PictureA monkey friend, waiting to earn his daily bread.
JULY 31: Last night was the loudest I have ever heard the lake since I have been here.  It was an unbelievable roar at my hut a few hundred feet from the shore; it must have been deafening right at the lakeside.  It was difficult to sleep, but I was too much in awe of the sound to want to sleep much anyway.

 This morning we learned that a fisherman had drowned overnight just off the shore from the farm.  He was from the second village south of here.  Apparently his family had warned him not to go out at night alone in a canoe, but whether for need of food or money he did.  His body has not come up yet, though apparently one shoe did wash ashore.  I am not sure how the family was notified so quickly, but now they are on their way through Mbueca to begin the search here.

English teacher Trish and I accompanied Mr. Elias on a hike: I was his “experimental tourist” to see how giving a tour in English would go.  We were hiking to Peter’s Rock, which is a mountaintop about three miles out.  I have been looking forward to this hike for a long time.  Elias accompanied me on the ill-fated voyage to Luiga, and his knowledge of the local flora and fauna is renowned.  Sure enough, he showed us a thick plant looking like aloe that grows in a mound symbiotically with only one kind of tree.  He pulled one of the leaves out and peeled it to show us how one can make a rope or strong string out of its internal fibers by folding a long fiber in half, rolling it in the palm of your hand to braid it, then combining those braids if you wish and drying them in the sun.  He showed us the solo tree, which he said his ancestors once worshiped by bringing sacrifices of flour to the root of the tree.  If the flour was gone the next morning, your prayer would be answered.  We saw bush bucks and huge black ants that he warned us to stay away from because they would eat your flesh while you stood there if they could get on you.  We even saw week-old tracks of a herd of eight zebras.  I did not know zebras lived in mountains, but apparently during dry season they go to the tops of the mountains where it is still green.  I certainly kept my eyes out for the herd, but no luck.  I imagine they were long gone by then.

In the afternoon I finished making all the DVDs by around 6.  That night, there was a nice surprise party for me with staff and volunteers Malcolm, Wezi, Ines, Lily and Trish.  They had loaded opera into a computer in my honor and we had a very nice time.

AUGUST 1: Today with the change of month it began to dawn on me that it really is getting to be time to leave.  Volunteer Adrian left.  Adrian is a true character, someone you would not believe existed in real life unless you met him.  He is a real Zambian bushwhacker with the thick Afrikaans accent.  He is an expert on fish and was here to consult on the fish farm project in Litanda.  He dresses as if he were on permanent safari and has a heart of gold, although he is brash and will jump in and do something if you aren’t doing it the right way.  If you think of Crocodile Dundee and then imagine that Mr. Dundee would be like Julia Child compared to this man, then you have some picture of what I am talking about.  Today as he was leaving, he was asking Mr. Joe if he had any questions about fish before he left.  When Joe said that he didn’t, he bellowed “THEN YOU AREN’T THINKING ENOUGH ABOUT FISH!!!”  And with that, he scooped up the lodge’s dog and began tossing him in the air.  When the dog would turn and growl and bite, he would say “EHHHH??? WOT’S THET???” then groom him in a way that he would instantly calm down, explaining all the while some escapade or other he had had with a crocodile or some such thing – then up in the air went the dog again and the whole cycle repeated.  I’ve seen some sights in my time here, but that whole scene was unforgettable.  When it came time to leave, he shouted “TIME TO LEAVE?!?!?  THAT’S WOT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO DOOOOO, EHHHH???  TIME MANAGEMENT!”  and off he trooped to his next adventure, never looking back.  I wonder if I could ever do that.

Wezi and Ines went on the boat to get to Lichinga today to get supplies.  They are hoping to get back in time to say goodbye to me again, but I really doubt that it will happen.  The lake is so rough, better to wait than to travel at night on those waves.

This afternoon I had to say goodbye Joe and Mr. Richard, which was very hard.  I am not really ready to write about it now.  They are accompanying Stephen and Beth Bigger and Lily to Mcondece, where they will be learning from Stephen how to make music videos.  I am thrilled that Richard is going to be able to use his talents, especially to learn skills that will help him achieve his goals online.  Things do happen here – pang’ono pang’ono.

This evening was the first big cloud of lake flies that I have seen.  It was one of those clear evenings where one can see the mainland of Malawi all the way across the lake, and somewhere in the middle this giant black cloud was rolling up from the surface of the lake.  It began to go straight up, then the wind carried it in a long plume – thankfully, away from us.

