Occupations, Activities, Tools & Objects / Sports, Games & Entertainment / Fauna / Flora / Crops, Fruits & Vegetables / Cuisine / Chididi & Surroundings / Nsanje & Surroundings / Chikwawa / Blantyre & Surroundings / Lilongwe / Around Malawi / People & Friends / Toys & Kids / YEAH Project
How should I begin?
I started to experience some changes from the airplane: different faces, different languages, different colours … I was so glad that I could easily go through the documents control and check-in without any problem (after spending more than three months waiting for the visa and wishing ’all the best’ both for the British and Malawian bureaucracy, January from the hosting organization came with the brilliant solution to procure me a document from the Immigration Office which allowed me to enter in Malawi without a pre-arrival visa and to buy one from the airport … Hallelujah! Hard to be a Romanian sometimes. All the other volunteers didn’t need any visa and they easily started the YEAH EVS project on July … me, two month later, but I took advantage of spending some more time with my mother and visiting the nice Italy). I had the departure from Milan with three connections – Rome, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Lilongwe. Just in Ethiopia I had to change the flight, for the others I just waited in the plane not more than one hour. The airport from Addis Ababa wasn’t such a big shock for me (comparing with others’ experience) because I was used with Băneasa Airport from Bucharest … similar to a village railway station. The final destination – Blantyre, the second important city from Malawi. From above I could have seen how rural is everything and how reddish is the soil. The runway is not so far from trees, bushes, huts and … from Nothing. It was just another plane around … everything was looking like an abandoned warehouse. Of course, my enthusiasm is growing and growing … After a guy quickly checked my temperature (I think so) with a strange device (probably for Ebola or Yellow Fever) .. BEEP … he allowed me to go further – vaccinations to be checked, forms to be filled in, visa to be paid, … tip request, stolen pen, reminding for the change, all the luggage safely arrived … January waiting for me … YUHUUU … I have final arrived!
The first impact – the wheel on the right side … the cars on the left … many bikes … villages … markets … poverty. In Blantyre I meet the first azungu (white people): Inga from Germany and Marek from Estonia .. they live with us but they are involved in another project just for a couple of months (so bad … they are such great guys). The lunch – at a local ’restaurant’ with not quite traditional food: chicken masala with chips. We spend the night at January’s place in Chikwawa: many kids around, goats, chickens, blackout, we eat on a mat (with hands), we sleep on a mattress, we are bitten by mosquitoes … I almost forgot about the local toilet … outside – it reminded me of the Romanian villages.
We spend the second day at the SURCOD’s office in Nsanje where I’ve seen the first monkey and received my first allowance as a volunteer .. which are quite enough (if you don’t leave the village you can even make some savings). I also had my first traditional meal – nsima (a kind of white mămăligă/polenta made out of maize flour), masamba (Chinese cabbage) and some chicken with sauce and no cutlery. And about meat, I am more vegetarian now. So far, in the village (Chididi) I ate just once chicken (on a visit) and some small-black-hard-salty-smoked fish.
Lately in the evening we arrive in Chididi – my new home for one year. Talking about ‘lately’, at 6 P.M., the sun is already gone and around 7:30 is so dark! … I’m going to bed around 10, my colleagues even earlier; we wake up around 6-7 (some of us earlier for yoga) and the villagers around 5.
Life in Chididi
Chididi is a group of villages 15 km far from Nsanje accessible just by motorbike or a 4-w or maybe a Romanian old Dacia. Quite isolated, but pleasant and warm, cooler than Nsanje by some degrees because is a ‘mountainous’ area.
We share the house with the pastor of Africa Evangelical Church and his family (wonderful people!). We have electricity (illegally), water (bathing using the cup is not so bad after all) … we are quite privileged comparing with the majority of people. The houses are made out of local bricks. I share the room with Mathias from France and Marek; Inga is staying with Laura from Italy and Lorena from Spain shares the room with her boyfriend. Everyone is cooking and a guy called Josayah is helping us with the housekeeping. Most of people have biblical names like Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Isaac, Jonah, David, Mary … or others could be called Gift, Blessings, Peace. Everybody is very religious and I could say that the Sunday services are quite nice; it’s so interesting to watch people singing and dancing … UP, UP, JESUS, DOWN, DOWN SATAN! HALLELUJAH!!
Greeting is so important. ‘Muli bwanji?’, ‘Mwazuka bwanji?’, ’Maswera bwanji?’, ‘Ndaswera bwino, kaya inu?’, ‘Zikomo’, ‘Zikomo kwambiri!’ … Everyone is so friendly! Is so funny hearing the women laughing at your pronunciation or the children following you, imitating you, smelling you, asking to take them a picture and calling you azungu or even by name. For some of them I am Rastaman and they are so fascinated by my dreadlock – reggae and gospel are very popular genres.
The perception of time is so different … people is totally relaxed without watches … one hour late is not so bad here. Addresses are interesting. Of course there are no names of streets. I could say, for example, ‘I live in Mchacha village, close to the mill/stream/church/school/ground’.
African sun is wonderful, at sunset and at sunrise. The night sky also – different stars! (I’m in the southern hemisphere).
Everyone has short hair, even the women. They wear a kind of coloured scarf called chitenge as skirts and also to carry their babies on the back. You can also see them with a bucket or basket on the head, and, in the same time, it is not unusual to breastfeed.
Nature, vegetation are so different. Baobab, sugar cane, eucalyptus, sweet potatoes, masamba, koko, a lot of bananas; I’m waiting for the pineapple, mango, avocado and oranges to be ready.
People in Chididi use to have goats, pigs (black ones), chickens and sometimes ducks or guinea-fowls. So far I’ve seen a black mamba (the pastor killed in the house), geckos, spiders … The mosquitoes are not so many like the mice, rats and fleas. We have a cat now … actually a kitten; the only ones who eat the rats (and other bush meat) are some locals.
Adaptation (if there was such thing) happened so easy and fast. As I said before, everyone is greeting you and they are so kind and friendly.
Till my arrival, the other volunteers didn’t do many things, due to the school holiday. So, starting with my first week, we had meetings and activities – meetings with youth, school committees, village committees, all very formal. We are already involved in many activities. Each Tuesday and Thursday we have the Youth Centre – debating, English classes, computer lessons, games, different projects. On the rest of the days we divide up our duties between the health centre, kindergartens, primary and secondary school. On Mondays and Wednesdays we have debating classes at the Secondary School and Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Chichewa lessons (the local language). Monday and Thursday we make ourselves useful at the community health centre and on Tuesday we help the ‘village health care caravan’. There are some programmes for mothers, young women and under five kids. We measure and weight, write and calculate data, give pills etc. It’s very interesting. Another thing – each family has between 6 and 11 children. The ‘hospital’ is provided with a good number of supplies thank to different international organisations or governmental programmes. You could see a lot of condoms around the village … it seems that only children use them (as balloons and balls). What could I say – I am medical stuff assistant and an English, P.E., Life Skills and French teacher.
All the boys love football. There is also a regional league which has already ended. I was a substitute for the winning team in one game … Maybe I will play in the next edition. The ground is so bad and most players don’t use shoes; and they are in such a good fit. Mathias is playing for another team and he seems not to be so bad (for a white guy 😊).
Recently I started exploring the surroundings. I picked some bananas I tried to cook them – the banana stew was no so bad, but not so great either. Next time I should asks some advice.
We made our own garden and we make compost. We are trying to implement a project regarding waste management, manure and compost.
My laptop broke down so I spent my time reading. I have just one book left.
I am more than happy and I feel so good!
I have a proof here: –Morning in Chididi–