Delivery truck? Shme-shmivery shmuck!
On the road again
I’m sorry, loyal readers. It seems I only write in here when I’m having an unlovely time on cramped minibuses. And I even stole the title of this post from the name of a Modest Mouse album, because it seemed to fit.
With apologies out of the way, here you can see a washing machine being loaded onto my ride to Salima. I am sitting ipn the front middle seat, so it is now my back rest. I’m not sure where it’s going, or why. You can pay someone to wash your clothes for less than it costs to get the machine to do it, and there are almost daily power cuts, almost everywhere.
I’m not having a great xmas eve, but it could be worse. You know that thing where you wait 30 minutes in line in a really hot place to use the ATM and then it stops working right before you get to use it? That didn’t happen to me, it happened to everyone behind me. It’s an atheist Christmas miracle. I bet the twenty-odd people in the queue were all Christians, too. Must be the devil’s work.
I’m typing this on my phone in my second minibus to Salima in as many hours. The first one broke down before we’d even left Lilongwe, the city where I got on (and also happen to live). I really don’t know why it seemed like a good idea to go to the lake for a few days over xmas. When I get there it will be lovely, I will be able to swim in the hot, hot sun and not lift a finger, as far as cooking and shopping go at least. But I forgot the golden rule of Malawi, never try to do anything, it won’t work. I will be staying for three days, but that’s bookended by two days of travelling, so I’m not sure the net result will be more relaxing than staying home.
A couple of years ago when I was in Bangor, I spent xmas completely alone. I didn’t have many vacation days left, and I was saving them for when my girlfriend visited in March so I even worked on xmas eve (she would later break up with me in late January). It wasn’t great, but I had been pretty sick of The Holidays TM. They might as well call it Spend All Your Money Or You Don’t Love Your Family… Day. Or, more accurately, Month The following year though, I was at home over the student vacation and found the festivities quite pleasant. I even tolerated the cheesiness and bad movies, so I decided I’d do it again in future, but every other year was probably about the right dosage for me.
This year is my year off xmas again. I’m also relatively alone, but it’s about 30 degrees celcius, I’m really starting to doubt there will be a dusting of snow, and though I’m happy to skip most of it, at least I’ll be out of the house and having xmas dinner with other travellers.
Work vs play
One thing I’ve contemplated for a long time, especially when I was in Bangor (which is in North Wales and thus miserable looking for 95% of the year), was that I could basically do my work from anywhere. I’d either be doing coding, or maybe some live support or testing on servers elsewhere in the country using a vpn. So.. Couldn’t I do it on, say, the beach?? Well, I’m going to find out soon!
While I’ve not had the funnest of times here in Malawi, I do have a lot to be grateful for. I don’t like my job as IT Co-ordinator, where I basically am system administrator for a network plus I have a few other things to do, but then I never really thought I would. It’s exactly like a war (exactly) – long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of absolute pandemonium. You know what I like doing? What I spent all yesterday doing, for my own entertainment? Programming. I actually wish I was doing some more right now.. I completed a tutorial on unit testing and started applying it to my own project and I want to keep going; it might just change the way I do everything. Anyway, my point is, I found something I really like to do, and that I can get paid to do as well. How good is that?
So my new life plan when I get to the UK is quite simple. It might not sound like much of a plan, but it is because it’s a radical departure from here, and because I intend to do every part of it.
1) I find a job, programming something cool that will try revolutionize… Something.
2) I get paid for it.
3) I use the money to do what I want
You may think, wow George, you probably didn’t have to spend six months in Africa to figure that out. Well, I did, because I’m weird. I have really never accepted received wisdom. I mean, I really didn’t listen to anyone. Not I didn’t listen to the majority, I didn’t believe the fringes either. I’ve been a part of the Occupy Movement AND I’ve sat in a disused pub and told the squatters they were taking a lot out of society and not giving anything back. Okay, materialism isn’t the key to happiness, I can see that. But.. I don’t want to drop out or live off the land either. But maybe I don’t need the internet, I never used used to. Maybe I don’t need fancy food, or tv or anything you can’t get
in a refugee camp. Showers, toilets that are inside and aren’t just holes in the ground, distinct lack of ants. Let’s see how that all works out.
What I learned is still kinda obvious, but I had to discover it was true the hard way. A big one is that no one chooses to live like a refugee. The refugees certainly don’t want to. Malawians may have simpler tastes in some things, especially food as they mostly only eat about four things, but give them the opportunity to have some more cash, of course there’s loads of stuff they’d like to buy. Though they’d probably just waste it anyway, on things like sending kids to school and buying medicine.
I’ve been reminded since I got here. of the song Common People by Pulp (if you don’t know it, frankly I’d rather you stopped reading my blog until you have. Go.), especially the lines “Watching roaches climb the wall /if you called your daddy he could stop it all”. And not just because I’ve put up with plenty of roaches. Choosing to deny yourself the stuff and activities you really want is just masochism. And it’s not even real. The really weird part is, I always identified with the Jarvis Cocker’s part, and coming here I got to put the tourist in the “cus everybody hates a tourist” lyric. That takes some getting used to.
So am I going back to the UK free of the need for material wealth and comfort, a free spirit with a deep, peaceful soul? Hell no, please line up as much of that fancy stuff as possible and bring it all to the airport when I land. I will take one of everything. Maybe more. I don’t think I deserve it, and I hope to give a lot of it to people who need it more than me in the years to come, but that’s another story for another day. For now, I’m just glad that soon, I’ll be going home.