Lilongwe and Nkhata Bay, Malawi
In the morning, we loaded, fueled the Land Cruiser, and headed north toward Salima, Nkhotakota, and on to Nkhata Bay. The drive was uneventful, with the exception of having to wait for road workers as they nailed planks to a bridge.
We arrived at Nkhata Bay at 4:30 so did not have to travel in the dark. Our reception was, as usual, very friendly on the part of both Kathryn and Gary, owners of Mayoka Village—our favorite place to stay. Kathryn had chalet #4 ready for Clarice and I, as she knows it is our favorite. Our colleagues had chalets close by and we then went to unload vehicle. Since the steps up and down Mayoka Village are so steep, it is best to locate our rooms before making any effort to haul luggage around.
We all had dinner together, and then Clarice and I returned to our chalet for the evening.
The next morning, I telephoned Bill Ottoway, Kathryn’s father, to see if he was available to go with us to interview a young girl with spinal difida. The girl lives with her family, at a tea plantation, about 30 km off the tarmac road that is reached via 4-wheel drive. He and his wife, Liz, know the girl as she sometimes comes to the hospital with serious bedsores. They had made a special pillow for her to sit on and it had relieved her of some of the bedsore-associated problems. However, she clearly needs means for transport so she can get to school on her own
Bill caught a ride on a minivan to the police gate just outside Nkhata Bay. Since their home is near Muzuzu, and the turn-off for the plantation was between Nkhata Bay and their place, it was a shorter drive for us to have him meet us at the police gate.
The drive down the dirt road was pleasant and rough in only a few places. Due to the need to drive slowly, it took about 40 minutes to reach the factory and the home of Janet. She was quite shy, speaks only Tinga, and did not look at us directly the entire time we sat in their home. She does go to school and, according to her mother, who speaks English, is progressing well. We took photos, video-recorded the interview, and make measurements of her height, legs, etc.
We explained the reason for our interview at the beginning of our visit and the mother had sent for three bottles of soft drinks to serve to us. Such an extravagance is not common and we demonstrated our appreciation
Unknown to us, as we did the interview, a group of young boys decided to shove wood into the locks on the doors of the Land Cruiser—there are three: the two front doors and the rear hatch. When we prepared to leave, I found I was unable to fit the key into to lock and then realized what had happened. Bill tried to dig the wood out with his pocketknife as I checked the rear hatch. There I found wood still sticking out of the lock and was able to pull it out easily. So I gained entry into the vehicle and unlocked one door from the inside.
As the boys spoke no English, there was no reason to scold them verbally but I am sure my facial expression was plain enough for them to understand our frustration with their act.
We drove back to the highway and on to Bill’s home where we had a light lunch then worked to extract the wood. Bill had some flat wire that worked to extract the wood so we did not have to remove the panels and disassemble the locks.
Afterward, we walked down a forest path into a canyon where there is a creek from which they get their water. A water pump, driven by water pressure from the stream, pumps the water up the 100 foot grade to their water tanks that sit above their home on a tower. The elevated tanks provide sufficient water pressure for their home and garden.
The water pump system was installed in the 1960’s by Liz’s grandfather who had lived there since the late 1940’s. It has continued to operate ever since and uses no electricity or other means of power other than the water pressure from the stream flow. Furthermore, there is little maintenance required other than to relieve the build up of pressure in the pump every couple of weeks and to remove sand that accumulates in the lines once in a while. The only other maintenance operation is to replace the rubber seals once very 5 years. Both the longevity and continuous operation without need for electricity or other power source allow them to have virtually free water all year long.
We left Bill’s house and drove back to Nkhata Bay and Mayoka Village. The others had remained at Mayoka Village and relaxed all day. It was Ingrid’s birthday and we had arranged to have a cake made. Only after everyone at the Village had eaten, they brought out the cake, with lights dimmed, and sang Happy Birthday. One very large candle stuck out of the cake and Ingrid blew it out before cutting it into enough pieces to share within our group and with Benson, a local wood carver who had come to deliver many key chain name-tags everyone had ordered.