The Last Mile

My birthday weekend never seemed to end. What a great party. As we checked out of the Mayoka Village, the receptionist asked if a blue, with bright yellow giraffes, chitenje shirt at the bottom of plastic bag was mine. I had never seen it but as we prepared to leave Isabel remembered this was another gift from Fishani that must have been in the bottom of the bag his cake was in.  This traditional Malawian shirt is a little snug – I squeezed into it and looked like a ripe caterpillar so another reminder I have to get back to these lentils (and away from those Greens).

Then as we left Nkhata-bay, Brave pulled over and picked up a wooden plaque he had arranged with “Phil Walton Malawi” and the Manchester United logo engraved on it (missing the ‘R’ from Manchester – that’s an easy fix but I don’t think I want to as this somehow reminds me of Malawi). 

After picking up our Mzuzu based sales rep’s (Kingsley) two children to deliver them to their grandparents for a holiday we had a leisurely 5-hour drive in convoy along the lakeshore road back to Lilongwe. Violet and Natalya chatted the whole way. For 5-hours.

The RAV4, on its final voyage, performed flawlessly. Now available for purchase (as I think Fishani has gone a little cool on the idea). I wonder if this ad would work; “blue and dented, sounds like an old washing machine, locked drivers side window, disco warning lights on the dashboard but runs like a dream.” Offers please.

Home, the day before my actual birthday. The next day in the office and Carys had baked me a massive chocolate birthday cake and Saidi, our Central region sales rep, also brought one in too. Here’s Fishani, Saidi and birthday boy.

That’s 3 cakes this year. 

In the evening, we went to dinner with Alan and Mem who had just recently returned from the U.K. with their very engaging 16-year old son, Darren, who has moved to Malawi (joining an international school) . Amazingly, in the U.K. they had spent a couple of nights a few miles from Brother. Natalia took full advantage of this and had business critical supplies (eyelash treatments and makeup) delivered to my brother (via my father) who in turn delivered to Alan (it sounded like my brother brought his A-game as Alan was highly amused). Plus birthday cards from my Mum and Dad, and Brother and family, which were handed over during dinner along with a size 40″ waist belt from Natalia. Ok, that’s enough – I’m on a diet.

So, that’s it for another year. I mistakenly said this was my best birthday ever which made Natalia very happy until she realized we got engaged on my birthday 4 years ago. She asked me again just so she could point this out which is entrapment in my book.

So we’re now Lilongwe-based until we leave on Sept 13. But this isn’t going to be a smooth downhill glide to the finish line. Brave and Carys left for a month holiday last Thursday and Natalia, Isabel, Fishani, Ericho and I are holding the fort. A very capable team but when you don’t have two people of the caliber of Brave and in a team of 15 it’s going to be tough. More worryingly, Brave won’t be here for the start of the football season with Manchester United’s first competitive game this coming Tuesday. Thank goodness Violet is here – we’ll be in the Breeze Bar at 8pm in our colors, loud and proud.

But Brave and Carys will be back before we leave. We have much unfinished business to address, including our “Solarmen do Afropop” video. We’re really quite sad to be leaving our friends in Malawi. I feel I’ve not finished some of things I wanted to see through (at SunnyMoney and I’m letting the team down) but I think I would always feel that way. 

We focusing in on Sept 9th as the Goodbye Party. Visitors welcome. It’s going to be a big one.


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