Malawi

 

    It was a slow slurping sound that lulled Yayuk and Sebastian asleep, moonlight crowning each shore-length curl with platinum filigree... then coaxed them awake as sunrise gilded Lake Malawi and its leisurely queue of breakers... their lodgings ideally situated to admit a cooling breeze—filtered by a window screen, then by mosquito netting, before alleviating the sometimes-oppressive heat—a breeze that stirred like lullabies in the kemboja  grove outside, subtly scented blossoms adding sweetness to the laid-back atmosphere... baboons striding up and down the beach... the ghost of a hyena (caught within village boundaries two days prior to the couple's arrival) haunting a stand of palms where it had been slain (as had a wayward hippopotamus at the shore's southern tip)... cormorants diving for minnows... hammerkops fishing the shallows... kites and eagles hunting from above, their talons at the ready... these, and more, were hallmarks of Cape Maclear... once a foothold for Scottish missionaries... now a carefree playground for present-day pagans—of the backpacker variety (though natives still subscribed to Christendom or to Islam)... the waterfront overrun by Westerners bent on sundry forms of R&R—plus those catering to them: local teenagers organizing evening barbecues; dugout skippers hawking snorkeling trips to the nearby islands; diving instructors offering scuba-certification courses; kayakers touting waterway safaris; carvers selling handicrafts and curios; and proprietors furnishing what might be considered "the essentials," i.e. housing, humble meals, and oceans of Carlsberg Beer... an electrical outage causing a delay before the hotel's generator-powered pump could suck up enough lake water to afford morning showers... Sebastian, in the meantime, trimming his month-old beard... Yayuk moving her bowels an unprecedented third time in three days, her chronic constipation become mild diarrhea—which left her feeling bloated rather than drained (her period due?)... Sebastian feeling, conversely, uncommonly fit... eager to find out if the Malawian coffee on order from a restaurant manager desperate for off-season business could meet the standards set by caf's they had frequented in Blantyre... Nestle's "Ricoffy" the sorry excuse served most places... the water shortage proving, alas, village-wide; no home grown beans nor liquid in which to brew them, was the sorry predicament... a trip further down the beach being well-advised, where fancier accommodations might suit genteel tastes... encountering Lake Malawi National Park instead, its visitor center and aquarium built by the World Wildlife Fund (American Chapter)... affording the couple a short education on the lake's geology, ecology, and general history... Sebastian and Yayuk adding their names to the guest register, then, still in search of coffee, doubling-back... gradually... hopefully... stopping in at several privately-run establishments... settling, once again, for watered-down 'instant'... at Steven's Place (pressure allegedly restored)... where hours passed... writing, contemplating, writing... where stomachs eventually grumbled, signaling it was time to drop by Joe Junior's Restaurant, the simplest of structures with empty door and window frames, gaping holes in its thatch roof, roughhewn benches at two concrete counters covered with strips of fly-festooned bamboo, all meals prepared over an open fire by none other than Joe himself: chef, Shakespearean actor, and entrepreneur... whose gracious manners, cut-above cuisine, and customer-pleasing attitude had cornered the market... brunch succeeded by another pair of drip-'n'-dribble showers... then naps... sunbeams slanting horizontally through their room, west to east... a sluggish wind picking up as clouds to the north piled high... one atop another... flashes commencing... luring Yayuk and Sebastian out-of-doors for a lakeside stroll... to witness an odd chartreuse and orange highlight in the firmament, its splotch like an oily puddle over the sun's impending set... storm gaining strength... wind gaining velocity... lightning growing frequent... the couple seeking shelter... hunkering down, their backs supported by a dugout, facing the agitated water... an audience of two for the ever-changing spectacle... half moon shining like a jewel in one untroubled sector... casting its borrowed brightness into the deep-purple fray... distant rain appearing to sew, with vertical stitches, heavens to horizon... dusk giving way to night... hence auguring dinner... by lantern light... at Joe Junior's again... his-nibs surprising the guests with fare quite diverse: mashed potatoes, onion gravy, aromatic sausages, and sweet green peas comprising the main course; fresh papaya and tea served up for dessert... portions puny, but for sixty kwatcha ($4 U.S. total) Yayuk and Sebastian were mutually pleased—though supplemented their meal with a box of coconut cookies... back down by the water... the storm having passed... clouds sweeping clear a sky now studded with needle-point stars... the slurp, slurp, slurping of the surf like sonorous stanzas to a Cape Maclear day.

 

What you seldom see...

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