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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Sept. 18 – Planes, cars and bicycles

Nervous about whether we would actually get into the country based on the mixed messages we had gotten about visas from the embassies, we put our trust in the universe and flew into Malawi. I sat next to a father and two-year-old son from Malawi, and got my “kid fix” from the adorable boy, Malakai. I was surprised and delighted when he sang “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and “Are You Sleeping?”His dad was willing and eager to share info about his homeland, and I learned a great deal about the land I was about to experience, including the problems with poorly funded, overcrowded schools.

Getting a visa proved to be smooth and easy; getting to our destination, not so much. After clearing customs, we met the rental car agent. When he delivered our car, I noticed that one of the tires was flat!  A passerby helped put on the donut, and we drove back to the car agency in the middle of Lilongwe to sign the contract and get the tire repaired.

Leaving the Malawi capital two hours later, we were faced with a four-hour drive – half of it in the dark – in a foreign land where they drive on the left of two-lane, pot-hole laced, unlit  and largely unmarked roads. We carefully dodged a steady stream of bicyclists and pedestrians on both sides of the “highway” – to say nothing of the myriad of goats crossing back and forth across the road.  The average African walks 15 to 20 km a day to work, to get food or wood – many of them, especially the women, barefoot and with a baby on their backs and a bucket of food, water or wood on their heads. And I was put out because of a flat tire!

As Judy navigated us through the final few kilometers up the dark, rocky road to Cape Maclear, I was filled with gratitude for her skillful driving and the fact that we arrived without incident.  It was after 8 p.m. and pitch black, so we had no idea of the beautiful setting as we sat outside and ate local fish and chocolate lava cake on the lodge lawn.

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