Sunday, August 30, 2009

Invisible Walls

One interesting aspect about Germany, especially obsersed in those above 30, is their memory about the boundary between former East Germany and former West Germany.

This was the boundary, they say at every opportunity. My conclusion is that the wall might have been demolished physically but it remains in the minds of the people. Even the levels of development are visibly different.

I have been on the roads in what was the East and seen the kind of buildings they have; it is clear, they were behind in terms of visible development projects.

Most roads are new, meaning they have been constructed after the fall of the wall. (There is a development tax for the development of the former East which is still being collected 20 years after reunion. This speaks vloumes of the work that has to be done to lift up the former East to the level of the former West.)

Today, Sunday, I was at the part of Berlin where the wall has been preserved. It is not the original wall because it is being reconstructed for generations to come.

I walked by the wall. This is something impossible during the separation of the two sides of the country. It is being kept for historical reasons. And I think this is good. But there is a debate on whether or not keep the wall or turn the area into something else.

There were two walls, both constructed by East Germany, mainly to prevent its citizens from goingto West Germany where life was better in almost all senses.

The space between the walls was filled with sand and soldiers. The sand was meant to betray people escaping to West Germany, so that their footsteps could be visible. You know sand. The plan was that a person could not jump over two walls before soldiers, who guarded the wall 24 hours, could catch up with them.

But a human being is clever. People had ways of getting to West Germany. And they did. It seems to me that people cannot be oppressed beyond the limit they allow to be oppressed. Survival shall be there, always.

Counting Down the Days, Sunday, August 30, '09

This day marks half my stay in Germany. I am now at the peak of this long journey, kind of, you might say; I was climbing up, up, this mountain, this month-long mountain.

Now that I am at the peak, I can take a minute, relax and glance, no gaze, at the foot of the mountain, the journey. I can look down and count down the days to the day distance shall carry me back home. I can't wait. I am living for the day I shall go back home and meet the familiar faces, live the familiar weather, enjoy the familiar everything.

The strange here is becoming familiar. But it remains strange. This remains a foreign land and I am longing for home to see everything in the definition of home.

The count down has started and this is a source of joy, real joy, in my soul. You can join me in this count down, if you wish.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mandela: Greatest Man Living Now

I have had thoughts about Nelson Mandela these past hours that I had to fish out this article from my archive and post it here. It first appeared in The Nation of December 6, 2006.

Mandela: Greatest Man Living Now

Statesmen cannot be wished into existence. The world is longing for one to unite Iraq. And, as Iraqis are finding out, that man is not a citizen of the war torn country but a South African.

South Africa will, in the coming years, host two global events: the 2010 World Cup and the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

Both events will attract thousands of people, thousands of journalists. Across the earth’s 24 time zones, millions will interrupt their waking or sleeping schedules to gather around television sets.

The World Cup is held once in four years and might come back to South Africa in the next five decades. The funeral of Mandela will be once and that is all. Tens of thousands will stand along roads to say farewell as he will be driven the streets on his last journey to the resting place.

Powerful men and women of the world will be at the funeral. They are people who cannot go to a stadium to watch football: presidents like Hamid Karzai, George Bush and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi; brilliant minds like journalists Richard Stengel, Time Magazine managing editor who once worked with Mandela on his book Long Walk to Freedom, and Fareed Zakaria, former professor of political science at Harvard University, now editor of Newsweek International, who reports for and oversees weekly production of eight editions of the magazine.

These people will be on reserved seats because of protocol. But Mandela would have reserved the choicest seats for ordinary people because it was for such that he took the road of a freedom fighter.

Thoughts of a funeral are awkward to some. But life is a journey and it comes to an end. The world is now busy walking the journey of Mandela which everyone wants to go on and on and on. Sadly, nature demands that Mandela’s life, like all human beings, be over some day. At 88 [he is now 91], he is looking forward to that day.

“It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered,” he said in March 1997. “I would leave that entirely to South Africans. I would just like a simple stone on which is written ‘Mandela’.”

Mandela talks about his death. He does not talk about his funeral—that is up to South Africans. In fact, he spends time thinking about the after-life as he hinted in one interview. When he dies, he says, and once in the next world, “I will look for and join an ANC branch”.

Not that he is obsessed with party politics but the man is committed to freedom and justice and sees the ANC as the practical tool to fight oppression, for that is what he has been doing for most part of his life and perhaps can’t imagine a just life; he thinks he would have some battle to fight, always.

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, describes Mandela as “not just the greatest statesman but the greatest man now living”.

Brown was writing in a November 13 special edition celebrating 60 years of Time Atlantic, years the magazine has covered—or, put rightly, uncovered—heroes. Of the magazine’s 66 heroes, Mandela was the first and was given two pages. Space is scarce in print media and goes with the value of a story.

Of course, three others were given two pages: the Beatles, Mikhail Gorbachev and Princess Diana. But Mandela’s story was the first. The best comes first in almost all media. This, again, speaks volumes of the value placed on this great son of Africa.

Mandela had a reason to hate white South Africans. He had reason to call them strangers and violently chase them from South Africa.

