It’s Wednesday, 9am. I’m up and ready, bags are packed and I’m just making sure they’re by the door and ready for a quick car load-up and take off. Today we head to Liwonde, the community where we will be working to start up the feeding and pre-school program. Yesterday we ran around Lilongwe running errands and buying odds and ends for the project. Rodrick spent all night in a filling station queue for the petrol we will need (see Lizzy’s entry about the petrol crisis). This morning he has gone to get the car windows fixed (I suppress the urge to tell him the car needs a lot more fixed than just the windows. We are working with a humble, fundraised budget, afterall). All we need now are the soya beans.
It’s 4pm when Rodrick comes home to see my packed bags. He sits down with a sigh and a shy smile. “Well, there are a few hiccups…” I’m in a good mood, feeling patient and poised after a day of reading and relaxing. Surely it’s no big deal.
“I got three of the windows fixed, but one is still broken.” Okay…
“They told me the house won’t be ready until Sunday.” Hmm…
“And the soya provider backed out.” Ah.
“So I will go and find some from someone else.”
“Yes, today. Or if I don’t find it today, then tomorrow.”
It’s Sunday, 3pm. I’m chilling out on the couch with Lizzy. We’re trying to make ourselves feel useful by planning activities for the project. This has become our source of distraction from the fact that we’ve basically been stranded for five days in a (remarkably warm and loving, but…) house, waiting for the green light.
It’s 5pm. Rodrick comes home, exhausted, but pleased. ”I found the soya. Let’s go get it.”
Why didn’t he bring it back with him, you ask? Because he has been riding around on buses from North to South, trying to save our petrol so that we don’t have to queue again. He has been sleeping on friends’ couches.
So we’re off toward the soya provider, relieved to be out of the house and finally seeing our departure in sight. Rodrick is driving remarkably fast (70 clicks versus his usual 40 (coming from Lebanon, this in itself requires a great deal of hardcore zen mental exercises)), perhaps out of excitement or sheer desire to finally get this over with.
We arrive. We wait in the car. Half an hour later, Rodrick comes back with some man with a beer bottle in his fist. “The man’s not here, but we’ll go see his brother.”
We drive for a minute, then stop again. Both men get out, and we wait in the car. Half an hour later (or so, I think. My approximations of time have become rough estimates between ‘short’: 5-15 minutes; ‘medium’: 20-40 minutes; or ‘long’: anything more), he comes back. We count the money out. He goes back to finish the deal.
A ‘medium’ time later, he comes back with two men and they start loading the bags in the trunk of his rental. Each bag weighs 50kilos. The car sinks with each new load. I cringe.
Rodrick leaves with them once they’ve loaded 4 bags into the trunk. A ‘medium’ time later he hands us two fistfuls of soya beans and jumps in the driver’s seat. We roll for maybe 2 feet before hearing a dreadful crunching noise coming from the right-rear wheel. He gets out to inspect. A ‘short’ time later, he and another man have unloaded all of the bags and we’re off again, empty-handed.
The story ends nicely, I promise.
First, let me just take a second to make a Note To Self: may I never forget Rodrick’s calm and kind smile after these past 5 days of endless trials and errors, backs and forths, and obstacles. If he can not only keep his cool, but maintain his poise, dignity and sense of perspective after all of this, then I have to learn to chill out when worrying about missing ingredients for dinner-parties, or when thinking about all the things that could go wrong in a meeting with my directors. End note.
By a stroke of genius, Rodrick speeds up, honking and flashing his high-beams excitedly at a van ahead. “Maybe they can take the soya.”
A ‘short’ time later, Lizzy’s in the driver’s seat, following a van 500 kilos heavier with soya. We are laughing and sharing our amazement at the absurdity of these endless complications. Lizzy’s enjoying left hand driving (Malawi was colonized by the Brits), which she says makes more sense. (She also called herself backwards earlier on. Just saying.)
We – or rather Rodrick, Edward and the boys (Tiyamike and Tandala) – unload, with obvious pains, the 500 kilos and we share a high-five with Rodrick. Tomorrow we’re off. For real. Unless, of course, something happens…