Experiences from a pure bred N'Sungu

Lilongwe Travel Blog

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Wawa! Muli bwanji? Ndili bueno kay inu zikomo? Tionana! Basically… that is what HAS to be said about twenty odd times every five minutes walking through Malawi. The children can see you a mile away, shouting “N’sungu! N’sungu”, meaning “white person”, from far in the distance until you acknowledge them with a cheery “WAWA!” a.k.a. hello.

 

If you wanna be a celebrity… come to monkey bay. White people are rare and non-existent here. It was a four hour drive from the airport to the house… we saw two white people. In my whole stay so far I’ve seen one other, not a volunteer. Therefore, everyone wants to know us. Everyone asks us our names, everyone asks how we are and EVERYONE stares. I don’t know how I’m going to cope back in England. For a good few days back you’ll see me shouting “wawa!” to strangers in the street, waving at children as their mothers give me evil stares and I’ll be constantly asking “muli bwanji?”. Basically… I’ll still be getting stared at still, but for completely different reasons.

 

The journey here was pretty much the longest of my life. Met two other volunteers in the airport, Katie and Fiona, and we just panicked amongst ourselves about what lay ahead. Ten hours to get to Kenya, but I was sat next to an African man who told me of times he “danced the night away” and Jennifer, a Spanish translator, so that cut the time down a bit. At our stop off in Nairobi we ran into Ben, the illusive “other” volunteer on the buddy list we couldn’t get hold of. We’d spent some of our airport wait trying to spot him. We failed. We reckoned on this curly headed kid on his own. Totally wrong. Anyway, after a two hour wait in Nairobi followed by a two hour flight to Lusaka, a two hour wait there, then an hour flight to Lilongwe, Malawi, we were finally there and ready for our four hour drive to the house. That drive alone was pretty life changing. All those comic relief documentaries came to life. The poverty, the women with pots on their heads, or in some cases suitcases, the children running about in rags and swollen bellies. It’s all real. But with added goats. Many, many goats. Driving along it hit us all that what we’d heard about was actually true, and it was strangely shocking.

 

We finally got to the house. There are about 15 of us volunteers and about as many staff. All are lovely. We have cooks, cleaners, gardeners and even guards at night. My favourite is Computer, the chef. He makes the weirdest noises, but great food. We’re right next to the beach as well, right on the lake, but night swimming is utterly silly. We have hippos. You can hear them now and again at night… they round the corner in some reeds but at night they go wandering. We have power-cuts now and again, where the water goes off too, and rats that arrived in the curtains the same night I got here, and cold showers, and everyone’s feet are constantly dirty, but I love it here. It is actually immense. I’ve never been anywhere where the people are so amazingly friendly.  Brothels probably couldn’t beat these people in friendliness stakes.

 

My first full day was just an induction and heading into the town. Girls MUST wear knee length skirts. I have none. Who on earth DOES?! So… I now have a standard colourful wrap-around skirt that clashes with everything. I fit right in. The second day I was up at 5.30 to get in a Masungo, the local transport (a flat-backed truck) to go to the orphanage. Our mini-bus was broken. There were ten of us in there. Apparently they can fit thirty-three in. Monkey bay orphanage was immense. It was a house, actually made of brick (rare in Malawi) which was about the same size as my room at home. Add about thirty to forty orphans aged about two to four and you have Monkey Bay orphanage. Oh and a lazy woman called Chrissie who does nothing but make the porridge and a dedicated legend called Rysen. The kids were immense. All living in extreme poverty. Most cute. There were a few devil children. These hit, punched and threatened me with thorny sticks. All they wanted though was a bit of attention.

 

The afternoon was wound clinic. Me and another volunteer were in charge at the clinic of treating all wounds that people came in with. Over two hours… we had one patient. We cleaned and bandaged a boy. Apparently the average is no patients. It was a taster though. We’ve put up posters advertising the clinic in the villages, so soon, we will have bloody and hurt Africans banging at our door. I genuinely thought that I’d be just stuck in an orphanage here, but no, apparently I’ll be in the hospital, spraying houses for malaria, holding HIV/AIDs groups and teaching orphans. As well as wound clinic.

 

The weekends are ours. Excursions aplenty. This weekend we’re off to a far off city to watch Malawi play Ivory Coast at football. I can’t wait. We get our own viewing box as women aren’t allowed in there and the matches get very rowdy. The weekend after it’s Lake of Stars, a huge music festival featuring the Macabees and just happens to be a short boat ride across the lake. I LOVE coincidence.

 

Also, one of the volunteers here is an ex-medical professor at Kings University, my uni of choice. Apparently he still teaches there. Bribe this bugger and I might have a chance of being a doctor yet.

 

Anyhow, I’m having an immense time, I’ve met so many new people and just having a bloody decent good experience! Still, missing people every now and again. Sorry if I just sound like a bit of a brag too. On that note though I saw my first monkey today. :p

 

Much love to all back home!

The 5ft something hapless traveller

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photo by: sarahsan