Malawi: a hidden gem
Malawi Travel Blog› entry 12 of 12 › view all entries
It was an ill end to the trip. Alex had been feeling iffy for a few days and on the final day, his system was fucked up enough to mean he couldn't lie down without feeling like he was going to fall over. And Chris was feeling bad, and spent most of the afternoon lying down on his bed. Alex went to the clinic, or rather the mini-clinic, where the volunteer doctors and nurses, mostly from Ireland, all live, just next door to our lodge, and got put on anti-malarials, just in case, along with some other drugs. At which point I had to go over and pay the bill (it is a private clinic) and decided to get Chris, who was fairly imovable and incoherent at this point, checked out too. He had a high temperature, and was put on anti-malarials and other drugs too, and was left in the clinic to be observed. At this point he seemed much worse off than Alex. And I footed the bill too. Which was rather inconvenient because it meant we had to spend some of our departure tax dollars as obviously, by the final day of the trip, when you're winding down and counting the remainder of your cash, to suddenly have to pay £60 for drugs is a bit of a drain on the budget! To add to my apparent sense of not caring about the other two, I then went out drinking. I did care, honest, but it was final night, and their was no point in hanging around two ill people, when there was a bit of partying to do.
I was awoken the following morning at 5:30pm by an attractive young lady doctor (jealous?), Siobhan. Both Alex and Chris were in the clinic, having both got worse overnight, and as a consequence, I had to pack both their bags. Honestly, they are so insensitive. Rich and Claire helped get all of the stuff into the car and drove over to the clinic so we could pick up Chris and Alex, both looking rather unwell, Alex more so than Chris. The trip to Lilongwe was relatively speedy and uneventful with two ill people. However, at the airport, the ATM wasn't giving us money, so we ended up bribing the departure tax kiosk lady with what dollars we did have left and then blagging our way through security saying our tax had been paid with the tickets. Its amazing what you can convince people with what they want to hear. And so to the flight back, relativly comfortable, there's actually quite a lot of leg-room and fairly decent food on Ethiopian Airlines. I thoroughly recommend them. Although we did have a lengthy lay-over in Addis Ababa which was not much fun. The new Indiana Jones movie was atrocious. And we got back to Heathrow without much incident, Chris feeling a lot better. And after five weeks of being in Africa its amazing how laid back you can get over having to sit on the plane for an extra forty minutes because the gantry broke. And then there was traffic getting Chris to Euston station, but frankly you could right another blog on that. Well, you couldn't really. It would be rather dull. And thus endeth the trip. At the time of writing (five days after getting back) we still don't know whats wrong with Alex, he has mostly recovered but is still feeeling a bit iffy, as I believe is Chris. Neither have malaria, but we await the results of blood-tests.
But what do I think of Malawi as a country. I love it a lot more than Zambia, in that I do genuinely love it. It is just as laid back, but perhaps more friendly. People here are so willing to help you out with no thought of anything in return. They care about what you think of their country, and are quite proud of it, they genuinely care about what you are doing, and are going to do whilst in Malawi. The landscape is far more interesting. They seem to have a bit more of a recognisable cuisine, even if it is only fish, beans and nsheema (nshima in Zambia), a maize-based white splodge (best way to describe it, honestly) and they are not adverse to the odd pudding, even if it is usually pancakes. They are a huge fan of bikes, market places look more crowded than The Head Of The River pub on saturday of Eights. Transport is easier, again because of a people's willingness to help and partly because the mini-buses only take three to a bench rather than four in Zambia, thanks to some new laws. And matolas are immensly fun. About 43 was mine and Alex's record, Chris got over 50 apparently, which seems improbable, but over 40 seemed improbable when we had thirty-odd in Mulanje.
Malawi has its fair share of problems. In fact it has a thousand times more problems than the people deserve. Its dirt poor. GDP per person is $800, which is nothing. 53% of the 14 million people live below the poverty line. It is one of the poorest ten countries in the world, the poorest if you use some economic indicators. Our chef at our lodge earns enough money per day for one beer, four tomatoes and three eggs. The worst thing however, is we didn't actually see any old people. Life expectancy is just 43.5 years. 85,000 people a year die of HIV/AIDS. Infant mortality is over 12%. These people do not live for very long.
Malawi relies heavily on oversees aid. Its infrastructure and economy are fragile enough to not be able to cope with any kind of disater. Famine in 2005 put hundreds of thousands on the brink. Disaster was averted by a bumper harvest in 2006 and the eventual arrival of food aid (this point brought home by a man on the back of a matola carrying a re-used UNICEF food aid box. But there is nothing to stop famine hitting again. Wiki-answers claims that the reason why it is so poor is due to corruption, but corruption is being cut out, the government is not incompetent or militant. They also say that the government keeps it that poor to keep enough people below the poverty line so as to get more aid. This is just insulting. Malawi is poor because it has no significant natural resources, there is a big brain-drain, and just generally, it is poor because it doesn't have the money to make money. It is utterly depressing that such misfortune occurs to such genuinely nice people. Anyone in the UK reading this has no reason whatsoever to not be nice, ever.
To stop this blog being too depressing, because we had such a good time and adored the place, and the Malawians wouldn't want us being depressed, here are some of my favourite shop names we spotted during our two and a half weeks in the country:
7) Praise God Shopping
6) No Overprice Barbershop
5) Jesus Is My Way Grocery
4) Dice Investments (they sound secure)
3) Hi-Tension Security Company
2) Paradise Butchery
and the winner:
1) Good Governance Coffin Company
So that's all folks. Hope you've enjoyed reading and I'm glad you made it this far! Apologies for the hundreds of spelling mistakes, "Bob Marley and The Whalers" probably being the worst and the thousands of punctuation errors. I've been told I do things to the common comma which no man should commit. But thanks very much for actually reading it. There's an Italian proverb (apparently) that says "great voyages, great lies". All events and characters depicted in this blog are fictional and any resemblance to actual events or persons are purely coincidental. Sorry if you thought it was all real. I've actually been on a beach near Malaga for five weeks. Mmmm Sangria.
Only joking, its been an excellent trip. Till next time...