Lessons learned ……..

Still on my In-country Orientation ( or commonly known as “they cant find a house for me !” )  Well that’s not quite true but more about that later.

Heard at the beginning of this week that I just needed 5 sessions on the motor bike before I’m let out onto the Malawian roads – apparently this is a good thing – not me being on the Malawian roads which quite frankly terrifies me, but the fact I only have to do 5 sessions of training as opposed to 15 sessions.  Not sure when they begin but hopefully this week as I clearly need the motor bike when Im in Mangochi.  Presumably I cant go until Im judged to be a safe motor cyclist on roads that are busy to say the least and manic at the worst. Can’t wait !  And of course can’t go yet as havent found a house yet, but that was last week’s adventure.

“We’re off to Mangochi to find a house !”   Great …….. and off we set.  The roads in Malawi. particularly in towns and cities are fairly crowded,but as you get out into the country they are very straight, the traffic eases up but there are always people walking along the sides of the road and every so often there is a police road block and or a speed camera !  Well we stopped at a road block and speed camera and I thought it was a very interesting thing as it was the first time that I had encountered it and in hind sight, well ………. probably not a good idea …… but …….. thought to record events that happened I lifted my camera up to take a photo …………………WRONG decision.   It was not warmly received.  In no uncertain terms I was told to get out of the car, and suddenly was taken back to my school days when standing in front of the head teacher for not wearing my cap to school………….Sorry sir, I didn’t know, Im sorry, It wont happen again, so sorry, I’m new here, I didn’t understand,  etc etc.. That made no difference in my school days and I received the obligatory slipper ! but I thought Id give it a go and fortunately it worked this time.  I was severely told off.  He demanded to see all the photographs and fortunately I hadn’t actually clicked the button so there wasn’t a photo  … It was very much a one way conversation and series of questions which didn’t really expect an answer  except for repetitive “sorry, sorry” Told in no uncertain terms to get back into the car and we were on our way ! Lesson learned !

Looking for houses in Mangochi was a fascinating experience.  It wasn’t an Estate Agent experience more like finding a person, who knew a person who had an uncle who knew someone’s brother  whose cousin was letting a house but it may not be built yet.  Fortunately I had two brilliant people with me who just seemed to know everyone in Mangochi although they’d never met them before !

The morning of the visit gave me my first view  of probably one of the most important geographical landmarks of the country, Lake Malawi.  Apparently the lake has more species of fish than any other lake certainly in Africa if not the world    I was introduced here to what is apparently the best tasting fish you can have – Chambo – so obviously i had to try it A really beautiful lake, that early in the morning had the fishermen collecting their nets and placing their fish in containers ready to sell them  As well as the washing of clothes by the ladies at the waters edge.  The beach at the lake was just a hive of activity.  A fantastic scene to witness and one which I guess I will become used to but seeing it for the first time it just made you stand and take it all in .








                                   And then of course the ladies carry their washing home – just amazing

Ready to search for the house we ventured into Mangochi which was just teeming with people, bikes, stalls, sellers, goats, stores    Such a busy place .  With mainly a tarmaced road ( no kerbs of course so its just a raised piece of road) with a few crossroads and then as you turn down these the tarmac gives way to dirt roads, bumps, ridges and all sorts of holes to catch out the uninitiated visitor.  We venture down one such road, with 2 additional passengers, a lady and her nephew, who are our guides to find this house. We arrive outside a house that is surrounded by the wall and security gate.  Looking around the house it looks good and very spacious but sadly it isn’t finished yet, and the builders are still inside it. Interestingly they live inside the house while they build it, their personal mosquito nets are carefully positioned in some of the rooms.  They say it will be finished in 2 weeks.  The plastering needed doing, utilities had to be put in and windows.  It would be very handy if I want to hone up my soccer skills as the football pitch is right in front of the gates.  We wait outside while we try to contact the owner to discuss the cost but sadly she wasn’t availableIt –  definitely looked a good prospect but whether it would be ready for me is another question  We will have to wait and see.    Whilst waiting we buy some small orange fruit ‘things’ for which there isnt an equivalent in English.


On to another and another.  Stop off to ask another man who has a friend who has a cousin who might know someone.  This meeting took place right by the Lake, and I was told that if while I was in Mangochi then this would be the place to come and swim. Just come and ask for the owner of these lodges.  I thanked him and thought what a great idea – ………… “Oh but you will just have to mind the crocodiles ‘cos this is where they come ! ”   …………… ” oh ok thanks for that I’ll think about it and let you know ! ”

We venture down what does appear to be a footpath around a very tight corner…………… we drive down the very narrow footpath – eyes closed ( mine I hasten to add not the driver thankfully ! )

At this house I had to stay in the car as we were told that as soon as they saw me, being a different colour to everyone else, the price of the rental would at least double if not treble.  Again I was taken back in my memory when as a child my mother and father, as a rare Sunday treat, went to a country pub.  I dutifully stayed in the car with my lemonade and packet of crisps for an hour or so and waited for their return.

