Today we spend the greater part of the day travelling from Lilongwe to Monkey Bay in Mangochi Malawi. Our planning, scheduling could not have been any better. We are completely convinced that the arrangements for a difficult trip like this....with so many fragile factors could not have been better planned. And it wasn't US! So many factors have come together so much better than we could have ever planned. Having the Lockwood family along on this trip has been a great blessing. Not only have they been great companions, they have also taken a special interest and given great support to helping the people of Malawi. On this trip they have been able to see first-hand what it's all about.
About 10 am Diverson Chonde drives over and we say good-bye to the Ufulu Gardens.
I have driven this route several times. The vistas are often hazy, but today the sun is shining and the air is clear. Malawi is a beautiful country with scenic peaks and valleys.
We drive on the main highway towards Blantyre. Part of the highway IS the border between Malawi and Mozambique. There are sections of the highway where there are commercial areas on both sides....one being Malawi and the other Mozambique. During the Mozambique Civil war several years ago there were shellings in this area with some of them landing on the Malawi side.
I was surprised that our route actually took us through Balaka again. This is where we started last Wednesday. Diverson was leading and we drove RIGHT BY THE CHIZENI CLINIC! I wasn't sure if he knew that he knew where it was, but assumed that Diverson had pointed it out to the Lockwood's. I tried to flash my lights to get him to stop, but he was oblivious. The Lockwood's never were able to see the clinic which has been our biggest Malawi project by far. In 2001 LifeNets took over the finishing of a partially-built clinic for Dr. Sam Chilopora and his wife Esther. In 2003 we initiated the LifeNets Orphan Care Centre managed by the clinic. Mortality among AIDS orphans under age five was nearly 50%. Through our Center the mortality rate is nearly zero. We provide food, medical assessments, medicine and education to guardians. In 2004 a Rotary Foundation grant provided a new ambulance that we are using. We have just completed a 450 meter wall around about an acre and a half that secures the growing of maize, vegetables and fruit trees. We are very happy about how this project has benefited the community. LifeNets provides all the drugs and medicines that this clinic dispenses.
Just past Balaka we take the final eastward turn off towards the Lake. This is the hardest part (mostly on the vehicles). Potholes are deep and numerous. You can easily destroy the alignment of a vehicle. The area becomes more and more Muslim with mosques and Islamic Centers.
The last 12 miles to the Lodge are on dusty washboard road with speeding trucks coming our way burying us in dust. I feel sorry mostly for the vehicles. This is our fourth time out here since 2003 and the road has never been completed. We see section that WILL open, but WHEN is the question.
As we approach the area of the Nkpolo Lodge we lost sight of Diverson Chonde and the Lockwood's. We took the road that we knew from previous trips. We see that it is blocked with a rocks crossing the road.
A man on a bicycle shows us a diversion around the impasse and we find the entrance to the Nkopola Lodge. We find out later that road indeed IS closed but because we were in an ambulance we are allowed through. Diverson and the Lockwood's take an obscure diversion (detour) that gets them through a back entrance.
The Lodge is beautiful being situated on the lakefront. We all checked into our accommodations.
The Lockwood's and us jump into the ambulance and head for the meeting hall at 6 pm. The people begin assembling and we see people that we hadn't seen so far in either Blantyre or Lilongwe. It's great. Bev and I feel very attached to these people that we have gotten to know in the past 12 years.
Services start about ten minutes late. Lewis Salawila leads songs, his Dad, Elifazi Salawila gives announcements and I give the main message. Tielmans (TK) Chirwa translates my message into the Chewa language.
After the service we ran into Latitia Mapinda, one of scholarship students who is studying tourism and hospitality. She is doing her "attachement" meaning internship of sorts here at the lodge. It was so gratifying to see this young lady from a very poor family speak optimistically and confidently because of her education.
The Lockwood's came by our place and we talked a while about Malawi and some plans for our future work in this area.
To Mangochi on Lake Malawi
Monday, October 13, 2008