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Published: September 28th 2015
Lake of Stars festival
My lift to the festival on Friday was late, (it's a Malawian trait), if I'd known I could have swum in Mabuya's pool instead of sitting around writing the previous blog. If took four hours to drive east and south towards Mangochie on the lake. The scenery was pretty magnificent, up and over a ridge of hills, then across a wide flat area that must have originally been a river valley with bluffs of rock similar to those in the peak district. It was quite green and fertile looking too.
I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and took a taxi to the festival. I'm at Andrew's hotel, apparently Malawian but quite clean and nice. By the description 'Malawian', it means the Standard is limited: I had to ask for toilet paper, the tv on the wall didn't work for some reason that I couldn't understand, the door will only stay shut when the key is locked, and there is a gap round the door you could put your eye to. But there is a tiled floor, the shower is hot, and there is air-conditioning (albeit noisy) and a fan. This costs $100 a night, accommodation during Lake of Stars is at a premium, but I reckoned after two weeks living in the village I might need some luxury.
The festival was great. It is set on the beach of the Sunbird Nkapola Lodge hotel, with a main stage, a smaller one, and a disco area.
I found myself in the queue for the wristband exchange with two Peace Corps volunteers who are in the same cohort as Shelby my housemate. Everyone is friendly, and wants to chat, as well as as sell you stuff. I met a couple of Rastafarians having a quiet smoke at the edge of the lake, and later joined them at their stall for a discussion on what is wrong with political parties in Malawi and the UK. They do have trade unions here, but I'm not sure how strong they are. They were telling me that 20 years ago Rastafarians were prosecuted for having long hair or jailed and made to cut it. They were impressed that a niece of Haile Selassie lodged with my family when I was a child.
Toya, on the main stage had two male dancers and the whole act reminded me of Madonna in the 80's. She went down a storm.
The next day: activities: swimming, volleyball, drinking, eating, shopping among stalls (loose legged, gathered-at-the-ankle elephant print - will I wear them in the UK? Or perhaps they'll only be festival trousers.) Listening to music, couldn't get into the Vagina Monologues, it was full. There's not enough places to get a cup of tea here. Spent some time on my own, some with Steve, the other volunteer, and some with the Landirani group (Heather and Sam Palmer and Nyomi the architect.)
Plenty of opportunity for people watching. Not a lot of difference between wellies in mud and flip flops in soft sand for giving your legs a hard time. Full moon rising over the lake.
I'm not as invisible here as I am at festivals in England; my age, colour and solitary status means a few subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions have been made - but mostly people are just friendly. A festival on a beach is great, you can paddle or wallow in the lake to cool off, or get cosy together in some shade from a tree or a parasol.
There are food stalls and market stalls outside the festival, where it's cheaper than inside.
By 6pm on Sunday night I was festivalled out and got a cab back to my hotel.
The festival is held in the grounds of Nkapola Lodge, which is one of a chain of Sunbird Hotels, international conference centres. There is a pool wrapped round a bar, and a cocktail bar on stilts on the beach. Huge trees are dotted round the site, and there's a wonderful baobab tree. There are many of these trees in this area, some of them are huge, and all of them have faces on them - the Scream, or a Marty Feldman caricature, and always what looks like part of an elephant somewhere on the truck; his wrinkled skin, a pouchy eye, or a scar from a tussle with a tusk.
Back from the festival, and am in the airport, blogging this before I get a bicycle taxi to the village. I'll be on my own tonight. Steve and Shelby won't be back till tomorrow, but I can light a fire now, I'm a real girl scout.
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