I hate shopping at the best of times. So when Cam called to tell me that our best friend’s Dad died yesterday morning, it didn’t take long to decide we’d turn around and instead of driving to Blantyre for a day of shopping, head back to Lichinga to attend the funeral. Some things are just way more important in life than cheese and Doritos and Bicarb soda and all the other things you just really can’t get here.
Sally and I had left on Sunday for Malawi – to get her passport stamped and to pick up some new window frames for our house. When we found out Monday morning that the window frames still weren’t ready, we decided we’d still travel the three or so hours just to have a break (no kids!) and pick up some random bits and pieces.
We were only 45 mins down the road when we got the phone call from Cam and turned around straight away to head home. Now, the road between here and the Malawi border is atrocious. This time of year it’s probably at it’s best and I really don’t mind driving at all. My Dad taught me when I was 10 and I’ve done heaps of driving on country roads. But this one scares the crap out of me. There are goats, kids, motorbikes, crabbing trucks, bicycles, minivans loaded to the hilt flying along at top speed and lots and lots of bumps and potholes.
Driving back yesterday we had a rather scary near death experience. We came in to a right hand corner on a particularly sandy bit of road to see a massive semi-trailer approaching on the wrong side with its back end sliding out towards us. Thankfully there was room to pull right off the road into the ditch otherwise I think we would have been a goner. So we were stoked to finally make it into the driveway safe and sound.
I probably could have fallen asleep right then and there but we thought we would head over to visit our grieving friends. Cam’s language helper (Januario) is the husband of my language helper (Dayana) and it was his father who had died that morning. So I sent Dayana a message saying how sorry we were and to let me know if I could help. She replied saying I could help… not specifically what with so I just decided it would be best to show up.
Knowing what to do and say when someone dies is not really my strong suit in Australia in English – so it was a little bit painfully awkward here with my still very limited Portuguese. We rocked up at their house at the same time as our team mates and so then the men went off to one house and I went off to another. I had the privilege of sitting with Dayana, my friends (Januario’s sisters) and also his Mum. I didn’t say much at all, just sat there and prayed silently. The most awkward part happened when Januario’s grandma lead me into the room full of just men to sit with them. At that point I was just praying she’d come back and rescue me, but it didn’t happen.
So today, we’re off to the funeral. As per usual, I will likely have no idea what is going on for most of the day. I’m sure I will make some terrible cultural blunders and have some lengthy periods of feeling completely out of my depth. But they are forgiving. And there is something very important and special about just spending time with people. I think that probably applies just as much at home. I can clearly remember the night we found out that Cam’s brother died. It wasn’t long before the Masters were on our door… not really having much to say, just to be there. That was pretty special.