Published: February 25th 2009February 25th 2009
Taken on the road out of Malawi as I was leaving for Zambia.
Arrival - 13th December 2008
I flew to Malawi after a 3 day layover in Johannesburg - as sad I was to leave it at the end of my trip, I'd never really liked Jo'burg that much and so I was grateful to finally be going to Malawi - my home for the next 10 days.
Flying with Air Malawi - mine was the only white face to be seen and I have to say it, as much as I have grown to love the African people, when you're surrounded on a plane the smell is.....a little intense. Despite 2 hours of intense heat and severe body odor, I loved this flight. Everyone and I mean everyone was singing, clapping, talking - teachers recognized students they hadn't seen for years, friends met unexpectedly - it was incredible, and me! How they loved me!
Malawi is beautiful. I arrived in the rains and cannot describe how green it is, green and red. Compared to the other African countries I've been to it is very 'gentle' quiet, you don't have hawkers crouding the streets or children chasing you down the road or music blasting from every corner, it's peaceful.
Dennis and Lawrence!
Working behind the bar with Dennis and Lawrence
Home was to be ' Mabuya Camp' located in 'Area 3' just outside of Lilongwe city centre, about a 10 minute walk.
The city is tiny - roughly the size of West Byfleet but without its charm! I did find a very cool second hand book store and would greedily purchase all of their classics before stealing off to a bohemian coffee shop to drink tea and read.
Mabuya camp is run by Janey, (born in Kenya, heavily pregnant at the time although probably not so anymore) and Tom, (pommie) both have been in Africa for over 15 years and had travelled more or less over every inch of it. In between the rabies scare, the continual power cuts and water strikes, we quickly forged a bond and they found work for me which meant free accommodation and food! (Always some form of very spicy meat and rice - delicious!) For my keep, I painted what felt like the entire campsite a rather spectacular shade of Orange and then I worked behind the bar with Lawrence and Dennis. Dennis is my Malawian soul mate - he is the most gentle and patient man I have ever met. We would sit and talk for hours about his family, my family, Malawi, politics...and he taught me how to play Bao. Bao is a popular Malawian and African board game - vicious, brilliant and totally addictive.
I met a variety of very interesting people during my time at the camp. Prosper, Destiny and Pritchard - the Zimbo's whom took me to local bars and clubs and showed me around, always accompanied by Kate, the American teacher who had been at the camp for 2 years. 'Chicken Pizza' yes that is his actual name as appears on his Drivers License, whom tried to, (unsuccessfully) enhance my game of pool. Then there was Junior. Junior taught me how to play the djembe drums and Malawian love songs on the guitar - we spent hours jamming under the verandah with the rest of his band members, whilst the rains poured down - awesome!
It was on this verandah, playing the guitar that I was approached by a gentleman who asked me if I could sing. I said that, ‘I was alright’ understatement! No really…..anyway he informed me that he was from Harare and was looking for a female singer that could sing with an African tenor - he was writing a song for charity to help elderly white Zimbabweans. I said that would be great! Sadly, it meant a trip to Blantyre and I was only in the country for 3 more days………..c’est la vie
At my new home, I was the proud owner of a shabby top-bunk in the corner of a dark, dingy room. The mosquito net I had been provided with had seen better days - mostly it was held together with duct tape and I would need to spend about half an hour each night on a mad killing frenzy before I could sleep - however, I grew fond of my basic surroundings. It was on this bunk one afternoon, reading that I saw one of the phone lines outside of my window snap, a thunderous roar vibrated off the walls as something huge and yellow forced its way into camp.....'Fanny' had arrived.