But after 27 years of imprisonment at the hands of the apartheid government, Mandela chose truth and reconciliation, not revenge, but forgiveness. He had been separated from his wife, to whom he wrote lovely letters; he missed his children. He went through the pain of being unable to bury his mother and his first born son, Madiba Thembekile, deaths that made Mandela to look back at his younger self, to evaluate his life.

“Her [the mother’s] difficulties, her poverty, made me question once again whether I had taken the right path,” wrote Mandela in his book, Long Walk to Freedom. “For a long time, my mother had not understood my commitment to the struggle.”

In such times, some people put up a brave face as if they have survived shame and embarrassment, but it is the soul that is bruised; the heart, not the body.

This was the case with Mandela. Questions without answers can be more painful than physical torture. Mandela wondered, without any answer, why his family was put in such an awkward situation. For long he had advised people not to worry about things they could not control. “I was unable to take my own advice,” he says. “I had many sleepless nights.”

The separation from his family resulting from a court case using discriminatory laws was enough to warrant a revenge after his release on Sunday, February 11, 1990.

Yet there were more challenges after his release from prison. He realised he had gained his freedom but he was yet to fight for the freedom of his people. Once the Inkatha members secretly raided the Vaal township of Boipatong and killed 46 people. No arrests were made. It was as if some people had no state protection.

“Mandela, give us guns,” said placards carried by his supporters at one rally. “Victory through battle, not talk.”

He had been tested for too long to carry on the struggle peacefully. But he said “peace”.
“It was because of the greatness of Mandela—and, especially, his refusal to hate or become embittered—that a multiracial South Africa was born, not in further bloodshed and catastrophe, but in peace and democracy,” says Brown.

To understand the importance of Mandela, consider Iraq, that helpless, failed state where sectarian violence has more control than the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Hundreds are dying everyday. No one is safe, not even the Prime Minister.

Aparism Ghosh is Time senior correspondent who has been reporting from Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Ghosh knows life in the city. He has the experience of flying into Baghdad, too.

“I know what lies ahead,” he says of flights from Amman in Jordan to Baghdad.

It is an hour’s uneventful flying, followed by the world’s scariest landing—“a steep, corkscrewing plunge into what used to be Saddam Hussein International Airport”.

It is scariest because the pilot has to avoid being shot down by Iraqi insurgents. The plane stays at 30,000 feet until it is directly over Baghdad airport, then take a spiralling dive, straightening up yards from the runway.

“If you are looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can’t possibly pull out,” says Ghosh. “I have learned from experience to ask for an aisle seat.”
That is not all. The journey from the airport into Baghdad is a 14-kilometre drive on what is called the Highway of Death.

The Shiites and Sunnis are engaged in sectarian violence. In fact, sectarian violence is a political term. Iraq is in a civil war. Out-going United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan called the violence “worse than a civil war” in a BBC interview on Monday.

Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlak has repeatedly told the press that Iraq’s political landscape has no giants.

“Not only that,” he said earlier this year, “but the political system we have created makes it impossible for such a figure to emerge.”

Politicians in Iraq have discovered that the easiest way to win votes is to appeal to sectarian chauvinism; they have little incentive to take the higher, more difficult road of liberal democracy which cherishes reason, liberty and freedom.

In July this year, al-Mutlak said Iraq could be united and the killings could come to an end. The country, he said, needed “an Iraqi Mandela”.

This is the gigantic size of Mandela. Even those in Iraq know the sectarian violence—or civil war, to be precise—can be ended by a leader of Mandela’s calibre; not George W Bush or Tony Blair, the so-called champions of democracy; not the Pope; but Nelson Mandela from South Africa, a two-hour flight from Blantyre in Malawi.

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, and spent early childhood the traditional, old way in Mvezo, a tiny village on the banks of the Mbashe River in Umtata.

“From an early age, I spent most of my free time in the veld playing and fighting with the other boys of the village,” he writes in his autobiography.

Childhood lessons have a tendency to remain in people for life. They are lessons guarded by society which, sadly, are not cherished by the modern society of Malawi. Now socialisation or transmission of values is, in some cases, more from the electronic media (television, radio and internet) and housemaids than the family.

Children ought to play with toys, especially those them make by themselves. Children ought to play with clay to derive lessons from the natural world: let them run in the rain until it’s over (this does not cause malaria, the disease is caused by plasmodium transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito); let them play with clay and realise their skills.

In such engagement with nature, Mandela found virtues that make him. The statesmanship in Mandela can be traced back to about five years of age when he shared food and blanket with others.

He had become a herd-boy, looking after sheep and calves in the fields where he learned hunting. One day, his turn came to ride a donkey and it bolted into a bush of thorns. He was embarrassed.

“I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonouring them,” he says.

You can see more from a mountain and from the perspective of years, says a brilliant journalist Jon Meacham. Mandela has climbed mountains and lived a long life.

He joined politics while studying in Johannesburg by joining the African National Congress in 1942. He has climbed mountains of books and time. He has been a life transformed from violence to peace. Yet he believes that when all channels of peaceful protest fail, violence is a practical option. This is what he did by leading Umkhonto we Sizwe, a military arm of the ANC.

