The Warm Heart of Africa

The first time I was in Malawi it truly seemed like an oasis. It was after two weeks of grinding along Ethiopian and Ugandan roads in the dry season. Compact Malawi (shaped a bit like a chilly pepper) just had its rains and so was green and lush. The highways were fully paved with few potholes. And then there was Lake Malawi, a site for sore eyes and buttocks if there ever was one!

Malawi after the rains

Malawi after the rains

I knew almost nothing about Malawi thanks to Canada’ eurocentirc school system and it didn’t make the Canadian news because it has had no wars or Idi Amins…you know the real Africa. Instead it was run for its first 30 years by Hastings Banda who I gather was a benevolent dictator. He preached peace, and tolerance (warm heart!) while apparently dealing with rivals ruthlessly in private and assembling a bit of a financial empire for himself.

Malawi in 2009 still has its warm heart, is working to recover from the devastation of AIDs, and is pummeled by regular droughts and resulting famines. I may want to live here.

We flew into Lilongwe the capital after a night in the Nairobi airport which thanks to free WiiFii, boona (coffee) and shops that open at 5:30am went fast. I notice that the Lilongwe airport also advertises free Wii Fii. Our flight out next week is at 2:30am so I’ll have a chance to try it out.

We’ll be here a week, half in communities around Lilongwe and half up north in Chinteche along Lake Malawi. My mind shifts to sandy beaches and chambo.

Lake Malawi at Dusk

Lake Malawi at Dusk

I’ve pulled out the language guide that I pulled off the net and start cramming my Chewa. I did the same in Uganda and Tanzania and now have to try and forget my hard learned Acholi and Swahili. I’ll need to learn some Tonga for the Chinteche area and I can see some rough linguistic road ahead.

There’s also a new currency, Kwatchas, that convert at a different rate than either the Ugandan or Tanzanian shillings. I always did well in math but after changing some money at the airport I don’t know my Kwatchas from Kuches (as in the local beer).

My “Hot Club of Cowtown” money clip strains at the bulk of paper that I now have and my pocket looks like its concealing a huge mango. When we get downtown, I learn that the government has just closed all the For Ex bureaus for regulatory issues. That would “never’ happen in North America. The airport conversion now seems like a good idea.

A quick look around and I’m glad to be here. The downtown market is bustling, the souvenirs vendors at the corner are in full gear (“looking is free”) and I just saw my first traffic light in two weeks. Lilongwe apparently has about a dozen.

Lilongwe's Outdoor Market

Lilongwe's Outdoor Market

Better hit the street, Lilongwe shuts down at 6pm.

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One Response to “The Warm Heart of Africa”

  1. I was simply looking at useful blog articles intended for my project research when My partner and i happened to stumble on yours. Thanks for the practical info!

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