Our next stop heading north along Lake Malawi was the small town of Chitimba. Again, there was a beautiful ocean-like beach. Again, we mixed and mingled with the local community. Malawian’s are known to be friendly, but the reception we got was unparalleled compared to any other part of Africa. Everyone was so nice. Outside of our campsite, a group of Malawian wood-carvers had set up their shops. We looked in EVERYONE’S store with names like “Cheap is Cheap” and “Obama Shop.” We were required to visit each as we didn’t want to get guilt tripped later on. I stopped at the final shop where Kizito sat down and taught me the game of bao. It looks like mancala, which my brother and I played non-stop as children, but it has more rules. He had carved a board into a short table, we sat in carved Malawian chairs and we used beans as playing pieces. He taught me the easiest of the four games; the harder games are used by old men to gamble and kill time on the weekends. I beat him bad. I’m not sure if it’s because he wanted me to buy something later (which we did) or if I really haven’t lost my mancala strategy skills, but either way, I whooped him.
It was so enjoyable to sit and learn the game without one of the other vendors telling me “it’s free to look!” at their store. The vendors are insistent, they’ll follow inches behind you asking questions, begging you to buy something until you do. They’ll trade for almost anything. Nicole and Lindel unloaded some old socks and a few batteries in exchange for jewelry and art. Joshua and I went a little crazy, too. Maybe it was the fact we haven’t had to carry our backpacks in a while (they’ve been safely stored on the truck)…but we did a number at Kitzito’s shop mostly in the ebony department.
Later that same evening, we were guided by a few locals with the aid of the light of their cell phones down winding dusty trails to the “witch doctor’s” house. We we welcomed by children and adults alike who wanted to watch our session with him. It started with about 15 men and women gathering in a small brick room no more than 150 sq. ft. Many of the women were carrying babies on their backs. The men stood on the opposite side of the room with drums. Joshua and I sat on the floor. The “witch doctor” was wearing bells around his waist and ankles and had a whistle in his mouth. As the drums started to beat, he started to dance. The women started to sing. Everyone started to clap. The “witch doctor” shook harder and harder…the sound was incredibly loud from all the people and instruments. He called us up one by one to shake with him. Then someone brought him a piece of burning charcoal. He put it in his mouth…several times. At the end of the dance he had consumed 6 or more inches of flaming charcoal. I’m not really sure why.
Then it was time for him to tell us our fortunes. He sat with us individually. His translator relayed the message. Although, the fortune seemed bland (other than the fact that Joshua and I will have three children – two boys and one girl and very good jobs), the energy in the room was contagious.