Mandela has walked from the violent extreme of the world, balancing up on the way, and reached the peaceful end of life. He has shown that the end is more important than the beginning. Former president Bakili Muluzi missed that lesson. Fredrick Chiluba of Zambia missed the crucial aspect as well.

The years Mandela was locked up in his cell during daylight hours, deprived him of music and sunshine. He was denied things from outside. The familiar things we take for granted are what we miss most. But the character in him remained intact. The discipline is still in him.

He wakes up by 4: 30 am even if he went to bed late. He makes his bed—he still believes this is his duty, even when he was president. He exercises for one hour from 5 am and takes breakfast at 6: 30 am as he reads the days’ newspapers.

This daily timetable is changing now. Age is catching up and everything is becoming slower.
Yet his voice, weak and faint, is more important than ever. He prefers “we” to “I”. Thus he attributes all the honour given him to South Africans, saying that a man seen by all is standing on his people’s shoulders.

Mandela is now reflecting on his life and enjoying his childhood best moments—typical of old age. His greatest pleasure is watching the sun set with the music of Handel or Tchaikovsky playing.
He should really love that for he is the sun of the world, light for hidden, dark corners of poverty, disease, oppression and dictatorship.

It is now the turn of the world to enjoy watching the setting of Mandela’s life which is at the end of the horizon. He will go a happy man after leading the first South African multiracial government for five years, leaving the presidency at his peak—a lesson many have failed to learn.

Mandela worked with his immediate predecessor Fredrick de Klerk who was invited into a government of national unity. Further, Mandela has worked with his immediate successor President Thabo Mbeki.

The three formed a team that went to Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, to make South Africa’s case to host the 2010 World Cup.

South Africa is now gearing for the World Cup. The OR Tambo International Airport is being expanded and renovated. .

The fever is growing stronger every day. The economy benefits are visible. But the world does not know what will come first: the World Cup or the funeral of Mandela.

This Week

This has been a busy week, too busy that I could not spare a moment to update my blog. I felt sorry.

Sorry because this is a social contract: that you log on or visit the blog with hope for something new. And I know how bad it feels to visit and be greeted by old articles. But there were good reasons.

It was all because of the training I am undergoing here in Germany. I was busy all day Sunday and Monday. Tuesday, we had to leave for Nunberg and travelled for six hours on the road, seeing the real Germany.

I saw maize farms. What do they do with the maize? I asked our course manager, Charles, a brilliant Ugandan who is a German now.

"They us it here," he said. But most of it, he added, is bought by government and kept for donations to people who may lack the cereal. I saw cattle as well and spent time admiring their countryside, which is not as country as in Malawi, but still countryside.

On the afternoon of Tusday we visited several old cathedrals of Nunberg, a largely Catholic area in Germany.

Catholicism, as I have been learning, is not adored here. Most young people go to church once a year on Christmas and they disagree a lot with the Pope, especially on use of condom and contraceptions.

Wednesday morning was for more visits, and the afternoon for more travelling, six hours, to Mainz, outside Frankfurt.

I was tired that it was refreshing to start Thursday with a visit to Gurtenbeg Museum, this man who, according to European history, invented printing. (You should also read Indian and African history and decide where printing as we know it today started.) We saw the bibles he printed, 40 of the 70. Some are in other parts of the world.

The afternoon was for more educational visits to TV stations, just like Friday morning, just before we had eight hours on the road back to Berlin.

It was like a journey back home, everyone of us was happy to be back to Berlin. This is the city where we came first. This is the city that we know best. We know where to eat, where to buy telephone cards, where to walk and all that.

The other cities we visited were just part of a journey. We checked in at a hotel on Tuesday afternoon and had to check out on Wednesday morning. Tiresome. But it is all part of learning management.

Now I am back in Berlin and can sit here, at the lobby of Motel One to browse and update my blog. Internet is free here but very expensive in the hotels of the cities we visited.

I am happy to be here, very happy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Separated by Sky, Sunday, August 23, 2009

This has been a good day yet tough. I have been indoors much of the time except for lunch and an undeground train ride.

I have spent time listening to some of my favourite music. I brought music from home: Kalambe River Jazz Band, Chikowa Band, Mike Kamwendo, Chechamba, MBC Band (the old one), Stonard Lungu, Tsoka Liyenda, Roots, and such music.

But I also spent time listening to music on Youtube. My favourite music from Michael Card, Steve Green and Fernando Ortega. All great musicians and great writers of music.

This train ride that took me to Alexander Platz was an experience. I went out and looked at the blue skies or what I want to be blue skies. And I saw a wide(less) space. The sky, I realised, can be wide, perhaps vast.

Then I felt a great loneliness. This sky swallowed me up from Malawi to Germany. Now it feels bad. This is my second week in Germany and I am missing my love so much.

It is tough because I am counting up to a third week before I start counting down to the day I shall see her. Four weeks can be a long time. I never knew the sky can separate people like this. I never thought the sky is this wide. I had never understood that the sky is this powerful. Perhaps some day I will write a poem (perhaps a long piece) on the sky.

