This is a random assortment of eyebrow-raising and laughter-inducing moments in Malawi.
1. While lazing on the sands of Lake Malawi, my friends and I were approached by a young Malawian man (YMM), who tried to become our best friend for the day. YMM is an aspiring singer who appears to fund his musical career by selling items of varying levels of legality.
YMM: So you don’t smoke?
YMM: You’re running away from your development
YMM: I like your laugh. You laugh like a giraffe.
YMM: Sometimes we have some nice things for the meditation. You know, some cocaine and ecstasy.
Me: We don’t do that.
YMM: You see. You’re running away from the development.
2. YMM is also a prolific storyteller.
YMM: Let me tell you a Malawian story. You ever notice that chickens always hold their heads down when they’re walking? Do you know why?
YMM: Ok. Let me tell you the story. In the old days, the hen had 10 chicks, and 3 of them did not have nice clothes. So she decided, being a mom, to send one of the chicks to go to a hawk to borrow a needle. So the hawk gave the needle to the daughter of the hen. He said, “Here is my needle. You have to tell your mom that if she misses this needle, that will be the end of the friendship.” So when the daughter took the needle to the house, she told the mom what the hawk said. So as I told you, chickens are very careless. So after fixing the clothes, the mom gave the clothes to the chicks. So they were happy. They were like, “Yeah, we’re looking fine, we’re looking fine!”
Friend 1: “We’re looking fresh!”
YMM: Yeah, we’re looking fresh. So after the excitement, the mom took the needle and put somewhere in the kitchen. After like one hour, the needle was nowhere to be seen. So after a week, the hawk was like, “Where is the needle?” because the hen didn’t bring his needle so he had to go and ask. So the hen was shy and careless, like, “Yeah, we lost your needle.” Since that time, hens have always been looking down. They’re not searching for worms, not for food. They’re searching for the needle. That’s why when hawks see chickens, they always bite. They’re searching for their needle.
Friend 2: Aww, it’s like Malawian folklore
YMM: Mmhhm… But this one I made myself. It is from me. Because I am Malawian.
3. YMM is also a huge reggae fan.
YMM: You look like the brother of Fantan Mojah
YMM: There’s one Jamaican I’ll never forget: Sizzla Kalonji. He is wisdom.
YMM: That Bob Marley, he had a lot of kids. A real African.
Me: So you’re going to have a lot of kids
YMM: No I don’t want that.
Old Malawian Man: That’s not your choice. The woman always makes that decision.
4. No trip to an African country by a black non-African is complete without a reference to President Obama.
Malawian Man: Donna do you like beer?
MM: Not even wine? You don’t drink at all.
Me: I like whisky.
MM: What about… *pretends to smoke*
Me: No I don’t smoke weed.
MM: I take it from Obama. This president you want to vote in was smoking weed. And then his advisor said that to be an American youth you have to smoke weed.
5. In a horror movie, the black person always dies first.
During our week in Malawi, my friends Anne, Belle, and I rented a car and drove along Lake Malawi, about halfway across the country. One four-hour stretch was from Nkhata Bay down to Salima. Several hours into the drive, we had to pee. We decided to stop right by a cotton field. We positioned ourselves strategicially behind our car so that passers-by would not see us. As soon as I stooped down, we saw an animal dart right by us. My two friends ran away immediately. I was a little stuck, because you know, I was mid-pee. We’re still not sure what it was. The animal’s tail appeared to be larger than my forearm. I think it was a rodent. Belle thinks it might have been a dinosaur…
*5 hours later*
Me: Hey guys, remember that time we almost got attacked by a big animal and you left me to die alone in a cotton field?
Belle: We know what happens in horror movies – the black friend always dies.
Me: Exactly! That’s why you should have tried to save me.
Anne: Nah girl. We assumed you were gonna die. We’ve been assuming that for years. You know how much reprogramming it would take to stop thinking that way?