Owen

(4)

Next day I ask Rachel if she is interested in visiting the Old Town that weekend.

“Oh, I’d love that,” she says.

The Old Town is like a flea market in the United States. Small individual stores, adjacent to each other, sell produce stacked in heaps on wooden tables or spread out on the floor in large wooden bowls. Some sell live chickens, fish and colorful clothes. A lady displays wooden carvings and jewelry spread on a cloth on the ground. A busy road with vans, buses going back and forth and people walking every which way is to one side of the market. Young boys and girls push handmade necklaces and knickknacks at us. We don’t understand what they are saying. I have to hold Rachel’s hand lest we get separated in the crowd. It is hard to hear each other with the calypso-like music blaring from the speakers in some stores. Rachel is pulling me in every direction like a child in an amusement park.

“Let’s go in here,” she says pointing to a small clothing store. It’s little more than a tent with clothes hung on racks. A lady, dressed in native clothes, approaches us and starts showing the clothes. We have to manage with sign language.

“How does this look?” Rachel asks. She has draped a green-and-purple scarf around her shoulders.

“You’ll look very pretty,” I say.

“Be serious.” She makes a serious face.

“I am. The colors are perfect. You’ll look radiant.”

“You’re too much.”

We both smile. She doesn’t buy it.

We have been walking for two hours greeting passersby with a nod and a smile. We have practiced some Chechewa words to say Hello (Moni), or How’re you (Muli Bwanji). They smile and respond with the wave of their hand.

We don’t know how far we have come from the center. It’s also late in the afternoon.

“Would you like to get a bite and a drink?” I ask Rachel.

“I think that would be nice,” she says.

There is a low-roofed building facing us. The Sanctuary Lodge says the sign.

“Why don’t we go in here?” she suggests.

As we enter we are greeted by a tall man, dressed in black trousers, white shirt and tie. He escorts us to a table in a corner. Fortunately he speaks English, but with a bit of an accent. The rustic surroundings and minimal decorations give a soft feeling about the place. Overhead fans whirl providing a breeze. Each table has candles providing dim light.

“Very romantic,” I say. “You had a good hunch.”

She smiles.

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