Posts Tagged With: Chichewa

WOTD: Wokonza sinki

Chichewa word of the day: Wokonza sinki

Meaning: Plumber

As I search for a good, reliable plumber to do some odd jobs around my house in the UK, I remembered a funny story from my Malawi days; which seems like a distant memory now, regrettably.

As you do, when you need some plumbing work that you can’t do yourself done, I asked around for a good pumber in Lilongwe. Starting with the national staff at the VSO Malawi office. I was surprised to be greeted with blank, somewhat confused faces. I thought to myself: Are there no plumbers at all in Lilongwe?

But after a few tries, a colleague responded: Oh, a plum-ber!

Little did I know that it is pronounced like this 😀

All part of my experiential learning curve with Malawian culture and the phonetic Malawian English.

PS. My grandpa always encouraged me to write more about my Malawi experience. After a long hiatus, I will try to continue, and wrap this blog up for good properly one day. Until then, this is for you Ah Yia!

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A to Z: J is for…

  • Jambo – Swahili word for hello. Used plenty during my trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar.
  • Jumbo – Chichewa word for the ubiquitous plastic bag! Earlier this year, the Government of Malawi banned the sale and use of thin plastic bags. But of course, this is Malawi… so there was considerable legal wrangling to overturn this! Officially, it’s an attempt to protect the environment and curb the scourge of littering which happens in most places. Expectedly so since there is no real working waste disposal system, even in the capital city of Lilongwe. So people (including volunteers and expats) resort to burying, or worse, burning all their rubbish (“zinyalala“).

    All in all, a good idea in principle, going by the progress made on this issue by Rwanda – The Country That Bans Plastic Bags.

    However, as my savvy fellow volunteer David pointed out, the way this was implemented with such a short notice, brought severe livelihoods challenges for many street traders. In most markets, you’d find an invariably young boy trying to sell you a jumbo to carry your fresh vegetables and other groceries. I wonder what’s happened to them and their “trade” now.

Rubbish, kids and a "freshy" / FOB Chinaman

Operation Lap Sap

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WOTD: Mtengo

Chichewa word of the day: Mtengo

Meaning: Tree

Just before I left Malawi, another volunteer, Catherine, moved into the other VSO house, 2 doors down from mine and Robin‘s place.

One of the very large trees in her garden has just been chopped down, Malawian style! Visit her blog post here.

Equipped only with a panga knife. Not even a rope.

Equipped only with a panga knife. Not even a rope.

That's seriously high!

That’s seriously high!

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A to Z: G is for…

  • Game – Game itself is a South African chain of general merchandise retailer / department store. The “Game Complex” in Old Town is where most azungus go to do their weekly shop in Lilongwe.
  • Goat – Mbuzi in Chichewa. A serious road hazard because they love crossing when there’s a car approaching!
  • Goat stew – My favourite traditional Malawian dish. Especially when it’s cooked by my friend Auden.
  • Golden Peacock – The nearest and biggest Chinese supermarket to where we lived in Area 11. It’s not the best shop ever in all honesty. But the cooked food and vegetables stall was good. It had tofu, baozi (steamed buns) and beansprouts, which was always a nice treat.
The "Game Complex", Old Town, Lilongwe

The “Game Complex”, Old Town, Lilongwe

Auden's famous goat stew and rice

Auden’s famous goat stew and rice

The Golden Peacock, where we took the kids for a virtual shopping trip

The Golden Peacock, where we took the kids for a virtual shopping trip

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Umoyo Scale

Scary to think that this was almost a year ago…

Back in June 2013,  I attended The World Bank Data Literacy Bootcamp. It was a really eye-opening experience, where I learnt new skills like geocoding with Google Fusion Tables and met a lot of like-minded people who wanted to apply technology to their aid efforts. I also learnt a few funny words like “ideate“, which being reservedly British and all, I would never normally use!

Part of the #dbootcamp was dedicated to forming projects to tackle data related problems specific to Malawi. There was a $1000 seed grant for the winning project idea and pitch.

We formed a Healthcare sector team and brainstormed lots of ideas to tackle. Eventually deciding on starting up “Umoyo Scale” (Umoyo in Chichewa means health), which is a TripAdvisor like crowd-sourcing system to collect and share reviews of healthcare facilities. The main add-on is that Umoyo Scale would also be usable via SMS because most Malawians simply do not have access to the Internet.

There was stiff competition with lots of interesting ideas (see full list from our Hackpad) but we finished runner-up!

Unfortunately, due to work priorities and logistical difficulties to get the whole team together, we were not able to take this much further the submission of a concept paper. But it really was a great experience, which I hope inspired everyone to use data more creatively.

Before it fades further in my memory, I thought I’d share the ultra persuasive presentation we put together.

Categories: Healthcare, Malawi, Technology, Volunteering, VSO, Work | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: