Friday, October 31, 2008


The Chewa word for luggage or stuff is "kutundu."

I think I mentioned that we missed our flight today. While I waited at the South African Airways desk (for three or four hours), I met/tried to translate on behalf of a tiny Spanish-speaking lady who was trying to pay her excess baggage fee. The airline wanted to charge her $300 for 25 kg of stuff. She explained that she is a missionary and the extra stuff, personified by her bulging pink backpack, was medicine and I'm guessing Bibles that she planned to distribute. She didn't have $300. She had three twenty dollar bills folded into a journal in her purse.

I explained all this to the counter women, but they refused to help her. I wanted to yell at them, this woman is trying to HELP YOU PEOPLE, will you cut her a freaking break???

I have felt this same rage on my own behalf a few times, like when we were sitting at the immigration office in Chipata, the one with monkeys on the railing outside the windows, trying to convince some surly clerk to stamp our passports so we could go back to the village and sweat for another 30 days.

The Spanish lady missed her flight too. The second time I saw her, she was in line again, this time without the pink backpack, which she told me she was going to give to the counter ladies, I guess in the hope they would read the dang Bibles inside. The third time I saw her, she was in the internet cafe by the parking garage with runny mascara.

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