This Week is Bananas (19 of 52)

Sunday, April 30, 2017
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
This week is one of those weird ones... you know, you have an overwhelming number of things to do, but you have to wait to do most of them... yup, it's the waiting game/finish all the things game.

Sunday we had the opportunity to go and visit with Wordsworth and Rosereen Rashid . It was nice getting to know them and their story a bit better. And Brennan was feeling well enough to join us (his rash from our trip to Mzuzu lingered most of last week; so this was a wonderful change).

On Monday I worked from home. But before that (first thing) I called the embassy to see if my passport had arrived. They put me on hold, then promised to call me back shortly. About an hour later they called to inform me that they would call me back after 2:00pm. Again with the hurry up and wait! It was worth the wait! My new passport had arrived. I could pick it up the next day at 4:00pm.

On Tuesday we ran errands, visited the office, did some souvenir shopping for friends and family back home, and did some grocery shopping. Then it was time to head to the embassy. A few things to keep in mind for this episode. First, we had a timeline because we were having a family over for dinner, and second, nothing ever seems to go as planned .

We made it to the embassy (and through security) by 3:40pm. We got to the window to check in and we were instructed to have a seat. When they say 4:00pm, they mean exactly 4:00pm, but we left with my passport in hand.

For dinner we had planned shredded chicken tacos so we were roasting a couple of chickens in the oven, except, one of the chickens had gone bad when we pulled it out to cook, so Lewis and I were going to stop by a store to get a pre-roasted chicken. But we didn't have enough cash, so before the embassy we had stopped at an ATM, except the ATM was out of money (this is very common), so we left the embassy and we were went on our way to find an ATM and get some chicken, it was 4:05pm, so we had plenty of time before our guests were to arrive.

And then Lewis got pulled over.

Now, this isn't because Lewis is a bad driver, in fact, he's an excellent driver . In Malawi they don't have police that cruise in their cars waiting to see someone break the law. Here, the police stand on the side of the road and flag people down as they go by. They check driver's licenses and insurance and certificates of fitness. They ask where you are going and where you are coming from. All the time. Sometimes you'll be stopped twice within a block. I don't know how they decide who they'll stop.

In this instance Lewis had made a left on red (the U.S. equivalent of right on red). We didn't know that it wasn't legal. They told us the fine was 10,000mk (about $15), but again, the ATM we had stopped at earlier was not working, so we didn't have that amount of cash on us. We asked them to give us the ticket and we'd pay at the police station. No, we had to pay them. They said they'd keep Lewis's license and we could get cash. Obviously we didn't like this option, what if Lewis got pulled over without his license on him? They were adamant it would be fine . I offered to stay behind so Lewis could have his license. No. He must leave his license and we go get the cash. I could have driven, but we didn't think rush hour was the best time for me to drive on the left for the first time.

Thankfully we made it to the ATM and back without incident, but I was pretty cranky about the whole situation. We finally made it home and had a lovely visit with the Misomalis.

Wednesday we headed to Lilongwe's outdoor handicrafts market to finish purchasing gifts for folks back home. There is an abundance of beautiful wood carvings, paintings, and stone carvings. It's fun to just look at the beautiful pieces, but it's also completely overwhelming because there are about 50 stalls all selling basically the same things with 1-3 guys per stall vying for your attention and your business. Add to this chaos the fact that they charge you uzungu prices (up to 10x the price they would charge locals) and you can see why this isn't a place to just go hang out . Thankfully we got all the items we were hoping for (except one, I've not given up hope that we'll convince one of these woodworkers to make it for us though).

From there Michala and I headed to the post office for one last mail check (the Hilgens were expecting a letter). We walked up to the counter and requested our mail; the woman looked at us and said,

"you don't have any mail."

Uhhhh... could you check for us?

"No, you got mail yesterday."

Uhhhh... your sign says you receive mail daily each morning.

"No, I've checked other mail boxes, yours is empty."

Uhhh... but you weren't checking our mail, you were checking their mail.

"You don't have mail ."

Could you check anyway?

*Exaggerated sigh*

She came back after 7 minutes or so...

"You don't have mail."

I'm pretty certain she didn't even look. Michala and I were exhausted by the end of all this.

Lewis had meetings most of Thursday, and I stayed home and worked. That night Juliana Kachali stayed over so she could drive us to the airport first thing in the morning.

Our check-in at the airport was more dramatic than we hoped, but we made our flight and us (and all our luggage) made it safely to Johannesburg.

We took a cab to the lovely Avalon Guest House and spent the afternoon working and finishing up some Lilongwe church business. Before sunset we walked to Woolworth's grocery and bought some dinner from their deli.

Saturday morning we were going to take a cab to church services, but we started calculating and it was going to be outrageously expensive to get there and back and back to the airport on Sunday, so we ended up picking up a rental car (less than 1/3 of what all the cabs/Uber would have cost us) and headed to services.

We had a lovely afternoon fellowshipping with the brethren in Johannesburg/Pretoria followed by a nice dinner with the Silinda family.

The next few weeks will be exciting, but it will be a different kind of blog since we'll mostly be traveling around to see family.
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2017-09-23