Monday, 2 May 2011

Off to Lilongwe.

A busy day trying to remember what I might have forgotten before heading over to Heathrow for a late night flight down to Nairobi to pick up the Lilongwe connection. Things began in disturbing fashion. A young Kenyan man in handcuffs and three deportation officers at the back of the plane. He had no intention of going quietly and kicked up huge and distressing protests, fighting and biting the officers until a mini revolt by the rest of the passengers forced them to remove him from the plane.

Soon though we were off and away south over the channel, into the night. I stayed awake as we drifted across the Alps, down the leg of Italy and fell gently to sleep as we headed towards the African coast. I was lucky and managed to get a row of three seats and so could almost stretch out in full.

The lights flicked on again with little over an hour to go before landing, outside the sun rising over the bush land and mountains of Kenya. A beautiful descent into the airport for a brief stopover. A huge bank of television's giving news of Bin Laden's demise in every language. An almost obscene amount of exposure to Obama sitting in a situation room, watching the assault live, like some glorified video game. Strange watching it in East Africa - although in the international community of the departure lounge all eyes are on the screens but opinions are carefully concealed.

I spent the second leg of the journey in conversation with Suliman, a Ugandan, who works for the UN, looking after the security of their officials. He'd been in Afghanistan for three years and was finding the relative calm of Lilongwe fairly uninspiring.

We touched briefly on the changing situation in Malawi. The British High Commissioner was sent home last week after a cable criticising the increasing authoritarian stance of the government was leaked. Suliman sighed and hoped that the country, which has had a relatively peaceful post-colonial history, wasn't heading for a more repressive era.

A taxi from the airport and safe arrival at the Theatre for a Change house to be welcomed by an old friend Martha the housekeeper, before heading out in the early evening with Patrick to the Mabuya backpackers camp to meet up up with the students - who seemed happily settled in.

Their journey had been very complicated with the initial flight out of London cancelled. A reschedule the following morning leading to a miss of connection in Addis Ababa and a night in an Ethiopian hotel their before arriving in the same clothes, Sunday afternoon, 48 hours after checking in. Tfac have done a brilliantly job of settling them in and they already seemed very at home in unfamiliar surroundings. Today had been spent running workshops and listening to testimonies from Burundi, Rwanda and DR Congo at a refugee camp on the edge of town. They were wide eyed and full of new stories and discoveries. It was great to hear their initial insights and experiences.



commoncents said...

CONGRATS on being chosen a Blog of Note... I really like your page!

Common Cents

Duncan D. Horne said...

That scuffle on the aeroplane before take-off sounds scary; it would certainly have unsettled me!

I see you were awarded the blog of note, so congrats for that!

Duncan In Kuantan

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