Day 5 – Wednesday
We left for Lilongwe at 8.10am after breakfast with the Father’s. The road was good and we arrived at Lilongwe just after 11am, however having stopped at a gas station just before getting to the hotel we discovered, having driven by a number of them, that there was a shortage of gas everywhere. This would be a problem for us to continue or journey tomorrow. We checked in with the Avis guy at the hotel and he said he would try and take care of it. The gas situation is a result of the countries lack of dollars to buy gas, the economy is not very positive at the moment here and there is displeasure with how the present President is treating the issues.
We got ourselves ready for the Rotary Lunch meeting and made our way to the room where it was being held. We met with a few members as they arrived and conversed about where we were from and why we were here in Malawi. The meeting itself had a tight schedule, even though they did not have a presenter, they had a lot of business to attend to and guests were asked to leave about three quarters of the way through the meeting hour. Initially disappointed we waited outside until their meeting broke and were able to make arrangements to meet for a drink with the Sargant at Arms who had been a previous President of the club and the Projects Director later that evening. Prior to the trip I had arranged to meet with the Past District Governor, Stallard Mpata, unfortunately he had a death in the family and was unable to attend the meeting. We met with one other member after the meeting broke who was an American, his name is Christopher Nyce and he was in Malawi as the Economic and Commercial Officer for the US government. Christopher had been a Rotary Member for just over 10 months and was enjoying being involved with Rotary and wanted to get more involved with some area (we think good timing). It was also good for my colleague Rick and the business of his non – profit, IEDRO.
We met later in the hotel with Sophie and Hatch and we were able to show them our presentation and the recent pictures that we had taken in Nhkamenya. We had a great 2 hour conversation about ourselves, themselves, Rotary and the potential partnerships that could be established between our clubs while working toward Future Vision 2013 in Malawi. Lilongwe has a lot of International matching grants and have tapped their limit of 5 at this time with more backed up in the line behind them, however we also discussed other ways of potentially being able to avail of local district grants by funding part of a project with “community contribution” The conversation was good and established a good basis and introduction for us with this club. In addition to this great meeting I got a call later from Stallard Mpata and we have arranged to meet on Saturday evening in Lilongwe prior to our departure on Sunday.
Following that I had a few green beers while Rick stayed on the red wine – we then retired for the evening not knowing whether we would have gas or not the next morning to continue our journey.
Day 6 – Wednesday
We rose at 7am and met for a great breakfast of sausages, rashers, baked beans, toast and marmalade, – yum they even made a great cup of tea. After breakfast we went to the Avis office to see what we would be doing for the day. Luckily our Avis rep was able to get petrol, unfortunately he had to come from the Black Market so it cost a little more (about $90 to fill ¾ of a tank in a Toyota Corrolla – I know, maybe we got ripped off but what can you do – need the gas). Either way it was worth it as neither of us had to wait in line or scour the town looking for petrol. We paid the man and left the hotel for Blantyre at 9.24am. We had estimated the trip to take us about 4 hours.
Along the way we had a few issues with the car where it would just cut out while passing or speeding up on a few occasions forcing us to pull off to the side and just roll to a stop. After stopping it would start up again and allow us to continue. This only happened once during the first half of the trip but became more frequent as we got into the second half of the trip. Fortunately it got us to Blantyre and we arrived at the hotel by 2.30pm. First order of business was to hand the car back to Avis and ask them to get us a new car or fix it and at the same time locate some petrol, as there were shortages in Blantyre also. The Avis representatives were very helpful so we hope to be ready to go when we leave early on Friday morning.
Upon arrival we met with Ricks IEDRO representative here in Blantrye, Martin. After we checked in they met for business and I joined them later for conversation at about 6.30pm. It was interesting to learn about some of the work that is going on all around Africa in rescuing the weather data and how the meteorological departments of each country are contributing to the effort. It was clear how valuable the volunteer time that Martin had been spending on the work was to IEDRO and the progression that had been made because of his contributions. The gift for Rick was a box of old micro fish slide with old data that Martin had found at a local auction having been discarded. The gift for Martin was a brand new American video camera.
Two friends of Martin’s, one of which was a member of the Rotary Club of Blantyre, joined us for a half hour where we had some conversation of what we were doing here in Africa in addition to Rick’s work.
Rick did not feel too good after the meeting and even passed up on dinner to retire – he had a few early morning meetings scheduled that he wanted to be ready for in the morning and then we would meet up for the Rotary Lunch meeting at 12 noon.
We had an early night – no green beer for me