Hallelujah! We made it in one piece. The journey was long, the food was eh, but I was surprised at how quickly time seemed to pass in the sky. As you can imagine, the task of boiling down these adventures into short-ish blog posts is nearly impossible. My plan is to share the most interesting details, ie what I'd want to read, when I have wifi. Our DC to Ethiopia leg was smooth sailing (minus the dumb American holding up the security line to complain about his confiscated Capri Sun). I watched four movies, noshed on adorable plane-shaped crackers, and did my best to snooze. The meals were standard meat + rice + roll combos. But the wine was free! And did I mention the gorgeous flight attendants? Oh my. These African ladies had the milkiest brown skin accented by bright red lipstick and colorful yellow power suits. We deplaned in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city. The airport’s shops were filled with sarongs, wooden tchotchkes, Ethiopian crosses and stitched bags. I limited myself to one shirt and a long printed dress that Colleen assured me we wouldn’t see elsewhere in Malawi. Our second flight to Lilongwe was the tougher leg. Between the cramped seating, our lack of sleep, and the pungent human smells (you can imagine them), we were all done.
At customs, we waited…and waited. Apparently line cutting seems to be a permissible activity here. The nine Indians that cut us were lucky that one of the guys looks like Bruno Mars’ Indian brother. Studying his features (and the colorful saris) gave my mushy brain something to digest while we waited.
After a quick money exchange (approx. 385 kwacha = 1 dollar), we piled into our driver Willy’s Range Rover and set out to our hotel. About five miles down the road, Willy pointed out the patch of land where Madonna is "building" her school (see below photo). As you'll notice, the land is untouched. Madonna-Gate is one hot topic here, my friends. More on that later. We passed children selling pumpkins roadside, gas stations, and shops before arriving at our humble, yet perfectly homey abode (Heuglin's Lodge) that sits securely behind large walls with barbed wire. That sounds scary, but Malawi is surprisingly safe. In fact, it's one of the few Africa countries that hasn't had a civil war. Alas, we are Americans carrying money and expensive tech gadgets, so we're not taking any chances.
The afternoon lulled by, as I fought off sleep by exploring the lodge. Once dusk rolled in — and with it, those pesky mosquitoes — we retired to the dinner table, bonding with other visitors from America, UK, and beyond over delicious soup and fish. Tomorrow's day will be among our biggest, and I can't wait to share all we'll be doing (hint: schools and kiddos are involved!).