Is it possible, I don’t feel old enough to be 50? But here I am, the big ‘5’ ‘0’ has arrived. I am not sure if I am having some sort of epiphany or just a mid-life crisis but Africa certainly has a pull and I cant imagine this is the last time I will be here. I have a complete absence of stress in my life or at least a whole lot less than I had in the UK. Life here is simple, you very quickly realize that you don’t ‘need’ all those things that you clutter up your life with. I was sat in a mini bus on my way from Fatima to Blantyre this morning, the bus leaves at 5.30 and already the village is coming to life, stalls are being set up, the road swept and water collected. As we drove along the sun slowly started to rise from behind the mountains it illuminated the countryside below. The whole scene was in the soft focus created by the early morning mist. This really is a beautiful place (I hope that hasn’t sent you rushing for the vomit bow).
I arrived in Blantyre at about 9 am, this is a busy city but surprisingly calm, that is except for the roads, they are like the dodgems and crossing a road is risky business! The sun is already warm and the streets are filled with vendors selling anything from oranges to mobile phone credit. The guys shining shoes are busy polishing the patent leather shoes of the city’s bankers and the minibus drivers are sitting on a wall arguing over something or another while they wait for enough customers to make it worth their while setting off.
I was here to find the one hairdresser in Blantyre that specializes in European hair. My housemate assures me that they are ‘Vidal Sassoon’ standard and that the ‘birds nest’ I am carrying around on the top of my head will be transformed. Finding the place was my first (an hopefully last) challenge of the day. Various people pointed me in various directions; I called my housemate, whose instructions, despite repeated attempts, just got me more confused. In case you don’t know, directions are not my strong point. An hour (plus a lot of expletives) later I found said hairdresser. What a delight, a real birthday treat, so much so that I decided to throw in an eyebrow shape for good measure.
Next stop, the immigration office to get my visa sorted. Unfortunately, due to my earlier ineptitude at following simple directions I arrived at 12.10 to be informed that they close at 12 and I should come back at 1.30. OK, what should I do???? Well, here in Blantyre we have a very old colonial hotel called Ryalls, well it didn’t seem unreasonable that I should spoil myself a little bit more, after all I had turned 50! So here I am sitting with a glass of chilled white wine waiting for my king prawn Caesar salad, my birthday weekend has started…….
As I was leaving Ryalls hotel and heading for the Immigration office I received a call from a friend who told me they had a birthday surprise for me, I was to walk to the top of the road and look around, hmm all very mysterious, but I followed instructions only to find a billboard on a telegraph pole saying ‘happy birthday Elizabeth’, I have included a photo of that just to prove it was real! This really is turning out to be an amazing birthday.
Saturday morning and I met up with Jo, Vicky and later Naomi for cocktails by the pool at yet another rather ‘posh’ Blantyre hotel (I’ve included a photo of that too). Throughout the afternoon more and more friends joined us; it really was lovely. That evening we had a party back at Kabulla Lodge where I spent my first month doing orientation. It was great food, great location, and best of all great friends, which all adds up to a fantastic birthday and one I will never forget.