First Experiences

Well, my shoes are caked in red dirt, I’ve gone through most of the clothes I’ve brought, and I’ve got sunscreen everywhere! That’s right, I am finally writing to you from Malawi! I’ve been in the capital, Lilongwe, for about 3 days now and so far I really like it; Malawi is pretty chill place.

Getting here was a bit of a nightmare involving 5 days of travelling, a 16 hour flight, a night in Ethiopia, and me almost getting on the wrong plane to Nigeria, but I made it nonetheless. I’ve been spending the last few days with APS (African Program Staff) Mike and Owen getting caught up on the workplan for the water and sanitation (watsan from now on) team in Malawi and the Water Monitoring System which I am hopefully going to be kicking off in Thyolo. Speaking of which, I am heading down to Blantyre tomorrow and then on Tuesday morning to Thyolo to start work. I will be staying in the Boma, which is the capital of the district. I’ve got the impression that it’s not a big place, but a beautiful one. I’m going to be staying in a guest house for the first few week, but hopefully will be moving in with a family soon after.

To check in with you guys, I must say that physically, mentally, and emotionally I am pretty content. I still have lots of reading to do so that I can hopefully kick ass on water point monitoring (WPM) and I’m a little bit nervous about starting work, but mostly excited.

Just a couple short stories and observations for you:

– Malawians are really nice! There’s a reason Malawi is the warm heart of Africa.
– Malawi is really short on fuel right now, I realized this 10 minutes after arriving when my taxi broke down on the side of the road.
– Toilet paper comes in different colours, so far I have seen blue and pink!
– Cell phone units are really expensive! I’d love to hear from you (+256 991 764 034)
– The local currency is Kwacha, it’s really inflated. 135K = $1 CAD. It’s quite weird to pay 250K for breakfast and realize you’ve only spent $2.
– I played ultimate Frisbee today with Owen and a bunch of locals, it was awesome! I was exhausted 10 minutes into the first game, but I played all 4 anyways. It was wicked fun and I got a little bit better towards the end (not much though). – Thyolo is basically the banana capital of Malawi, if you know me, then you know I love bananas. I should have brought my banana case with me, haha. Also, mango season is coming up!!! I had one yesterday, it wasn’t quite ripe yet though so I didn’t get the full mango goodness.
– I experienced my first Malawi power outage my first night here. The power just goes off every now and then.
– Summer is just beginning here, so it is going to get HOT. The temperature now is perfect for me, but it’s going to get much hotter. Luckily Thyolo is a little cooler because it’s in the hills.
– I had a grand old chat with this nice Malawian man when I was having supper tonight and found out that his brother was a priest in St. John’s for 11 years! First Malawian I met who has heard of Newfoundland. He quite enjoyed my stories about snow and called his brother up while I was talking to him so he could tell him he’d met a Newfie. Quite funny!

Anyways, I’m excited for Blantyre tomorrow and even more excited for Thyolo. I’ll keep you posted on my first minibus experience (actually I kind of had one in Ethiopia, lots of people crammed into one tiny bus, suitcases thrown on the roof and everything) and I’ll give you more info on my work placement once I get started.

Tsalani bwino,
Maria

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Categories: Volunteering in Malawi | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “First Experiences

  1. Nushka

    I’m so excited for you!
    I have to say the only bananas I have ever enjoyed were in Burkina Faso, so you must be enjoying the fresh ones of Malawi quite a bit.
    The chapter is already starting recruitment with our first event being Beat the Crap out of Poverty. I’ve taken a more active role this term and will try to keep you updated.
    Sending you much love and good thoughts!
    Take care!

  2. Shirley Ballinger

    Hi Maria

    I enjoyed reading about your first few days in Malawi, sounds like you have settled in well. Imagine meeting a Malawian who knows about Newfoundland, be careful calling yourself a newfie, your dad would say you are a Newfoundlander.LOL Looking forward to reading about all your adventures. You make us proud.
    Love
    Aunt Shirley

  3. It’s awesome reading your blog! I’m super excited to hear about all your adventures. I never made it down to Blantyre, but it’s supposed to be really cool, and that area is supposed to be beautiful. You’ll get used to the power outages and breaking down cars pretty quickly. I can only imagine the heat though. I’ll be sure to give you a call some time soon! Let me know what time works best for you.

    Muyenda bwino!

  4. Evan

    Great to hear you’ve arrived safe and sound and that you’re already getting the feel for the new environment!
    You’re gonna love it!
    Can’t wait to hear more, the chapter is excited to keep up to date! We’re all really proud!

  5. Maja

    Sounds very exciting! Will be nice when you are situated in a permanent resident rather than being a nomad – haha.
    Great talking to you and hearing the excitment in your voice.

    Tsalani bwino,
    Love to you
    Maja
    xox

  6. Dad

    Great update Maria!

    To clarify Maria’s comment regarding phone calls being expensive, she was referring to outgoing phone calls that she makes. It is not expensive for incoming calls. With a skype account a call to her cell phone costs about 18 cents a minute or $1.80 for a ten minute call. Yo have to load minutes via your credit card.

    Give her a call!

    Her Dad

  7. Arlene Tomlinson

    Good to hear about your adventures. Sounds like you are going to have quite an adventure. Be careful and enjoy every moment. I look forward to hearing more.

    Just talking to Wanda Wiseman. She sends her best.

    Aunt Arlene

  8. Thanks for all the support!! I’ve arrived in Thyolo, it is pretty much the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Another post and hopefully pics soon!

  9. Aunt Lori

    Hey

    Glad to hear ALL is going well….Can’t wait to see pictures…Take care of yourself and enjoy it all to the fullest. Loves ya!

    Lori

  10. Sean

    Hi Maria!
    That’s so exciting!! 🙂 Glad to hear things are going well.
    Safe travels and all the best from here – can’t wait to hear more!
    Cheers,
    Sean

    (PS, the comment from your dad is awesome. 🙂

  11. Jillian

    So excited for you! And to think – multicoloured toilet paper! huh! What an amazing world!

    Keep us updated – can’t wait to read more!
    luv, Jills

  12. Desiree

    Great to hear you’re in good spirits and doing well. I look forward to hearing more about your trip. How often are you on skype? I’d love to chat with you some time. I’m pretty much logged in on skype whenever my computer is on. You can find me by “ddsquires”.

    -Desiree

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