- The Nation – One of the few newspapers in circulation. Probably the most serious, broadsheet-like one.
- National Bank of Malawi (NBM) – The bank of choice of VSO volunteers, unless there isn’t one near your placement location. It’s no Coutts, but to be fair to them, they had a good number of ATMs (and they mostly worked). If you get in early in the morning as they opened, the wait is usually short. But if you go during peak times – especially on Fridays, Saturdays and month-ends – when you might be literally queuing out the door.
- Nokia – Bulletproof old mobile phones! Worthless to most of us nowadays, but absolutely priceless to a working class Malawian. Please never throw away your old handsets, lots of charities will recycle and redistribute them to someone in need. A simple mobile phone can be a really powerful tool in a developing country, and it’s simply a nice present to give.
- Nsanje – Southern most district of Malawi. A very hot part of a hot country! Where my good friend and fellow volunteer Fiona was based. We visited her in September 2013 and had a fantastic time seeing the Elephant Marsh. Really great memories – see here.
- Nsima – Maize flour and water stodge. Really difficult to cook well – see photo! Staple food of 99% of Malawians, but not a favourite with azungus/foreigners in general. There’s a common saying: “If you haven’t had nsima [in your meal], then you haven’t eaten.” There’s a much improved Wikipedia page on this now, following my fellow volunteer David’s last update.
Posts Tagged With: David
- 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.
As I re-adjust into life in the first world… tackling the dreaded “reverse culture shock”, finding a job, rebuilding relationships… I am slowly moving on.
But I still think about my time in Malawi almost everyday. I am staying involved on our iHRIS project and keeping in touch with friends.
One of my overriding thoughts on anything to do with Malawi is the Breakfast Club and the kids whom I saw everyday for 18 months. Which, after finally getting broadband installed in my home again, leads me to upload this video.
A couple of weeks before I departed from Malawi, the kids got together and performed a little concert for me. They also gave me a package of notes, letters and photographs which would have cost them a small fortune.
Luckily, David was in town and filmed it. You can’t tell but there were sand in my eyes (T_T)
In September last year, some of my class of October 2012 volunteers met up for a mini reunion.
We met at Fiona‘s placement location: Fatima, Nsanje District, in the south and famously hot part of Malawi. Where she and her housemate Judy, were teaching at the Trinity College of Nursing.
It took 11 months and the thought of Fiona finishing her placement without us visiting before we all finally went! Over these 11 months, and more if you include the correspondence we had before departing, we built up a real friendship with each other. Supporting each other through our journeys. The inevitable ups and downs. Homesickness, work challenges and victories.
Through Fiona, we also became friends with her housemate Judy and another volunteer Nyack, who were both also working at Trinity. You might have read from previous posts that Nyack has since moved up to Lilongwe and has taken on the Breakfast Club.
On our first full day in Fatima, we walked up to a guest house ran by one of Fiona’s friends. It wasn’t a particularly long walk but the sun and heat made it seem very long. It was interesting to walk through the villages lining the only (dirt) road through. There were a lot of “video shops”! These are makeshift cinemas, showing films and football matches. By the time we got to the guest house, we were all drenched in sweat. There was a sprinkler, which we used as a shower before sitting down to recover with several soft drinks, which were unfortunately rather warm themselves so popped like champagne and fizzed everywhere and opened! The way back was a lot easier since we took bicycle taxis, which are the main mode of transport between villages.
Fiona and Judy has built up a big following of local kids who regularly come to do activities. Watch cartoons, ball games, writing, drawing and colouring in. They were excited to see so many azungus arrive in the village. Among the screams of “Jackie Chan” or “Jet Li” to me and “Anna Banda“ to Regie, you can tell they were a lovely bunch of innocent, good kids. When I recuperated a little from our walk, I took the kids for some simple football training drills and played a match with them on the last day of our visit.
David was going through a fitness phase at the time. So in the evenings, he pressured me, Auden and Nyack (Mr Fitness himself!) to do the “Press-up Challenge”. I can’t remember who won exactly but we were all knackered and sweating (again) by the end.
The highlight of the whole trip was our visit to the Elephant Marsh. See a recent BBC video about it >>> here <<<. We saw lots of exotic birds, got sun burnt and retraced some of the steps of David Livingstone, the famous explorer and missionary… oh, and Robin got propositioned by his boatman to bring him to the UK as his servant.
It was a long way to get to Fatima but we had such a good time catching up. It is one of my best memories of Malawi.
- d.light – A good range of solar lights sold here in Malawi. A couple of these lights were our saving grace when there used to be frequent load-shedding power cuts, which results in darkness and inevitable delay to dinner!
- DAPP – Development of People from People (an acronym which isn’t quite right) is a big development project. But in the context of Lilongwe, when people say DAPP, they mean the main second hand clothes shop in town! It’s where you find all types of weird and wonderful apparel. From Dr. No style dictator suits to modern Burberry hoodies. Apparently, they also sell books now too. When there is a new shipment due, it is kind of a big event. There’s always overly loud music blasting away by the door. The dust always triggers my hay-fever. So I try not to go very often. Not that I like clothes shopping anyway!
- Dzaleka – is a long term refugee camp, established almost 20 years ago; In the Dowa district, I believe. Not too far from Lilongwe. A bit farther than the airport.
My fellow volunteer David and I went there back in February last year. It was an arranged exchange visit. We each gave a lecture in our profession. Him in clinical. Me in project management. The students were extremely bright and hungry to learn. We were both very impressed by their attitude and willingness to take on new ideas, ask questions and challenge any lack of clarity! There are also some very well managed educational facilities there. Including a nice computer suite and library. It was a very humbling and inspiring experience.