A Travellerspoint blog

Lazy weekend


On Saturday we go out with the car which is exciting in itself! We go to Mandala House, the first brick house in Malawi, built around 1896. There is a coffee shop on the grounds and it looks like all the ex-pats of Blantyre are there on a Saturday morning. As a sign of feeling like settling in we even see a couple of people we know and exchange greetings – a nice feeling after such a short time here. Inside the house is an art gallery and craft shop, selling beautiful carved bits and bobs, and wandering upstairs we meet a nice fellow who is the secretary for the Malawi Historical Society which is based here. He tells us the history of the house and shows us around, pointing out his favourite item in the collection – the nail that was used to hammer the cross into a tree where one of Livingston’s companions was buried after perishing during their exploration! There is also a reference library here, with lots of fascinating looking old dusty volumes – we settle down with a couple of books for half an hour so before being gently informed that actually they are not open today and the lovely chap had only opened up for us, but has lots to do scanning their hundreds of pictures into a database. We thank him profusely and head off to Chichiri Mall, a western feeling place with supermarkets, eateries, shops, and even a cinema. After replenishing stomachs and wallets we head back to the Monster and, almost inevitably, it decides to die on us.

It’s hot, and we’re tired after a couple of hours of not doing much but queuing. We can’t get hold of Mechanic Andrew so decide to go home. It’s too far to walk, so we finally get a chance to experience local transport and catch the minibus. We are directed into one, and wait till it fills up. It’s 50MK (Malawian Kwacha, £1=265MK) to Blantyre Market, about 20 minutes walk from home. After a ten minute wait there are still a couple of spaces left but the van’s money-collector gives up and we go, calling out every time someone passes by but there are no more takers.
Wales is playing England in the 6 Nations later on so we go to Mustang Sally’s to watch the game. It’s a massive place, two levels of bars, with a dance floor and a pool next to it. A boisterous group of South Africans are there cheering on both sides, as we do. It is an exciting game - Wales rob England of the game in a thrilling try. Mechanic Andrew arrived halfway through and I went off to fix the car and returned in no time – as a thank you to Andrew (who has had a long day and has been incredibly kind and generous in helping us out on the weekend) we buy him and his wife a couple of bottles of cider. Excellent steaks are had off the barbecue for dinner and we head home to bed, after all it is 8pm and we don’t want to go too crazy...

So here we are! A relaxing Sunday updating you and not doing too much else. A long entry but it feels like a lot has happened and we have only been here a week – time flies when you’re having fun!


Posted by TattoodDuck 13:21 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

First week at the office

sunny 30 °C

We’re adjusting to the different cycle. We wake up early, with the sun, around 6, 6.30am, go to bed anytime between 8.30-10pm. Walk to work is about 20 minutes, not to fast as not to sweat too much, get there for 8am. Tea is made by Lewis at 10, then lunch at 12. Another tea round in the afternoon, and leave the office at 5pm. It’s not safe to walk after dark, and taxies are hard to find and extremely expensive (London prices, a 10 mins ride cost about £12). Henry (Malawian, Services & Finance Manager) says they can spare us a car. It’s a ‘decommissioned’ Toyota pick-up, nicknamed The Monster, and, ominously, everybody laughs when they hear we’re going to get it.

Breakfast view from Kabula Lodge

Breakfast view from Kabula Lodge

For me, the first couple of days are difficult. I need to have borders to bend, I’m not clear on what I’ll be doing exactly. I am working with Herrings who is new to the organisation, and I get caught up in his enthusiasm and big workload, worrying about tasks instead of thinking about the bigger picture and what I want in all of this. I have an ugly rush on my chin, I’m suffering from a badly timed PMS.
Rich helps me focus, as always. By Wednesday I have remembered why I’m here in the first place, which gives me the frame I needed. I’m re-writing my Terms of Reference, just for myself. I’m supporting Herrings and finding out what needs to be done in terms of information management, which is what I like doing, and where I can add most value.
Rich is working with the Programme and Impact Unit on the new Monitoring and Evaluation system. Herrings and I meet with him and Vincent to discuss their needs in terms of a database, and we agree that I will lead on this one. I am also meeting with Henry and Geoff to discuss their needs for a better Finance system.
I arrange a call with Viv, who replaced me in my organisational ICT & Systems role in the UK. We try to web-conference, but the internet is playing up. Apparently the under-sea internet cable which links Eastern or Southern Africa had broken somewhere, and the whole area suffers from very slow connection. Saying that, the office had just upgraded its connection to 256KB, which is the standard we had in Israel about 10 years ago. We end up an hour late, on the phone. It’s nice to hear that she is settling in well. We talk about what’s going on here and there, and agree to keep each other updated. I start making plans with Herrings, and I am feeling much better and productive again.

Rich comes back to the office on Friday afternoon from a two day environmental policy workshop in Balaka and I’m so happy to see him. We get the Monster, and Mechanic Andrew shows us everything - we are mobile and free.
We head over the road to the Village Green for the standard policy Friday evening Greens where we meet Vincent, Sandra and their friends (mostly teachers in the international school, who work with Sandra) and while away a very enjoyable evening over a few beers. When the bar starts closing and people are heading home the boys decide the night is but young, and head off to the Blue Elephant to check the quality of the beer there. I drive home on my own, in the Monster, which feels like driving a cruise ship, but it’s nice to be able to go home when I want to.

My mum calls and it’s nice to talk to her and my dad, hear and tell about life. Tomorrow is my grandmother’s 87th birthday, and the whole tribe is gathering to celebrate. I got used not taking part in these things, but I still miss them all.


Posted by TattoodDuck 09:00 Archived in Malawi Tagged universal concern Comments (0)

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