir, sir," my falling is disturbed, "can you fasten your seat-belt sir! We're coming into Lusaka." As the reality of returning to Malawi seeps through me, I unscrew my head. Inside my ruck-sack is my Malawi-head: the one painted white, with the simpleton expression, and the hundred dollar bills growing from its nostrils. "Fine, how are you? I'm fine, how are you? Fine, how are you?" It repeats, as I screw it into place.

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A Last Thought

The nicest thing I ate in UK? Apple pie (from the local butchers), and fresh cream. But sherry trifle came a close second. Delicious.


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