Friday, July 14, 2006

Revisiting the other side of the digital divide

I am liking Malawi so far. Blantyre airport was a dream... walk down the steps onto the tarmac (I love doing that) and wander towards the tiny International Arrivals terminal, as tall young men smile at you and hand out immigration cards like they were nightclub flyers.
Immigration took seconds, no questions asked (there are times when white skin and a British passport are great assets, and they didn't say anything about the pink hair) and then I had a great exchange with the customs officer, who said 'are you here to do anything in particular?'
I have a satisfying brick of strange banknotes, a room which sports a verandah, a bewildering array of bolsters, and a candle for power cuts (frequent), and I'm expecting to eat spaghetti with carrots and green beans twice a day for the next week.
My colleague J is fantastic, and it will be great working with him, so all in all I'm doing fine, except for the shockingly slow internet connection. It really is like going back 10 years, but we all need reminding that substantial chunks of the planet's population just don't get online, and if they do it's a fairly miserable experience. 
And there are the empty roads, and the barefoot boys pushing man-sized bicycles loaded up with sacks of charcoal. And lots and lots of patience.
Oh, and 5.30 sunsets. I need to go -- need to be back at the hotel by dark.


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