Penis captivus

Damn, it felt good to get out of the city.

Steven Zhou watched the Malawian savannah scream by in a viridian blur as the car hurtled southeast out of the capital. Lilongwe was left behind in a billowing mushroom cloud of orange dust – the same sepia-toned grit that had forever dyed Steven’s sneakers and clothes.

He’d arrived in Malawi just two weeks earlier, his first foray onto the continent. He was thrilled about the prospect of working as a reporter for Farm Radio International for the summer. But an administrative oversight – his inability to speak the local language – meant he was effectively sequestered in the office.

“I was tired of doing nothing,” he said. “I was scared that in two months I’d see little else of the country.”

The opportunity for an escape came one Friday morning when Fatsani Gunya, a local reporter, called Steven. Fatsani said he was heading out of town to cover the opening of a school – did Steven want to come?

Hell, yes, thought Steven.

One call in sick, and several hours later, he and Fatsani were on their way.

Their car whipped past trucks crammed with people so full they had to link arms to form a human seatbelt.

The school opening was just what Steven had been looking for. Out of the urban hub, he finally got to experience authentic Malawi. Villagers sang, clapped and danced away the afternoon.

Dusk began to fall. Steven and Fastani were shoehorned into a packed minibus heading back to Lilongwe. Their original ride had disappeared. People sat quietly for the 45-minute journey. The Zodiac news station was cranked high on the radio.

The minibus pulled into the outskirts of the city and sped past Steven’s street. He nudged Fatsani awake, afraid the driver was pulling a fast one. Fatsani turned around to the men behind him to find out what was going on.

“It was then that I noticed that everyone in the minibus had giant grins on their faces,” said Steven. “Everyone suddenly seemed excited about something.”

Fatsani said a Zodiac story had announced how a government official and a cleaning lady had been caught in flagrante at his office.

“I thought what do we care about that?” said Steven. “I just wanted to go home.”

“No, you don’t understand,” said Fatsani. “They can’t separate – the guy literally can’t pull his thing out of her.”

Steven was skeptical, but Fatsani insisted it was true.

“Everybody’s going!” he said.

Sure enough more than 200 people have gathered outside the government offices when their minibus pulled up. Families sit with their kids, picnics laid out, barbeques roasting maize.

A caretaker did his best to keep the crowd at bay but they finally push past him, eager to see the spectacle.

Steven said he didn’t stay, but the next day Fastani swore it really happened.

“I didn’t think it was physiologically possible but I Wikipedia’ed it the next day,” he said. “And sure enough, there it was – penis captivus.”