Yesterday we received good news that our bags finally arrived in Malawi so Sally was kind enough to drive us once again. And she FINALLY explained all about last night. Apparently, her neighbor a few weeks ago overheard that we were coming for the summer and really pushed Sally to have us stay with her instead. Foreigners = $. So the woman, who locals call other women "mama", did a sneak attack move on Sally and dropped by for "some tea" but really
she just wanted to see if we had arrived at her house yet. Many apologies and laughs later it was just another funny story to add to the collection of my summer in Malawi.
With bags finally with us we thank Sally by paying for her petrol (gas), which until recently was non-existent in the country. Sally said it was a bad time for the country and people became desperate. Prices are equivalent to around $7.50/gallon now. We heard stories about people cueing for gas for an entire days time and were limited to filling up only 5 liters at that. Trash collection in the city ceased and people began putting their garbage any where, of which the reminants still remain.
Now back home we change into fresh clothes to start the day (since we've been washing our other clothes by hand everyday). There is a nearby market square close to Sally's home in the other direction called Crossroads that we decide to walk to. We stop 2 teenage workers to ask if we're headed in the right way. As it turns out, they're going there as well and we climb in the back of their pick up truck. So yes, technically
we hitched a ride but we only went maybe 2 miles and I throw them 100 MK ($.50) for their help. It is apparently commonplace for people to hitch rides but don't worry mom mom it won't become habit
When we returned home, Sally called us from the kitchen. I told her I was intrigued by the chicken Nyikacharrie chopped, plucked and cleaned in front of me the other night (oh yes). So she had Alex and I take turns mashing the vegetables in a larger version of a crucible with a large bamboo stick. Sally's maid whose actual first name is Grace (which is a LOT easier to pronounce then Nyikacharrie) got a big kick out of it all.
Later that night, Jenn invited us out to her going away dinner with friends at the Italian restaurant, Mama Mia. I know, I'm just as surprised as you that we found Italian here. Jenn got a job opportunity in NYC but will be heading off to Uganda first before her final departure from Africa. She's an awesome chick so we'll be said to see her go but she's introduced us to two other great girls named Mel and Lizzie, the latter of which just invited us to a full moon party on Saturday. Yendani bwino Jenn! (Bon Voyage)
Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful to convince anyone last night to join in on a road trip for the weekend. With such limited time here I want to take advantage of every free moment I have. So Alex and I are headed off to Senga Bay, a village on Lake Malawi just outside of Salima District. It wasn't very clear if there were any available dorm style rooms in any of the 2 lodges since this is peak season but ahh what's the fun in having a plan?? SO in order to get to Senga Bay we need to take a minibus to Salima Junction. Then from there to Salima and Salima to Senga. Here's how that went. We first catch a bus for about $.60 that puts us at the junction. Even if we didn't know how to transfer there are many drivers depending on your business so they will escort you to the next bus, which Alex and I look at each other as if to convince ourselves of this mode of transportation, "it's an adventure." Buses here only leave when they are full, which can take 4 hours or more! By Malawi definition, a "full" minibus that comfortably seats 12 translates to 19 bodies, 2 bundles of sugar, 8 large cargo pieces and 3 roosters. Yes, live roosters. Am I in Cambodia again? Alex thought she was funny by saying "now they start to pile the 2nd layers of ppl on." My face went white. And she thought it the most priceless moment of the trip thus far. While you wait to depart, villagers and townsmen try to sell you food and drink for the ride.
Only after about 30 minutes or so, we are luckily off to Salima, the main town before reaching Senga Bay. About every 20 minutes of the 1hr 30 min. trek, we pulled to the side of the villages where we were all asked to buy different fruits and vegetables through our windows. The route takes us all through the majestic landscape filled with rolling hills, mountains, baobob trees (google them), which are native to Africa and of course many desolate villages. Most "houses" are the size of car ports, built of brick and mortar with grass/reed roofs. Most of the children I see scamper around with no shoes but have big smiles on their faces. There are villages tending to the fields and others fetching water with bucket pales steady on top of their heads as if it were another limb.
