There’ll be days like this

My mom says it’s time to update my blog.  I’ve been planning to write a little more about my research here, but today was reminiscent of Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, so here we go – a little rant.  Feel free to skip to the bolded bit near the bottom, where the more positive comments come along.

My day started with the best of intentions.

I got up at 6:30, answered a few emails, and got ready to go for a little jog.  (I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but my friend Rachel’s marathon training has inspired me to take a turn about the neighborhood a few mornings a week.)  But when I went to the bathroom to put in my contacts, I realized there was no water.  Water pressure had been low yesterday, but today, a turn of the cold tap released nothing but a tiny drip.  Not wanting to be voluntarily sweaty and gross all day, or be scalded by the remaining hot water, I nixed the running plans.  Then I searched (fruitlessly) for a number for the Lilongwe Water Board.  Eventually, a friend was able to find the number in the phone book and I called to report my outage.  They assured me they would call once they found the problem.  Right.  You can probably guess whether I ever got a phone call.

Also on the agenda for this morning: a fourth visit to the Zambia High Commission for my visa.  (On the previous three visits the Immigration Attache was unavailable.  Despite the stated visa processing window from 9-12 each Mon-Wed, it seems visas are actually only processed on Monday.  If you’re lucky.)  But when I got in my car, the battery was dead; I called the mechanic.  (It’s a loaner car that drains a battery weekly.  I did not leave the lights on.)  While waiting for the mechanic to arrive, I endured absurdly slow internet and rescheduled a phone interview that was supposed to be last week. Malawi decided to change all the telephone prefixes on April Fools’ Day, and now I can’t receive international calls on my cell phone.  The mechanic eventually arrived with my car for me to “test drive,” jumped the loaner and took it back to figure out why the battery is draining, and told me to call him after I’d driven my car.

I finally got out of the house around 10:30, got in my car, discovered almost immediately that the problem the mechanic had assured me was fixed was not, and drove to the Zambian High Commission.  By now, the receptionist knows me.  I took a seat.  After 30 minutes or so, my turn came to see the Immigration Attache.  He looked at my paperwork and informed me that I needed a letter of introduction from my employer, a requirement that neither the Zambian Immigration website nor the receptionist had mentioned on my previous three visits.  By this time it was after 11.  “Will you be processing visas on Wednesday?” I asked, not knowing how quickly I could get said letter.  The attache – whose job, by the way, is to process visas – wasn’t sure if he would be in the office on Wednesday.  “What if I can’t get a letter in the next 45 minutes?” I asked.  “You’ll get it,” was all he had to say.  Fortunately, the Public Affairs section of the US Embassy was nearby, and I was able to procure a letter in short order.  I returned to the High Commission, returned to the queue, and eventually made my way back to the office.  He flipped through my papers and scribbled on the top one, talking on his cell phone the entire time.  When I returned to reception to pay, I realized that he had approved a single-entry visa, when the whole point of this saga was to save $30 by getting a multiple entry visa.  Though I was tempted to give up at this point, I did not have the exact change (in USD, the only currency accepted – even at the border) for a single-entry visa, so – back in line.  This visit was relatively quick, I paid, and finally left.  I still do not have the visa in my hands; I’m supposed to go back on Thursday at 3 PM.  Any bets on whether my passport will be returned at that time?  By this point, I’m pretty sure I’ve wasted $30 worth of time, energy, and gas going back and forth.

It was now noon, and I had a few more errands to run, as well as a highway test drive to take.  I ended up whiling away another hour with a friend over coffee while waiting for the mechanic to get back from lunch.  We discussed how Malawi has moderated our Type A personalities – and how life here can still be really frustrating.  Eventually I spoke to the mechanic, who told me I should bring the car back in the morning, so I returned home.  Fortunately, though it was now 3 PM, the water was back, and I was able to do a few hours of work, go jogging, do some yoga, and take a (glorious!) shower.  Most of my article-writing plans, however, were preempted.  Tomorrow is another day?

So, for those of you keeping track at home, here are the status updates:
Internet – slow
Cell Phone – working only within Malawi
Car – “fixed” but still obviously not fixed
Water – back
Zambia visa – in the works.  Maybe.

And yet, despite all this, I’ve recently started really liking Malawi.  Maybe it’s because the end is in sight, or because it takes me a long time to get settled (anywhere), or because I’ve finally made a solid group of friends, but the expat bug has bitten me.  I suspect this may have something to do with the excellent weekend I just spent at a friend’s lake house, which involved good food, sand, sun, and this spectacular view:

View from the beach house

View from the beach house

I’m also looking forward to my friend Chris’ arrival on Friday, and his accompanying delivery of staples from the first world, including Gimme! Guatemala coffee beans, a non-leaky tent, a computer battery, and cardigan sweaters.  We’ll be doing some sight-seeing around Malawi and in Zambia (if I get my passport back), so expect more exciting touristy posts (rather than whiny, boring ones) soon!

And, to respond to some previous comments:  the piano belongs to my housemate; I am not nearly that dedicated.  No, I did not spot Madonna while she was here, but yes, I think the Malawi court did the right thing.  By right thing, I mean adhered to the adoption law of Malawi.  Regardless of your sentiments about international/celebrity adoption, Malawi law is explicit about an 18-month fostering period within the country.  It’s not clear to me why the courts waived this requirement for the first adoption.  If the government is so enthusiastic about her support, then maybe laws should be reconsidered in Parliament – but not exceptions made by the courts.  And finally, I was surprised but pleased to return from my beach weekend and find all sorts of news about Iowa’s ruling on gay marriage.  Moral arguments of all stripes aside, the ruling is not about right or wrong, it is constitutionally grounded – as it should be:

“We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective,” Justice Mark S. Cady wrote for the seven-member court, adding later, “We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law.”

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3 Responses to “There’ll be days like this”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Oh my…sounds like a tough day indeed. Glad to hear you got the running in eventually. I haven’t been able to run for a whole week and it is killing me.

  2. pyggme Says:

    Hi Amy, I don’t know if you have seen my previous comment? Anyway, my dear colleague’s trip to Malawi is coming up in 3 weeks time. Do you have any suggestions about what to send with him? I’ve heard that the kids need to have pens (or was it pencils?) and notepads for school, that the school is not providing them with that sort of stuff?

    Thankful for any suggestions!

    Take care and wow, the view from that beach house is wonderful!

  3. LoveLetterstoAnAmericanSoldier Says:

    I’ve taken up running as well! I’m training for the Army 10 Miler in D.C. next year. But I am by no means a runner either, so I’ve been keeping it on the DL.

    Oh boy, I bet you’re going to miss Malawi like crazy when you’re gone.

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