After our Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on Wednesday, commonly referred to as AA amongst alcoholics whose chief aim is to manage their alcohol abuse, we decided to have our lunch just by the Karonga-Chitipa bus terminus afraid that we would miss our bus.
Actually, we have been in the uranium town of Karonga for about a fortnight now to launch an AA club that now meets every Wednesday at Karonga Museum. Zikomo Matope and I have embarked on a campaign that is encouraging those that have problems with drinking to quit the habit altogether.
Zikomo insists—and I agree—that while some can manage their drinking some of us cannot! So, it has been his idea, since I returned from rehabilitation at St. John of God’s Venegas Centre, that we should do the little we can to raise awareness about our increasingly and
terrifying drinking cultures in the country.
‘Do you know what,’ Zikomo shot up as two waitresses served our meals. We had ordered similar dishes. A mix of bananas and beef. Initially we had both wanted to go for pork and green bananas but were told that the livestock department in the district had banned the slaughtering, roasting/frying and selling of pork in the area.
One of the waitress, the uglier of the two that served us, didn’t clearly explain why.
‘Yes,’ Zikomo showed that he had forgotten that he actually been saying something. ‘What I wanted to say is that this country should be worried of its future.’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘From the next 20 years going on, HIV will no longer be our headache, but cancers and cancers. Cancers of the liver, cancers of the stomach, cancers of the kidneys, cancers and cancers and cancers…’
‘Why?’ I asked, but it seemed he had made his point and had resorted to his meal.
‘Alcohol,’ he looked me straight in the eye. ‘Our children are drinking too much alcohol. Actually, alcohol with very strange names. Tell me, why would someone name alcohol Zero, Fighter or Midori? Where do these people get these names, and what do they actually mean?”
I did not say a thing; and, instead, I also went ahead with my meal. Five minutes barely elapsed before we saw a boy—about eleven or twelve—staggering on the M1 Road. Drunk as a fish. He was wearing a primary school uniform because the shorts could show.
‘Did I not tell you,’ I don’t know whether Zikomo was just saying or asking; but, still, I did not answer.
But it was not long after that a horde of four gentlemen and three noisy women entered the restaurant perched themselves at the only last two tables on our left. Their looks reflected those of ones who belonged to a village with no more than two tuck-shops. Yet they were in town.
‘We must organize protests for this,’ the noisiest of the three women, a short but plump woman, cut in. ‘This new DC must go for tolerating such nonsense.’
‘You are right,’ came in another, ‘how could he allow these people put up some shoddy work on our roads? Look at the Karonga-Songwe Road. It was already potholed when it was being officially inaugurated; by the State President himself.’
Here there was some hearty laughter, laughter that would have stabbed the State President’s heart if he had been listening. Zikomo and I were listening with keen interest; and, both of us faulted the short, noisy woman for blaming the shoddy quality of the roads on the DC.
The left corner delegation was in the middle of their late lunch when a couple dressed in black popped in. They looked disturbed and distraught.
‘Any ready food here?’ asked the man. Before expecting an answer he said, ‘Please make it quick we are rushing to an accident scene in Chitipa.’
The whole restaurant turned to them.
‘What happened?’ the noisiest woman, asked on behalf of us all.
‘An accident in Chitipa this morning. A bus was trying to avoid potholes as it approached Chitipa boma from this side. Unfortunately, the driver failed to negotiate well for the other potholes ahead and overturned. Many are feared dead,’ the man reported.
‘And, you see,’ the noisiest woman was speaking again, not to the new man but, to me, she was to the rest of all us. ‘That is why we need the protests. The people who built the Karonga-Songwe Border Road are the ones who built the Karonga-Chitipa Road. These people’s taste of quality is really questionable. They must be stopped from being awarded contracts. Their roads’ life span last no more than 10 years before they are just dams of potholes.’
There was silence for a moment or so. But then Zikomo sighed, a long deep sigh, as if he had not eaten at all.
‘What the hell are the Chinese doing on our roads?’
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