December 11, 2008

Africa 1: Stranded in Lilongwe

I go to America, and the first internal flight I take from New Jersey to Dallas lands in Houston, because of bad weather. I set out on my very first journey to the African continent, and en route from Nairobi (Kenya) to Maputo (Mozambique) our plane develops a snag and lands in Lilongwe (Malawi)! My brother writes to me, "You seem to have a knack of getting into these adventures when you go overseas! What is the secret?" I don't know!

This was my first glance at Lilongwe, from the airport. The air looked clean and fresh and the trees looked very green. Actually, at that point, I was happy just to be alive!

Anyway, while the plane was being repaired, we had to stay overnight and were put up at a charming 5-star place called SunBird. From what little we saw of Lilongwe, the landscape looks very much like parts of India... sparse vegetation and flat land. The roads too are like those in India. During our 30-min drive from the airport to the hotel, we saw billboards which said things like "Stop corruption, develop Malawi", and "Stop Child abuse" and even a "This is a gun-free zone"! When I filled in the form at the hotel, there was one point I had to check out: It said, "In case of evacuation, do you need help?" Yes/No...what do you think I ticked?!

At SunBird, there was a party going on...lots of hip youngsters in stunning clothes began gathering, and they seemed to be waiting for someone. We were told that they were waiting for a local girl called Hazel, who had become a celebrity because she had participated in Big Brother...that irritating reality show (Shilpa Shetty fame)!

The next evening, after some more tension and delays because of visa problems, we flew to Maputo, Mozambique, in the repaired airplane. As we got off the plane at Maputo, Tara and I shook hands with the pilot and thanked him for doing a good job. We were truly grateful.

BTW, it is to participate in a conference that I am headed to Maputo.

...to be continued

1 comment:

HK said...

Very interesting point about the kind of hoardings and questions that are 'accepted' in each city/state.

I remember noticing in a cinema theater in Chandigarh that the main focus of slides (shown before the main feature) was on "Report any abandoned bags" ... or "Watch out for suspicious characters"; while in chennai cinemas we were still content with "Take care of you belongings" and "Don't put your feet on on the front chair"

My guess is that 'local factors' determine the perceptions... or threats and comforts.