But I have some joy. The sky does not take for good. I will overcome this and soon my joy and her joy will be full. We shall be together under a tree outside our house, looking into each others' eyes and smiling.

The sky can only separate. It is land that swallows for good. When we bury our friends and relatives, we know we shall not see them again, on the earth.

But the sky swallows to give back. The same sky that swallowed me at Chileka will take me back, down there, mid next month.

Saturday Afternoon

This has been a wonderful day, restful yet hectic. I was lucky to find a congregation that meets in the morning.

The people were friendly. They smiled at me and hugged me. The service was in German but well at the end of the day, God is one. I think I was getting the sense that God is love, that He loves us all.

In the afternoon, I went round seeing God's creation. Our team, part of it, was off to Potsdam, a city near Berlin (you would think they are one). It was by underground from my hotel just outside Moritz, then by bus from Alexander on to Potsdam where we were on a ship for one and a half hours, appreciating the beauty of the German.

We were on Havel River. Then connected to several lakes, small, not comparable to our lakes in Malawi. The sight of castles and palaces, some as old as 300 years was a comfort.

Potsdam is different: more green than Berlin, less cars than Berlin. We met a few men in some traditional regalia and they said they were performing a last ritual for a boy before he marries. The groom is supposed to sell some small things and raise funds just a symbol of hard work not necessarily fund raising, they say.

On the ship, we met another team, of ladies with a bride doing almost the same as the groom was doing. But this groom and bride are not for each other.

"This is for rural parts," said our guide. "I would not do that." I understood her. Germany is a country with 70 percent of women single. Life, they say, is tough and marriage is scaring. You see few children (babies rather) on the streets.

Even the government is worried because this means the working class is growing old and there may not be enough young people to replace the labour force.

German young people say it is expensive to raise children here. True. But I don't think that is the whole reason. Perhaps young people just don't want responsibility. They want to enjoy and do what they want. (Life outside marriage responsibilities can be funny but not the best.)

Later in the afternoon, as we arrived back at our hotel, we met a demonstration, a huge one, with police guiding the demonstrators.

There are elections next month here and campaign is hot. This demonstration was against one party that, according to people, is not for their common good. There were over five thousand demonstrators. Each of them with a beer, most of them smoking, and I wondered if at all there is a German who does not smoke.

They were drinking and breaking bottles on the tarmac. There was loud music from vehicles, really loud. This was a loooooong snake of demonstrators that it took one hour for them to pass by our hotel. Anyway, each group would stop, sing, dance and do all kinds of things.

I saw this with my eyes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Best Yet To Come

Thoughts about my mother (77) and father (80) have come to me strongly of late. You are blessed to have both parents living at that old age, says my love.

I don't know why. But slowly, I am appreciating what they did to me. Now that I have made a name as a journalist and I have a stable income, I tend to think, "If it were not for mom and dad, what would have happened to me?" Honestly, I don't know. I would not know, after all.

I have friends who lost one or both parents. My best friend (he is as good as my brother) Bright Molande lost his mother about two decades ago. He wishes she were here to appreciate his loving wife, Naireti. (Bright, like many others, was touched by my entry on "Pain of a Loving Wife" that he wrote privately in appreciation.)

Near my home village in Balaka is Lucius Banda who has been open about the pain of poverty he experienced while young.

Lucius had what he calls a not so careful father. It was the mother who raised the children. Both Paul and Lucius (these are brothers) have sung about mothers in general, not necessarily their mother. But it also about their mother and Lucius is clear about that.

Lucius laments that this mother, who struggled to raise her children, died on the eve of his getting rich and getting a wife. He thinks his mother is hiding, hence he called his band Zembani Music Company.

This is the pain of being successful after the death of those who inspired us. It can be painful. This means those of us with living parents should be thankful and do all we can to make them and ourselves happy.

I went to primary school two decades ago. I walked 10 kilometres to school everyday. My mother, I remember, would stand there at times, gazing at me as I left home for school. Often, Iwould walk this distance alone because I was the only one from the neighbourhood going to school.

Mom, I think, was concerned with the bushes I had to pass through. Mom, I think, was worried with the rivers I had to cross, when it rained. Three of them: Mitengwe (a stone-throw away from home; Bondo; and Chimwalire (let it die) some four kilometrs to school.

Chimwalire! This is the river that killed ambitions of young people. They dropped out of school and started vegetable farming here.

But this river did not kill my ambitions. Thanks mom. Thanks dad. Thanks to all who encouraged me on the way, those I met on the via. They are many. (One day I shall list them in a separate article.)

Now I think mom was not looking at me as I walked to school. She was gazing at my distant future. Now that future is here. Zokoma ziri mtsogolo, she used to say, meaning the best is yet to come.

Now I have been educated and I am still educating myself. Now I have a job. Now I have been to places. Now I no longer walk, instead, I drive over the same distance of 10 kilometres to work, not primary school.

Now I am in Germany. Now I have a loving lady of my life. In short, I am enjoying. The good part of it is that mom and dad are here to see all this.

I don't know how I shall feel when they are gone. Kodi zokoma zija mayi ankati ziri mtsogolo ndi zimenezi kapena zikubwera? (Is this the best mom said would meet me or the best is yet to come?)

