Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coming Soon

A seminal piece on feelings and emotions versus reason and common sense. How these opposing forces work on our minds, adults and young alike.

Emotions can be powerful, feelings strong. And no one should blame you for seemingly succumbing to these forces. But everyone wants you to overcome feelings and emotions--however powerful, however strong--with reason and common sense. Strangely common sense brings wisdom that is uncommon.

Yet it is wisdom that saves. See you in this article soon.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Window of Hope

I have lost friends and relatives to AIDS. This condition has devastated us. AIDS has killed professionals who will never be replaced.

Those of us with some knowledge of the University of Malawi understand that AIDS has devastated the education sector. As students we could see a professor losing weight, his hair becoming pale, missing classes, or a course being missed by students because a professor (the only one who can teach that course in Malawi), is not well.

Hard times. In my village in Liwonde, people with money are gone. Business men who were flourishing in late 1980s and early 1990s, are all gone.

One reason trade centres like Ulongwe, Mpemba and Lunzu are dying is that great business men of these places have died. And of AIDS. Because every loose girl chased after them.

Now there is hope. Treatment is making parents llive longer and raise their chidlren, kids who would otherwie have been orphans. Awareness is also high. My generation is making brilliant choices. Prevalence is now at 12.5 percent in Malawi.

But the sweeter news is that in the age group 5 to 11, prevalence is one percent. This means that if we can raise this age group with meaningful education that helps them avoid AIDS, we can create an almost AIDS free generation for the future.

This is a window of hope, an opportunity but also a challenge. How do we protect this generation from catching HIV?

Make your suggestions known to me. Email me. I will combine all thoughts into a great piece which will influence policy.

Virtue Called Patience

Those of us who travel the world have one challenge to tackle seriously: Impatience. It is a legitimate condition.

We see super highways, great airports, and shopping malls that have everything from cinema to chapels. And we want Malawi to turn into these in a day. That, too, is my wish. I was with Bonface Dulani the other day on the Masauko Chipembere Highway in Blantyre. Bon had returned home to do some research in Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and a few other countries.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the new road, saying it should have been eight lanes because we need to think the future. True.

But upon reflecting on that, I discovered every journey has a starting point. And four lanes is our point of departure. If it were not for his Europe and US visits, Bon would have been excited with the dual carriage highway being constructed in Blantyre.

This is not about Bon. It is about all of us who travel the world. I once wrote an article about my dissatisfaction with Chileka International Airport. But I did not demand Heathrow in Malawi. I just wanted decent terminals including clean toilets.

Chileka was renovated. It looks better than it was though not what we may want. But in a country that had food shortage, infrastructure was not a priority. People had to eat first. And you know hunger is a killer.

The US and Europe spent years building. We cannot build in decades when they built in centuries. But do we really have to wait for over a 100 years? No. We need to move with speed.

One challenge is that Malawi was neglected for sometime. Now we want to do all that was supposed to be done in 30 years in five years. Impossible.

It is also unfair to demand everything from President Bingu wa Mutharika or whoever comes in 2014. Let us move slowly, step by step.

I have come to realise that this is reality. Now that I am in Egypt, admiring this desert land that is well built and being made green, I can only hope we too will make it some day.

It takes patience. That is the pain of it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Malawi In Egypt

I am in Egypt. And it is hot, very hot, here in Sharm El-Sheikh Resort, a city on the Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula to be precise. Over 40 degrees celcius.

There is peace, unimaginable peace that I wonder why, just across the sea and the mountains, there is gun fire everyday between Israel and Palestines.

There are 45 heads of state and government here in Sharm El-Sheikh, three kings and several prime ministers and their delegations from the 118 member Non-Aligned Movement, with 53 members from Africa.

President Dr Bingu wa Mutharika is here, too, to attend the 15th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of NAM.

I have been talking to Egyptians in the two days I have been here and I will keep talking with them until I return to Malawi. They are nice people. They know about Malawi. Tea, we drink tea from Malawi, they tell me. We smoke tobacco from Malawi, they add.

And football. Great football in Malawi, they say.

I can talk with them in English because I don't speak Arabic. And few of them speak English. Those who speak English, cannot construct proper sentences but they are moving and developing, feeding themselves in a desert. I wonder why we were starving in Malawi when we have good soils and plenty water.

Back home in Malawi, we say he or she who has not passed English does not have a certificate. Why? English? A foreign language being a measure of our education standards?

I know this is a crucial language for our existence in a global world. But well, maybe, we have exagerated its importance.

What is important though is that Malawi is known among Egyptians. I am happy with this and I am working on a long travel piece which you will have before end of July. This article is a discussion of matters life in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't Hit That Carton

A couple of weeks ago, this day, a friend was driving on the Robert Mugabe Highway (what was once called Midima Road) and branched off the road somewhere after Nguludi Turn Off to Phalombe.

It turned out to be a wide earth road, dusty and that, too, is the joy of driving in the rural corners of Malawi.

Just about a corner, somewhere, a boy of less than 10 years was playing on the road, pulling a carton and my friend slowed down; the boy ran away and left the carton on the road. My friend wanted to drive over it. (It was a carton, after all.) Then he thought otherwise, went aside and avoided it.

And something told him to look on his mirror. He saw that boy ran back to the road, bowed down and lifted up something from the carton.

My friend was interested. He parked on the dusty road and came out of the car. He was shocked and froze. To this day, my friend does not know the name of the boy, the village and the place because he did not have the courage to ask. He did not ask anything. He only listened to what a girl, a little older than the boy, said.

This is what happened. The little boy's mother had gone to the field, perhaps to harvest maize or something else. She left a baby with the boy of about 10. And this boy decided to put the baby in a carton and pull it on the road to make the baby enjoy, like riding a 'car' you might say.

The carton that my friend avoided had a baby in it. If he had hit it, he would have killed, I believe, the baby. He would have been lucky to avoid it completely or to have nothing of the car's under part scratch and kill the baby--if not the tyres.

Upon learning that there was a baby, my friend froze, hence he did not say anthing. He only heard a girl say the boy's mother had gone to the field and left the baby with this boy. By the time more women came to see what had happened or what had not happened, my friend had enough courage to drive away, thinking, yet failing to understand what had happened.

All he could say when we met was: Don't hit that carton. This is rule number one when driving. I hope you get the sense.