She was supposed to be home over an hour ago. She is never late. So, for the last hour I have been standing in front of the window, feeling my blood pressure rise higher as each minute ticks by.
I am not someone prone to worrying. But in Malawi, we are closer to death. I feel it everywhere. There are obvious things like AIDS and diseases, but it is much more than that. Danger seems to be lurking everywhere here. The roads are narrow, the expats drive drunk as a rule, and there are stories. Stories about people with machetes. These are not nice stories. These are stories about Claudia's co-workers that happen 3 blocks from our house. Back in Hometown, Western Country, when someone you love goes out at night, you probably say, "Be careful", but in Malawi it takes on a whole other meaning. Vigilant care is essential to survival here.
Back in the UK Claudia and I used to laugh about Malawians and the dark. She told me how they HATE to be anywhere but home when it is dark. So if there is something requiring her co-workers to be out after dark, it is the equivalent of your boss calling you at 3am telling you to come into the office. Darkness brings danger, and as I was walking in front of our guest house trying to get a mobile phone signal to call Claudia the darkness seemed to speak from the distant lightning flashing far away in the clouds, illuminating nothing, providing only contrast that made the dark seem darker. Perhaps Conrad had something to teach me afterall.
I was sure something was wrong. Claudia's phone had dropped off of the network. I thought about assembling my bike which is still in the box. I considered asking the Indian guy next door to drive me into town looking for Claudia. I finally decided to call Patrick, Claudia's office worker and our infinite source of local knowledge. He made some calls, and sure enough she was in a meeting.
This was instant comfort. She was alive! Alive! Breathing, walking, talking wife! But now after writing this, I must consider all that I have said. The darkness still surrounds the situation. She is in a meeting with a bunch of Malawians - the tellers from her bank to be exact. The same tellers that threatened to strike in November. It is dark and they have not left yet. Something is wrong, and I fear Claudia, just over a week in her new job, is on the receiving end of it. Perhaps a trip to the Malawian hospital would have been better.