Another early morning where the sun is about to rise in the summertime of Lilongwe, Malawi. Two escort drivers, Andrew and Vincent, are about to exchange keys and paperwork at the parking lot. Andrew is about to start his shift as Vincent yawns from his busy night. They both greeted in their native tongue, Chewa (chi-wa).

“Wawa,” Andrew said, waving to the escort car. Vincent waves back with his free hand.

“Wawa.” He hands Andrew the clipboard and his replacement begins to inspect the vehicle. Andrew asks about his coworker’s night.

“Anything happened?”

“We had our last drill for the month,” Vincent answered.

“I was wondering when was the next one. How did it go?”

“Sergeant said we got there safely. But I was going too fast.”

“How fast were you going?” He asked while on a knee to check the tires.

Vincent hesitated. Andrew looks back, waiting for an answer.

“…Nearly 100.”

Andrew then stood up and reminded him the obvious outcome of his actions.

“Vincent, you know the roads aren’t that good to go at that speed. And I saw a beaten person next to the road at the top of the hill on the way here. I don’t know if he’s dead, but if he was there during the drill, you might’ve killed him for sure. You will get fired for it.”

“But I just wanted to show the boss we can get there faster.”

“Sergeant told you before to slow it down. If you crash, the Marines won’t get to the Embassy. Does he know about this?”

“He is on duty right now.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Their boss still has another hour before his night shift ended. “He will tell you about this later.”

“You don’t think he will fire me?” Vincent didn’t have a squeaky-clean record like the others. He once broke the taillight when backing up into the Marine house. Another time, he forgot to place the tire block in front of a tire and it rolled into a wall, denting the bumper. Him speeding would only add another stain on his escorting career. “I need this job, Andrew.”

Andrew knew this fear, when he sideswiped another car about six months ago, getting both cars scratched up. Their boss didn’t threaten to fire him or scream at him like a banshee when he was informed, but instead calmly lectured him on looking at his blind spots instead of always relying on the mirrors.

Andrew confidently answers.

“He isn’t the type to unless he doesn’t have a choice. He cares about us like his brothers in arms, like he’s our older brother.” Andrew continues his car inspection. Vincent could easily picture their boss fulfilling that role, which then reminded him of Andrew’s oldest son, who sees Vincent as an older brother.

“That reminds me: is your son about to turn ten?”

“Yes. It’s almost that time.” He seemed calm about it, but Vincent knew that Andrew was scared for his son. Vincent could see it as Andrew stared at the clean rims of the front driver side tire for longer than necessary.

When a Malawian boy turns 10, they must begin their transition to adulthood. The young boys will soon fight against a “strongman,” a tough and battle-hardened adult. The strongman represents fear. In adulthood, a man will experience troubled times and fight through the situation with a conquering mind. And to become a man, the boys must fight the strongman one on one and win. They will have the bravery to handle anything as they defeated “fear” as a child. It’s a parody of a biblical story of David vs. Goliath.

Vincent offers suggestions to help Andrew’s son.

“Do you think the Marines could help him prepare?” He believed that using effective combat techniques will make Andrew’s son’s trial go a lot smoother if professional fighters could teach him. “I’m sure they would love to teach him a few moves.”

Andrew refuses by mentioning the consequences.

“If the elders find out, they will kill my son for cheating. No outside help. The boy must learn on his own.” The only assistance Andrew could do is cheer for his son as a spectator. He intended to do just that.

“What about mentally? The Marines might have their own ways of fighting through the pain.” Vincent didn’t want Andrew’s son to get seriously hurt or fight recklessly. If the boy died, no doubt Andrew wouldn’t be able to perform his duties as an escort driver.

Andrew again refused.


Andrew went through his trial without a father helping him because his father was the Strongman. After winning the fight quickly, the crowd assumed the strongman went easy on him, and because of that, the elders decided to break both of Andrew’s arms and one of his father’s ribs. That’s why Andrew was quick to deny any offers: for the sake of his family’s health. His coworkers never knew about this, and Andrew intended to keep it that way.

Vincent gave up with the ideas and asked about the time and place.

“When is it happening?”

“Saturday afternoon, at Satema by Area 35.” Andrew finished his inspection and requested the keys with his open hand. Vincent placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder before handing him the keys.

“I will pray for toughness for your son.”

“Thank you, Vincent.”