Malawian Rice Vendor

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's about time

Time is of the essence or so they say.  That is the motto in which many of us have grown up with.  We are taught at an early age that it is extremely important to be on time.  Erika is always punctual.  I was born two weeks late and much like my mother who's birthday I have the honor of sharing, I am still perpetually late and still trying to catch up.  Both of us have spent a number of years in the hospitality/service industry.  We have dealt with all sorts of people and numerous amounts of deadlines.  It goes without saying that both of us, professionals that we are, have tried our absolute best to meet those deadlines.  Inevitably, things happen and it doesn't always come to fruition that the deadlines are met.  In the United States, a lot of people are quite patient and are able to accept having to wait for awhile so that everything can work it's way out but unfortunately there are those few, poor souls that are not able to accept that things are not always punctual.  They are the ones who in general tend to be miserable people, (glass half empty types if you will.)  The ones who want their hotel rooms comped because they could not check in at 9am even though it clearly states that checkin is after 4pm when they reserved the room.  The same ones who order dinner with many complications for the chef and expect it to be ready in five minutes before they decide to walk out of the restaurant because the service was so slow.  Traveling in developing countries would most likely send a lot of these types over the edge.  Here in Southern Africa  time is truly relative.  Society as a whole generally moves at it's own pace.  From our mini bus journey to South Luangwa that everyone said only takes 3 hours but ended up taking close to 13, to the restaurants that say dinner will be served in 10 minutes while we still wait an hour later, things tend to go at glacial speed.  Just the other day, one of the workers here in the area invited us to visit his village to check out his new bee keeping business.  We agreed on the day and time and of course when that moment arrived, he was not anywhere to be found showing up about a half hour late.  He told us that the walk to his village was only about 25 minutes so we proceeded to start walking and decided that since it was such a short walk we just wore sandals and not bother taking any snacks or water.   I know it was dumb but since it was only 25 minutes and we are both fairly fast walkers we didn't think it would be a problem.  Well, 30 minutes into our 25 minute walk, we were still climbing a massive, single track path through sharp corners and soft gravel.  Little did we realize this was only the beginning.  As we walked along this track, we had trouble gaining traction for the steepness of the slope even in this dry season.  We passed several villages each of which seemed to contain 5 to 10 small, mud houses though some of the houses were made of brick, all adorned with thatched roofs.  As we walked on, children came running from their houses saying "hello" as we passed as the adults gazed upon us wondering who our guide, Precious was contemplating why he was leading two "wazungas" deeper into the jungle.  The track climbed the edge of a lush ridge line hanging precariously like a ripe apple from a tree.  One side we were able to look out upon the sweeping views of the rolling, verdant hills towards central Malawi while on the other side we could see the distant hills along the Tanzanian/Mozambiquan border with the azure colored waters of the massive lake below standing guard like a sentry at it's post.  At about an hour into our 25 minute walk, the road finally flattened as we passed a football pitch, a barren, clay colored, rock strewn, rutted area, with two tilted goal posts, kids kicking a wadded up collection of plastic bags that they use in lieu of a ball.  Luckily the weather was on our side as the cloud cover kept it humid but quite cool as we continued onward.  Finally, about an hour and a half into our "brief" stroll, we turned off the main path towards a beautiful, rock strewn village.  It was here that Precious lived.  We sat on his porch as the local children came in wonderment to find out what these two white people were doing.  Precious went inside and came back outside with his bee keeper outfit and told us it was only 5 more minutes up to his bees.  We, tired from the steep climb up, decided that another 5 minutes would not be too much more so we blindly followed him further in to the dense jungle.  Of course, 5 minutes here in Africa turned out to be almost 1/2 hour before we arrived, our feet sore, our bodies aching, the bees themselves were interesting.  However, both of us at that point were quite tired and parched so we were thinking more of cold drinks than we were of the bees themselves. We returned back from the short 5 minute (25 minute) walk to his house and Precious said we would soon have lunch.  While waiting, we watched in amazement as some of the local boys had a small fire going where they were roasting rodent like creatures to a fine barbecued crunchiness and eating them like candy.  Precious was ever the gracious host providing us with a tasty meal.  Erika was looking at the meat hoping that it was not the same rats that we had seen being cooked up minutes before.  It is during these times that one seriously contemplates being a vegetarian.  After a nice meal and some small talk which is always a pleasure, we decided we had better make our way back towards home as our now short walk was taking up the better part of the day.  I am glad that we are patient people and realize that good things take a lot longer and are worth the wait. 

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