Back in Lilongwe, Malawi

Monday, April 03, 2017
Lilongwe, Malawi
Jason Webster came by at 6:45 a.m. to take us to Johannesburg's Tambo International airport for our flight to Lilongwe, Malawi. We are always apprehensive about the weight of all our pieces of luggage. This is the most critical leg. First, how picky will they be about for each piece? We tried to make sure that our hand luggage was as light as could be. But, we had three large pieces to check in that weighed right at 50 pounds.

Then, we were concerned about the contents of our luggage . We’re leaving much of what we have in Malawi. There are items for the office, the church and for individuals. There were times that we were randomly scrutinized at customs in Malawi for the silliest things. One was for about 20 pairs of reading glasses that were for our brethren. We were told that we needed a permit to bring humanitarian items in, but that they would "let us go" this time.

When we got to the airport we decided to wrap two pieces of our luggage in plastic. It costs $8 each, but insurance against theft. Johannesburg airport has a terrible reputation for theft. We carried all the most valuable items with us like computers and phones, but you never know when your luggage would be broken into once you checked it in and before you picked it up.

At check in the clerk at South African didn’t pay a bit of attention to our hand luggage. Then she picked up our passports, saw our names and disappeared. No explanation . She came back about 10 minutes later and told us that we were upgraded to business class. We were pleasantly surprised and asked what was the reason. She said that the seats we had in the back were “very bad.” OK. No more questions. It was a kind and welcome gesture and however, whoever was responsible, we were thankful.

The two-hour and 20-minute flight was pleasant with the extra room.  

We landed right on time. We had to get visas to enter Malawi. This is a relatively new phenomenon as for years there was no visa or charge. Now, we had to wait in line, pay $75 each for entry. But, since we plan to go into Zambia for a day trip while in Lilongwe, we needed a multiple entry visa. That was $150. So, we parted quickly with $300 just for the privilege of entering one of the poorest countries on the earth.

Our luggage was waiting for us. All three 50 pound pieces. Passing through customs was a snap and there was Lewis and Lena VanAusdle and Brennan and Michala Hilgen waiting for us . Hugs. Laughter and joy!   We are so happy to see all four of them looking so good.

Off to the parking lot and Bongo Van that the church owns. All six of us pile in and off to the Mafumu Guest House. Mafumu means “king” and the subscript of the lodge is “fit for royalty.” 

We check in and invite “the four” into our room and just talk for a while. It was so good to be with them and hear their impressions. We are amazed as to how they have gotten to know day to day life in Malawi. They have networked with other ex-pats in Malawi and support one another on an Internet network. There are 3000 people on this network.

We talked about the church and their duties. They all are well established with speaking and music. They all work together, visit the brethren and perform church duties as well as help with the LifeNets Business Center.

Then we drove to where “the four” live in a secure community of homes . As is everywhere, big metal doors protect what’s inside from the outside. We drove up, honk the horn and a man opens the door.

Where they live is very comfortable. They all have their places and duties. Power goes out continually and sometimes for hours. But, since the LifeNets Business Center now has solar power, they brought the power generator to their home to keep the lights on. Good move.

We went for a walk in their locale and hiked down to the “toll bridge” at the river. On this footpath, the one way to get to the other side of the river is to cross a wood plank bridge built by an enterprising person who charges 50 Malawi Kwacha for a crossing. That’s about 7 cents. It looked rickety, but we saw people crossing, including a man with a bicycle.

Plastic bags are a nuisance and eyesore in Malawi. People just throw them out as though they will decompose like an apple core . We passed a garden by the walking path and saw the ground plowed up with bits of plastic all through the soil. Little did they know that it will take thousands of years for the plastic to decompose.  

We enjoyed just sitting and talking for a while as dinner was being prepared. Lena grilled Nali Garlic beef ribs. Lewis made a tasty cabbage salad with olive oil and a pot of rice was passed around. Great meal, great fellowship. What an adventure! We are getting to know Brennan and Michala better as well as Lewis and Lena. Found out that Lacee Hilgen, Brennan's sister, had gone to Thailand on a Legacy Foundation tour partially sponsored by Good Works. We talked about their recent visits to Blantyre, Mzuzu and Chipata. They are all taking well of their mission here in Malawi. 

While the Mafuma is “fit for royalty” the light entering the room was burned out. There was only one cup for the two of us. No drinking glasses. As well as only one towel which is a beach towel. No hand towels. And the toilet seat was loose.

We did ask about these items and in half an hour they brought two more beach towels to us. No hand towels and no cup, however.

A rain squall came up. Lights out. This was one of many power outages. But, the guest house is prepared with a generator. The Internet went out and stayed out. So this ends our first day in Malawi. 
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