Malawi - the warm heart of Africa
If you could give yourself a nickname - then what would it be?
I thought my longest bus ride remains the 54 hour ride in Brazil. I remember getting into the bus and looking out the window. I remember the sun setting and I remember trying to get some sleep. The next morning the sun arose and we continued forward as we had been doing all night and the day before. But then as the day progressed the sun set for a second time!! Rewind and repeat...
The bus ride from Lusaka in Zambia to Lilongwe in Makawi wasn't that long in hours. But it started at 04:00am and I had to be there 30 minutes before. My last night in Lusaka was spent in a dorm room with good wifi internet! So I ended up doing stuff until 01:00am. As you can imagine I was pretty much a zombie when I reached the bus at 03:30am. Sleeping was easier said than done. I think some engineers had worked out exactly how much leg room I need to be comfortable on the bus...and then they subtracted 15 %...
The road wasn't smooth either or perhaps it was the suspensions on the bus. In any case it felt like a long ride. I was however fortunate to sit next to Annie who was a lovely little Malawian and I was seated behind Maya which was quite a coincidence?! Maya was my AirBnB host in Lilongwe and I couldn't tell her my exact arrival time in advance. She also couldn't tell me what time she would be home on the day where I was supposed to arrive. That eventually worked out exceedingly well since the case was that we were both in Lusaka and we both had a ticket for the same bus. What are the odds?
I'm not sure - but I think Barbie might be working at the Malawian immigration?
2 Brazilians were struggling at the border. I myself felt that I was treated unfair. I wanted the transit visa for $50, but immigration told me I had to buy the $75 visitors visa because I had "business" within the country. That "business" was visiting the Red Cross as a volunteer which is to say unpaid. I complained a bit but eventually paid for the visitors visa. The 2 Brazilians had it worse! They couldn't get their visa at the border do to their nationality. So now they had to return all the way back to Lusaka and visit the embassy there! That reminded me of something I have tried myself at the border between Senegal and Mali. It sucks!
Anyway, I could have avoided paying the additional $25 if I had only said that my reason to be in Malawi was pure transit. That gives you 7 days. I'm not sure why I didn't? Perhaps I just felt like being honest...
So! The warm heart of Africa? I did a little research and as far as I can tell that nickname was given to Malawi by the Malawians. How about that? But as far as I'm concerned it's quite fitting. Annie, who I was sitting next to in the bus was really nice company. And my hostess Maya from AirBnB is an absolute delight.
During my time in Malawi I have been fortunate to head out to Dowa which possesses some spectacular views of the warm hearts beautiful landscape. I have also had a chance to visit Salima, and from there continue out to Lake Malawi. Lake they say? It looks like the ocean!! That was absolutely not what I expected to find within a landlocked country!!
That island is just left of what you can see of Mozambique in the distant background.
I have met my fair share of Malawians and they have all been kind and forthcoming. And on a side note I could mention that many of them are beautiful too. I usually reference Senegal as a country with a lot of beautiful people. But now Malawi is adding some competition to that :)
How about a few days at the beach at Lake Malawi?
I have seen a bit of both sides when it comes to Malawian welfare within society. Like in most countries there are those who have and those who don't. On that note I can say that there is still much to be done within Malawi in certain parts of the country. But as a tourist you might never notice. You see, you could fly in and get collected at the airport. Then you could go straight to a lodge and spend a few extraordinary days on a safari. Afterwards you could head to a resort at the lake and feel the sand between your toes while drinking an ice cold Carlsberg (Malawi has Africa's only Carlsberg brewery). Finish your vacation shopping for souvenirs at a local market and send a few postcards back home describing how wonderful friendly everyone has been.
Rural Malawi shows a different face and Malawi is like the other Southern African countries greatly effected by the draught.
You could also arrive as a humanitarian worker. Everyday you could visit vulnerable societies, who walk far to collect water or pray for the drought to be over, so that their harvest won't fail. Both scenarios are to be found in the warm heart of Africa. And somewhere in between there is a middle class with smartphones, Candy crush and Game of thrones.