Saturday, 22 August, 2009

It is 7:15 in the morning and I have just finished talking with my love. She called from Malawi. Wonderful, isn’t it?

I am a Seventh Day Adventist and my plan is to go to church this morning and appreciate God’s nature in the afternoon as part of worship, a praise to higher powers called God, the author and sustainer of life—all life on earth and elsewhere.

But as I am learning, the congregation I was supposed to join meets at 2 pm. My task is to hunt for one that meets in the morning.

After a week’s hard work, I need some rest; after an academically high week, I need to remember that I am a human being, created in the image of God. It is very important. We all worship, whatever and however.

The weather remains cloudy. Not sure if it is going to rain. But it is warm and I am enjoying every bit of my stay here. Yet I miss home.

Then how come I am enjoying at the same time missing home? Isn’t this contradictory? Well, the human mind is complicated enough to live a contradictory life just as I have been thinking about church yet reflecting on the call from Malawi.

I will be back on these pages soon, when I have issues to write.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

I wake up to thunder and look outside to see clouds for the first time since my arrival in Berlin. The past six days have been all sunny, with blue skies, though not as blue as the beautiful skies of Malawi.

This evening, I am looking back at the day. It has been hectic, as the rest of the days. The eleven of us from Africa are not here on vacation. The Germans can have tight schedules. We have classes from 9 am to 1 pm for a bried break before regrouping for an afternoon session that ends after 4.

Today, we knocked off a little earlier because we had to go round Berlin on the bus and underground train. It was interesting to be part of city life. We have been all over the shopping centres. But that is not very important. For me, it is Parliament where we found long queues of tourists waiting to get in and have a feel. The residence of the Chancellor is another important place and other historical sites.

The freedom to take ppictures even outside the palace amazed me again. I was reminded of the pictures I took the kings castle in Norway. Just so simple. I long for a day I shall be able to go to gardens of Parliament in Malawi, lie there and relax and take pictures.

Our guide is always mindful of the Germany's history and always talks with reference to the past.

I love that because you can't understand the present if you don't know the past and you cannot plan the future without understanding the present. I worry that history is dying in our secondary schools in Malawi. We are so much fixed on science as if science operates in a cultural/historical vacuum.

But this is a lone voice. Who is else sees things as I do? If you think history is important as Kamuzu believed, then drop me a line.

Otherwise, I am tired and need some rest. It is raining, somehow heavy and I need all the warmth my beddings can provide. I hope to update the blog in the next few hours.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

20 August, 2009, Immediacy of Communication

This afternoon, like the rest of my days here in Berllin, I was on yahoo! messenger, chatting up my love in Malawi.

For a moment, I was amazed with this immediacy of communication. I could see that she is writing but I could still feel a delay: Is she still writing? Why not just send what she has written so that I read?

Then I asked myself: Where has patience gone? Twenty years ago and before that, I would not have been sitting on a desk, punching keys on a laptop, talking with anyone in Malawi. The means of communication then was mail, a letter through the post office.

It would take a month for a letter to leave Germany and reach Malawi. For someone like me, staying a month, I would not have dared write a letter maybe. I would have known I will be home by the time it gets there.

The situation is different today. We can't imagine life without internet. Yet there was no internet a generation ago. This technology has become so much part of life that we can't imagine life without internet.

As we enjoy this technology that has brought immediacy of communication, we must not forget the basics of communication, even language skills.

Even more importantly, when I will be writing the story of my life, shall I get these yahoo! messenger chats to include in a biography? Do we still have the joys that were brought by letters written by hand?

Those of us who experienced free hand letters, in own handwriting, and are now in the internet age, how do w e feel about the letters through the post office?

How much will internet keep for me? Not just in terms of storage and archiving but in terms of how much goes into it as opposed to a letter? We put so much in a friendly letter, that we can't write while chatting up each other on yahoo! messenger.

Technology is good, but for a writer like me, it is also superficial, a stealth killer of creativity. Yet I am benefiting from it, anyway, because I will be on yahoo! messenger again tomorrow.

20 August, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18

For Bright Molande,

The gods, this morning I saw things that must not hapen in Africa, our beautiful continent. I was on a train, this underground snake, and a young woman sat opposite me.

She was wearing a doubting face. She had a cup of hot coffee and was holding on to her bike which looked more important to her than human beings. I felt sorry for her. She was miserable. Not just because life is tough here, but because there is no soial fabric to sustain life. A man must care for himself.

The moment she got out of the train, she ran with her bike and jumped on it, as if rushing for nowhere. A companion is a bike, a dog, or a newspaper.

Life here is never enjoyable. This lady spoke with nobody on the train. Passengers were busy behind newspapers, novels, and nothing at all. This made me miss Africa, sweet home. In a train in Malawi, I would have been listening to a stranger telling me how he married his first wife and third wife.

All I mean is that in Africa I would have been engaged in some conversation, not just sitting there as if for no apparent reason.

Now that you and me know these thing and believe Malawi is best, let us shout to Malawians that our culture is the best.

