Wednesday, July 16, 2008

what just happened?!?

talk about totally different worlds.... I now fully stand behind my earlier opinion that South Africa is very similar to the UK or US. At least compared to Malawi.

Landing in Blantyre about 2 hours ago was like landing in the village in Uganda - directly. Megan, you'll appreciate that. A different world. I saw kids gathering water by a small river, little groups of houses with dirt paths connecting them, some men working on a broken minibus, and the beautiful, rugged landscape of Malawi in the dry season.

Stepping off the plane, I couldn't help but think, where the heck am I, and what am I doing here? About half the plane was filled with a group of people from North Carolina on a mission trip to an orphanage. There were also some white south africans and random other europeans on holiday. Only about 10-20% would I guess were Malawian natives. And those were pretty clearly businessmen. Basically, I felt uncomfortably wealthy making this trip.

There was about 100 school children on the second floor of the airport (and by airport, I'm thinking of the one in Nepal... if you looked at all of our pictures from last fall, you'll remember) - I don't know what they were waiting on, but it reminded me of a school fieldtrip. "Look kids, those are all the people that are coming to visit our country!"

This was also the first time I have ever had someone pick me up from the airport holding my name up on a sign. The met service sent me a driver. My first business trip: Blantyre, Malawi.

About 5 minutes out of the airport gate, we already had to stop to let a man with four goats cross the road. Along the way, the driver pointed out local places to me (the road to Lilongwe (the capital), the boundary of the city, the names of two nearby mountains I had seen from the plane. This whole time we were following an overloaded pickup truck carrying a trailer filled with who-knows-what under a tarp. The driver told me "when you see a truck like this, you can be sure they are coming back from South Africa." "So... are they traders?" "No, they are people that have been kicked out of the country as they were looking for jobs. But these are lucky ones. They got to bring their belongings back with them." Africa. Unemployment is so high in poor countries like Malawi that people will drive 1000 miles to south africa just to take a chance on their booming economy. When a country where 3 out of 10 people have AIDS is considered booming, you know you're in trouble. My driver said that he finished his education 10 years ago (college) and just got his first job last year, as a driver with the met service. And I can see in his eyes that he is very thankful.

At the airport, I changed $50 to Kwacha. This got me about 7000 Kwacha. 500 of this I gave the driver as a tip, 200 I gave to the man at the hotel who took my bag up to my room for me. I have decided I am leaving tips this time. Megan, you have to admit we got a little bit stingy in Uganda.

The hotel. Is. Probably. One. Of. The. Nicest. Hotels. I. Have. Ever. Ever. Stayed. At. For real. When I was checking in, a girl brought me a fresh glass of passion fruit juice (joo-iss). Just so I had something to do while I waited. You can see pictures of my room below. It's pretty self explanitory. It reminds me of all those hotels we went in just for lunch, and to gawk at how people could afford this sort of thing in Africa. Honestly, I'm thinking about switching to another place. Diplomatically, my boss said that I should book at whatever hotel the met service suggested - but I have some serious issues with staying here when those kids back at the airport will probably sleep on matresses on a dirt floor tonight. If they have a matress.

AND a housekeeping girl just knocked on my door, gave me a chocolate mint... "I have this for you"... and left.

More later.

airport in south africa

airport in malawi

malawi village while landing

malawi hotel room (compare with above picture of village)


Les said...

Appreciate what you have, live for God, do your best, and enjoy life!

I love you


Anonymous said...

crazy! "joo-is" lol! man...i can't wait to see pictures!!!

Anonymous said...

and yes, i confess. we were DEFINITELY stingy. definitely.