Wednesday, August 08, 2007

First impressions of Malawi: the faint smell of smoke from cook-fires hangs in the air. It smells like Haiti. This morning, from my window, I saw a boy with a load of sticks on his head.

I thought it would be hot and full of mosquitoes. It's cool and rainy. I haven't got one mosquito bite yet.

I'm typing this wearing my jeans, a white t-shirt, a shirt over that, and a sweater. That's all I have with me right now. My luggage never arrived from Heathrow. Eight others in our party are in a similar boat.

It doesn't matter. Other people are giving me sunscreen and insect repellant, I have my malaria tablets, and my glasses and toothbrush. I washed my underwear out in the sink last night and wore it again this morning.

Last night we went to a family friend of Masankho's for a feast. His father was there, elegant in a three-piece suit. We were all in various stages of falling-down exhaustion. Malawi is called "the warm heart of Africa" because the people are so warm and gracious. And they are. Hospitality is a religion for them. There were platters of food, which we Westerners approached with trepidation because of all the warnings the travel doctors had given us. It would be hard to be a vegetarian traveling here. Not that there aren't vegetables, but I'm reluctant to eat the raw ones and there's only so much breadfruit and potatoes you can eat.

After dinner a troupe of dancers and drummers came and danced for us and that was amazing. Sheer raw physical joy and grace and power, sharp vertical pelvic thrusts, wide-hipped stance, arched back, the kundalini energy traveling up and down forcefully, rhythmically, deliberately...

There was a dance which women dance for the young men's initiation ceremony. A dance for girls as they are initiated into becoming women. There was a dance they had made up after African soldiers returned from the first world war and the second world war. The men danced their part in military khakis with colored sashes. Their movements showed how they had to clean and load their rifles and other things. The women danced around them in African dresses, signing and chanting and shouting. It was almost like a homecoming, healing ritual for the returning soldiers.

Beautiful drums in a deep black night. I had heard about the darkness of an African night, that it is more dark than in the West, and it is. A soft black blanket.

1 comment:

mermaid said...

Your impressions sound like you are trying to understand their spirits, the deepest part of them.

Sleep well with that African night, that soft blanket.