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Published: September 19th 2011
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
The entrance to the wildlife centre.
Hello from Malawi!
Muli bwanji? (This is where you answer “Ndili bwino, kaya inu?).
This phrase was my first in Chichewa (the national language of Malawi) and definitely the most important phrase to know. It means “How are you?”, “I'm fine, and you?”. That's the standard greeting here so it's been very useful.
After 3 weeks of living in Malawi, I have to say, I'm really happy here. It feels so right and so comfortable to be here and I'm so glad for that. I love everything about the place.
I was expecting to be quite overwhelmed with Malawi for the first couple of weeks and experience some culture shock, but I haven't really been overwhelmed by much and definitely haven't had any culture shock. I feel like I've slotted into life here quite easily.
Anyway, to give you some background information about what I'm doing here, I might start off with the centre. I'm working at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, which is located in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi.
Lilongwe has about 700,000 people and doesn't really feel like a capital city at all. It's sort of separated into 2 sections, the Old Town,
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
Another vicious game of Jungle Fever.
which has the shops and markets, and the Capital City, which has the government and office buildings. The centre is right between the two sections, on the main road that joins them. The centre is set in 180 hectares of wilderness, although only 90 hectares of that is the actual wildlife centre.
The mission of the wildlife centre is to rehabilitate animals that have been injured, orphaned or abused and either get them back in the wild or allow them to live their lives at the centre in as natural an environment as possible.
There are all sorts of animals that come in, such as the baby owl that had been picked up by a crow and then dropped into someone's garden; the baby duiker and the baby serval that had been confiscated at the Mozambican border,
At the moment, the centre has a lion, a leopard, 2 crocodiles, 5 tortoises, a python, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, yellow baboons, a serval, antelopes and blue monkeys. I really like the Malawian Vervets, there's an enclosure of them just outside the volunteer house, as well as heaps of wild ones, and they're really cheeky and a lot of fun
Every day when we're doing food preparation with the animal carers there are always a heap of wild vervet monkeys that close in on us and do everything possible to try and steal all of our food. Sometimes they get lucky and snatch a piece of fruit or vegetable away, such as the monkey last week that stole a huge pumpkin that was almost bigger than it was.
There are 3 sections of animal care: primates, olives & carnivores and quarantine, which the volunteers rotate through. They all basically involve preparing food, feeding the animals and cleaning enclosures or night rooms. Even though I didn't come here to work with the animals, I enjoy it because they're really interesting to watch and the carers are all great to work with.
There are 6 animal carers, 5 guys and 1 girl, who are all Malawians. We have quite a lot of contact with them and it's really interesting to talk to them and hear about their lives. I've been getting them to help me learn some Chichewa, which is Malawi's national language. I'm slowly getting there but it's quite hard because it's like nothing I've ever
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
Geert, Karen & Allison at the centre's bar.
These are some of the words I know so far:
nyani – baboon
pusi – monkey
mtochi – banana
azungu – white person (female)
ine – me
madzi – water
Apart from animal care, I've been getting quite involved in other work that the centre does, such as environmental education, community work and other bits and pieces that need to be done. I like having the freedom to decide what I do and when I do it. I'm involved in helping out with the adult literacy program and the malambe juice program that's being run by the centre. I'm going out again tomorrow to visit the group of ladies who are being helped by the centre to set up a business to produce and sell malambe juice, which is made from the seeds inside the fruit of the baobab tree.
Last week I went to an orphanage with a couple of other volunteers from the centre, to donate some toys and books. It was crazy! Amanda (another volunteer) and I were helping the kids to blow bubbles and we got absolutely swamped by kids who were screaming “Azungu, azungu, ine, ine!”, which means “White person,
On our way to have dinner.
white person, me, me!” Well, that's what they were screaming at me – Amanda's Malawian, so they weren't screaming azungu at her. We also got to see a lot of them dancing and wow, it was amazing. A lot of the kids at the centre look after the younger babies and some of them were even dancing with the kids tied on their backs.
I'm living here at the wildlife centre, in a house that was built for the volunteers to live in. It's great to live here because it only takes a few minutes to walk to wherever we need to work and we can go home to make lunch. It's also wonderful because we're living surrounded by monkeys, baboons, and all sorts of animals, including wild animals such as bush pigs and hyenas.
I really love living with the other volunteers. We all get on really well and spend a lot of time together and it's great to be able to discuss everything that's been happening at the centre. When I arrived here there were 8 of us in total, although all of the others have left over the past 3 weeks. We have 3 new
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
Dinner at an Italian restaurant.
volunteers who've arrived so there's 4 of us now, and it'll be another couple of weeks until any more new volunteers arrive.
On my second weekend here in Lilongwe, 3 other centre volunteers, a girl who works for the LSPCA in Lilongwe and I hired a car and drove to Senga Bay, which is on Lake Malawi, for the weekend. Apparently Lake Malawi's one of the most beautiful lakes in Africa so we were all really looking forward to the trip and to getting out and seeing a different part of the country. Even though we got lost on the way there and a 2 hour trip became a 3 & ½ hour trip, it was all part of the adventure. We had a great time there, swimming in the lake, walking along the beach at night, walking through the village and getting absolutely swamped by children.....
The weekend after that, my friend Vicky from LSPCA, 2 friends from the centre and a few others from the centre went to Kasungu National Park to join in on the annual game counting. I got up there on Saturday and joined the game counting on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
The Sunday morning drive was a challenge - we had to get up at 5am! The sunrise was really beautiful though, so it was worth getting up in the dark and freezing cold.
During our time at Kasungu, I saw elephants, hippos, zebras, warthogs, ground hornbills, herons, baboons and antelopes, so it was a pretty exciting and successful trip!
I've been pretty busy since I've been here, but I enjoy being busy - it's more fulfilling and I feel like I'm getting a lot out of my time here. We always find things to do on our weekends and after work. We spend a lot of time after work playing games, such as cards and Jungle Speed. Jungle Speed's become famous (or infamous perhaps) here because we play it so often and it leads to hilarious stories the next day. It's a type of card game, but it can get quite violent at times and we often have chairs flying across the room, people wrestling each other over the couches and tables getting tipped upside down when we play Jungle Speed.
There's so much more information I could tell you about Malawi, Lilongwe and the Wildlife Centre
The main road into town.
but I think this's enough for now. If you have any questions about anything, just ask and I'll answer them in my next blog post.
Can't wait to tell you all about my next few weeks here in Lilongwe, there's been some pretty cool stuff happening!
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