Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mangochi






I visited Mangochi, a town about 3 hours south of Lilongwe. i went for work. we stayed at a gorgeous resort (check out the pics) by the Lake. I believe some refer to the area we stayed in as Monkey bay. i was chased by a Monkey. yeah yeah, laugh all you want, it wasnt funny at the time when i ran away screaming. i woke up the hotel guests...it was 6am. i suppose i got a bit carried away taking pictures...thought i was a national geograhic photographer or something...the monkey didnt like the flash i suppose...it just stared at me for a second...and then made a loud cry and lunged...i ran away and didnt look back...they stopped being cute after that. other than that, the place was paradise and i was glad i got a bit of a chance to enjoy it even though i was there as a work retreat...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Idle Inanity

Boredom. B-o-r-e-d-o-m. This is a word that at one time or another, everyone understands quite well here in beautiful Lilongwe. As gorgeous and new the surroundings are to me...by my 5th day, i hadnt yet started work (which definitely improved situations since i had some human interaction), and i was completely dependent on my uncle for rides and he worked full time. SO. i was left to my own devices. I was warned before i went to Lilongwe. But i didnt mind because i was there to experience new cultures and landscapes, not experience night life. but i was beginning to think that i would miss the choice of NOT wanting to go out...the choice of going out to a movie theatre just because. Even the locals would nod quickly in sympathetic understanding as soon as someone so much as mentioned the word boredom. But i have somewhat embraced boredom. you see, it is the kind of word that one can base social interactions and forms instant bonds of friendship. In fact, boredom forms the beginnings of many creative outlets. How then can one develop inane bouts of creativity, without idleness? Aside from the cerebral cortex being activated, boredom can also be the start of friendships. For instance, sitting in my uncle's office (before i started work 2 weeks later), with no good reason for being there other than an attempt to get out of the house, people walk by and slow down when the glimpse a new face. They look bored. after some walking back and forth, they finally decide to come in and rescue me from getting dizzy from twirling in the chair like a child. Before long, we are engaged in deep, meaningful conversations such as...their deep desire to buy neutragena products...or that shampoo they cant for the life of them find here in Lilongwe. boredom is not so bad. well, i better go now. the birds outside my uncle's office are making a different sound.

Monday, May 22, 2006

More of Salima and the Lake

i was kinda surprised that the lake was such a beachy resort type...i expected a bit of roughness...but it was tame and touristy...has some restaurants here with good food...chambo is a national fish dish here...often served with the staple nzima. yummy.
soaking up the sun
"bike load" - imagine walking with this load for miles upon miles...this is something i see frequently...in fact, some people carry these types of loads on their heads and walk for miles...women included...and i used to complain walking home with 2 bags of groceries...tsk tsk.

Talk about a gorgeous view...this picture i took while we were driving through Salima...a town about an hour East of Lilongwe...i saw some homes and villages dotted periodically throughout the countryside...imagine living with a view like that.
This is a Mosque in Salima...i had to stop and take pictures of the building...absolutely love this buidling...i didnt get a chance to visit though...one of these days...
Often, you will see many people selling anything from food to furniture...we stopped along side a road on our way back to buy some fresh fish and fruits...i like this picture...so lively...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lake Malawi via Salima

"kid's play"

Lake Malawi was beautiful. We drove through Salima to get there. I'm having a bit of trouble downloading the other pics for some reason (of the town) but i'll keep trying....meantime, hope you enjoy this one as much as i do...

ps: if someone can suggest the best way to download pics on this site please let this computer illiterate know...i'm getting annoyed at limiting the amount of pictures i want to put up because uploading is soooo slow.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Land of Darkness

