Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Warm Heart of Africa

Malawi is one of the warmest countries in Africa. The people here are nice and very hospitable. When they invite someone to their house they bring out their very best. If one has to spend the night in their hut, they give up their bed in favor of their guest.
A car accident I experienced in Malawi on May 5, 2007, demonstrates their warmth.
When we first arrived in Malawi in 2003, our white friends told us that if we hit someone on the road, not to stop and go straight to the nearest police station. The reason was that a mob could take vengeance on the driver right then and there. I always remembered the advice but on the day of the accident my instictual reactions took over.
The chances of having an accident are extremely high here. We have to share the road with pedestrians, bikes, goat, chickens, pigs, and cows, all the time swerving all over the road to try to avoid potholes the size of Grand Cannon.
To make this story easier to understand I will give the 3 Malawian men in it different names.
On this particular day I was going into town to meet a friend of mine. As I was coming down the hill, I saw Mavuto on a bike with a huge bag of corn somehow fitted on the rear carrier. He started swerving some and I honked to warn him that I was coming. For safer measure I moved over to the other lane to give him plenty of space. But at the very moment I caught up with him, his bag broke loose and he swerved right in front of my wheels. I slammed into him. Almost instantly my windshield lay in pieces on the ground next to the spilled corn. Mavuto was in the ditch face down and not moving. I had this sick feeling wash over me, “I KILLED A MAN!!!” All my thoughts of leaving were gone. I ran up to him to check his pulse and to my relief he was still alive. Lifting him was useless for he was at least 200 lb of pure muscle. At the same time a crowd started gathering around me. Two men, Pacharu and Moster, ran up and helped me drag Mavuto into the car to take him to the hospital. At that point I could not hold my tears back and just wept with relief that Mavuto was alive. Not knowing why I was crying, Pacharu took my hand and held it all the way to Zomba repeating, “Madam, he is alive! Madam, he is sitting! He is ok!” In the end Mavuto only had one cut on his elbow where he had taken out my windshield. His bike was OK. Although the accident was not my fault, I felt so sorry for him that I reimbursed him for his corn.
The moral of this story is that you should not believe the worst about people. I count Pacharu and Moster my saving angels. They helped me with my language barrier and stayed with me while I was questioned by the police. I believe that Malawian people are the warmest and kindest people that there are!

1 comment:

  1. I once found myself in the similar situation in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in K.C. I had a blow out of my front driver's side tire. It was midnight. As I begin to change the tire I was approached by two gentlemen. Now since I was a police officer at the time, my first instict was to reach for my off duty weapon. However to my suprise, the gentlemen helped me get back on the road. I even offered them money and both men refused. I learned then to never judge a book by it's cover.