International overnight flights should have been banned under the Geneva Convention. The 15-hour journey from Heathrow to Kamuzu airport, with a dash across Johannesburg airport to catch a connecting flight, was my first flight either outside Europe or lasting more than four hours. Although the tiny time difference means that we are thankfully not jet lagged, I am completely exhausted.
My mood is not lifted by the fact that luggage belonging to myself and Unison head of heath.Karen Jennings, who kindly invited me on this Oxfam-hosted trip to Malawi, which is being hosted by Oxfam, has not followed us to this small southern Africa country...
Later we realise that only having an hour in between flights was not the best idea and stretched African ideas of efficiency.
After an hour fruitlessly waiting for our bags and being unnerved by the sight of customs officials going through large boxes being imported from Dubai (Malawi has a significant Asian trader population who import goods cheaply from the Middle East) we stumble out into the airport terminal. We are met by Patrick, our driver for the week, and a huge 4x4. He.drives us to a cool and calm hotel in Lilongwe, the Malawian capital.
After a 30-second wash and change - I am very grateful that an obsessive sense of order made me pack a change of clothes in my bulging hand luggage - we are driven to the Oxfam office where we meet Oxfam London.campaigner Claire, local Oxfam manager Shendra and office administrator Catherine.
Claire has already met with the Department for International Development in the UK, which is funding a 50 per cent rise in Malawi nurse wages.
We are running so late that there is no time for lunch and we head straight to our first meeting with some lovely people from the Malawi Municipal Workers Union, who explain how unions were all but wiped out under the regime of the former dictator Hastings Banda, but are now enjoying a resurgence.
By this point I am so tired I start to feel ill and nearly pass out. Luckily, no one appears to notice and I am saved by the union kindly serving us soft drinks......
On the way back to the hotel we visit the enormous mausoleum of Banda, perched by the side of a main road. Claire is urged to have her photo taken beside the tomb by the soldier guarding it. As he is armed we don't argue but it is strange to see the affection that many Malawians still have for their former leader; a family are visiting the tomb as we leave.