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August 6th 2008
Published: December 13th 2008
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Boys chasing the straw figureBoys chasing the straw figureBoys chasing the straw figure

You can see the little red, white, and blue chibuku cartons in their hands.
For some reason, in mid-August most of my closest friends were all abandoning me here in Malawi to move on for better pastures: Caroline was returning home to work on a public health degree, Sebastien was going to work for UNHCR in Djibouti (which would turn out to be a disaster), Olivier was going back to Quebec where people could actually understand him, and John Paul was moving to Ontario for university. This made for a very bittersweet but fun two weeks for me, but luckily it coincided with the arrival of several people who would also become very close friends.

The first order of business when leaving Malawi must always be a final trip to Senga Bay, the nearest spot on the lake to Lilongwe and a perfect place to camp on the beautiful water. On the way there, when passing through a tiny village on a hilltop, we noticed some sort of ceremony was going on. We pulled over, but I wasn't allowed to get out of the car because whatever was going on was for males only! It turned out to be a traditional rite-of-passage ceremony in which all the boys in the village were supposed to be let in on the truth behind a few childhood secrets (kind of like learning that Santa Claus isn't real). There was a large animal shape fashioned out of straw, under which two grown men were hiding and moving the animal shape around. The straw animal is supposed to represent the spirits of elders, and it frightens young children who believe it is the spirits, and not actual people, moving the thing around. From what I have learned, in traditional culture here respect for elders is the paramount belief system, although it is slowly dying with modernization and Western religion.

Upon reaching adolescence it is revealed to the young boys that the animal is actually just being manoeuvred by humans, rather than spirits, and as a symbol of their entry into adulthood they are given chibuku (the local fermented maize beer found all over southern Africa). The ceremony mostly consisted of a bunch of young boys chasing the straw animal with cartons of chibuku in their hands; I watched from a distance in the car. On the other side of the road, from atop a hill, the village women also watched. It was truly fascinating
How it all really happensHow it all really happensHow it all really happens

There's the guy who hides under the straw deal and moves it around.
to see, because it wasn't a reenactment or display; we were just lucky enough to happen upon the real thing.

We opted to have dinner that night in the village of Senga Bay rather than at one of the posh hotel restaurants on the lake. Unlike downtown Lilongwe, villages in Malawi are rather happening at night, with open market stalls lit by candles or a kerosene lamp, makeshift french-fry or meat-skewer vendors, and tiny mud-hut restaurants like the one we ended up in - all made vibrant by loud African pop music and kids running around. The restaurant we ended up in promised us beef stew with rice and greens for 150kw ($1), so we sat down at one of two tables while the cook went back to heat the food. Her daughter brought us a wash basin and as is customary she poured water out of a pitcher over our hands so we could wash them over the basin before eating. Soon we were each served a huge bowl filled with rice, with a small amount of greens cooked in tomato and meat on top. It became pretty clear pretty fast that what we had been
Sunset over Central MalawiSunset over Central MalawiSunset over Central Malawi

Malawi has some unbelievably stunning sunsets. Keep your Photoshop - no color enhancement necessary :)
served a) was not beef, but goat (which was fine with me), and b) was not meat, but brains! I'm happy to report I was a vegetarian that evening 😊. I know that sounds awful, but in a way I was doing someone a huge favor because food here never goes to waste. Most likely the cook's children would be eating my leftovers that night. I opted to eat with my hands as is customary, and then of course John Paul goes and asks for a spoon!

We camped at the Livingstonia campground, which is a really nice campsite right on the lake run by the swanky Sunbird hotel next door. It's slightly expensive, at around 1,000kw ($7) per person per night, but they have really nice facilities and security, and you can pitch your tent right next to the water which is unbeatable. You can also park your car anywhere, which is convenient. We had the beach almost to ourselves, and spent the next day enjoying the sun and water. Then we headed back to Lilongwe where I had a dinner date with my departing friends Caroline, Sebastien, and Olivier at Buchanan's, an American-style restaurant in
Senga Bay village culinary offeringsSenga Bay village culinary offeringsSenga Bay village culinary offerings

This is the little restaurant we ended up in, named something along the lines of "The Wisdom of My Father."
Lilongwe's "Four Seasons" complex where you can get fantastic burgers with gourmet fixings for around $8. They have tables outside overlooking the most beautifully landscaped pond and garden I have seen in Malawi (barring, perhaps, the British High Commissioner's house - yes I couldn't resist the name-dropping opportunity 😊.