Good bye for now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday Dawn

18 August 2009

It is 20 minutes to four at dawn. I am up on my hotel bed, thinking, writing and reflecting on my MA thesis, an indepth analysis of the dramartugical handling of the local and alien in the plays of Wole Soyinka and Dereck Walcott: Postcolonial Identities and Culture.

I am hungry and I love this because my favourite meal is breakfast and I will hammer it with all the energy and hunger.

Berllin has what the locals are calling the longest summer this year. I love it. And they love it too. Here, too, I begin to appreciate (again) some things we take for granted in Malawi. A typical example being the rising and setting sun as seen from most places in my home.

Here, in Berlin, you don’t see the sun rising or setting. This beauty of nature, the day star, is blocked by tall buildings as in all other cities I have been to: Oslo, Amsterdam, Washington and Jo’rburg; while Accra, Mombasa, Arusha, Nairobi and other African cities see the sun (and I speak as a witness), Malawi’s rising and setting sun is more inspiring for reasons I can’t explain.

Perhaps it is nature’s favour upon us. I will never forget the rising and setting sun in Cape Maclear. In the morning it rises up with energies as if being lifted from the waters of Monkeybay while in the evening, it is a weak star, drowning in the hills of Golomoti.

It is sweet and lovely. In Blantyre you see the sun rising, moving up slowly from behind some mountain, so too in most parts of Malawi. I miss this, I miss my love too.

The pain in my mouth is completely gone. The sores are healed. This is my disease. It attacks me when I am stressed up and the weeks before Germany were stressful.

But don’t you worry. I am fine and I will be fine throughout my stay here in Germany. Good to talk with you now. I will talk with you again, soon, especially as time and inspiration allow me to do so.
Monday, 17 August, 2009

It is 10:08 PM. I am in my room marking examination scripts for my University of Malawi students. I teach two courses at Chancellor College (Introduction to Journalism and Writing Skills).

There is a picture of my love on the bed. She is looking at me and smiling. She looks really beautiful.

But beyond that, it is wonderful to discover that she has a beautiful character too: open, thoughtful, and working towards happiness, always. I am really proud to be associated with you, my love.

Here, I am also thinking how you and me will spend Christmas. Let this be a special Christmas because, for the first time in my working life, I am free on Christmas. It is strange but I must accept this and find what to do on the day.

The phrase is: “I am all yours, take me where you want.”

The day has been nice. Got to know Germany more and more. The people here don’t forget that Berlin was once divided into two: West and East. There was a wall that symbolised the boundary between two systems: Communism on the East and Capitalism on the West. But the wall fell down and the people are one, once more. Yet they are mindful of their history.

Our guide did something wonderful today. She took us in the morning and did almost that in the afternoon but left us midway and said here is a shopping centre, do what you want and ride a train back to the hotel.

I was with my Nigerian friend Atiku Akiru, a young person with a reasonable understanding of postcolonial societies. I am yet to ask how far he went with education. But I am well pleased with his understanding of these issues.

I am listening to an interesting song.

Don’t be afraid
To feel this way
Lord gonna make you understand
It’s called faith

I am enjoying it all. I hope you are enjoying yourself as well and that you are eagerly awaiting my coming.

I love you and you are the one I am waiting to see.

Keep well and stay in touch.

Germany Diary

Sunday, 2:06 PM

Arrived safely this morning. It was nice from Blantyre to Jo’burg. Nice too from Jo’burg to Frankfurt Inter Aiport. This is where I had to walk a distance to gate A 16, a distance as if from Chilobwe to Zingwangwa to board a plane to Berlin.

By nine, I was at my hotel to be joined by six others later. As you know, I am tired and needed a hot shower and sleep. Yet that is not the case. I cannot check-in until three o’clock in the afternoon and you wonder at this service.

It’s the German way of doing things, says Christiane, our hostess. She has been to the US and was amazed with people’s willingness to help and quality of service.

Now I have just been eating at a restaurant outside the hotel. I was with my new found friend, for this period, Atiku Abubakar Akiru, from Kaduna in Northern Nigeria. I am back at the hotel, failing to connect my laptop to wireless internet and calling for more creativity into spending time and dozing on a chair. This is a test of pateince.

We have been given mobile phone cards with 10 Euores but some of us can’t call.

I can’t call, I can’t e-mail. I still don’t have a room, still haven’t had a shower 28 hours after my morning shower in Malawi. This is why I have just composed this piece of writing to be sent to you later.

I am writing and will write till I doze off. The pain in my mouth was so terrible this morning and it remains so. I have never had such pain from mouth ulcers. I can’t chew properly, can’t speak properly, my lips are dry and I have fever.

But I am well. Don’t worry about me. I will be well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Power, Weakness of Distance

Distance is at once strong, at once weak.

It carries us away from our loved ones. It flies us into lands and places, new and familiar, far away from our homes. Distance carries us into places we have never been before.

Distance will carry me away from Malawi to Berlin in Germany this Sunday, August 16, 2009. I am going for a TV Station Management course lasting a month. It is a source of joy to travel, to see new places especially. Yet leaving the familiar, the everyday routine is also a source of sorrow.

