Friday, July 10, 2009


I have had a turbulent six months. Left Botswana on the 25th of February - a cold, rainy morning when my friend, Lovemore Kamchira, came home to pick me to the airport. I had sold all that mattered, my sofa, my dining set, beds, fridge et cetera, so whatever remained unsold I gave to the good Batswana workmates I had. One got an iron for pressing clothes, another took a boiler for tea, somebody took a carpet and one friend asked me for the heap of clothes and blankets I was leaving behind to avoid excess charges at the airport (it turned out I still was 20 kg over).

We chatted rather sadly with Lovemore in the checking-in lounge of the small Francistown airport whose building is a little smaller than some of the mansions in Lilongwe's Area 10 (the South African ambassador's residence is actually four times as big, seen it?). After ten or so minutes, I went through the searching process (it is still manual) and proceeded to the departure lounge. I later walked to the small ATR 42 plane on the tarmac. In Gaborone, I connected quickly to Johannesburg where I had less than 50 minutes to get on board a Boeng 747 Addis Ababa bound.

I arrived in Addis at 9 o'clock in the evening, 8 o'clock Botswana and Malawi time. The letter from the African Union said somebody would wait for me at the airport. To my surprise, there was no-one. But then I knew Addis reasonably well, so that saved me. I caught a taxi to the Kings Hotel on Roosevelt Street in Sarbet. I knew this was the hotel closest to the AU headquarters (100m).

Thus began my 75-day stay in Addis Ababa. In general life was boring, though there are specific flashpoints that stand out, like the dinner I had at Sheraton for my 33rd birthday and the farewell party the wonderful Malawi community held for me a few days before I left. There were wonderful people I met, like Celestin from Burkina Faso, Aziz from The Gambia and Imelda from Namibia. I should also have mentioned Chiza, but with this wonderful guy, it was pretty much as though we were not meeting for the first time, like we had met in another life, at another time, if Pythagoras is to be believed. We just melted. Mrs Veronica Gondwe was also so motherly, friendly and always ready to help - few people I have met in life are as helpful. For the life in Addis, I mean those moments you have to lose it a little to gain a lot, I had the honorary Mayor of Addis, Justin, with whom I share an alma mater. Emmanuel, citizen of the world, for he is more in the sky than he is in Addis, was always great company those few moments he came home. There was Hope and Benjamin - two great friends who work for the nations that are supposed to be united, and their spouses. Charlotte, who is a perfect match with Emmanuel in the humour department was always great company whenever all Malawians gathered for special occasions). Mai Kasamale, Mwai's mother, was like a mother to us all. And just as fatherly were the ambassador and his family and the Deputy Head of Mission and his family. All the staff at the embassy, so friendly and always there when need arose, made life easy for me in Addis. The camaraderie of Mr Chisala and Colonel Nundwe was invaluable. Madame Vera Ngosi was also the mother-figure most of us looked up to at any time she was available. Though I met Mr Ngosi only a couple of times (he is the one who saw me off to the airport on my last day in Addis), his company was always a marvel. Nena, a new Malawian friend I made and Dr Paul Thangata together with his wonderful family took part - directlly or indirectly - in the process of making my life in Addis memorable, as did the venerable Mrs Mkwezalamba, the Commissioner himself and his charming personal assistant. Of course, my comrade Moses-Michael Phiri, 'homeboy,' was always a phone call away for any eventualities.

On the writing front, with such an entirely new environment, I was pretty much like fish out of water. I could not write. I only managed to read a lot. I remember reading a huge volume of the complete works of Martin Luther King. It was so rich and gave me a profound insight into the mind of the man who grabbed the American part of the globe by the throat and shook its conscience real hard.

I could not write and that bothered me a lot. The hotel furniture did not help matters. I also did not like the extreme attention I seemed to attract from the hotel staff. If I descended to the restaurant downstairs, not less than six people could come to greet me in between the mouthfuls, asking whether the food was nice. There came a time when I complained to the hotel manager. It was only then this habit stopped.

But now I am in Nairobi. Writing began again last night. For once I have to stop reading and try to build the art once more. Six months is a long time to lose in the world of art.