October 25, 2005 GMT
A Bic Of Alright.

22/10/05. Lilongwe, Malawi.

If you spend a year travelling across Africa, at some point you really are going to have to go for an HIV test. That's just the way it i-i-is. Some things will never chaaange. Why are you looking at me like that?

On Friday I located the Seventh Day Adventist health centre and confirmed that
a) Yes, they do HIV tests, and
b) They're shut until Monday.
Fine. What are they gonna know anyway?

So today (Saturday), I step into the Medicare centre and, with just a hint of a wobble in my voice, ask if they do The Test. The receptionist sniggers. In London she'd be sacked on the spot. But yes, they can do it, and it only takes 10 minutes.
I enter the surgery.
The needle goes in.
The blood squirts out.
There is no mention of counselling.
I am instructed to return to the waiting room and sit with the women, all of whom appear to work here.

Nine minutes crawl by as I imagine the worst of all possible scenarios.

The doctor appears and hands me, silently, a piece of paper.
On it is written my name, the date, and the words "Non-Reactive".
"Does that mean No?" I ask.
He nods, smiling.
The ladies in the waiting room burst into applause.
Beer time.

Bic! Oh Bic!
Everything you make is perfick! For example;
Disposable razors. Gilette disposables rust on contact with water. No good. You can get at least four shaves out of a Bic disposable.
Pens. All Bic pens work until the ink runs out. All other pens work in the shop and die in the car park.
Lighters. Never buy anything other than a Bic lighter in Africa. (No, of course you can't get Crickets or Zippos.)

How many of these things do you think you can get in a supermarket in Malawi?
My best guess was none of 'em.
1. A wash bag to keep your toothbrush, soap, razors and deodorant in.
2. A soap holder to stop the soap adhering to the toothrush in the bag.
3. Nail clippers.
The answer is all of them. One amazing day.

23/10/05. Lilongwe.

If you're reading this and you happen to be a beggar, here's a word of advice; don't come up to me while I'm in the middle of an oil change and say "Give me money!". My response is likely to be perfunctory at best.

While we're at it, don't try and sell me food as I waddle, burping and in obvious discomfort, out of a pizza house; and don't try and sell me a pair of sunglasses while I'm wearing a pair of sunglasses. Simple tips that may make your day and mine that little bit brighter.

iPod disco nite at Chitimba

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at October 25, 2005 03:48 PM GMT

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