May 21, 2011
Today we departed from our usual scurry around rural Lilongwe to see a different side of life here in Malawi. Alf, our neighborhood Indian elder, was kind enough to invite us to join him and the rest of the members of the Lilongwe rotary for their weekly lunch meeting. Apparantly rotary clubs have universal mannerisms, as Emily found the behavior of the rotarians in Lilongwe quite similar to those of the rotary in Upper St. Clair back home. There was lots of food, bawdy behavior, appreciation of the company of good looking woman, and plenty of ego jabs to go around. Each one of us sat at a table surrounded by rotarians and made small-talk during lunch, while Nick was invited to sit at the head table and schmooze with the President. Aside from the jokes, the men of the Lilongwe rotary have very generous hearts, and share their wealth with the surrounding communities. Emily made a good point as we went back to the car after lunch: the problems faced by these two rotaries we have come to know are vastly different. While rotarians in Upper St. Clair clearly have their hand in a lot of philanthropy in the Pittsburgh area outside of helping SLIM in our goals for MPALUTI, the issues dealt with by the Lilongwe rotary (extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and limited access to clean water, to name a few) are serious and daunting challenges to confront. However, they are dealt with in the Malawian way: Give whatever you can to those around you, no questions asked, and smile while doing it. We were even able to form some contacts with rotary members who are auditors and another who works closely with our arch enemy, ESCOM, and is willing to help us out with our situation (it’s good to know people in high places).
After our bellies were full with good food and a good laugh, we rested for a bit before meeting Mirriam to help her with some errands around town. One thing we were able to do for her during our day was get her an internet adaptor for use on her phone. Apparantly this little gadget is a lot more reliable (and affordable) than the internet she was currently receiving, and we hope that it will allow her to manage Paradiso and the MPALUTI network more effectively, as well as keep in better contact with us back in the States.
That night we met up with one of our good friends, Frasier, and he showed us what the nightlife in Lilongwe has to offer. Besides showing off his hometown, Frasier showed off his dance moves, and we all learned a thing or two. I’ll admit, I have never danced as much in my life as I have in Malawi. It’s like its own form of communication here, and I’m just learning how to talk. I think I do ok for myself though, considering I’m a mzungu and I may be the tallest woman in the country (if you saw the size of the people here, you’d know I’m not exaggerating too much). I think I may even bring some of my African dance moves back to the States. Watch out Oakland!