So I sat in the car, ate my orange and I observed the discussion outside the gate and then they went inside the compound to reappear again 10 minutes later. This apparently looked a really good house, which unfortunately they couldn’t go inside as the owner was away but from the outside it looked really good.  So fingers crossed.   We then drove the long journey back to Lilongwe – quite how Im going to do this journey on my motor bike I’m not quite sure.  It goes right through the mountains, a very twisty and steep road where there used to be barriers on the side of the most dangerous bits but these have ‘disappeared’!  But I’m sure after 5 sessions I’ll be raring to go – mmmmmm …do you really think so ? ?

To add to the excitement of the week, those of you who know me, know I can last without food, without comforts etc but I really cant do without music.  Being all prepared I downloaded almost my whole collection of CDs, records ( or as they call it now Vinyls – you young people – huh  ! ) and made sure I had Spotify on every device, though without the Internet not sure how that will work but we will see.  Two days in my Bluetooth speaker, JBL Flip 3, (for those of you who are interested and you’re probably not but I just thought that if someone from JBL sees this they might feel sorry for me and send me a new one ! ) that has worked beautifully for the last year, suddenly decided to just pack in.  Buttons refused to work.  What do you do in situations like this besides for smashing it against the wall and shouting – a’ la John Cleese fashion – “You ********* worked for me in ****** England Why do you ****** wait until now to pack in  ?   I’m going to thrash you within an inch of your life ”  But instead turn to Youtube and some guy in the States had exactly the same problem and without going into detail, as you’ve probably already dropped off to sleep, I managed to get it kind of working, though not as it should !!!  So sanity is restored and the hills are alive again !   Note to JBL I can give you my forwarding address at any time ! And if it stops again. can anyone recommend any good books to read ………………

To round off the week I went with a fellow Volunteer to undergo my first visit to schools.  The whole reason why I’m out here – and wow I was just blown away.  The children were so so well behaved.  I just stood and watched as these  6 year olds walked into the Learning centre ( 30 children out of a class of 150) They sat on the rush mats and waited beautifully.  They passed the iPads along the line of 4, received their headphones, logged onto their group and found their names.  Without any further fuss they proceeded to work their way through the tasks on the iPads.  Hardly a word was spoken and certainly not by the children.


The smiles were enormous when they completed a task and if they got something wrong there was no question of asking for help, they just sat there and tried to work it out for themselves, and repeated it until they got it right or the program moved them on.  At the end of session they closed the iPads, took off their headphones and just moved silently out of the class.


These children were  6 years of age  and many had very very poor literacy and numeracy skills, if any.  To watch them working within this environment was just amazing.  Definitely some lessons to be learned by others I think 



My first introduction to schools and I cant wait to go into my own group of schools.


And then to round off a brilliant morning I watched as some of the children performed in front of the school.  I was invited to sit and watch.  And it was a role reversal  as the teachers took pictures of me just sitting there watching the festivities   It was a fantastic experience. This is Malawi

12 thoughts on “Lessons learned ……..

  1. Certainly looks like you’re on course for a big adventure. You should be ok for the motorbike just remember our tutt tutt experience in Beijing!!! Hope they sort your house out soon. Continue with the news blogs. Roger

  2. Thank you ,really enjoyed reading about your search for a house and the short video absolutely amazing.x

  3. Just a thought… Can you do a blog for kids? Would work with our topic in September….😀 xxx

    1. Yes I thought of that idea just before i left but not quite sure yet how to do it, as I know that blogs are very often blocked by the schools. I have investigated something called GoBubble which is an App made by E-Cadets It’s free and is a closed environment specifically for schools. It’d be great if we could sort something out on there maybe. Ive been in touch with their MD so maybe if you get in touch with him we could start something off . I’m open to any suggestions – I think it would be great if we could start something and see what happens. Thanks

  4. Love this Dad! Don’t stop… living through you when bogged down with yet another feed! 😂 You’ll rock the motorbike (in a positive way & by not falling off) xxx

  5. Wow mike, that was an amazing account. You write so vividly, and in a uniquely you way! Brilliant. For various reasons I haven’t looked at my emails for ages. I shall now catch up with your adventure. …..lots of love xxxxx

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