Out of anger, Jean-Philippe withdrew the equivalent of 1,000 Euros. I tried to dissuade him from carrying so much in his pockets because we would easily become targets of armed robbers.
He dismissed me scornfully. For the first time since the Kwacha was devalued, I too, have had enough money to run around, buy airtime, buy mangâ€™ina and play hide and seek with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Out of frustration, I closed my account.
As we drove down the Chikhwawa escarpment to continue our discovery of the Shire Valley, Alfonsina said something I did not understand. She said experience had taught her that at no cost should a friend be mistaken for a relative.
â€œWhatâ€™s all this about? Did you tell her I am claiming you are my relative?â€ I asked.
â€œJust drive on. She is only excited,â€ Jean-Philippe urged.
â€œExcited about what?â€
Jean-Philippe did not answer.
Confused, I sped downhill. As I negotiated a corner, I was stupefied to see a bicyclist whiz past us. I gently put my foot on the brake pedal and we slowed down to a reasonable speed. I saw the bicyclist negotiating his way round the road block at the bottom of the escarpment.Â The police officers were watching him. Jean-Philippe smiled. He turned to look at Alfonsina.Â She smiled.
Â â€œThat guy would qualify for the Tour de France,â€ Jean-Philippe joked.
We drove slowly and stopped near the road block. A traffic police officer came to me and asked for my driverâ€™s licence. I showed it to him. He went to check the validity of the vehicle licences. They were perfect. He then asked me to open the boot. I did. He checked. He found nothing strange.Â
He then came back to my side and asked: â€œDo you know you have broken the law?â€
â€œYou were overspeeding as you came down the escarpment. I saw you.â€
I looked at Jean-Philippe. He beckoned the police officer to his side. The police officer obliged.Â Jean-Philippe asked him if it was criminal in Malawi to overspeed.
â€œOf course, it is, sir.â€
â€œBut you just let pass here a bicyclist who overtook us as you saw us overspeeding,â€ Jean-Philippe said.
â€œMaybe only vehicles overspeed,â€ Alfonsina said, laughing.
With his left hand, Jean-Philippe reached for his back trouser pocket before â€œgreetingâ€ the officer. The police officer, smiling, waved us to go and wished us well on our trip.
I turned to take the East Bank Road. Jean-Philippe stopped me and reminded me that we had to go and pay our bills. After paying, we hit the road to Nsanje via Nchalo. Then, from nowhere, Jean-Philippe announced that he and Alfonsina had decided to marry and settle in Nsanje.
â€œAm I dreaming?â€
â€œItâ€™s real,â€ Jean-Philippe said.
â€œLove is blind,â€ Alfonsina added.
â€ Love is not blind. First, get to know the person you want to marry.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your problem?â€ Alfonsina, reacted, â€œAh, Malawian men!â€
â€œIndeed love is not blind,â€ Jean-Philippe said, â€œbut I hope you appreciate it is the best investment particularly for a foreigner like me to easily get land and Malawian citizenship.â€