Posts Tagged With: Fiona Galbraith

A to Z: N is for…

  • 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.
Front page of The Nation during the Civil Service strikes

Front page of The Nation during the Civil Service strikes

Advert banner inside the NBM - spot the UPSIDE DOWN and out of date diary!

Advert banner inside the NBM – spot the UPSIDE DOWN and out of date diary!

Old Nokia handset - Scrubbed clean by my night-guard after receiving it

Old Nokia handset – Scrubbed clean by my night-guard after receiving it

Cooking nsima requires a lot of arm power!

Cooking nsima requires a lot of arm power!

A delicious traditional meal of chicken stew, beans and nsima - cooked by my friend Auden

A delicious traditional meal of chicken stew, beans and nsima – cooked by my friend Auden

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

Fatima and the Elephant Marsh

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.

Robin's Mitsubishi Colt crossing one of many rivers

Robin’s Mitsubishi Colt crossing one of many rivers

Local kids slightly shocked to see so many "azungus" (foreigners)

Local kids slightly shocked to see so many “azungus” (foreigners)

Fiona and Judy's very own "kanema" club

Fiona and Judy’s very own “kanema” club

Queuing for David's barber shop

Queuing for David’s barber shop

Trinity Hospital, Muona, Fatima

Trinity Hospital, Muona, Fatima

It really didn't have much in terms of facilities but the grounds were excellently kept with beautiful plants

It really didn’t have much in terms of facilities but the grounds were excellently kept with beautiful plants

Going for a walk became a spectacle with Nyack playing the Pied Piper

Going for a walk became a spectacle with Nyack playing the Pied Piper

We were humbly overtaken by these hard working kids carrying heavy bags of maize

We were humbly overtaken by these hard working kids carrying heavy bags of maize

A very sweaty group of azungus. Even Auden thought it was hot!

A very sweaty group of azungus. Even Auden thought it was hot!

Auden and his bottle opening belt

Auden and his bottle opening belt

Difficult customer(s)!

Difficult customer(s)!

Bicycle taxi convoy to the Elephant Marsh

Bicycle taxi convoy to the Elephant Marsh

Nyack, Mariam, Judy and Regie at the entrance to the Elephant Marsh

Nyack, Mariam, Judy and Regie at the entrance to the Elephant Marsh

I have no idea what's going on here but Captain Nyack wouldn't get into the boat!

I have no idea what’s going on here but Captain Nyack wouldn’t get into the boat!

Cruising in a genuine Malawian canoe

Cruising in a genuine Malawian canoe

Such a tourist!

Such a tourist!

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

A wee bit about “The Warm Heart of Africa” and my role as a volunteer

From a fellow volunteer in my VSO Malawi Oct 2012 group…

fionagalbraith52

      

Malawi is a landlocked country situated in South-East Africa.   Bordered by Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west and Mozambique to the south, Malawi has a surface area of 118,500 km2.   Lake Malawi (the 11th largest fresh water lake worldwide) covers 1/5th of the total land area.

Lake Malawi

 

Nyasaland gained independence from the UK in July 1964 and is now what we know as Malawi.   Joyce Banda became president of Malawi earlier this year, only the second female president in Africa to date.

The country has a population of approx 12.1 million; 45% of the population, children, under the age of 5 years.   Only 1.3% of the population reach the age of 65 years with the average life expectancy estimated at 40 years.   Malawi is one of the poorest, least developed countries in the world with a Human Development Index (HDI) ranking 165…

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

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