I step out of Ethiopian Air Boeing 757 to be welcomed by warm sunshine, colorful flowers, and a building, not too big, proudly bearing “Kamuzu International Airport”. Welcome to Malawi! 😀
I take my first on the land of this country, full of contentment. A part of a dream has come true. A shuttle bus awaits us in front of the plane steps, just to courteously take us towards the airport building. I get the first chance to see the warmth of people in the country that’s called “Warm Heart of Africa” as I see some of the people standing on the terrace warmly greet some men in our group.
Immigration, passport and visa check go very briefly without much hassle. Unlike what’s informed by people on the internet, I’m not asked how much money I have brought. In fact, no question at all at the immigration post. I got a stamp just like that. There’s only one luggage claim area, and I find my bags in only 10 minutes, thanks to the low number of passenger stopping at Lilongwe (the plane flies again to Mombasa, Kenya).
After exchanging my money (€1 = Rp 12,000 = 365 Malawian Kwacha), I just walk away towards the exit, unaware of the baggage declaration post. A lady stops me asking,
“Where are you going, ma’am?”
And I truthfully (a soft way of saying “stupidly”) answer, “Out?”
“What do you have in your bags?”
“Hmm clothes, food, usual stuffs for living.”
“Nothing for sale?”
She lets me pass, just to be stopped again by officers who seem to be dissatisfied by my ‘interview’. The man asks for my passport while the lady asks me where I come from, my purpose of visit, how long, working with whom. She then asks me to open my bag though seemingly satisfied with my answers. After all is decided to be okay, I proceed out, to meet my driver, who is waiting for me with a sign that bears “Aryanie A”. Oh yeah, talk about first time having airport pickup. :p
The trip from airport to Area 18 where I live takes about 20 minutes. My driver, called Chawo, was a very young man, looks younger than me. All I see, in the beginning, are savanna and trees. Sometimes cows, sometimes a group of people gathering around. People walking besides the big road (it’s not a toll/highway), cars and trucks on our way or the other. Cars are on the left side and drivers are on the right. British style (and Indonesian style). This is one of the things that’s related to British’s past ruling.
On the way we pass some buildings, two most memorable for me are a big storage building owned by state pharmaceutical company and a nice-looking complex of Lilongwe School of Management. After a stop at SANA supermarket to buy a mosquito net (MK 1,595 = IDR 52,000), we go to the lodge where I’ll be spending the night: Tafika Executive Lodge.
I am placed in a room with double beds, bathroom, fan, and TV. And of course mosquito net. I am already on the internet through my phone, so I start sending news to home. FYI, Lilongwe already has a Blackberry service, which pleasantly surprises me. I ask the lodge lady how much it costs to use their internet, and she says it’s MK 10 for every minute. After a shower I feel so tired and decide to sleep.
I wake up around 1,5 hours later in complete darkness. Apparently the power is still down, due to a regular cut-off. It reminds me of home, since we also had regular blackouts. So I go to the receptionist and the guy gives me an emergency lamp with batteries. I’m trying to write under its light. Now this is how it feels for the children who live without electricity but need to study or do their homework. Now I remember Kopernik with their K-Light project (still want to join the wonderful organization). Also other projects of solar panels.
For people who are lucky enough to be touched by power, electricity is life. For lots of children in developing countries, this is the challenge they must overcome. For the more or less 3,5 out of 6 billion people living from at least global middle-income, this is intolerable.
For me, this is the path of life I’ve chosen.