Oh the Places My Laptop will Go!

11 08 2007

Well, you may or may not have heard already about my laptop incident. I’m going to start with the factual part and then delve deeper into the emotional part.


On Friday, June 27th, I arrived at the Guesthouse at 3:30pm from work. I dropped off my stuff (backpack with my laptop) to head to the market to pick up some gifts for the ladies of the village. The door was locked but the system was to leave the key in the cabinet in the common kitchen area (room 1,2,3,4,5). Coming back from the market at around 5:30, I found my fellow volunteer hanging out and we proceeded to chat for about 2 hours. When he decided to go for a run, I decided to get some work done on my laptop and lo and behold, my laptop along with the cord and adapter and $200USD was gone.


I reported it to the management and to the police but I was pretty upset, although it may have not seemed like it. Now I’m following up with the police as I’ll be in Lilongwe for the next 2 weeks to see what progress has been made. So far, I would like to believe that the police are doing their job, but it has been pretty difficult to track their progress. I mean, it seems to be my bad luck that everyday when I have visited them, they police officer in charge of my case is either not in yet or has knocked off and apparently, when I text them, they don’t text back. Bad luck or just screening the calls, who knows? I suppose I should just accept that chances of recovering the laptop are pretty low and that I should make the most out of the back-to-school deals.


Now the emotional part:

I’m on the slow road to recovery, finally accepting that laptops and money are pretty liquid and replaceable items. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it still sucks to have these things gone with my personal information, but it’s not the end of the world for me. I’ve learnt to deal with it pangono’pangono (slow by slow) but this circumstance has put a little bit of life into perspective.


For instance, say you were a farmer in rural Malawi and you hired someone to transport your entire tobacco yield to the auction floors in the big cities, only to find out that the transporter disappeared with all your tobacco, what would happen then? Or, if a hyena came in the middle of the night and took one of your biggest pigs into the bush and you were only able to recover a leg and the stomach, what would happen then? That’s some food for thought.


But I’ll admit that during my time here, I’ve had a pretty hard time trying to find poverty. I know, I thought that once I got here to the third poorest country in the world as defined by the UN Human Development Index, that I would see it everywhere I go. But instead, I had to really look hard at the circumstances and the situations surrounding me and in fact, had to have this sneaky theft occur for me to finally realize what poverty really is.


So my definition of poverty is based on vulnerability and opportunity. I, like the two very real situations described above (the first one is based on a farmer that one of my fellow JF, Tony had encountered, and the second is one that happened 2 nights ago to Mpanje, my neighbour/brother/uncle?) We were all vulnerable, all humans are vulnerable to something in some extent (my apologies for the vagueness of the comment) but we all have different opportunities. For instance, I have the opportunity to come home to recover these losses. I have opportunities to employment and earning a steady, fairly well paid income, cushioning these losses. The tobacco farmer has the opportunity to regrow his crop next season, but for this season, he has no income. Mpanje has the opportunity of waiting for his 19 piglets to grow big to the size of this pig (man, it was huge). But the questions still linger:


If someone steals all your tobacco, your goat, your maize crop, how would you go about recovering that? What types of systems or safety net could you use to cushion the losses? What effect would that have on your life for the next 6 months to a year?


Like I said before, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a victim, it’s pretty hard for me to accept that because to be a victim is to be powerless but I’m not really in a powerless situation. I have the ‘power’ to cushion these losses, but at the same time, I’m becoming a little more irritable and more curt when this happens, I’m becoming more cautious and weary of strangers, just generally, I don’t want this to happen again while I’m here.


It’s funny how one situation can influence your life.




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