Walk to work

We are at the mercy of the hospital transport system, and already it is becoming tiresome. We’re supposed to be picked up at 7h30 in the morning, and brought back after we “knock off” at five*. It actually arrives at any time from ten minutes early to two hours late in the mornings. So I sometimes opt for the more time-consuming, but more reliable and independent option of walking and minibussing to town , and then walking to the hospital. It’s a 20-minute walk from town to the hospital, and this is what it looks like.

*(“Knock off” is the standard phrase used here, not just at the hospital, but in any conversation, formal or informal. It’s pronounced quickly, like one word. A friendly Malawian in the minibus: “I’ve just knocked off.” or “What time do you knockoff?” It’s earnestness is gently amusing.)

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Three beers, one winner: Carlsberg has a large brewery in Malawi, which is why the beers are so cheap. They want to introduce a new brew, and have let Malawian beer drinkers decide which out of three it will be. After sampling "Classic", "Gold", or "Elephant" one must send in one's vote by sms/text. The beer with the most votes wins. Democracy in action. This has not been without controversy, however. People have written in to the newspapers to complain that their favourite might not win, and then they would have been teased only to be cruelly disappointed. Some drinkers have accused Carlsberg of bad marketing practice. But I think it's pretty clever. There may be three beers, but the real winner is Carlsberg.

One of the ubiquitous coffin-shop signs. We're now walking out of town along a pleasant tree-lined road which curves down to the left.

One of the ubiquitous coffin-shop signs. We're now walking out of town along a pleasant tree-lined road which curves down to the left.

These men were removing a large tree from the ground, to make place for a new building. They enjoyed posing for the camera.

These men were removing a large tree from the ground, to make place for a new building. They enjoyed posing for the camera.

The road has curved to the left and is now heading slightly downhill. I pass these ladies carrying wood, maize flour and a baby. They too liked being photographed.

The road has curved to the left and is now heading slightly downhill. I pass these ladies carrying wood, maize flour and a baby. They too liked being photographed.

This sign on the side of paying toilets amused me. The message is clear.

Pay to pee: This sign on the side of paying toilets amused me. The message is clear.

Plantation next to the central prison. The hospital was built originally in 1953 as an extension to the prison. The leafy green plantation sits on the corner between the hospital and the prison.

Plantation next to the central prison. The hospital was built originally in 1953 as an extension to the prison. The leafy green plantation sits on the corner between the hospital and the prison.

The plantation is worked on by men wearing faded red T-shirts. I unknowingly went up to take a photo of an large tree trunk, and was immediately approached by the young T-shirted gentlemen, as well as a uniformed warden whom I hadn't seen. I asked about the T-shirts and the warden told me they were youth convicts trying to be rehabilitated. He then asked me if I could give them money.

We've turned right, off the main road now. Plantation on the right, hospital way up ahead on the left (out of sight).

plantation is worked on by young men wearing faded red T-shirts. I unknowingly went up to take a photo of a large tree trunk, and was immediately approached by the young T-shirted gentlemen, as well as a uniformed warden whom I hadn't seen. I asked about the T-shirts and the warden told me they were youth convicts trying to be rehabilitated. He then asked me if I could give them money.

plantation is worked on by young men wearing faded red T-shirts. I unknowingly went up to take a photo of a large tree trunk, and was immediately approached by the young T-shirted gentlemen, as well as a uniformed warden whom I hadn

On the other side of the road, this is one of my favourite views, over the broken ploughed field towards the mountains in the distance, with students and workers walking across on their way innto town.

On the other side of the road, this is one of my favourite views, over the broken ploughed field towards the mountains in the distance, with students and workers walking across on their way into town.

Another view of the same field.

Another view of the same field.

Walking up the road to the hospital, passing women on their way into town to sell their wares. (This photo taken late morning on a different day, hence the different shadows.)

Walking up the road to the hospital, passing women on their way into town to sell their wares. (This photo taken late morning on a different day, hence the different shadows.)

12

The cooldrink and samoosa ladies opposite the hospital gates. Cokes cost a mere K50 (22p). The first time I bought a Coke from them I walked off towards the hospital glugging it down greedily. Only when I'd finished it did I hear the patter of tiny bare feet behind me. It was one of the kids, come to fetch the bottle. You're not supposed to walk away with the bottle. Oops. Amazingly, bottle recycling is taken very seriously here. You're not supposed to take any bottles away, so I've got very good at glugging down 300ml of Coke in about one minute in front of an audience. (Never before have I drunk so many fizzy drinks as here. And in the heat they're delicious!) The bottle costs K30, but you often can't buy it, because the vendor needs to return a full crate of empties in order to buy a fresh one. (Same with the crates of beer, as we discovered to our dismay.) At some filling stations you can only buy a Coke if you bring in an empty! As a consequence, the bottles are scratched and grazed, showing their age. It's quite cool.

Nearing the hospital. Is it a surgeon? Is it a nuclear scientist? Is it a toxic waste disposal expert?

Nearing the hospital. Is it a surgeon? Is it a nuclear scientist? Is it a toxic waste disposal expert?

(1) Hair net (2) Protective perspex goggles (3) Mask (4) Full-length plastic apron (5) Extra thick rubber gloves (6) Wellington boots, and he is sweeping up leaves in the ditch. ... I don't know either.

No! It's a Zomba Mental Hospital cleaner! He is wearing (1) hair net (2) protective perspex goggles (re-positioned for the photograph) (3) face mask (4) full-length plastic apron (5) extra-thick red rubber gloves (6) wellington boots, and he is sweeping up leaves in a ditch. ... I don't know either.

ff

And we've arrived. Zomba Mental's front gates.

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1 Comment »

  1. Linda said

    Driving School – Coffins! LOL

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