Posts Tagged With: Chinese

WOTD: Mtanthauziramawu

Chichewa word of the day: 1.mtanthauziramawu\mi-; 2.dikishonale\ma- (Chingerezi); 

Meaning: Dictionary

Sorry I haven’t posted a word of the day or about the kids for a while. So this is two birds with one stone!

I mentioned in my previous post that the Area 11 Breakfast Club was lucky enough to be awarded funding from FOMA and that some of the funds have been used to purchase dictionaries for the kids.

Well, on Saturday after breakfast, we used the Chichewa Dictionaries for the first time! “First time” is more poignant that it sounds because for the kids, it really was their first time to use a dictionary, ever. Using a calculator, reading a map and knowing where most countries are*… these are example of skills which we “first-worlders” take for granted because it was an integral part of our education.

*My own night-guard still thinks I’m Japanese (Ok, my German first name doesn’t help!). Because to him, there are only JICA volunteers but no Chinese ones that he’s seen or heard of in Malawi. Just to really push this point home, when we bought a new combination padlock for our outside storage room and I told him the combination so he and others can access it for tools, he looked at me blankly. Because he had never seen a padlock with no key!

Anyway, I explained the 2 (Chichewa to English and English to Chichewa) sections of the dictionary and the objective of the exercise (find the word on the whiteboard and write down the Chichewa or English meaning), at least twice. Some of the kids understood it, which was great. “It” being how the dictionary is sorted in alphabetical order. First by the first letter, then second etc. But some kids, as I discovered mid-way through the exercise, did not. They were just turning every page in search of the word!

This turned out to be a much more difficult (and fun) exercise than I expected. I was left very exhausted to be honest but will definitely do it again.

Thank you to Dr Steven Paas, the author of the dictionary, for allowing us to participate in the Free Distribution Programme, which is normally reserved for much bigger quantities and, of course, for writing the dictionary in the first place!

Class time!

Class time!



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

What’s Chichewa in Chinese?

Another quick catch-up post…

I’m really glad we had a good Chichewa tutor (a rather stern but friendly man called Arthur) during our ICT. It’s so true that when you make an effort to converse in Chichewa, Malawians do respond more enthusiastically. Especially if they are trying to sell you something of course!

According to my classmate, apparently I speak Chichewa with a Chinese accent – thanks David!

If it’s true, at least it’s not a bad thing (I think). Since Malawians do use their R’s and L’s interchangeably, which some Chinese English speakers do unintentionally.

For example, "zikomo kwambiri" meaning "thank you very much", works equally well if you say "zikomo kwambili". Not the best example but I hope you get the point.

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Early impressions of Lilongwe

Just found this blog post from another VSO volunteer who worked in Malawi. It reminded me of a BBC programme called The Chinese Are Coming, which explores China’s impact on African and other countries, including Brazil and USA.

Note to self: “Must revise Mandarin, as well as Chichewa!

BBC The Chinese Are Coming


A bit about Lilongwe , where I am based – the capital of Malawi.  It is divided into the Old Town and the New City – the latter being built in 1975 to be the new capital of the country and is basically the centre of administration, commerce, embassies and International NGOs. The city’s population has grown from about 99,000 in 1977 to about a million today.

It was designed as a ‘garden city’ and there are trees everywhere, with a huge variety of birds and bird song.  At this time of year – the rainy season – it is particularly lush and green. Crossing from one side of the city to the other feels as though you are in the countryside as there are vast tracts of cultivated land on either side of the road. 

I can’t compare this  to anywhere else I have been before – neither rural…

View original post 500 more words

Categories: Malawi, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

EscapeTheCity Interview Followup and AfriKids

Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to read my interview with EscapeTheCity, which was published last week. There’s been a really good response from lots of different countries. So thank you for taking time to read it and for your messages. If you’re new to my blog, welcome / mwalandiridwa!

There were a couple of things I didn’t go into much detail about in the interview. My involvement in the UK’s NHS IT programme, Connecting for Health, (which I’ll come back to in future posts) and my trip to Ghana in 2010, where the photos were taken.

While I was still working at Deutsche Bank, AfriKids was one of two charities chosen by employees as their charities of the year. As part of that, AfriKids hosted The Experience Challenge, where participants travelled to Bolgatanga, northern Ghana, visited various fantastic AfriKids projects and lived with a host like a local citizen. I was one of those participants and lived with my host, Bismark, who is a secondary school teacher for 3 days. A few challenges, which were all part of daily life:-

  • Teaching mathematics without a calculator, or
  • Chemistry without a Periodic Table, and my personal favourite,
  • Having wild dogs and chickens roaming through the classroom!

It was a very humbling experience for me, witnessing and sharing the life of a Ghanian. So many challenges (no running water or toilet), with little possession (compared to a typical UK person for example), yet still so happy, friendly and kind. Truly an eye-opener for most people, including me. I believe that this planted the seed for my move towards international development work.

A quick footnote to my Experience, is that Bismark’s sister, Doreen, is an awesome cook! I was never hungry after eating a meal she made 🙂

Total tangent… You may know that I grew up in the UK but am originally from Hong Kong. So I’ve got a few words to say to my family in Chinese. Especially, my Grandpa Fung who I’m proud to say is a proper silver surfer and my keenest follower!

阿爺, 阿嫲, 多謝你的支持! This is the link to my EscapeTheCity interview, translated (badly) into Chinese. Click here.

Bismark at work

Categories: Malawi, Travel, Volunteering, VSO | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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