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    Chunky water

    March 30th, 2007 by mary

    On board the truck we carry about a dozen jerry cans of water that we fill at whatever campsite has it available. Some times it comes out of a hose and when we’re lucky there’s a tap. Having a tap doesn’t mean it’s fit for consumption though, even after the chlorine tablets. But that’s what we use to cook and wash with. Some people (us excluded) are brave, or pinching pennies, enough to drink it. Even if you can get over the often yellow-brownish color of the water, there is nothing quite so unappetizing as floatie pieces in water. Even watching a line of ants march in and out of the cans won’t deter me as much as unidentifed chunks. But then we have learned that it’s often best not to look too close at things. Ignorance is best.

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    A bugged life

    March 30th, 2007 by mary

    I remember the days at home when I would run out a room if I saw anything crawling that didn’t have a social security number. But living and traveling in Africa for six months has changed that a bit. Now a shower is acceptable if there aren’t a couple of 5″ slugs, spiders are okay as long as the cobwebs aren’t in the stream of the water, giant moths are tolerable if they stay on the wall, beetles are left alone as long as i can see them, and I just glaze over the mildew, dirt and rust. Every few minutes I take inventory to make sure they’re all still on the walls, ceiling and fixtures and not sneaking around. The sinks are a whole other issue. I’ve shared taps with beetles, colonies of ants, spiders, furry worms, wasps, grasshoppers, and countless other creepy crawly and flying insects. I don’t even want to get into the details of the bathrooms. Just imagine having to drop your drawers in a neglected, therefore thriving, insectarium. Actually, no don’t do that. Therefore dim lighting is preferred; the less seen the better. But the worst is when the power goes out. Then you want to flee but are too afraid to move and the words ‘they’re more afraid of you than you are of them’ sounds ludicrous.

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    The hot bed of malaria

    March 16th, 2007 by steve

    That’s the unofficial byline for Malawi. The country is stunning with its rolling green mountains strewn with straw huts, kids playing with balls they made with blown up condoms wrapped with plastic bags and twine. Lake Malawi itself is a site; a massive ocean sized body of fresh water plagued with balharzia (a parasite that grows in snails and follows the trail of urine to their human hosts). Its sandy shores were perfect places to pitch our tents and camp a few lazy days away. It’s a very quiet, subdued country where the only hustle and bustle is at the souvenir shacks where they try to sell all kinds of wood carvings including the famous Malawi chairs and tables that they’ve polished with Kiwi Shoe Shine. One day as we were looking out over the water we saw what looked like smoke rising out of the water in the distance but there was no visible fire or island. It turns out that they have colossal fly storms with literally millions of lake flies swarming around blocking out the sky, so dense that it looked black from miles away. We also happened to be there at the beginning of rainy season and half way through got hit by a riotous storm. It was during spiked punch night so while many were wobbling around camp the lightning show was exploding over the water. First the thunder approached us with increasing volume, then we noticed the heightened lightning activity (which was phenomenal to watch). When the galing winds hit us and the first few drops fell we ran to get the tarp over our tent. We tried to warn the drunken crowd but their hearing was impaired. Just as we were about to finish staking in the tarp the downpour (and here I stress DOWN POUR) hit us like a wall enclosing us under Yosemite Falls. The lightning and thunder were on top of and each strike was deafening and not only shook our bones but sounded like the earth and sky had cracked open in unison. The seams in our tent started to leak but there so was nothing more we could do but sleep it out. In the morning everyone was trying to recover from the camp site turned swamp. Walking around meant sloshing in six inches of water and some tents fared better than others. There was a direct correlation between how much punch people drank and how soaked their stuff got.

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