 At the evening’s meal I said goodbye to Lily and the Biggers.  Slowly people are leaving on errands and appointments.  I thought that would make me feel sad, but it feels organic somehow.  I too have been on a long appointment and run many errands.  Nkwichi opens its beach to each of us and closes behind us when we leave.  And life definitely goes on.  I already know when my boat leaves the shore in two days, everyone will turn and go back to their own appointments and errands.  I know because I have done it myself.  The lake washes the beach clean, and the next day starts.  At least I have brought a new song.  That will stay behind.  And that is enough.

AUGUST 2:  This morning the body of the fisherman washed ashore – here on the beach at Nkwichi, a mile from where the accident occurred.  The kumwera is that strong.  By the time I was walking to the office at  6:30, staff and management were lifting the body and covering it with a tarp so the family would not find him half submerged in the sand.  Obviously the mood has been subdued all day.  The family came to take his body by 7:30.  Once again the remains were too far decomposed to allow him to be carried back to the village.  Once again someone was buried far from his home village.  This time the burial was just outside the entrance to the Farm, where the owner of that land previous to Nkwichi is also buried.

There is not much to tell about today.  I packed, I wrote, I organized, I packed some more.  I spent time in the office, making sure I wrote letters to people to whom I had promised something, letting them know what was going on.  I wrote to one choirmaster to let him know about his request that I research the possibility of financial assistance for tours.  The results were not good, I am afraid.  As people discover I am leaving, they have begun pulling me aside, quietly asking for things.  A bible in English.  Candlesticks for an altar.  A speaker system.  An amplifier.  A keyboard.  A laptop.  All things that are impossible to attain or even obtain here, but which countless people who step on these shores and leave a few days or months later appear to be able to easily afford, breezily swinging about their equipment, taking all sorts of images and recordings.  Surely it does not hurt to ask, especially someone who seems to understand that it is not any kind of begging request.  If possible.  If possible, I could use a….  I have written these requests in a notebook that I will keep in case I learn of any grants or funding that might make some of these things happen.  I am never sure what to say, but I respond that I myself cannot afford these requests, and I know that they are not asking me to; but that I will try to contact organizations or institutions who might be able to help.  And I will.  But to them, I know, I will be another rich person leaving with all his fancy equipment and nice clothing and ability to travel that maybe they could never, ever even imagine affording - making empty promises as he steps on the boat.  Again, life will go on.  But I know now that, deep down, people will wait nonetheless.  And hope.  I know this because some villagers have told me themselves of promises they heard or thought they heard from visitors years ago.  For me they will probably wonder sometimes what came of that rich old man who taught a nice song and tried to speak the language.  Will he be able to get us pitch pipes?  Candlesticks?  A laptop?  He might.  He might.  I think he promised.  He did; I know he did.  Well, perhaps this time….

Tonight I watched a bee-eater make its circular flight, snatching an insect in mid-air and returning to exactly the same perch. They are beautiful birds, and I have loved watching them and the precision with which they do that same thing over and over.  The monkeys are up to their usual mischief: yesterday they even stole my cake I was saving for an afternoon snack by coming right into the office when nobody was looking.  Well, why not?  They are not so different from us. Each of us just wants to have enough to eat after all, and we will do what it takes to get it, whether that be making hopeful requests to foreigners who seem to have the world at their fingertips, or fishing alone in a kumwera in the middle of the night.    

PictureThe beautiful Böhm's Bee-eater. A rare bird elsewhere, it is quite common here. It's a dark picture... but can you see the two long tail feathers?
AUGUST 3: Time to go. There is a film crew of four from the government of Mozambique’s Council of Tourism here to record the highlights of Nkwichi in three hours.  For myself, I don’t think I have seen all the highlights in three months!

I have checked and double checked my luggage to make sure that there are no stowaways: African roaches, scorpions, giant spiders, or flesh-eating ants.  All clear.

The kumwera is still very strong.  I am glad we are going on the speedboat; it rides the waves much better than Miss Nkwichi, even if I am fond of her.

No ceremony: just step on the boat and ride away.  Maybe I’ll be back some day.  I hope so.  For now, it is on to the next adventure, whatever that might be.


 


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    A choral conductor walking cheerfully over the world...

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