By Jae Oh
What a terrible weekend trip it was! The horror started on Friday morning at 5 am as the whole crew got ready to set off for Monkey Bay, Cape Maclear. Still half asleep, I made a last minute check-up to make sure I didn’t forget anything. We left our home, Makupo Village, as roosters sang for the morning sun to rise. Bumpy road and rising sun shining into my eyes didn’t help with my attempt to catch up on some missing sleep. Excitement and anxiousness didn’t help much either. With eyes wide open, I looked upon the ruddy orange sky which seemed to me, foreshadowing the future of our trip.
In about 2 hours we arrived at Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. It was a big and much populated city, full of people from different countries all over the world, moving in every direction and creating chaos. It was weird to see so many azungu, foreigners. All of a sudden, culture shock and homesick hit me hard without any warning. So when we stopped at the Lilongwe Mall, we filled up our emptiness by munching down on food that we are familiar with, like savory eggs with toasts and sweet cookie desserts. My creamy yogurt, which I even dreamed about, made it a little better.
Throughout the rest of the drive, I kept on trying to take a nap. Yet, the view over the chain of valleys with small villages sprouting here and there like a scenic painting on a postcard, kept my eyes and attention busy the whole time. If only I lived on top of a mountain and had baobab trees in the backyard for my pet goats and monkeys, I would have no trouble taking a rest. Overly excited and tired, we finally arrived at a lodge named Fat Monkey, and finally ate like fat monkeys too. Even then I couldn’t relax because I had to clean out my entire bag from a leaked shampoo. Plus, our room was five meters away from Lake Malawi and day and night, sound of waves and reflection of the sun on water would coax me to jump in at all times.
The next day, Isaac, Hastings, and Jason, our tour guides, drove their boat, Shanana, over the clear ever blue-green emerald lake water and lead us to an island nearby. There, we snorkeled in refreshingly cool water full of all imaginable colored cichlids along with invisible full-of-joy parasites. When we finally got tired of disturbing the fish, lunch was ready. It was local fish, Chomba and Kampango, so fresh, they never got to touch the ground as they practically went from the lake straight to our plate. Jason kept on barbequing more and I had to eat them all clean down to bones because I wouldn’t let my favorite dish go to waste. I’m pretty sure I gained more than 2 pounds just from gnawing on the fish that lunch.
Even technology wouldn’t cooperate with me to create unforgettable memories. Light shows put on in the sky every sundown, changing from baby blue to yellow-orange to velvety red and finally to pitch black would drain the battery out of my camera. One night, Jason put on a tam-tam show as we sat around a warm bonfire on the sandy beach. Looking around, I couldn’t tell from the sky to water; flickering lamps on night fishing boats over the horizon was the only clue to my guess. The lake waves would keep the beat for the drums and Jason’s voice would wake the bats to dance around us among the stars. This once-in-a-life-time moment couldn’t be captured for my camera had given up a long time ago.
Finally, the event that had been foreshadowing over us the whole time happened on our way back home. Tired from sight-seeing and shopping, we decided to leave before lunch to drive while there was the light of the day. However, as life is, our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere with a bag full of bananas as the only source of food. Napping, reading, and group bonding, we spent 6 hours in the bus waiting for a mechanic to arrive with a rescue bus. Lying on the broken down bus seat looking up at the starry night sky would have been more romantic if there hadn’t been annoying blood-hungry mosquitoes flying around my ears. The worst part is that when the rescue bus arrived to finally bring an end to the dreadful trip, I secretly wished upon the stars that all of this would happen all over again!