When the sun sets in Lilongwe, the city disappears. Darkness descends very rapidly and consumes all areas from the busy city centre, to the quieter residential neighbourhoods. This is due to the scarcity of streetlights and the general limitations of power and electricity in Malawi. When my plane was landing, that's one difference i noted as i peered out the plane window in an attempt to take in as much of Africa as i could. Whereas cities in Canada, Europe were distinguishable from the flickering lights lit up like winking stars, what i saw as my plane descended in Nairobi, Lusaka, and finally Lilongwe was Darkness. I was completely unprepared for the consuming Darkness here in the capital of Malawi. It is unlike anything i'd ever seen. How i'd come to take the never ending lights of Toronto for granted. Even in the dead of the night, one can still see some semblance of shadows. But here, in Malawi, one can not even distinguish one's hand waving in front of you, let alone anything else. And yet, that does not stop the locals from trudging precariously close to the street edge as cars made out their outlines only by the high beams - not a very far range. The first night i drove with my uncle (who i forgot to mention in earlier post that i will be residing with for the year as i finish my work in Malawi) i had to blink a few times, and shake my head vigorously in case something had stolen my eyesight. But my sight was fine. It appeared that driving had become quite a risky venture in the Darkness. Imaginings of the car failing in this seemingly unmerciful land strikes terror even in the most well-seasoned traveller. Yuo can only see straight ahead. You can not see right or left. I only know from memory that trees graze the roads with only my imagination filling in the scenes beyond the trees. Heavy, all ecompasing Darkness. Yesterday, as the Darkness set in for the night and i was home alone in the large house in my uncle's large house, the power went out completely. This is a frequent happening here - but it was the first time it had happened in the night. I didnt blink in surprise but i was nevertheless quietly stunned at the heavy darkness. That's when darkness became Darkness. I figured i'd rather sit and wait for the lights to turn back on than begin a futile attempt to venture outside. I suddenly and unfortunately remembered that the door was not locked. hmmm. and then i realized how powerful the imagined thought can be. what an interesting night. I tried laughing out loud to myself - but all that came out was a nervous squawk. Had i even been resourceful enough to note where my uncle kept the candles as soon as i arrived (because surely everyone had candles here in Malawi) i would not have been able to find it in this Darkness. Instead, i tried to amuse myself by trying to make out my waving hands and feet in front of me. nothing. ah well. my hands, my feet, my body had disappeared along with Lilongwe. what a disconcerting thought. oh wait. The housekeeper had quietly and (quickly) come inside (guessing that i was helplessly sitting inside) and expertly lit the candles. The room quickly became awash in gentle light and drove out the Darkness - and revealed my hands, my feet, my body.

Wide-eyed Wonderment


I woke up my first morning in Lilongwe with one thought in my mind - I AM IN AFRICA. Now this may not be a big deal for the well seasoned travellers, but for someone like me, who had until then ventured only to parts of the US and Cuba (loved it) I was still pinching myself. I knew from a brief glimpse yesterday afternoon, i was going to be confronted with feelings of being the 'other'. Let me explain. Being in a foreign country (just realizing) overloads the senses and makes even the smallest simplest tasks seem insurmountable. For instance, it took me 20 minutes to purchase a train ticket in Amsterdam using one of those automated machines because of language barriers - and before you wonder why in the world i didnt just walk up to real station attendants - i was directed to the machines by an unsuspecting police officer who thought he was helping by directing me to the auto machines. Anyway, if that was difficult, imagine me in Lilongwe. All my senses were engaged. New scents, sights, textures, sounds assailed my senses. I hadnt gotten to the tastes just yet but i knew that would be different as well.
As the day wore on, my uncle decided to take me to 'Old Town'. I loved it. Lots of hustle and bustle compared to the relatively quiet and tame majority of Lilongwe (see picture of the people packed on the pickup truck). I believe Lilongwe was built with the principles of apartheid in mind - thus, there are only 2 classes (it seems) here - upper and lower class. Old Town has many shops and until very recently, vendors that sold any and everything. As conspicuous as i tried to be - i was soon identified as the expat i was (obviously). My ever lasting impression of Old Town (and many other parts of the city) was of how physically strong the women were. They easily what looked to be about 50 kilos on their heads in baskets, had a baby strapped on their backs, carried another load in their arms, and guided a toddler all at the same time. My uncle had to hold my hand as i gazed at them wondering how they did not drop their baskets. I tried getting pictures of this but only managed to get a pic of a woman with a basket on her head and baby at her back. The other impression that struck me was the level of poverty. How sheltered and naive i was in Canada. To see people beg for money in the streets of Toronto is common. To see people beg for a basic necessity like food was (at least in my experience) an unseen phenomenon. Here, in Lilongwe, (and i'm sure many parts of Africa) you will see both.

Tea in Amsterdam





I arrived in Amsterdam, completely exhausted and contemplating my next stopover to Nairobi, then to Lusaka, then finally Lilongwe Malawi. A 2 day trip (due to a long stopover in Amsterdam) from Toronto, Canada. After a few hours, and many cups of caffeine later...I finally shook the jet-lag off and hopped on a train into the city centre. Amsterdam was beautiful...nice architecture...and the hundreds of bicycles are a sight to behold. After much walking, i finally decided to sit down at a cute little cafe and have another cup of tea. I sat and watched the passerbys and wondered what I was getting myself into - journying to a part of the world I had not set foot in in about 20 years - Africa. My search for new experiences and career opportunities in this region had me double checking my decisions. But as someone once said to me very recently...just get on the bus. Anyway, I digress. I sat and drank tea. Such a simple thing. There i was...away from home for an indefinite amount of time...and doing something that i had envisioned with such muted hunger that i can only wonder where it came from. As i finished my soothing cup of tea, i acknowledged that i'm not entirely clear as to what that jumbled vision was...but i knew it was just the beginning of something. Anyway, see above for some pictures i managed to take....