With Hessel visiting the Netherlands this week, Dilo spent the Holidays with the employees at the lodge. They usually don’t have many guests this time of the year (unlike we were used to in South Africa), so half a team was sufficient. Of course these people were a little annoyed they had to work on Christmas Day, so Dilo wanted to do something nice. In the neighbourhood shop you can buy cakes and the only one that wasn’t about to collapse with melted icing and whipped cream, was bright pink, so that’s the one Dilo bought. Only the staff enjoyed this diabetic sugar festival, but it was nice to sit around a big table and all eat something together.

Dilo and the pink cake

Dilo and the pink cake

The end of the year also means some extra admin. Did we pay all our bills? Did we receive all our money? Are all staff contracts up to date? It’s convenient to synchronize these as much as possible and 1 January is a good time. The lodge had employed quite a few people who now survived their probation time. When getting a more permanent contract, you will be added to the payroll so you receive your monthly wages automatically. Therefor you also need a bank account and that’s something not everyone here always has. When going to the bank to open an account, they ask for your employment contract to complete the bureaucratic circle.

We wrote last month’s date on the contracts, so that they employees could open a bank account as soon as possible. And as usual things didn’t always go that smoothly.

One of the new gardeners no longer had an ID card, so he had to report it as lost at the police station. The next two days we didn’t see him, because there was quite a queue apparently. The third day he returned with a form that had to be signed by the employer. For those who don’t know it yet, signing forms in Africa doesn’t mean to simply put your signature on the dotted line, but on at least four other random places on the form. Then you have to stamp it a few times and add the date to about half of these stamps, with an additional signature to confirm that you indeed wrote the date yourself. Getting shares in ink might be the best way to make money here.

One of the sections on the form that required a signature, stamp, date and another signature, was the location to have lost the ID card. It would have been rude to laugh out loud, but it was difficult to behave when reading the following:

Place where you lost your ID card: ‘’I lost it where I left it.’’

Oh well! And the worst might be that they even accepted this as a valid location.

With this form, which he creatively folded and kept in his dirty pocket, our friend went to the local municipality to eventually apply for his ID card. It would take a week for collection, but in the meantime, they give him a temporary document. On this paper they wrote down his name no less than five times, with four different spellings. When he was asked about the correct way, he pointed at the one looking the least like his name in our administration. It’s easy to make fun of this, but the lack of decent education for many Africans is a huge issue. In this case, not only the new gardener didn’t master the alphabet, but also the government officials who gave him this document. Or should we, people from the West who always know everything better, not worry about a few little spelling errors…? In a Third World country the people have other priorities than C or K, V or F and in Malawi; L or R.

Tourism Friendly Lake Malawi

The famous Tourism Friendly smile made it all the way to Lake Malawi in 2019!

Surprisingly soon his new ID card was ready and our gardener didn’t wait to enthusiastically run to the bank. There he ended in another long queue and late that afternoon he returned, visibly disappointed. He still didn’t have a bank account, because they were finished. Finished? Yes, they ran out of bank accounts, so he was told to try again the next day.

He probably got this information from an obnoxious bank employee who wasn’t in the mood for more paperwork that day and unfortunately he actually believed that a bank could run out of accounts to open. So, there he went again the next day, extremely early this time.

Eventually everything worked out and the gardener and his bank account are living happily ever after. We hope!