Surviving Nkhata Bay

Trip Start Jan 10, 2006
Trip End Jun 02, 2006

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Flag of Malawi  ,
Sunday, April 2, 2006

My plant walk with Happy was excellent. He showed me many plants in some dense bush. We even found air potatoes growing wild. These are potatoes that grow a vine. But rather than producing a fruit with seed, they form potatoes which hang on the vine and then drop and sprout roots. Kristof showed me these in his garden. Happy and I both gathered our fill to plant in our gardens.

Later, I asked Happy for a consultation. It's hard to find traditional healers that speak good English. I wanted to gain some guidance, protection and insight for the trip and my future plans. A couple nights before, I woke up with a thief in my window sill. I should have knocked him out, but I wasn't really sure what was going on. I said something, he tried to grab my big bag (which he couldn't have gotten through the window anyway), I yanked it out of his hands and he was gone. He didn't get anything, but it was a rude awakening. I had just chased a tarantula out the same window earlier that day, and the next day, I was stung by a bee while teaching the youths.

I read The Alchemist while at Kufunda, and one of the lessons from it was that most journeys start out smooth because you have many missions to accomplish, plenty of clear intention, and the world (or nature or the universe or Earth or Jah or the spirits...) is with you, on your side, rooting for you. But as the trip moves forward and missions get accomplished, the traveler's intention is brought back into question and he or she gets tested, easily at first and then harder towards the end. I'm realizing I need some new intention.

So, Happy was very helpful. Just by holding my hands and praying, he knew that I suffered from migraines. He could also tell that I was raised by my mom and her family. Through our conversations I gained many insights about a man's role in life. He gave me some herbs to use when I felt I needed help or guidance. He told me that I must keep connecting with the natural world to keep my migraines away. (I noticed in Zimbabwe that I got a migraine following every trip into Harare.)

The last school Josie and I taught at wasn't far from the lake. We had to go on Saturday because they didn't want us there when the school inspectors were there. We worked with about 40 youths from two schools. One of the students was really sharp. We found out later, when Josie went to his village, that his family still cultivates in the old ways, making compost and growing annuals where they fit among the perennials. His grandfather was telling her stories of how things were before maize and how they used to process, store and preserve food.

My last night in Nkhata Bay, there was a birthday party for an ex-pat who now runs two lodges in Malawi. It was great fun and the first live band I've heard in a long time - The Souls of the Ghetto. The were great. Lots of reggae and highlife sounds. I was pooped by 4 a.m. and had to catch a bus later the same morning.
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