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Published: December 7th 2008
I awoke in the middle of the night one Sunday to the sound of rain. Yet it was only July, in the middle of the dry winter...I hadn't seen or thought of rain in months. Then I noticed it sounded more like my shower running...only I'd been asleep for well over three hours. Strangely, the sound seemed to be coming from the other side of the flat than my bathroom... I ran to the bedroom door and sure enough, there was a rainstorm, right in the middle of my living room! Water was pouring in sheets right out of the ceiling; I was kind of paralyzed from shock, and had no idea what to do. So I went to my neighbor Ann, who has been in Malawi long enough to know everything. She instructed me to turn the water off, how to ensure that the landlord would take care of this first thing in the morning, and helped me mop up the floodwaters all over my living room. Sigh...t.i.A.!
I went out with some friends that week to the very fancy Indian restaurant in Lilongwe, where, every time, they make you sit in the waiting area for at least three
The French-speaking crew
Olivier, me, Nathalie, Sebastien chilling on Caroline's lovely patio.
minutes before seating you at your table - even when the place is empty!
It's a very lovely waiting area and all...but I think some of our Western formalities just don't translate well here. Its is perhaps the most formal restaurant in Lilongwe, which is one of the least appealing things about it. But their mutton malwani
is superb (we are all debating whether that is a typo that is supposed to read "mutton malAWI
" 😉, and a steal at $10 for enough to bring home for lunch the next day.
A law school classmate of mine, Megan, flew in from the States for the same fellowship that had first brought me to Malawi last year. We knew each other primarily from our mutual involvement in our law school's Student Network for Refugee and Asylum Law, a student organization I had served on the executive board for. My supervisor from last year at JRS, who is based in S. Africa, also flew in; it was fantastic to catch up with him, he has been very supportive of me as I try to make my way into a career in refugee law. The three of us had lunch and discussed
Le vrai French-speaking crew
We asked Olivier to leave because he only speaks Quebec French which doesn't really count and is incomprehensible to us anyway.
what Megan should be spending her time on, as I had been the first law student to work for JRS Malawi.
When asylum seekers here are denied refugee status, they have a right to appeal the decision, but most of them have no idea what that means, nor how to craft an appeal that stands any sort of chance. I was the first person to actually provide legal assistance to rejected asylum seekers last year, and even though it was only on a short-term basis (2-3 months per year), we hoped that some of the principles we used in crafting our appeals could inform the refugee community as a whole so they might have better success in doing their own appeals. So we all agreed that she would focus on appeals of refugee status denials, as I had the previous year.
That Friday night, Caroline took her turn hosting a pot-luck dinner at her house. It was an opportunity to welcome Megan and some other new arrivals, one at UNHCR and another doing independent research. I contributed my now-famous Rwandan peas, heavily doused with garlic 😊, but the star of the evening was good old-fashioned bar-b-qued chicken. Afterwards
Hostess with the mostest
Beth on the left, Tayllor on the right, and that's Blandina in the center, Caroline's roommate and a former Miss Malawi!
we headed out on the town again, back to Chez Ntemba for some dancing. Ever since the Gigi & The Shooting Stars concert I had become obsessed with Congolese music and dancing. I had been working to set up dance lessons with Gigi's head dancers, and had found a large enough group of interested students, but we were still working on finding an affordable space. In the meantime, Ch. Ntemba—a Congolese club which always plays a few rhumba tunes from the DRC—was a decent substitute to practice my ndombolo
That Sunday four of us from UNHCR and our friend Olivier headed to Senga Bay for the day. I didn't have my camera, and never got photos from my friends of this. But as we were eating lunch on the beach, we saw what must have been one of the funniest sights ever. A bunch of guys in pirogues (tiny one-man canoes) were rushing towards the other end of the beach. There, we saw a really nice, expensive motorboat, with a mzungu
inside. A few minutes later, we realized the pirogues were towing
the fancy motorboat! We all burst out laughing and started taking photos; the poor mzungu
smiled and nodded, and raised his beer to us. Again, only in Africa!
The following Wednesday Megan and I had a working lunch at the Italian deli, and treated ourselves to bona fide gelato
afterward as a treat. That night, I was invited over to John Paul's for some home cooking and Monopoly. I never realized just how competitive Monopoly can be until I played it with John Paul's family; I don't suppose the aim of their game is any different, but they play it so fast and so ruthlessly that if you can't keep up you find yourself bankrupt and out of the game in no time. (Which, of course, is what happened to me.) So I amused myself for the rest of the evening with his little sister, who went nuts at the chance to play with mzungu
hair and was my hairdresser for the evening.
The next Friday night Gigi & The Shooting Stars performed again at Umunthu Theater, and I continued to make arrangements for the dance lessons. Then I met up with my friends at Synergy, another nightclub in Lilongwe. It was a very action-packed two weeks!
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