The African Diary (6)


July 6,7 2000   




Thursday July 6, 2000

On Thursday, July 6 we drove out to Lake Malawi and baptized Diverson Chonde, a nephew of Gladstone. It was a unique baptism as both Andre and I waded into the water for the baptism.  Andre took care of Diverson's upper body, while I concentrated on the rest. With our combined force I can assure you that he went under...all the way to the bottom!  

It was a gorgeous setting for the important occasion with huge rocks all around forming a natural bay. We counseled a number of others, including a young man called Cephas who plans to come to Harare for the Fall Festival. A group of eight from Malawi will join those already in Zimbabwe for the Fall Festival. 

AIDS is a major scourge in many African countries. A lady and her family from a remote village to the north of Lilongwe had requested a visit. By the time we arrived her husband had died, then her newly-born baby. Shortly afterwards the lady also died followed by the youngest of the three remaining children. Two orphaned children are the only ones left of the family.

A special event for me was to meet with Dr. Trywell Nyirongo who operates a the Kasambala Medical Center is extremely rural northern Malawi in the Mzusu area in the town of Nchenachena.  I have become acquainted with Dr. Nyirongo through a good friend Patty Hahn-Carlson who works with this clinic. Together we have sent a 40 foot container of aid to it and to Malakia Clinic. You can read about Patty's last trip to Malawi by clicking here. Dr. Nyiorongo had gone to high school in Richfield, Minnesota and received his medical degree in Holland. He has now returned back to his roots and helps his people under the most difficult of all circumstances. Dr. Nyiorongo and I met at the Livingstonia Hotel in the shore of Lake Malawi which is a lake several hundred miles long filling in part of the Great Rift Valley of Africa.  We talked about two hours.  Then when it was time to baptize Diverson, Dr. N. asked if he could witness it.  

Afterwards we drove back from Salima to Lilongwe. It was so interesting to see common life scenes of people in Malawi.  

We discovered that we could still return our car to to the BOSS rental agency at the 24 hour mark and not have to pay for an extra day.  We drove by the agency, but it was closed.  Today is Independence Day, the 6th of July.  So, this year I celebrated the 6th, not the 4th.  We called the agency and left a voice mail proving that we were attempting to return the car.  

Then we went back to Chonde home where we feel comfortable. We watch a soccer game on television between Malawi and Namibia. Malawi's President is at the game played at home.  Namibia goes on to win 2-1.  Then Mrs. Chonde fixes dinner and we just settle in to talk.  As part of the family tradition, they sing on a regular basis. Out come church hymnals and we all join in.  While we were singing a suave gentleman walks in.  He is Sam Banda, Alice Chonde's brother.  We discover that he is a member of the Malawian Parliament. He is quite talkative and tells us many stories. He's a member of the opposition party.  He has been jailed several times. Opposition to current government often results in time spent in jail until opposing thoughts are moderated.  

Diverson takes us back to the Guest House where we are staying. I noticed here in Malawi as well as Zambia that one rarely stops at a red light at night. Reason? You can be a sitting duck to bandits who wait at stop lights at night to prey on unsuspecting motorists.  You are lucky if you escape only with the loss of your money. We are almost at the end of our Malawi stay which has been so eye-opening and wonderful.  

In the morning we return our car to BOSS car rentals.  It is an experience of its own.  Malawi has had the poorest and most expensive car rental service I have ever experienced.  And to top off the high bill there was a 20% government VAT.  While there were credit card logos at the place of business, we were told that they were not currently using credit cards.  Andre tried to pay with Traveler's checks.  Again, there was a problem because we had to actually go to the bank with the rental company with our passports to prove who we were.  As usual, cash is the best way to go (for them).

The next morning we wanted to go and visit an orphanage that Mr. Chonde has been helping, but the car that was coming to get us broke down or had a flat and that fell through. The Chonde's were able to get a small bus mini-van to take us out to the airport in the afternoon to discover that our flight to Harare was on a new schedule almost two hours later. It gave us more time to talk in the cold airport. Andre is stopped and questioned again about something that he's been questioned on before. There is a bag of little round items that appears on the x-ray.  These are peanuts given to him at the Pringle's and they arouse the curiosity of security. His luggage is searched and it pronounced OK.  

One more thing about Andre that I might add here.  He does the Mandela Shuffle almost as good as Nelson Mandela himself. He has me in stitches every time he does it.  When you see Andre, ask him to do the Mandela Shuffle for you.  Ask for it by name.

Our flight was a Zimbabwe Air flight that originated in Nairobi, Kenya stopping in Lilongwe continuing to Harare.  The flight lasted one one hour as we arrived in the country that's been so much in the news because of all the unrest.


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