Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Blantyre, Southern Region, Malawi
Today we leave Lilongwe for Blantyre on the AXA bus.  We have taken this route several times both up and down. The cost is reasonable: $12.50 for a 250 mile ride.  Nick and Megan pick us up and take us to the bus station about eight minutes away.  Joseph Mughogho comes to see us off, too, as we did not connect in person yesterday. 
There is competition from another bus line called “Borneo” on this lucrative route that is between the two largest cities in Malawi. I think that AXA has gone down a bit in quality, but it’s still a nice bus. 
As we were leaving Nick took a photo of the wheels of the bus.  One of the lug nuts was missing, but, no worries, it was not really needed.  Nick said he  pointed it out to someone but no one seemed bothered by it. 
We bought a newspaper whose headline is “Malawi is rated fourth poorest country in the world.” Further, it says that Malawi is in the same league with war-torn countries.  It is a tough place to live. We applaud our people who come here to work such as Nick and Megan now and previously the Hilgens and before that the VanAusdles.   
There are so many beggars in Malawi. We are continually accosted.  Some I help, but I can’t do this for everyone. We are easy targets for beggars.
The scenery in Malawi is very beautiful, especially as you get closer to Blantyre.  The scenery reminds me somewhat of western South Dakota, where I once lived.
The Express bus is not so “express.” We stop at more roadblocks than we usually have on this main route. Then other stops… one for a rest room (this bus again didn’t have a rest room on it), a weigh station (we drove atop scales) and another stop for no apparent reason.  Oh, and one more where we all asked to get off the bus and stand around. We never heard why or what this was all about.
We arrived in Blantyre about 45 minutes late. Pastor Gracious Mpilangwe was waiting for us.  Good to see him again. He drove us directly to the Jolly Green Giant Lodge in Limbe, an adjoining neighborhood to Blantyre. That is not the real name… it’s one I made up to conceal the name of a place that is the worst service I’ve seen.
The Jolly Green Giant Lodge is something else. It looks good on the outside, but everything about it is wrong and inconvenient. Things don’t work. I just can’t figure out how people build such places and don’t think through how the guest or client would use this. There are many closets but nothing to hang anything on. There is only one electric plug for the entire room. It has a power strip, but when you plug more than one item into the power strip, it stops working.
There is no WiFi. There are signs for it, but they say it’s “not working.” So, they give us a cell phone to use as a hot spot. It’s the reception desk phone and when it rings, the hot spot disconnects. I had some info and documents to send, and it took me forever.  They gave me another phone to take into the room to use as a hot spot. I just barely got things back to the home office.
Then Bev and I wanted a Samosa snack that cost $2.00 each. It took over an hour an and half for them to make the samosas from scratch.  Arghh….that’s the way the entire afternoon went. We really didn’t want to put them to all that work as they took much of the afternoon to make four small samosas from scratch. The cold drinks they served us were warm. 
Then, I wanted to heat some hot water for a cup of coffee. The hot pot didn’t work.  The power cord seemed to be OK, but not the pot. I brought it to the office and wanted to know why it didn’t work and asked that they bring another hot pot into the room for when we came home from our evening with our friends.  They didn’t do it. So our cold drinks were warm and water for coffee was cold.  When you ask for help you get a blank stare and little effort to help you resolve your issue.  We also had one towel, but maybe it doesn’t matter because there are no towel racks. Nice place, but everything is wrong.
Our evening is going out with Daniel Rashid Ringo and his fiancé Caroline Emily Somba. The wedding will be this coming Sunday at the Blantyre church. They came to pick us up at 6 pm and we headed for the center of Blantyre.  We went to the Crossroads where there are many restaurants. We had a relaxing and enjoyable evening. We talked about the ceremony (which I read to them) and we discussed some of the details.  The wedding rehearsal will be on Thursday afternoon before sunset of the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.  
Weddings are interesting. The ceremony will be at 9:30 am Sunday. Have never done a Sunday AM wedding. Then photos. Then everyone on their own for whatever. Then everyone is to come back at 1:30 pm for the reception and dinner. Then a dance. It’s all over by 4:30 pm. There are many relatives coming and they need to get home before it’s too late. The ceremony is the very first part and is something that people many choose to miss and several do. But, you must NEVER miss the reception!
As we drove in the car they played some songs that they want played at the reception including the song for their dance together. It’s by a well-known Nigerian singer.  They played another professional-sounding song and said it was a song written by a friend who will actually be at the wedding.
It was a great evening. They brought us back to our Jolly Green Giant Lodge that we do not like. The last mile to the JGGL is a rutted road where you can’t travel faster than 10 miles per hour and be watchful of hitting the bottom.  It’s been a long day with the bus ride, hotel hassles and getting the United News stories right. I’m writing this as the day ends and I am ready to crash.
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