Tag Archives: bus

June 9th – Touch the Rock Once, Get Rain; Touch the Rock Twice, Your Bus Breaks Down

By Naomi Crisp

Big love for big trees

Big love for big trees

Today was our last day in Cape Maclear so we had our breakfast and headed into town where there was a market. We decided to go to the market place after we visited 3 historical sites; after of course we hugged a baobab tree (I was very excited for that moment). The first was the burial of a missionary in the 1800s. He was one of the people that came with Livingstone but ultimately died due to his dedication. On the way along the road we saw some huge monkeys quite close to us just walk around the village, it’s funny to see how touristy our group gets when there is a monkey. We moved on to see where a church was going to be built by the missionaries but the villagers decided they wanted to build it closer to town. Finally we went to a WWF site that focused on the inhabitants of Lake Malawi. It was interesting to gain some history on the land as it is so easy to just walk past these things and never know its story. We then got some time in the market where we picked up some gifts for our families. The woodwork was beautiful!

After being in our own world at the market, we had to rush to the bus to catch it for 12 pm. All packed up, we left the lodge, but another surprise came along during our travels. We pulled over to the side of the road and walked up a small hill to see a huge rock covered in slashes. This was a historic site where people used to come and pray at the rock and touch it for good luck and to get rain. Of course, after hearing the story, we all touched the rock as we walked past to get to the bus; I touched it twice (which later on became a curse). We got an hour away and the bus sputtered and shut down. While we waited the “3 hours” for a new bus to arrive for us we wrote in our journals, read, played games, climbed trees, got attacked by people climbing trees, told stories and jokes, lay under the stars on the road, almost got hit by cars, got eaten alive by mosquitoes and 6 hours later cheered to see the new bus. At this point we had missed both lunch and dinner so everyone was hungry but also exhausted. It was 11pm by the time we reached a store that was open, but it was only serving drinks so we got a loaf of bread and continued on our way.

It was past 1 am by the time we got home. Everyone was so cold and tired that the sleeping bag in our regular bed was glorious. It truly was a moment of relief to be home.  I didn’t mind spending the day on the side of the road. It ensured everyone was on the same page again ready to start work in the morning.

Bus Breakdown: More Malawi Time Adjustments

By Barbara Hunting

Cape Maclear sunset

Cape Maclear sunset

Part of experiential learning is adjusting to a different way of ‘doing’ things. As a group, we take excursions on the weekend(s) outside of the rural village where we work on our various experiential learning projects.  Yesterday while driving back from Cap Maclear, our bus broke down—oh yes, life happens here too!  The bus broke down at approximately 1:30 p.m. As it coasted to a stop; this was ‘the unexpected’ part of the trip.  After much discussion and some people trying different ways to get the bus going again, the driver made a phone call to his company and was told that we could expect a replacement bus in three hours.  Six and half hours later, 8 p.m. we were on the road again (remember Malawi time). Luckily, one of the Professors had bought 2 huge bunches of bananas to take back to the village for us and people had water for drinking.  As well, as luck would have it, we broke down on a straight-a-way near a bore-hole (well with pump).

Half of us went across the road to sit under the shade of a tree; some climbed the tree!  Others read and journaled and had curriculum development discussions (the importance of play or the development of the space in a classroom). I have a colleague who has studied this aspect of classroom development known as ‘the third space’ where you can develop changeable spaces using readily available toys, or using big boxes to create theaters for puppet shows and these can change every two-three weeks, depending on your focus. Time slipped away quite quickly, it got quite chilly and the mosquitoes were hungry after dark—the bug spray and sweaters came out of our luggage.

Our breakdown was a positive space of learning about our patience barometer.  We are learning more about waiting; there is no CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) in Malawi.  As it turned out, the bus was fixed within forty minutes; it was an electrical problem. We boarded another bus and were on our way back to Makupo Village at 8:05 p.m.

Now, I have left out many adventures of this day but I am sure that the students will blog about their Sunday afternoon adventure! (I have limited pictures to share for this blog as my camera is malfunctioning and I only brought one on the weekend trip) I enclose one sunset picture taken at Lake Malawi on Saturday evening; enjoy!

Signing off for now!

Barbara Hunting (BaaBlah)

What to Do in Case of a Break Down

By Corinne Marcoux

Bus break down!

Bus break down!

Today was definitely a very interesting day. I am writing in the shade of a very big tree, next to the road: bus break down. Fuel pump problem, it seems. Everyone is busy doing what they do when they are waiting; we have three hours in front of us before two mechanics and another bus come to rescue us. Let’s take our Malawian time then.

It all started two days ago when we departed from Makupo in the direction of Cape Maclear, Lake Malawi. We all took place in our good old Toyota white van and enjoyed the five hour or so drive. It was fascinating to see the landscape change as we were heading south. Naomi (my wonderful roommate) and I were overly excited about the baobab trees that were suddenly taking part of the scenery—they are baobab trees after all! We arrived at the Fat Monkeys Lodge, Cape Maclear, in the middle of the afternoon. Beach. Blue water. Toilets that flush. I must admit that I had a little shock at first, trying to cope with the lack of transition from one physical and social environment to the other. I found the concept of Club Med-style vacations absurd, but I guess that the temptation of putting my swimsuit on was greater because this is just what I did. Wouldn’t we have done the same back home? So I spent an amazing two days watching breathtaking sunsets, swimming among tropical endemic fish of all colours, and feeling the pulse of Malawi to the rhythm of the drums.