The next day Caroline had convinced me to go get a "mani/pedi" with her (sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that I'm in Africa), so we had lunch together and then headed to the salon at the Bisnowati complex near the UNHCR office. I had never set foot in a salon here and was amazed at the array of services they offer, from hair tinting to fake nail applications and waxing (at a fraction of what it would cost back home). That evening I met up with John Paul's family at Koreana, a nice restaurant just outside town where you can sit outside under traditional thatch umbrellas and eat all kinds of Malawian and Korean dishes.

On Monday we had a farewell party for everyone at Sebastien's house, and then on Tuesday night John Paul's family threw a big farewell bash for him.
Sunrise over Senga Bay beachSunrise over Senga Bay beachSunrise over Senga Bay beach

This was taken from right outside my tent!
I gorged myself on amazing garlic-y beef stew, which she spent hours cooking outside on a traditional charcoal stove. I did my best to help with the cooking after being wrapped in a chitenje.

Then, it was time to say goodbye... Before I get you too depressed, not to worry: I still had Tayllor and Nathalie, and my roommate-to-be Dalia joined UNHCR that Monday and we became fast friends, as with Maki who had recently started a contract with Raising Malawi (Madonna's NGO).

The following weekend The Girls (my new rat pack: Maki, Nathalie, and Dalia) and I headed out to Senga Bay (yes, again!) for a day trip. We ended up eating lunch at Red Zebra, which had previously been a culinarily-uninteresting but pleasant enough place to sit. This time, we found it taken over by new management - a Zimbabwean we quickly became friends with - and a new menu with things like marinated eggplant (yum!) and coconut curry.

Upon returning to Lilongwe Dalia and I agreed that she would move in and share my flat with me. As there had been a break-in about a month prior, I was feeling generally uncomfortable in my place alone at night, and it was interfering with my sleep. She was looking for a place and we got along, so that Sunday she brought her things over and moved into my sitting room (which I hardly ever used anyway). So it was a month of change for me! All for the good in the end 😊.



You say yes, I say no.
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no.
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello

I say high, you say low.
You say why and I say I don't know, oh no.
You say goodbye and I say hello
(Hello Goodbye Hello Goodbye) hello hello

(Hello Goodbye) I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello
(Hello Goodbye Hello Goodbye) hello hello
(Hello Goodbye) I don't know why you say goodbye
(Hello Goodbye) I say hello

Why why why why why why do you say goodbye goodbye, oh no?
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello

You say yes (I say "yes") I say no (but I may mean no.)
You say stop (I can stay) and I say go go go (till it's time to go ), oh no.
You say goodbye and I say hello

Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello hello.

Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello hello.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Me & PeaceMe & Peace
Me & Peace

Cooking outside on the balcony.
The amazing array of foodThe amazing array of food
The amazing array of food

I lent my camera to a little hairdresser I know for the evening and judging from the blurriness I gather she leaned in just a little too close to the food :)
Lunch at Red ZebraLunch at Red Zebra
Lunch at Red Zebra

Nathalie et moi Photo courtesy of Maki Park
On the beach in Senga BayOn the beach in Senga Bay
On the beach in Senga Bay

Photo courtesy of Maki Park
Dalia, Nathalie, meDalia, Nathalie, me
Dalia, Nathalie, me

Photo courtesy of Maki Park
The Girls at Senga BayThe Girls at Senga Bay
The Girls at Senga Bay

Nathalie, me, Dalia, and Maki Photo courtesy of Maki Park

13th December 2008

Sweet and Sad
Hey Martina...i'm sorry your friends left...we miss you here in the states! xoxoxox Simone
13th December 2008

Lots of girl friends
You are the best looking one inthe bunch. glad you have someone now to share your flat. Hurry home! love, BB

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