Jan 18 2013

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Brother’s Visit


My bro and I with my host family in Dedza

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination. Live for today – there will never be another one quite like it.”
A few months ago, my brother came to visit me in the warm heart of Africa to celebrate his birthday. It’s a bit of a change of environment for him since he lives in Las Vegas. From the “Sin City” to the “Warm Heart of Africa”. The only thing these two have in common is that it’s warm, except in the winter of course. Anyway, it was his way of getting out of the heat of Las Vegas. November is the start of the rainy season here in Malawi but luckily, it didn’t rain much during his visit. I was really looking forward to his visit so I planned on renting a car ahead of time for the day I pick him up. Well, I had some good news and some bad news. The good news, I was able to get a car! The bad news, Malawi was having one of the worst fuel shortages so there was no fuel to be found except the black market. In other news, the guy I rented the car from is named Elton John. Unfortunately, he is not a good singer (Not the American Elton, I’m talking about the Malawian Elton :)).

Waiting for my bro to arrive at Kamuzu International Airport

Anyway, the day I was looking forward to has finally arrived. So I called Elton to confirm the car but unfortunately, he couldn’t get fuel and the only vehicle available was his truck that wasn’t in a very good condition. So, Elton picked me up in his truck and hoped that his friend at the airport will have a small vehicle for me to rent. The stars were lined up and his friend was there with a small Toyota Spacio but with only a little bit of fuel left, just enough for us to drive around and look for fuel. After a few minutes, my brother came out and I greeted him “sup bro!” As I grabbed his luggage and rolled it out of the airport, when a man suddenly grabbed his bag out of my hand and I immediately told him that I have a car waiting and we do not need a taxi. Then the man said, “John, it’s me Elton!” Haha. My brother looked at me and asked me if I knew this guy. I said “Yes, he’s the one that dropped me off and we are renting the car from him. Bro, this is Elton John. Elton, this is my brother Paul” haha. He couldn’t stop laughing and Elton brushed it off.

So my brother got in the car Elton got for us and we followed him all over town to find fuel. Then we pulled into this gated area that looks like someone’s home filled with cars. It was a black market fuel station! Even the cars from embassies were getting their fuel from this place. The regular price for fuel was about 500 Malawian Kwacha (MK) but in the black market it is going for 1000MK per liter. We spent around $140 to fill up a small car! Ridiculous!

So after filling up the tank, we headed to Lilongwe to get something to eat and change some currency. I decided to take him to the black market to give him a little bit of the local experience. We drove to a parking lot when all of a sudden we heard people calling us “tssss tssss, boss, you wanna change money?”. We nodded and they ran towards our car and there were several of them trying to compete for our dollars. After the transaction, I took him to Pizza Inn. I figured he’s probably dying to have some American food. Haha.

Genna, Gabi, Me, Erin and Paul in Lifuwu, Salima district

Anyway, we drove to Senga bay to see my friend Jimmy, a wood carver, painter, artist.. That sounds like a great line. “Hi, my name is Jimmy, a friend, wood carver, painter and an artist.” I don’t think I can top that. The best I can come up with is “Hi, my name is John, Aquarius” haha. Not sure where I was going with that but let me continue with my story. My bro and I decided to spend the night at Cool Runnings lodge in Senga Bay and met up with some of my Peace Corps friends. We exchanged stories, slept and headed back to Lilongwe the next day to go to my village and introduce my brother to my neighbors. We unloaded some of his things and I was excited to see some of the items I requested from home made it :). We also headed to see my host family in Dedza but unfortunately, my host dad was not around so we decided to stay for the night in Dedza so my bro can meet my host dad in the morning.

We decided to attend a party the volunteer in Dedza organized. Without going into details, the following happened:

  • Lucious Banda Concert – A bunch of people from the party attended
  • Fuel Shortage – There is a black market in Dedza so I decided to fill up a container to prepare for our trip
  • Slept in the car – yup, my bro and I slept in the car because we planned on leaving very early. Also, we didn’t plan ahead.. We were originally going to stay with the volunteer in Dedza
  • Woke up with a headache – The container that we used for storing fuel was not hermetically sealed and our windows were only a quarter open.
  • Visited my host family – had breakfast with my host family at 5:30am.

The next day, we headed to Cape Maclear and stayed at Gecko Lodge. It was my first time going to that side of the lake. It’s not what I expected and the water at Senga bay was cleaner than Cape Mac. Since we were only there for a limited time, my bro asked around for some “fun-tivity” and decided to rent a boat to take us around the area.

Me and Bro at Cape Maclear



We’re on a boat

We really enjoyed our stay and best of all, we got to “drive” the boat around at full speed! It was like Malawi Vice!

The following day as we were having our breakfast, a guy selling souvenir items walked by and I complimented him. The conversation went like this:

Me: Abambo, I love your shirt!

Him: Do you want it? *he then proceeded to take off his shirt*

Me: I do.

Him: *Hands me the shirt* Let’s trade. My shirt for your shirt and some kwacha

Me: Okay! *Took off my Peace Corps shirt and handed it to him*

Me: I can only give you 1,500 kwacha for it plus my shirt.

(I know it’s too much but I was on vacation and wanted to help out the guy.)

We shook hands.

Business Partners.

It was finally time to leave Cape Maclear and move on to the next trip.

I will end this post here but I will write about the following:

  • Trip to South Luangwa
  • Trip to the Northern Region

Tiwonana for now.


John Mark Esplana

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