My friend Zaitun is from Kenya and told me that she takes pills every three months just in case she has eggs, worms or other passengers onboard. They are easy to pick up in some places, but also easy to cure. Just chew 2 pills 3 days in a row. I've been in Africa for far more than a year, so Zaitun certainly felt that it was about time for me.
I did a bit of research on bacteria for my story about Zambia Red Cross. What I found was really interesting!! Bacteria were observed for the first time by a coincidence. That was back in the 1660s, but they weren't combined with illness until around 1840. However back then it was deemed as utter madness and completely disregarded! In England a theory arose in the 1850s that an "invisible force" in the water could spread disease. But the actual connection between bacteria and illness did not become accepted until the late 19th century. With all of that in mind it should be no surprise that we are still informing people about bacteria today. After all...smartphones are usually used on taking selfies far more often than anything else.
And to underline the irony I caught a cold! Imagine that!! A cold in Africa ;) Ah yes. Or should I say "Oh yeah", which is something you will commonly hear the Malawians say. It's a common response instead of saying Yes. Oh yeah :) I think it's charming.
Corn, which is the stable food in most Southern African countries, was originally introduced to Malawi by the Portuguese.
Having a cold is almost ridiculous to me. It's not like having a broken leg or having malaria. It's a runny nose and red eyes. It's not something that stops me...it's just something that makes everything so much more difficult. And I'm sorry to say that it seems Maya caught a cold too. But after me...so I'm probably responsible. She has been so nice to me...getting tea and serving biscuits.
Yum yum! Kanyenya and chiwaya at Kaphatenga, Salima. It's liver and other intestines fried in fat and oil. It tastes a lot better than it sounds. It's served with fried potatoes :)
The last blog was quite Red Cross heavy. I want to put everyone straight here!! I'm NOT criticizing the Red Cross!! My heart BEATS for the Red Cross. Although you might think it's "just" a humanitarian organization. I can assure you that I'm under the impression that our planet would BURN without the Red Cross. We are talking 17 million volunteers across 190 countries on EVERY level of society. Estimates predict that a full 150 million people rely on the Red Cross EVERY day! That's yesterday, today and tomorrow. So that's my take on the Red Cross!! ;)
I love how they stand in line! This borehole was provided to the villagers by the Red Cross. The villagers have been trained and form a committee which oversees the borehole and tests the water quality. It takes less than 14 days to create.
What I have been questioning is why hasn't this project been put into better use? And I think it might be put into better use within the Red Cross in the future. I have immense respect for the Danish Red Cross, which carries out life changing work every day. And the Secretary General, Anders Ladekarl, is a man I hold very high in opinion! I consulted him and suggested that future "Always present" stories should be written in English and not in Danish as they have been for the first 108 countries. And he replied that he agreed. That is GREAT news as I can now share them with the rest of the world. Hopefully that would help the world see, why I feel the way about the Red Cross I do. Because the engagement is truly outstanding.
Felix has been such a good friend throughout my stay. He has attended to my every need. Thank you!
I also proposed that I would consider to revisit much of Europe for a second time. This could add 1-2 months to the project. But in return the project along with the Red Cross could get far more visibility. When I visited most of those countries in the beginning of the Saga I was visiting country number 4, country number 12, country number 15 etc... My point is that nearly anyone could visit 20 countries in Europe with relative ease. So it wasn't interesting in the public eye. But after I leave Africa the count will be above 125 countries so a series of revisits would have far more magnitude. Let's see...
I managed to get a multiple entry visa for Tanzania - which is valid for a full year?!? So that puts me on the safe side :)
Between a lot of administrative work and my silly cold (sorry Maya!) I haven't done as much in Malawi as I wanted to. But I still think I managed to get myself a good impression. I will remember Malawi as a beautiful and friendly country where I felt safe and didn't see enough. Perhaps I will one day find my chance to come back.
A bus will take me onwards tomorrow evening. Tanzania is awaiting and my sisters plane lands in Dar es Salaam on June 2nd. As I mentioned last week it will be our first reunion since 2013. Something to look forward to!! ;)