Even though it has been half a year since visiting Malawi, pictures resurface some great memories. They show me a reality that I would otherwise forget living in a western world. We should all have some awareness of the life around us and stop our daily frustrations by thinking about our prosperity.
I love those dogs as much as they love to chase monkeys
Last day meant travelling with public transport. WOOHOO… The five hour bus ride was as chaotic and cozy as it looked like. Two places to my left sat a girl holding a small white chicken. The chicken obviously did not enjoy the tedious drive; it was louder than the playing children. Right next to me was a man who occasionally fell asleep and thought he could take up my place. Overall, the bus was so crammed that three people sat on top of one another and 30 people actually stood the entire 5h. Small stops were made to squeeze in more people from different villages. From outside the bus and through the window market workers sold tomatoes, chips, fried pastries, drinks and cookies. In Dedza we were dropped off. This was five km from our final destination, the pottery. The bus driver had already planned further transportation. Waiting at the street were three bicycles. One for the luggage and the other two for my mom and I. Without any demur I hopped on, realizing only later the excellently bad shape of the bike. No pedals, the seat held together and attached with tape, the breaks held by ropes, and the back tire flat. Not to forget we were driving on a highway. A sudden maneuver down the side of the street prevented my bike from colliding with a silver jeep that was heading our direction at 100 km/h. I had to let go of the bike to cover my face before the driver and I were wrapped and smothered in a thick cloud of black sandy dust.
To end the day with a bit of luck, the pottery lodge gave us their last free room to stay the night.
Monday morning I spend two hours woodcarving with the natives. (Workplace behind the store)
The tools we used: 1 saw, 2 files, a toothbrush and shoe cream!
This was the outcome
view from above
Women are planting potatoes before the rain season starts. The potatoes will be sold to the hotel on the plateau.
Their path is steep and leads into the city. It is a 3 hour walk down the mountain.
Hiking on Zomba plateau took 6 and a half hour nonstop. The guide had set a fast, unchanging pace, stopping at viewpoints for about a minute. There was not even time to enjoy the landscape. While managing breathing, drinking, walking and taking pictures all at the same time, we arrived at Chingwe’s hole completely exhausted. Chingwe’s hole is on top of the plateau. It is about 3 meters in diameter and thought to be 60m deep. In ancient times, natives with leprosy were thrown into the hole. A few months later, corpses were swimming in the river of Zomba and so it was predicted the bottom of the hole leads to the river. However no explorer has ever managed to get to the ground of the hole. It is completely unknown what’s at the bottom or where it ends. One expedition to discover the depths of the hole was led by three Europeans. One climber attached to a rope descended into the darkness, assisted by two companions who managed to hold the rope until it was completely extended. Pulling back the rope, it came empty. The climber never seen or heard of again, deprived of sunlight for the rest of his life.
How to prepare fish in the bush
Step 1: find a tree and break off a piece of wood.
Step 2: hold the (still living) fish by its head and scrape away the skills using the wooden stick. Always swipe into the direction of the head, the skills come off easily.
Step 3: (now it gets a little rough) turn the fish upside down and thrust the wood into the fish`s body. Then slice it open to take out the non eatable insides.
Step 4: Wash the fish in the lake and put it over the fire.
Enjoying the bright side of Malawi
The time/plan conflict. Malawian church was supposed to start at 9 am, but people did not show up until 10 o’clock. This caused everything stretch into the afternoon and our Sunday plans once again evaporated into the endless scarcity of time. Church however was an intense experience. It is a serious thing for Malawians. The ceremony started with bible study. One hour of rough Chichewa talk from a priest made me wonder what brought me here. Inside the church, plastic chairs were set up in two columns: one for the men and one for the women. They had to sit separately. When the room finally began to fill up with people the real Mass started. After a prayer the women sang and the whole process of reading and praying was similar to German church (only that happier songs were chosen and people sang with strong energetic voices). The part that was new to me was the confession. It suddenly felt as if the church had turned into a psychiatric center (this might sound rude, but I can’t find a better way to describe it). Everyone fell to their knees and started screaming to themselves. They could hear one another but nobody listened to what the other person let free from their soul. So abruptly and synchronized as the session had started, it ended. Chairs had fallen to the side and a cacophony of noise was stuck in my eardrums. After three hours of sitting this movement had given the church an impulse of life.
Gilos, my friend from the orphanage had introduced us to the people from his village and church, so in return we took him to Domino for lunch. Domino is a somewhat expensive restaurant (3€ a meal) and we ordered two large Pizzas. It was the first time for Gilos to eat Pizza, and it made his day. He said nobody in the village would believe him for having such a fancy meal. It costs as much his weekly salary. We also had to deal with some strange looks from other male costumers who were drinking five glasses of gin. They clearly didn’t accept a man below their class seated next to them. But in their intoxication they happily made their way to the car with the assumed ambition to make the streets even safer than they already are.
So sad to be leaving grace orphan care today :(. I will miss Victor, Ernest, Gilos and ALL the kids. They showed me so much of their country and I think I lived like a real Malawian for two weeks!!
Things we did:
-HBC (home best care) with Gilos. Every thursday we went around the village to meet disabled children. Today we helped a family clean their house and I had to cut the grass using a big shovel.
-My mom and I build a swing at the orphanage
-I painted some posters to raise awareness for environmental protection. The children are supposed to learn how to recycle plastic. They are also taught that burning or chopping down trees causes a lot of damage to nature.
-We played soccer and some card games in the afternoons
-Victor showed me how to eat sugarcane, chinangwa and how to cook Nsima
-I gave the kids math and English riddles to solve.
-Gilos gave me some Chichewa lessons so I could talk with the natives.
– One day we took a hike up a mountain so we could see all of Zomba and I was paranoid of snakes. The other day a gardener had killed a Cobra that was lying around the house. It was suggested to cook the snake but my mom immediately objected 🙂
This morning started with trouble. It had been raining all night and the outside temperature dropped to 15 degrees. Rushing into the car to get to the city on time was completely unnecessary. The car did not turn on and so it took half an hour for the three house guards to give us a jump start. Finally driving to town was another adventure. The roads had turned into mud. All trucks were carefully crawling over the slippery ground, it is important to mention that most of them do not have functioning breaks.
Arriving at the bike garage was like surviving a rollercoaster ride through a thunderstorm. But here the impossible is always made possible. So in the garage my job was to straighten tires and reassemble a Canadian bike. I learned fix problems in a way that would be unacceptable to German people. For example cutting away half of the fender with a pair of scissors because it was touching the tire. The repairs basically took up half of my day. (UPDATE: my fixed bicycle was sold for 65 000 kwacha!!!) People here like to work very slowly and if possible not more than necessary. It is a troubling attitude because it hinders all economic development. Even worse is seeing how other countries are intervening. Big containers with used shirts, bicycles or shoes are sent to Africa. Once you are here you will shake your head because it is extremely inconvenient and disrespectful towards the natives. Inconvenient in one way that it does not drive the people to produce their own clothes and learn how to sew, in the other disrespectful for thinking these Africans are so poor that they have to wear our used shirt. Sending money is another big problem all on its own. None of these things are any help to the future of the children living in Malawi. What they need is good education, meaning more schools with better trained teachers. At the moment classes consist of 100-150 students, where kids in grade 7 have failed to learn how to add and subtract numbers. I get confronted with these issues every day in the orphanage. So it’s no material things that can assist this country, it is human experts that can teach adults and children how to think in different areas. Experts like mechanical engineers, highschool teachers, doctors, pilots, and so on.