Jean-Philippe could not recall how we travelled back to our hotel from Ghetto Kakumbi in Nkhata Bay. Despite the fact that I took in a lot more hard haram stuff, Chivas Mikhito on the rocks, I woke up with a fairly functional brain. I literally had to roll Jean-Philippe from side to side before he could wake up.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Slightly. That boy fooled me,” he said rubbing sleep from his bloodshot eyes.
“That waiter at the Ghetto followed me to the loo where he gave me a piece of the KK pancake…”
“And you took it?”
“He assured me it was safe and effective.”
“And what is your assessment?”
“Over-effective. The Ghetto needs to put up a disclaimer that taking of KK pancakes is at owner’s risk, the Ghetto shall not be held liable for any resultant mental, gastronomical, physical, or memory-related damage.”
I laughed and advised Jean-Philippe to never ever put into his mouth any liquid, solid, or gas without my consent. I reminded him that as long as he was in Malawi, I was responsible for his holistic safety.
“In French we say ‘Rien ne vautl’expériencevécue’.”
“Yes, experience is the best teacher; but only foolish visitors undermine their hosts.”
“Yes, host. But we are visiting Chikali Beach?”
I agreed because I also wanted to visit my mother’s paternal home at Bweleru to remind myself about my mother’s father, Esau Bedu Chimkapigza, who once told me how he had once walked from Nkhata Bay to South Africa only to come back poor.
“Sukulu mbumoyu, education is life,” he had told me just before he died in 1986.
After lunch, we checked out of Chuma ndi Mphepu, paid our bills, and drove down to Nkhata Bay Boma.
As we drove up the Kadozi mountain, Jean-Philippe stopped me. He opened the door, slid down from his seat and knelt down to vomit. Later, he picked himself up and threw himself back into his seat.
We drove on to Bweleru. For the first time, Jean-Philippe was not enthusiastic about taking photographs. I immediately told my mother, that is, my mother’s sister, not to prepare any meal because we had to rush back since my friend, Jean-Philippe, was ill. My mother did not protest. Instead, she went into her house and brought back fresh honey on the comb. She asked me to ask Jean-Philippe to eat it. Jean-Philippe ate it, reluctantly.
As we drove back to Chikali Beach, we heard an announcement on the radio that Inkosi ya Makhosi or King M’mbelwa of Mzimba had died.
“Sad,” I said to myself.
“Was he your king?” Jean-Philippe was his old self again.
“No. He was neighbourly, humble, and friendly. He united his people. He came from a line of peace-loving Ngonis. After decades of fighting and altercations, his great grandfathers agreed to make peace with the Tumbuka to the north, the Chewa to the south, and the Tonga to the east. They even allowed moderate Christianity to be established at Loudon in Mzimba. As Inkosi he made sure the peace with neighbouring tribes lasted. As a Kingdom, the Mzimba Ngonis even loaned money to the Nyasaland government. There are records at M’mbelwa’s headquarters.”
“You are kidding?”
“And the British have not paid it back.”
“Once upon a time I met him at Chikali Beach. When I failed to drive up the rugged mountain road, he, Inkosi ya Makhosi, laughingly asked me to leave the vehicle. He drove it up the mountain for me. Can the kings of Europe humble themselves thus?”