Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mangochi to Monkey Bay

On the 6th day we wake in Mangochi. At Club Mak no less, the overpriced option. Yvonne ChakaChaka is in town distributing mosquito nets and they've booked us here because they say the rest is full. Frustratingly, so is Norman Carr Cottage, and we were left transportless the night before so no chance to visit the beachhouse where I spent so many weekends in my yoof.

I'm not rested when I wake. Crusty and creaky joints from sitting too long in the car. Leave it to the very last minute before I winch myself out of bed almost destroying the mosquito net in the process. As I brush teeth I realise: It is not possible to go into this day without washing this hair. Damn damn I'm late again. As usual photoman F has been up for a couple hours, pacing, keeping an eye on ze light. He reminisces cheerfully as I scald my tongue on the coffee and slurp down some yoghurt. Ze light is, as usual, on its way to becoming too bright already. We must move. We move.

Into a day that is in fact suddenly very overcast. (Ze light is terrible). But the day is plump with all sorts of delights for me. A rabble of crazy children in a Community Based Childcare Centre (a CBCC, of course) who, tho it is holidays, are asked to come in for the photo op and sit in their corners and play with their stuff. They mob F, chanting at him and whooping at him and chasing him with their toys round and round a tiny dark room. "This is my dolli! This is my bisikoh! This is my dolli!" He walks backwards, faster and faster with his camera in the heart of the rowdy mass. I laugh so hard I forget to video it. These are kids being kids and its unbridled and fantastic. Too often you see solemn children in the villages - 7year olds tasked with looking after babies and chores. These ones were truly wild and it was great.

The counterpoint - the next project we went to, a community radio station in Monkey Bay, where we gathered in solemn prayer before being given a serious tour around the oneroom station. And then on to the women's listening clubs. The idea is that Dzimwe radio provides women's clubs with a radio and a tape recorder. They gather to listen to programmes on health and childcare, discuss, share concerns and then record a programme of their own, bracketed by songs they've made especially. This programme will then be aired on the same station. It was awesome. I loathe the word empowered or empowering, but these women had things seriously in hand. They are gonna change their world, one self-diagnosed TB patient at a time.

And then traveling back. An unbundling of long stored images trying to cross match with the flicker of car window scenes in front of me. I know this road in my dna but theres so much change too. From Mangochi to Monkey Bay, burgeoning development, new brick kilns every couple of hundred metres. I saw 3 baobabs on their sides, roots chopped. Felled? Surely just fallen over in the sandy soil. Surely? And roots chopped later. Something slightly shocking about a baobab lying down. Always so aloof and towering, now they suddenly seem vulnerable in the bustle of building and business all around.

And this outline of hills in the curve of the bay. How imprinted on my mind it is. I used to imagine they were made of bluegrey glass, the way you seem to peer through one layer at the one inside, which is really in front. Bluegrey hills of my youth and childhood and babyhood. I sit very still on the beach, watching the fishermen set off for the night. As a teenager I used to feel bored and closed in here. Now I reeeaaallly appreciate the stillness. I must be getting old.

As I write that, a posse of Chinese men in smart shoes and socks and jackets walk down the beach. One tries to chat me up. Asks if I am a student. I laugh. No. You rook vely young he stammers. And plitty.

Aah. cheers mate.

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