I left Lilongwe at around 3PM on a Saturday afternoon. I had just come back from a lunch date with a friend, and I was feeling quite sleepy. The many parts of me disagreed with my choice leave for Mangochi at that hour, but my sister really wanted to see me. I also really wanted to see my sister, and my niece; so even though it was gettin late, I made the decision to start off.
I had a lovely descent along the Khwekhwerere, only to be met by the worst of potholes on the Golomoti road. The time was about 5:45PM, and the sun was going down. I had a choice to make – to speed and risk it with the potholes while I could still see and navigate them; or slow down and get home in the dark.
I chose a bit of speed (I was driving at about 60-80kmph, which was still very fast for the road I was navigating), and at about 2kms from the Ntakatake turnoff, I had a flat tyre.
I remember feeling the sway in my steering wheel, and trying to convince myself that I was imagining it. I kept going (and thank goodness for great quality tyres), till my car actually signaled me to stop. I was annoyed, but I stopped.
I stepped out of my car, and indeed confirmed that I had a flat tyre. In my quest to get home ‘quickly’, I had failed miserably. This was the second time this was happening for me. The first time was in Blantyre, when I was also almost in Blantyre and had a flat. That time, I lost the tyre entirely.
I tried to stop the cars which were passing by. The first car did not stop, but the second car did stop. When I think about it now – they were nearly angels. Timothy and Melanie Downes. A lovely couple and their son. They stopped their car, and committed to staying with me until my car was fixed and I was safe.
TImothy left me with Melanie, as he and his son drove to the Ntakataka turnoff to find a mechanic who could assist me. After he left, two more cars stopped by. Everyone was deeply helpful, from the first car providing a car jack, to the second car bringing a wheel spanner that fit my tyre, and the rest of the gentlemen lifting the car to get the jack under my car. Through the entire experience, I kept thinking “what a deeply Malawian experience” – from I making the bad decision to speed on terrible roads, to community showing up and sticking around for me.
They did manage to get the tyre off my car, and luckily, my tyre was perfectly alright. They took the tyre to the turnoff, to fix the aluminium rim which has been dented.
I was about 30kms away from my parent’s house. I was quite close to home. My parents at the time were coming from a funeral, and I was unable to get a hold of them in the first hour, until I did. Eventually, my mom and dad did show up; and at a time when the tyre was nearly fixed.
The mechanic and the other colleagues from the other car came back with the tyre, and managed to remount the tyre. It was only when my parents had arrived, that Timothy and Melanie did leave me. Two whole hours of their good time which they gave to me freely. Bless them.
I got to thinking how speeding doesn’t always guarantee that you will get there faster. I’ve been thinking about how a steady but consistent pace could be just a beautiful, but also sustainable thing. Brick by brick. Brick by brick.
I also got thinking about the power of community, and how on the many times I have stumbled and tried to go far and fast alone, it was community that held me together on my descent as I crumbled. It got me thinking how we all need to show up in better ways for each other.
I bet by now you know I am a musical being, so here’s a soundtrack for you that perfectly fits the moment. Why not?