Thursday, 6 March 2014

Multiply Zambia 2014 Day Seven - Tuesday

The muezzin kicks in at 5.07am.  He must be on Mecca sunrise time.  I shower, pack and grab a couple of cups of coffee and pieces of toast and Marmite for breakfast.  We're loading the car at 8.00am.  Steven seems a bit reluctant, as he maintains, "Lusaka Airport isn't Heathrow".  But it is three-quarters of an hour's drive away, and we have to pick up Harriet on the way.  The Departures indicator board doesn't even tell us which check-in desk to go to: there's only one!  I gather that there's now no direct flight from London to Lusaka; but Ethiopian Airways run a Dreamliner service to Shanghai.  What does that tell you?

Our flight left an hour late, as they'd had to do an unscheduled refuelling.  The terminal computers had gone down, leaving the ground crew unable to do the billing.  Once airborne, I briefly dozed off.  But then I watched the landscape pass beneath us and the gorgeous clouds stretch into the distance.  Everywhere seems well cultivated - but this is the end of the rainy season.

Lilongwe Airport is picturesque, with tended landscaping, and trees in the car park were in full bloom.  Bishop Stanford met us an a mini-MPV he'd hired for our stay, and drove us to Calla Lily Lodge.  We pass very rural African roadside scenes: a knot of boys looking after a small herd of cattle; thatched homesteads.  A far cry from the thriving - and messy - Zambia that lies not many miles away. 

The Lodge is in Area 47 Sector 3, according to the city's Milton Keynes type naming system.  We poked our noses into all the vacant rooms and made our choice: Farayi and I are sharing this time.  We decide there's just time to dash into the centre and change some currency.  I still have 900 Zambia Kwacha (about £95), and there was no conversion rate at the Airport.  "Hmm," the Bishop confirms.  "You won't get that changed in any of the banks, but I know someone..."  We've just landed, and now we're black-market money changing at the well-scrubbed bishop's initiation.

We find the one mall in the centre and soon I turn round from the front seat to find what I'd have taken as  Jamaican guy sitting in the back seat peeling notes from thick wads he's dug from a rucksack.  He's offering a good rate on Sterling: 670 Malawian Kwacha to the pound, but only 50 for Zambian, where the right rate should be nearer 70.  I'll send the money back to Kitwe with Farayi, where he'll get at least £90 from any outlet.

Back at the Lodge, Steven approaches me hesitantly.  "We feel it would be better to hold the conference tomorrow and Thursday rather than Thursday and Friday."  He offers no explanation, but follows, "We can do our planning now, and on Friday we can go out, maybe to Lake Malawi."  I can't think of an objection.  So we go down to the dining room for a welcome cup of tea and chat about the programme.  Rev Harold, from the Presbyterian Church we'll us, joins us.  He came to the Kitwe conference three years ago, and I remember his ready smile from the video of the march.

Bishop S is softly spoken, very particular and deliberate in his ways.  We soon have things sorted.  Translation will be into Chichewa.  Steven lets Reception know when we'll eat, and we get unpacking .  I chat about the family to Farayi - he's a very similar age to Gav.  We've all ordered local pan-fried Chambo fish.  (Lake Malawi boasts 800 difference species of fish according to National Geographic.)   It's bony and tasty, but we're pestered by mosquitoes that seem to make Farayi a particular target.

I just manage to catch up with some emails before the WiFi network slows to an impossible crawl.  I have a huge double bed that seems wider than it's long and it's crowned with a kingfisher blue mosquito net.   As I drift off to sleep, Farayi has retreated inside his net and is lying reading.

I'm liking Malawi.

No comments: