A Traveler’s Tales from Malawi

Ode to Malawi
August 23, 2008, 11:40 am
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You know that you have adapted to life in Malawi when:

You get so excited for the scent of dryer sheets and machine washed and dried clothes;

When you can fix your own leaking toilet better than the plumber;

When you are no longer surprised or annoyed by a meeting starting an hour later than it is scheduled;

When you hardly notice the call to prayer or flies anymore;

When the short ties that the men wear no longer suprise you (however, still make you smile to yourself);

When electricity goes out as soon as you start cooking dinner;

When you start referring to long lines as queus, pictures as snaps, and mixing up your r’s and l’s;

When you are prepared to use your underwear as toilet paper in those emergency situations in which you should have brought kleenex or an extra roll of toilet paper but for some reason that lesson hasn’t stuck ๐Ÿ™‚

When it takes a visit to a few ATMs before you find one that works;

I do love Malawi for allย these quirks and so many more. It has been really good to me these last 4 months and taught me a lot about life. Certain things may be frustrating and terribly annoying but the good outweighs and I always smile or laugh more than I want to scream or cry ๐Ÿ™‚ Here is to another 4 months and many future visits! (If you can’t tell, it’s 2pm here and I’m already starting with a glass of wine –ย one of the perksย ๐Ÿ™‚ )


Fun Times This Weekend
August 12, 2008, 12:01 pm
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I had no plans this weekend, and it turned out to be a fun-filled time ๐Ÿ™‚ I watched a movie with a friend Friday night; thanks to the shipment of new movies from Nick! And then on Saturday went for a walk with a friend; basically it was the blind leading the blind. Neither of us have any sense of direction, and to be honest, most of Malawi and my neighborhood looks alike. So after an hour or so, we found our way back. Then I went to a music festival in which the two top bands from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were battling for the #1 spot and a European tour as the prize. It was great! Still very sleepy Malawi with most people staying in their seats until the very end ๐Ÿ™‚ I made friends with last year’s winning lead singer and his girlfriend. The girlfriend convinced me to go upfront and dance with a bunch of people when her boyfriend’s band started to play. It was fun and funny b/c this little girl got someone’s cell phone and took a picture of me. I couldn’t figure out if it was b/c I was that bad or the surprise of seeing a white woman shake her hips ๐Ÿ™‚ Then on Sunday, I went to one of the beaches of Lake Malawi for the first time. It was such a beautiful day and scene! I took some pictures but have not downloaded them yet. So hopefully, I will post them soon.

Girls Leadership Congress in Mulanje
August 12, 2008, 11:51 am
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The pictures below are from last week’s Girls Leadership Congress in Mulanje (the southern region) that my project organizes. It was so much fun, as hopefully you will be able to tell! And the southern region is so beautiful; it stays relatively green even though it’s the dry season. The one picture in which I’m in I was teaching the girls head, shoulders, knees, and toes during a break between sessions. They then taught me it in Chichewa. To be honest, I cannot remember one of the words. However, I did learn a slang word for stop sweet talking (ha a iyayi), kinda like a whatever, and they basically asked me to say it at every chance possible to make everyone laugh ๐Ÿ™‚

Random cultural nuances
August 2, 2008, 3:01 pm
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Oh, how I love certain things about Malawi that always challenge me and cause me to have internal conversations with myself. For instance, today I went to get my eyebrows threaded and was told very blunty and almost accusingly “you are very hairy.” What is the proper response? It pretty much stops the conversation with “Yes, yes, I am.” Or the other thought that I had was to ask the woman how her mother is doing b/c last time I was in there (2 months ago) she was sick. However, this isn’t an easy or simple question to pose because the woman’s mother may be even sicker or possibly passed away and then will I be faced with a question about donating money for her medicine, seeing a doctor, or funeral services b/c I asked and basically am now somewhat responsible to help. That’s basically how things work.

Monday, I was coming home and walked through the gates greeting the guards with the usual Mwaswera bwanji, tdwasera bwino, zikomo evening greeting routine, when one of them stops me to give me an envelope. In my head, I’m thinking damn, please don’t be a love note. No better, it’s a request for money for his brother’s funeral with an opening sentence implying that I should be flattered by the note (WHAT?!). These situations constantly put me in an uncomfortable position in which I would like to help but also need to be weary of the situation and cautious as to the effect it will cause.

Issues around money here are a constant challenge and often an annoyance. And being taken advantage b/c of my skin color is just a fact. Some days I handle it better than others.

The issues about being called hairy or fat are simply issues of culture that may be compliments or not depending on the person who says it and the situation ๐Ÿ™‚

Gotta love all learning experiences and growth opportunities ๐Ÿ™‚

The week in review
August 2, 2008, 2:45 pm
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The reason for my silence lately is that I have been staring at my bathroom, praying to God that whatever has made me sick would go away within 24 hours, well…48 hours, and then please, God, isn’t 96 hours enough?!?!

So with this experience in hand, I have now visited two clinics here for malaria tests, learning truly what a false positive is – when the test comes back positive but it is really negative. I had a feeling that I should get a second opinion since when I went to ask the lab technician what 1 plus means he didn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him. So I went to the clinic that my neighbor doctor friend works and saw her. The test there came back negative and I was told to rest and plenty of fluids. After a day, I basically became a petulant child and refused liquids b/c I was so tired of my bathroom. With all the time that I spent in there this week, I decided this weekend to buy a new shower curtain and floormat ๐Ÿ™‚ I was hard core and didn’t take any medicine for 3 days and then caved and started antibiotics b/c I was just so tired of it and thought that it wasn’t normal to keep up at the pass it was. So now, I’m medicated and much better ๐Ÿ™‚ However, a thought that I would like to share – why are rehydration packs so gross! I can’t believe that we make children take them and that they actually do. There has to be a way to make them taste more like koolaide.

PS Sorry for the spelling; I would like to blame it on now being in country for almost 4 months ๐Ÿ™‚

Nature’s way of adapting
July 26, 2008, 11:49 am
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So, I have been wondering why the cattle here have these distinct humps close to their heads but on their backs.ย I learned yesterday that they have adapted to the terrain and environment in the southern hemisphere, and since there tends not to be much green grass during the dry season, they have a hump like camelsย that stores fat. It’s quite amazing how nature works!

Mount Bunda
July 26, 2008, 11:44 am
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Last Saturday, I climbed to the top of Mount Bunda. To be honest, I’m not sure how high it is. But it was high enough to cause my breathing to become labored and to have a slight fear of heights when I looked back as I was climbing ๐Ÿ™‚ Regardless, I made it to the top. I’m sure that it’s a bit more breathtaking during the rainy season when everything is green instead of burnt brown/yellow. So I’ll just have to make the climb again ๐Ÿ™‚