Let’s get back on track: bus break down. I woke up this morning to the sound of the waves stretching on the shore. We went for an educational walk nearby the lodge and, most importantly, we had the privilege to experience the Rain Rock. It is a historical monument of Malawi, hidden in the dense vegetation as a mysterious part of the past forgotten and left behind in the present. The rock is carved with rock art and no one knows exactly who did it, or even if it is man made. Malawians used to gather near the rock and pray for rain. Today, touching the rock is supposed to bring you luck. So we all did, some twice rather than once.

Only over an hour after we hit the road to return to Makupo, we pulled over. Our bus had broken down.  At 2:15 pm, Arshad officially announced to us that another bus and two mechanics were on their way and should be there… in three hours. This is when things started to be interesting. The first reactions were humourous. The blame was first put on those who had touched the Rain Rock twice. It made sense. Once the blame was put on someone, we started making plans. The idea was to build a village in the nearby field and to create a new religion of worship to the Rain Rock. It made sense. Some other reactions from the group were:

“If the bus blew out, it would have ruined my day.” (Rebecca)

“Zzzzzz…” (Louisa)

“Toyotas are overrated.” (Dr. Stonebanks)

“I made a broom. I’m selling it if anyone is interested.” (Amy)

“We have a plan B now!” (Barbara)

We were commenting about the perfect location of the break down—next to a well—when we learned that the rescue team would arrive a little later than planned, because it was Sunday and everything was closed.

I decided to go outside and started writing by the tree. We all knew that this break down would be an adventure on its own, and we were not disappointed! I feel that I really got to appreciate the African life-style during the wait. People here seem to take their time; some kids actually have been watching the immobile bus and us waiting for many hours. I did take the time too. I reflected on what I can learn from a bus break down in the middle of Malawi. I realized my dream of climbing and playing into a tree. I played the a game of bowa (traditional Malawian board game) with Rebecca and Amy. I watched the sunset and the gorgeous colours following it. I admired the stars while lying on the road. When the replacement bus finally reached us, it was 8 pm…

These six hours of waiting were part of the journey. Barbara, compared the work of a fuel pump to the work of curriculum development: the fuel pump makes the fuel circulate just as curriculum development makes the curriculum circulate. I would add that you need the passion before circulating curriculum just as you need to look for a journey before taking the bus and make the fuel circulate. I now understand that these six hours were part of my journey, and that curriculum happens even when you are not physically developing it. When there is a break down, you just have to live the journey and make the passion alive.

Once in a Lifetime Experience

By Annabelle Lafrechoux

My mermaid dream come true

My mermaid dream come true

On Friday morning, we set off early for a five hour drive to get to Lake Malawi. This being our first excursion, the excitement was palpable.

Once we arrived, I was totally charmed by the resort and our rooms. They were directly on the beach. We indulged in all matters that concerned foods and drinks (none alcoholic) which we usually don’t have access to a variety of either one. We relaxed by the beach. This was the first moment in a while when we could just relax. Some read, some swam, some chatted and in my case I kept working on a drawing that I had started in the caravan.

On Saturday, we had the luck to be escorted to an island in the lake by three very entertaining men. A particularity of Lake Malawi is that it has a large variety of a particular species of fish which only exist in this lake. Also, the lake’s water is quite clear and transparent which makes the fish very easy to observe from outside and in the water. We were provided with snorkeling equipment so we went on to explore the underwater world. I must admit that as a little girl I dreamed of being a mermaid. This experience is the closest I’ve gotten to that dream. The fish were not scared of us which allowed us to swim among them. For lunch, the men made us a delicious fresh meal with fish, tomato and rice. Once we got back to the resort we headed out to a restaurant where I ate an awesome pizza (the awesomeness comes from eating the same thing every day for over a week). After supper we assisted in a rhythmic drum session. This day took on a feeling of ‘’once in a life time’’ experience.

Our lucky rock

Our lucky rock

The next day, Sunday, we went exploring the surroundings. We went to the markets, explored some historical sites and a museum dedicated to Lake Malawi. By noon we needed to head back to the caravan without having had lunch and leave if we wished to arrive back at Makupo for supper.  A funny little incident occurred which will make the following even more ironic. We made a stop at a site where a huge rock with large line indents. We learned about its historical purpose as site to pray for water. The rock apparently gives good luck. We all took our turn to get our share of luck.

An hour later, our bus broke down.

We were told that it would take three hours for another caravan to come and pick us up. Frank, one of the group members who comes from Malawi said that what it really meant was Malawi hours. Most of us dismissed his comment wanting to be optimistic. We tried to best entertain ourselves, some took a nap, some read, some played cards.   Two hours and a half later, we got a call informing us that the caravan just left and that it would be there in three hours. Most of us at this point were hungry, thirsty, tired and quite bored. We could see this as an awful experience, I rather see it as a group bonding incident.  We shared whatever food we had, the water and our entertainment skills. After the sun set, we started telling stories; making some up such as one about the vegetarian mosquito Skishy.  Linden tried to start a group work session on crosswords puzzles before getting exasperated with mosquitoes being attracted by her headlight and decided to go on a killing rampage with our dear Rebecca’s nature documentary narrating skills. Let’s say that even though at this point we were trapped in a smelling caravan to stay safe from insects, we had quite some fun compared to what one might expect when thinking of such a situation.

In the end we waited for at least six hours and only arrived at Makupo at 1:00 in the morning. But hey, what is an adventure without the unexpected and bumps along the road?