Malawians are some of the happiest people on earth. The nation may be amongst the poorest countries on the planet (with one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world), but the humour, the energy, the humanity and the vitality of Malawi is evident everywhere you go. Of course there are the drunks, the corrupt, the misleading, the evil and the pantomime villains, as in every paradise nation, but just to put the place to the test (something I wouldn’t dream of doing anywhere else in the world), I bantered a little with the security guard when making my way through the airport. I NEVER recommend you do this! I may have been a bit stupid…
According to my temporary visa, I was supposed to leave Malawi yesterday. The date the immigration office had stamped into my passport was the day of my flight, which apparently means I’m supposed to be out of the country before the date stamped (I doubt it, but it was cause for argument at immigration). A few African “eeehs” and “ah ah ahhhs” along with a smile and a few pleasantries meant I wasn’t in trouble. The controller “adjusted” my stamp so that I could be on my way.
The stupid bit came when I had my bags checked through security. Noticing the guard seem a little day-dreamy, I may have responded too enthusiastically when asked “what is in here?” as he pointed to the flat package wrapped in paper under my arm. “That’s my gun” I replied, testing the humour of the friendliest nation I’ve ever been to. “Eeeeeh”, said the guard. “It does not look like a gun”, he stated. Now, this guy was intelligent. It was a flat, square package, wrapped tightly with newspaper as christmas present would be and secured in place with thin, rubber string. “You’re right! Maybe I mistook it. What do you think I have picked up?” I asked. He knocked the package with his fist. “Wood!” he exclaimed. “I think it’s my chess board”, I said. “Do you know where your gun is?” he asked, with a grimacing smile on his face. “I don’t travel with a gun, Officer”, I said. “I actually don’t own a gun. I do travel with a chess board though, and now I have a new one”. “Ahhhh, eeeeh, I never played chess” said the guard. “It’s a good game” I told him, “maybe you should learn?”. “Ahhhh” he explained, “No. Too dangerous!”
He smiled as he checked the inside of my shoes and patted me down. He gave my chess board another knock and wished me “Safe flying”. I said “I’ll be fine. I have my gun”. He fist bumped me.
Cheerful, friendly, welcoming, and yet still able to search me without me feeling paranoid that I had broken the law by just showing up. I would say a few other countries could learn a thing or two about how to treat their guests and how people should be able to cross borders while officers do their jobs most politely – even if they have the nerve to be as suggestive I was about something I probably would have been pinned to the ground for, or worse, in the U.S.
On every journey, there’s a time to reflect, a time to learn, a time to wonder about what’s next. A time away from social media and sharing. Following the connections I’ve made in Malawi, with the ideas and dreams that have caused so much discussion, I already know that the summary of this adventure, is just the introduction. Next year already involves two continents and multiple countries and enough to occupy myself for at least a short lifetime.
Adventures only happen when you begin a journey. Malawi began at the dawn of time, but for us, it’s still just the beginning…