Monday, October 25, 2010

Stars upon thars

Marissa, me, Max at the Lake o' Stars/ Marissa and me on the beach

Perhaps water is my element. This past week traveling to the Lake of Stars Music Festival, just outside of Mangochi, Malawi proved to me the sanity that water and mountains brings to my life. Exiting Lusaka on thursday we precariously made our way to the boarder of Zambia and Malawi on a windy bus ride that lead through the African bush. Mud huts with thatch roofs speckled the tarmac and the 5 min rests were some of the most relieving of my life.

Our haphazardous crew of Grassroot Soccer characters and new friends successfully arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi on Thursday evening with fake Malawian Kwatcha in hand (many of us exchanged money at the border attempting to receive a better exchange rate, only to find that the oversized cash received was predominately counterfeit- an adventure in the making). Running on little sleep, fried food, and bundles of anticipatory energy we powered through the following day of travel to reach the shored of Lake Malawi.

We were greeted by a sandy beach, palm trees, and a campsite filled with festival goers from around the world. The Lake of Stars festival is sponsored by an organization based out of the UK they pair UK artists with local Malawian and African artists as a way to support Malawian tourism and to disseminate inspiring music to those in attendance. Sleeping and swimming by day, dancing, singing, and clapping by night we spent three days soaking in the sun, water, and of course appreciating the brilliance of the stars- both in the sky and up on stage.

Some highlights:
Watching Oliver , dancing in bare feet every night, watching the Noisettes perform acoustically, sleeping under the stars, Tenache, chicken curry, not looking at my watch for 3 days, enjoying the silence of the water and the freedom of listening to music on a beach.

broken camera.

All in all, Malawi is a gorgeous country with dramatic mountain villages that seem superficially romantic and tangibly isolated. The lake was a solace with a cooling effect; and the music acted as its quintessential partner providing the perfect soundtrack to the break we all needed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Helen from Kalikiliki.

Saturday was filled with another VCT Challenge Day in the compound of Kalikiliki. Sounds like the name of an exotic island, right?! Indeed for the day it felt like an island. Insanely hot and dusty we awoke bright and early; a day of 37 degree Celsius (100 degrees) and over 800 meat pies awaited us. We successfully pulled off the event. People set-up, tested, danced (duh), and ate, amazingly enough. Here is one brief snapshot from the day:

Helen, a sturdy woman from Kalikiliki lost her husband 2 and a half years ago. He died of a “sickness.” She approached me confidently, her English choppy and expressive. “I am nervous to get tested. I don’t have a boyfriend.” An onslaught of neurons firing peppered my brain but the most overwhelming was that of pure excitement- this woman wanted to be tested and was asking for a stepping stone; someone to show a glimmer of hope, confidence, and I think above else, approval. I asked her if she’d like me to walk with her to one of our testing partners, Marie Stopes, and she accepted my offer. We moseyed over, her baby on her back and her 3 others close behind. I left her there, per her request. Twenty minutes before the event ended she found me, caught up in the logistical chaos of clean-up and proclaimed her status, negative. The same status blanketed the whole family- safe, confident, and empowered.

Helen is why I will happily work Saturday events for the next 6 weeks. Helen is proof as to why why Grassroot Soccer needs to exist. Helen is one more woman who knows her status and who set an inspiring example for her children. Helen is...remarkable and I will eternally be proud of her.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Twin Palms- the road home

Tonight I am spending my first night under a mosquito net. Half of me feels claustrophobic, a quarter of me feels poetic, and in reality I feel (yes, feel) like I can relate to animals in the zoo. Stuck inside a box, confined and baffled. How does such a tiny bug make for all this hullabaloo? As I was draping it around my bed, finding that not all the corners tuck in just right, trying to anticipate the late night hemophiliacs strategy at getting to me, I find myself chuckling at my insistent personification of a mosquito. Like the poor thing is out to get me...most likely he isn't and in the chance that he is I have a mosquito net covering me and a bright blue malaria pill to take at 8 am tomorrow morning that should render my being safe for now.

October is HOT but beautiful. I live on a road called Twin Palms road. Apparently our side of the road was just paved. About a week ago I walked out the gate to find that the paved road had recently received dotted lines. Stunning for a country with few traffic laws. Dotted lines were being speckled up an down the road by men dabbing bits of paint in a sequential order based on the chord that was laid out perfectly. Anyway back to the road. At Twin Palms genesis there is a sharp and blind curve, one that I relish and habitually make racing sounds as I pass through it. As you continue on the road, I am distracted by the beauty. Red, purple, orange, pink, green, and an occasional yellow paint the road and distract from it. Instant serenity and imagination take hold of me for the 3 minutes or so that I coast down Twin Palms. It is by far my favorite road in Lusaka so far. It is mysterious, with houses fenced in with no sign of their stature apart from the vines and flowers that overhand the walls and say "screw you" to the broken glass and barbed wire that keeps those out and those in. Nature at its best, refusing to be limited.

Off to sleep- Kamba says goodnight as she twitches next to my bed. Tonight she is granted the rare occasion of sleeping inside. Peace.