Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trip South Part 2

Continuing where I left off...
The bus stopped once around noon for lunch and we met the first two foreigners. They were a British couple around our age. He had been working in Kenya for six weeks and she had been working in Tanzania for six weeks. They were on their way to Lilongwe and then a two week stay in Malawi. The bus stayed there for about 45 minutes and then headed off for the border again. Driving through southern Tanzania I think we were in some sort of reserve because I saw: elephants, buffalo, giraffes, impala, a huge baboon running down the road and maybe a couple of rhino but I’m not sure. We reached the border around 10:30 after riding for 16 hours in the bus. By this time we had picked up about 5 or 6 aisle riders at different police checkpoints. One of these beloved aisle riders had been riding beside me for about four hours and thought that laying his head in my lap or even half sitting in my lap was perfectly fine:). Neil, lucky bum, didn’t have that experience. At the border most of the passengers got off and stayed at local ‘motels’. All of us foreign folk were spending the night on the bus. I had just stretched out to sleep across both seats when the guy we hadn’t met came up and asked if he could sit by me. His name was Alan and he had just fallen asleep when he woke up to find his seatmate with his arm in Alan’s bag. The guy’s excuse was that he was trying to keep Alan’s water bottle from falling on the ground. The only problem with that is that his water bottle had already been on the ground for a while:) After an interesting night’s sleep on the bus and some money exchanging the next morning we finally drove into the Tanzanian side of the border control. That part of the border went flawlessly and after a little while we drove to the Malawian side. Here after getting our passports stamped we sat around and watched the whole bus be unloaded for customs inspection. They probably had it unloaded by 10 and then it didn’t appear to get checked until the middle of the afternoon. My seatmate, a Malawian guy headed home, told me we would leave around 6 p.m. and then get to Lilongwe around 4 or 5 the next morning. So much for one night and two days. During our day long wait at the border a Malawian official came out and asked me, the Canadian guy Alan, and the British guy to come with him because he was ‘Intelligence’. He asked each of us a series of questions and wanted to know the likelihood of us coming back to live in Malawi. I don’t know how much intelligence was present at this ‘intelligence’ meeting, but at least he didn’t hassle us at all.
True to prediction the bus left a little after 6 and started its all night drive to Lilongwe. The sad part is that we didn’t get to see any of the beautiful Malawian countryside at night. Leaving the border the passenger list was different than before. Quite a few people had just ridden to the border and then they sold even more tickets for people to go to Lilongwe than that had gotten off. I had a different aisle friend this time who was slightly better but still thought sharing my seat would be a great idea:)
We got to Lilongwe around five in the morning. The night had been uneventful except for this one song that had played over and over again on the bus’s speakers. It was talking about a Maria, diarrhea, or malaria. I never quite could figure it out. We got a taxi over to the AXA bus company and bought tickets to Blantyre. The bus was going to leave in 45 minutes so we just sat and waited. We had heard that the AXA buses were really nice but in my mind that meant there wouldn’t be people in the aisles and 50 pound bags of merchandise shoved under the seats. When the bus rolled in to pick us up I was shocked. It was a brand new Mercedes. We were allowed to stow our bags UNDER the bus and we proceeded onto the bus to find a perfectly clean interior complete with TVs and foot rests. There was a movie in English, breakfast service, and a bathroom in the back. This bus ride was better than a lot of flights that I’ve been on:) Once we got to Blantyre we hung out with a couple of SMs from Walla Walla who are teaching this year. The next day we went out to Malamulo Hospital where I was born to visit some people and look around. This was the first time I’d been back since we left when I was two. We spent a couple nights there and got to meet some old family friends. Then back to Blantyre where we stayed with some friends of Neil’s family for a couple of nights. On Saturday morning they dropped us off at the airport and we flew down to Joburg where my parents picked us up and took us to the camp meeting they were attending.
The next day we traveled to Maputo and a few days after that I headed with my dad up north to check on some stuff for Maranatha that he had to do. That’s all in the next blog:) Sorry that this was so long but maybe being extremely wordy in this makes up for hardly blogging the past few months.

Trip South Part 1

Hello everyone. It’s been a while since I wrote a real blog post. Now I have some things that are definitely blog worthy. I’m going to get pretty detailed with this description of our trip south to Mozambique from Tanzania because when we were looking for information on it the best stuff we found were in people’s blogs. Good but insufficient. I’m going to donate my experience to society:)
We left Heri hospital on Friday April 3rd. We got a flight from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam where we would get our bus tickets for Malawi. The flight left on time and everything seemed to be going just fine until the pilot said that we’d have to go and land at a different airport part way across the country because the wheels wouldn’t come up. I guess the mud on the runway in Kigoma got up in the wheel retracting apparatus and was keeping them from rising. We landed in Tabora and stayed there for about a half hour while a fire truck sprayed off the wheels. Then we took off again headed for Dar. The pilot informed us that the wheels had retracted properly. I was just hoping that they’d go back down again when we needed to land:)
Once we landed (the wheels did go back down) we got a taxi driver to take us to the Scandinavian bus station in the hopes of buying a ticket straight from Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe, Malawi. They informed us that they don’t have services to Malawi but that Falcon did. We asked our friendly taxi driver if he knew where the Falcon ticket sales office was and he said he did. We wandered around Dar while he kept asking for directions to find Falcon. He finally found a guy who said he worked for the bus ‘companies’ and that Falcon didn’t have service to Malawi but another bus company, Taqwa, did have a bus going to Lilongwe. We got ‘directions’ to the Taqwa ticket office and when we reached the street we saw the Falcon office instead. We went in there and they agreed with what we had heard that they didn’t service Malawi. As we went back to the car we spotted the Taqwa office down the street a bit. The small room was full to the ceiling with cases of powdered milk. Using our taxi driver as a portable translator we found out that they did have a bus leaving for Lilongwe the next morning. Neil asked them some questions about the bus. Like does anyone sit in the aisle: “oh, no. everyone has their own seat”. We asked how long it took and the gentleman said that it would leave Saturday morning and get there Sunday evening, spending the night at the border. There were some pictures on the wall of their buses and they didn’t look too bad so be bought tickets to leave at 6 the next morning. We paid 55,000 shillings which is about fifty bucks US.
We spent the night at the YWCA after talking to the taxi driver about picking us up at 4:45 the next morning. It was a wonderful night’s rest with the power going out (so the fan stopped) and a few friendly mosquitoes smuggling their way into our nets:) Our taxi driver dropped us off at the main bus station around 5:15 and we got on our chariot of fire bound for Malawi. The bus was probably half full when we showed up and we were surprised to see two other foreigners already there. Apparently when you buy a ticket on the bus you’re just buying a seat. The bus had lots of storage room underneath already packed full of stuff people were exporting from Tanzania. I ended up with one backpack between my feet and Neil likewise and our joint bag we tossed in the back on a pile of other people’s belongings. The bus left only a half hour late and before it departed low and behold another random white guy got on. I don’t know if you can understand me or not but after being way out in the middle of nowhere for months and getting yelled at(in a friendly way) all the time for being white it was almost shocking to see other white people again:) To be continued...