I will miss my bedroom. I will miss my house. I will miss the road I drive on everyday, especially the delays caused by tracks on the Magalasi Road. I will miss my workmates.

But these are things and do not appeal to feelings and emotions. It is human beings who appeal to emotions and feelings. Human beings also appeal to reason and common sense. So my friends in Malawi will miss me just as I will miss plenty of them.

Still, as always, one person will be missed a lot more than everybody else. But at the end of one month, the same distance will carry me home from what was becoming familiar to the missed familiar, to the one I missed most.

Then, upon being welcomed by friends and relatives, I will prove that distance is a coward. It carries you away and brings you back to your place.

Story From My Heart

Some day, perhaps soon, I will tell you a story from my heart.

This is a story that is very personal yet universal. It is a story about a meeting of two lives that are blending into one yet they remain separate. A mystery, isn't it? Well, love is a mystery by nature; it is difficult to understand love, hence love can better be experienced than explained.

What is it that makes a man like me appreciate a girl, one particular lady, not everybody else? This is a crucial question. But does it have an answer?

Some day, perhaps soon, perhaps long from now, I will write about how two lives met and agreed to form one life.

This will be an interesting story.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Best of Pain

The most painful experiences of our lives, whatever they are, have potential to do two things; and this is universal.

Pain will either harden our hearts or soften them in which case we do not wish the same to happen to others. This is the choice I have made: to view every pain, every challenge with a critical, positive eye and get the best from it.

Years ago, I was listening to a BBC interview with Professor Chinua Achebe and he was asked whether or not he regretted the terrible accident which left him paralysed from the waist down.

No, he said. “If not me, who did I want it to be?” he asked. Good question. An accident, any accident, is bad news. No one wants it to happen to them. Here was a man, just like most others, enjoying a ride on the road until suddenly, in a twinkling of an eye, everything changes. He is injured, in pain, and his whole life changes, just in a fraction of a second.

Yet after months in hospital and coming out on a wheel chair, Achebe still carries a smile and accepts the accident had to happen to him. Rare. “If not me, who did I want it to be?”

But it is not easy to have a heart softened by pain, especially pain inflicted upon us by those who hate us. Yet the best weapon to fight our enemies—those who hate us for we must hate no one—is a smile. Hard. But it remains the best. Our smiles torture our enemies—again those who hate us, not those we hate for we must hate no one.

Life is supposed to be beautiful but pain disturbs our journey of joy. Worse than that, some pain is inflicted upon us by man. If we can learn to accept pain, natural or man inflicted, our hearts will be softened.

The world is looking for people with hearts that are softened by pain. Such people are rare but this generation needs more and more of such people. Are you ready to develop a soft heart from pain?

This is a question for you—and me too.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pain of a Loving Wife

It is the desire of every person to love and to be loved. But loving wives do not bring joy only, they bring sorrow as well.

I have come across Lulu’s song Kumalembe, in which the persona laments the death of his mother. As I am writing, I am listening to the song. I have been a happy person until this song when I started feeling for my mother. I am worried. The pain is caused by her happiness.

Mayi mudachoka kale
Kumalembe ndiribe nako mawu
Ndimafuna mukadaona apongozi
Makhalidwe monga munkachitira

The persona has married a very good, loving woman who reminds him his mother who died long time ago. He is supposed to be happy, but the loving wife is also a source of sorrow: the loving wife reminds him of his loving mother who did not see her daughter-in-law. I wish my mother had seen my wife, laments the persona.

This is the pain of it all. It is a deep subject well tackled by Lulu, our young musician. It is not that the persona wants a bad wife. But how does he reconcile the desire to have his mother and a good wife living side by side and the reality that he has a good wife who reminds him of his late mother? How does the loving wife fill the spaces left by his mother, the visible spaces, the absence he is feeling because of presence?

My mother knows how to prepare thobwa and vegetables and meat and tasty nsima. Her wish now is to see me in the hands of a loving wife who would love me, care for me; one who would be lovable because my mother taught me how to love.

Those of us with mothers living do not only have them as a source of happiness, but also sadness if we are not yet married?

My father, now I recall, turns out to be a good cook as well. He is good at meat, especially chicken. He can roast a chicken and you wonder at it. Still on my father, he used to press my school uniform in the morning and let me feel the warmth of the iron. In retrospect, I realise that warmth represented the warmth of his love.

So, too, mom. She had her way of keeping food warm. I used to walk 10 kilometres to and from school and coming back at about three in the afternoon, I would be hungry and tired.

But the food she kept for me was great, always. She kept it warm and fresh and wanted me to be happy. She would give food, and tell me to eat at table. “When you rest my son,” she would say, “you should go to the grocery or market."

So, my day would come to an end like that, with an evening of another meal, prayer and study. Mom was good at telling me to work hard in school. My son, she used to say, you are my last born, work hard in school. It seems to me she left blank spaces because now I think she meant that I was a weak boy because I was last born.

She knew my wealth was in my brain and had to nurture it academically which is what I have done. I have walked a long road, rough and painful at times.

