Thursday, April 03, 2008

I’m turnin’ Portugese, I think I’m turnin’ Portugese…..

One of the truly neat things about Dedza and Ntcheu (apart from the mountains, cool temperatures and guavas) is that they’re both very close to the Mozambique border. In fact, there’s a stretch of highway between them that essentially is the border. Driving along it you can see buildings on the one side that were partially destroyed in the Mozambiquan civil war (some still have Portugese signs on them) while the other side is Malawian. (I’d like to read more about the civil war, so if anyone has any book suggestions post a comment!) I’ve been told that since the administrative centres of Mozambique are so far from the Malawian border, for all intents and purposes the people living along the Mozambique side are Malawian.

At any rate, with the border so tantalizingly close I was entertaining thoughts of jaunting across and visiting Mozambique. That was before I accidentally and illegally entered the county.

It all started when I boarded a mini-bus from Ntcheu to Dedza to meet up with Luke for the first time. He gave me clear instructutions to get out at the first Dedza turn-off (Dedza, unlike Ntcheu, is somewhat off the highway) and to take a bicycle taxi (you sit on a carrier over the back wheel and put your feet on two handy footrests) to the Dedza bus depot that’s right by the Dedza CU office. Unfortunately, the police check-point next to the big sign that says ‘Dedza’ is NOT one of the Dedza turn-offs, but it is where I jumped out of the mini-bus. I got a bicycle taxi driver who hardly seemed to speak any English, but since he’d discussed directions with a police officer who did, I hopped onto the bike feeling fairly confident.

My first hint that something was terribly, terribly wrong was when we reached an incredibly steep paved road and went screaming down it at top speed. Luke had mentioned that the ride in was ‘nice and relaxing along dirt roads’ whereas I was clutching the bike seat in terror, praying the bike wouldn’t fall apart. We eventually coasted into a deserted parking lot with a few vendor stand opposite. I walked up to one of the vendors and asked where the bus depot was. He looked at my blankly, asked his friend something, then burst into laughter. Turns out my bike taxi had taken me to the Mozambique side of the road, and not into Dedza at all.

So I hopped back on, and we proceeded back to the highway, then over it, then through all the backstreets of Dedza while my bike driver tried in vain to find the bus depot. At one point, we ended up inching along a narrow strip of grass with the wall of a housing compound on one side and a deep sewage ditch on the other. That was when the heavens opened and started to pour rain. We ended up jumping the ditch, and I eventually squelched into the CU office and asked for a place to change my soaking clothes. (It wasn’t the first-day impression I wanted to give but I don’t think they’ve held it against me.)

Now, I’m not completely sure whether I actually got to Mozambique or not, but I like to believe I did. I also like to hope that the next time I visit I’ll be slightly more legal and slightly less lost :)


Jill said...

Hahaha Oh Megan, you make me laugh! I hope I won't have to make my way to Africa to bail you out of jail though ;) If I come visit, I'd like a good reason to (ie just to visit you!)

Anonymous said...

Glad you are alive and well and having tons of adventures over there :)

Emily said...

hey megan. i just learned that you'll be my coach in malawi

i can't wait!

Emilie and David said...

Hey Megs!
Its great to be reading your stories again! I can just imagine you on that bike racing down the hill!

How is the family you are living with?

Can't wait to hear more



Arthur Kong said...


I most enjoy your stories. You seem like you're having quite the interesting time so far. Miss you lots!!!!!!