Well, been in Malawi now for almost 1 week – only another 51 weeks to go – doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself! That sounds negative and I don’t mean it to be at all but actually when you say you’re going somewhere for a year it sounds a very long time but with only 51 weeks to go somehow it seems different.
This week has been all about ‘In-country orientation’ to use the correct terminology ( actually it’s probably not but I’ve lost count of the number of new phrases I’ve had to learn – and that’s just in English – Liquidation – basically when you ask for money that you may need or alternatively claim money back, or hand in receipts for food bought, but you need a pritt stick (forgot to pack mine !) and a piece of paper and an amazing capacity to keep every single receipt – simples ! So in the midst of trying to learnEnglish I’ve also had to begin ( and the emphasis is on begin !) to learn Chichewa – Zikomo (thank you) and Moni (Hello) and Muli Bwanji? ( How are you?) Trouble is with the last one they tend to reply with something that I haven’t got a clue. So I fall back on my usual Language trick of nodding and smiling and uttering the occasional sound which agrees with what they say. Well it always worked for me in France that is except when we got a plate of uncooked meats and cheeses and I thought I’d ordered 5 omelettes ! So meal times are still interesting.
The staple diet is either chicken (in all forms) and Nsima. This is cooked, ground white maize flour that is used as the stodge ( and I mean that in the nicest way) for the majority of malawian meals. Eaten with your fingers this was my introduction to Malawian food. But to eat it you have to wash your hands first. I walked over to the sink and turned the tap on but no water. Fortunately my ‘minder’ while I’m country orientating was with me and asked them to turn on the water. Apparently it is turned off to save for when there is a problem with water supply. As I don’t have a big appetite I only managed one Nsima. As people had previously told me it has no taste at all but is very filling. So filling that I haven’t eaten another one – yet !
My home for the next few days is the Country Office in the guest house. I’m staying here until accommodation can be found for me in Mangochi. I guess at the moment I’m very lucky as I do have a fairly secure wifi access something I won’t have when I go ‘into the country . We have guards on the gates and it does take some getting used to them letting you out and then knocking on the
gate when you come back, even when you’ve just popped
out for a yoghurt ! ( not that I used to eat yoghurt but you get the gist …………..and I do now! ……..)
You do feel like saying ‘ it’s ok I’m only popping out for a few minutes, just going round the corner I won’t be long – leave it open !!! but of course you can’t and on return – knock 3 times ( another cue for a song !) and the guard opens the gate – as I walk past the guard ‘Zikomo’
( see even you’ve learnt the language now ! )
As well as meetings on Finance, I have meetings on Safety and security, naturally, which was really helpful – what to do if …………… ( I just hope I can remember it when “if ‘ does happen or even if ‘if’ happens – what?)
For my VSO Card I had to go and have a passport photo taken – No sitting in a booth, feeding your money into a machine and click its done – in Malawi you get the personal touch. A lovely photo shop with a pulled curtain and a chair at the far end of the room. A gentleman with a camera appears and takes your photo – telling me head to the left, no thats too much, not enough – ( I really couldn’t do a photo shoot. ) And then hey presto in a few minutes you’re given your 2 Passport photos.
Visiting the market in the city was a fantastic experience. Although as in many markets around the world the sellers really want to sell you their goods, and when I say they want to sell you their goods – they really want to sell you there goods, a simple no thank you is all that is needed and you move on to the next person who wants to see you their produce. Really lovely people . The vegetables and fruits, looked truly amazing and again everyone was extremely polite
As I travelled to my next part of the induction, I travel along a route off the tarmac road and into other parts. The roads are a kind of sandy grit have a number of holes and bumps all along the route, where occasionally the bottom of the car does meet the road surface. The shops and houses along these paths/roads are very different to the area where the Country office is , where local people and businesses are selling their wares in what we would call very impoverished conditions. It does make you stop and think very hard about people and hardships. Just driving though these areas and I’m sure there are many around the world very similar and even worse but when you think of what ‘we’ have it does make you think ! I know I’ve repeated myself but it’s worth the repetition.
My journey was of course to the land of the cones ! which if you’ve read previous blogs you will know that this is devised by people who just want to create patterns with cones and make you drive around them on a two wheeled vehicle that was never made to go round cones spaced only a few metres apart. So here we go again and according to local legend (or so I am told) if I’m ok on the bike then I will only need 5 days of training to be ready for the Malawian roads and if I hit the cones or don’t manoeuvre in a figure of 8, 6 times successfully I’ll need 15 days !!!!!!!!!! I can’t wait ! As I write this I am awaiting to hear the full verdict and the sentence !
Just as a useless piece of information do you know if you look up to translate English into a language for Malawi it doesn’t exist !
Killed my first mosquito tonight withe ‘Executioner” – zzzzttt there it was gone – great feeling of triumph but still trying to suss out how to get into bed once the mosquito net is tucked in.