But I never lost time really. I ended up in the University of Malawi where I read for a BA in Journalism and now finishing my MA in English Literature. I have a good job that cares for me and my old parents. I am able to give them the best health care and provide for their needs.

Yet my mom's death will haunt me if my wife will be as loving as my mom. Her death will haunt me, too, if my wife turns out to be bad, just bad.

But it seems to me these things are better experienced than explained. Love is more complicated than we think. It is a source of happiness, yet a source of sorrow, a kind of sorrow that comes from happiness and ends in happiness.

Hopefully you will comment on this subject and we discuss it more and more.

Reason, Common Sense Versus Feelings and Emotions

The road from Blantyre to Zomba, if you know (or don’t know it), is small, bumpy, and winding, for whatever reason, like a man’s ways.

The bends are moments of feelings which can be powerful, the bumps like emotions which can be strong to the extent of taking man out of his way into something resembling the Blantyre-Zomba Road: bumps, corners and narrowness.

Can a man or woman, an adult like me, be excited with emotions and feelings and act foolishly? Yes. Can love make a person act on feelings and emotions, not reason and common sense? Yes.

But maybe it is not love in its real meaning. Perhaps this is not a valid question. The question should be: can love be rational, reasonable and based on common sense? These are difficult questions.

What is it that attracts a man to a woman? The answers could as many as there are men. But as for me, it is good height, firm breasts, flat tummy (no waistlines please), nice shape (can’t explain but I know what I mean), and the mysteries that attract me.

This is about appearances. But love is more than that; in fact, love is about something deeper than appearance. Hundreds of girls can fit into my definition of beauty. Is it that I can love anyone who looks as such? The answer is no. But I can, for a moment, be attracted to anyone who fits the description.

The difference—and this is an important difference—is that sexual love works on feelings and emotions. You see a woman and that sight leads to something else, even dangerous. This is the whole story: life has taught me that love must be based on reason and common sense, not on feelings and emotions. The difficult part of it is that common sense does not make sense.

So the immediate conclusion is that love can never be rational, reasonable and based on common sense. But this conclusion lacks common sense. This is the reason it is accepted by millions because wisdom from common sense is not common; it is wisdom that does not make sense and is rejected.

Why do you love the one you love? “Love does not make sense,” says Alfred Kanjere, a marketing executive in Blantyre. “The moment you know why you love someone, it is no longer love.” Perhaps it is business. Is it really that love does not make sense or common sense about love does not make sense?

Love should be based on reason and common sense. But this does not rule out physical attraction. It is very important. But most importantly, choice of a life partner must be a serious matter that takes effort. And for one to reason and apply common sense, they must know their prospective life partner. And knowing someone comes from talking, talking heart to heart: communication.

The challenge is that feelings and emotions are ruling over reason and common sense. People are in a hurry; weddings are in fashion. There is a wave of pressure on young people, especially girls, to marry within a given period. Beyond that there is fear they may become rejects.

The speed with which some relationships end into marriage assumes that the people involved work on feelings and emotions, not reason and common sense.

Reason and common sense realise that two people from different backgrounds need to talk over issues before commitment. Reason and common sense look at compatibility with the seriousness it deserves. Reason and common sense recognise that we do not marry an individual; instead, we marry a family, sometimes a village, even a country. Reason and common sense accept that marriage is about sweet days and sour, sometimes, bitter days. Reason and common sense appreciate that life is about weddings and funerals, safety and accidents, health and sickness, victories and tears. So, reason and common sense ask a person what diseases they suffer from. Reason and common sense discuss differences in faith, culture, and background.

Reason and common sense accept parting as a way to meet again because people who don’t part can’t meet again, anyway. So reason and common sense are at the realistic level, not at fantasy.

If you love a person’s personality long before physical attraction, just personality and nothing more or less, and nothing sure about it all, yet happy and confident, you are operating at the level of reason and common sense.

Back to what appeals to my sight (good height, flat tummy, firm breasts etc). If I meet a lady and love her before I see her breasts and tummy, how do you explain that?

Could I be cheating myself? Or operating at a higher level? The level of reason and common sense that put first things first. The things I like are part of physical beauty which can change with time and the danger is that if I stick to the qualities, I would want someone younger than what I have all the time. But the higher qualities (the personality) appreciated by reason and common sense are almost permanent.

Reason and common sense are important for the choice of a life partner (and indeed any friend) but also for the sustenance of a relationship.

We are living in a dot com age in which to be out of reach is as good as being dead. How do you feel when a person you want is out of reach? Angry? Yes, if you are on feelings and emotions. Reason and common will appreciate that technology can fail and that it does not cover all space and time. Patience results from reason and common sense, not feelings and emotions, not at all.
A person who accepts that a mobile phone can go off or can be out of reach, is applying reason and common sense.

Reason and common sense are crucial for our understanding that a person can be called into duty that prevents him or her from attending to something else. It is lack of reason and common sense that takes away patience. And the absence of patience is a source of trouble, great trouble that has put lives in real trouble. In fact, one can do a whole essay on lack of patience and its troubles.

Reason sounds unreasonable, common sense produces uncommon wisdom. But if you want to be different, operate at a higher level of reason and common sense, not feelings and emotions.