Once in Salima we are guided to the small pick up trucks or "matolas" that will carry us into town. Following the locals, I sat on the edge of the side truck waiting for others to pile in......all 23
of them and large baskets of tomatoes to boot. It was only a 7Km "white knuckle" drive but in all the trip was a bit unnerving being so cramped and hearing horror stories about minibus travel, which is just about the leading cause of death here. In fact, this was Alex's first time traveling by minibus even though she had lived here 3 summers ago. Apparently the State Department ensures car service for you. I joke with her that she's now getting the REAL experience of life in Malawi with me.
FINALLY!! We are in Senga Bay and follow the signs to our first lodge of choice named none other than, "Cool Runnings" but they are completely booked for the night so we are guided down the beach a bit further to "Mufasa Lodge." Alex and I secure a room for $7 each, drop our stuff off and celebrate with a "Green" aka the beer of Malawi. We eat a modest dinner at sunset and I take my first deep breath since our arrival. What an AMAZING magical evening. I am staring at a picture perfect postcard scenery of thousands of stars. The bay is part of Lake Malawi and is the dividing line between Malawi and Mozambique. Lake Malawi is absolutely massive....so much so that I can only see Cape Maclear in the distance, a halfway point between the 2 countries. Cape Maclear is supposed to be the ultimate backpackers destination in Southern Africa. But nevermind that for now. We have the entire lodge to ourselves. Our bedroom window sits only a few yards away from the beach. The waves are crashing so loud it feels like we're by a wild ocean...it is without a doubt nothing short of magnificent. We ask for some tea to be brought out on the lodge's front patio that faces the waves. We meet some passerbys who work in Cape Maclear. They invite us for the next weekend to stay at their lodge that is in the process of being built. They tell us we'll only need to pay 500MK or $2/night since they don't have a running shower at the moment. Speaking of, my mind is affixed on taking not only a shower but a HOT shower so I'm retiring for the night, untying my mosquito net and falling asleep to the wild waves.
It's about 5:30 a.m. and I'm awaken with some crazy dreams due to my anti-malaria medicine. Although this medication (Atovaq/Proguan) is supposed to be the newest on the market with the least side effects, I've gotten bad dizzy spells, drowsiness and feel loopier than my normal self. Alex is stirring around below me on the bottom bunk and asks if I want to catch my first African sunrise..... The beach is still in the dawn light with no one else awake at this time and I can only see the white of the waves and an outlined row of canoes made from tree trunks. The sun rises and we have breakfast by the waves while Alex teaches me how to play the game Bao.
We venture back to Cool Runnings where we booked a room for Saturday night, drop our bags off and walk through the village to check out Safari Beach Lodge per Sally's recommendation. Google this place. If anyone ever wants to take me back here in my lifetime I think I could spend plenty days here. Cabin cottages perched high along rock formations that overlook the acqua watered bay. A bamboo bridge path leads us below to a hidden "cocktail bar" where yet another breathtaking view awaits. Baboons are EVERYWHERE, climbing/swinging above your head and even taunting the poor bartender playing hide n' seek with his supplies haha. We head for 'linner' at Red Zebra Cafe where I have my FIRST Chombo experience, the staple fish of Malawi and it was delicious.
The highlights of our walks through the village, besides being called "Mzungu" (aka White/foreign people") every 5 seconds with a taunting laugh, are the children who follow us asking what our names are, where we're going to and of course if we can give them money. Other children no older than age 10 are hard at work. We encounter several cattle crossings along the dirt road that are herded usually by 2 young boys. Women in the village tend to not give us the time of day here unless they are sitting next to you on a matola or minibus. One woman on the way home btw just passed her newborn infant into my arms while she collected her roosters and other belongings. I actually was not phased. Malawians take great pride in their sense of community. Although Hillary Clinton was the first to invent the phrase, "it takes a village to raise a child", Malawians have been practicing this long before.
I can now say I've successfully navigated my first trip in Malawi without a hitch. It was a good starter get-away. We had a lugh upon arriving home though when Grace or Sally were no where to be found. Let's just say Alex and I had a GREAT time trying to find charcoal... to make a fire.... in or to boil water for a bath. In the meantime, we met with our lead researcher, Fletcher, since work starts tomorrow. As I write now, I've just tried my first nsima meal, the other staple meal of Malawi...not too shabby.
Missing you all!!!!!
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