Happiness in Africa's Warm Heart


Advertisement
Malawi's flag
Africa » Malawi » Central » Lilongwe
September 29th 2011
Published: September 29th 2011
Edit Blog Post

Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0


Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Me with our little baby.
This place is amazing! After 5 weeks of being here in Malawi, I'm still really loving it. I'm learning more and more about African life and everything is always so fascinating, even if it's really frustrating at the same time.

Things generally happen pretty slowly here, which can be frustrating if you really need to get stuff done, but I find that I've adapted pretty well to “African time”. I walk and work a lot slower here than I do in Australia. And I'm hardly ever the person that everyone else is waiting for, which is a first in my life!

I had to go to the immigration office a couple of weeks ago to renew my visa and it was the most frustrating, complicated process! It took me two hours just to get a stamp in my passport because first I went to one office and filled out a form, then I went to another building and lined up for ages to pay for my visa, then went back to the other building to get my stamp and got told I had to get another receipt. I went back to the building I'd just came from to get
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Dinner in the hut.
the second receipt and by the time it was done it was after closing time so I ran back and got told off for being too late and basically inconveniencing them. I got it done though, partly thanks to one of the police guys who took a fancy to me and was chatting me up at the same time as helping renew my visa.

Another thing that's been overly drawn-out and complicated was the process of getting a police report done. I went out to a club on Friday night and my camera got stolen out of my bag. I was really upset and slightly panicked about it because my camera is my most valuable and treasured possession. I take a lot of photos and they're really important to me because they hold so many great memories. I felt so lost without my camera.

Luckily I have a wonderful friend here in Lilongwe, Vicky, who has been super helpful since it got stolen. On the night, she helped speak to staff at the club and since then she's helped me organise getting a police report, driven me all over town to get the report, lent me her camera
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Attempting to eat sugar cane. Just like eating a sugary tree!
and organised for a lady from the English RSPCA to buy me a replacement camera. The RSPCA lady arrived in Lilongwe today and she had a replacement camera and memory card for me! I was super, super excited and I'm so much happier now that I have a camera again!

Life here has been very social in the past few weeks, both at the centre and away from the centre. It's great to have a ready-made friendship group with the other volunteers. We spend a lot of time together and have a really close, relaxed relationship, which makes it nice to spend so much time together.

We've had three new volunteers arrive, 2 Dutch women and a Scottish woman, all a lot older than me. The dynamics in the house have changed a lot because none of the volunteers who were here when I arrived are here any more and the group is very different. It took a while to get used to, but now I'm really enjoying the new group that's formed.

I became really close friends with Allison and Karen from France, who arrived on the same day as me and we had a lot
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

The roster for the week.
of fun together. They went home a couple of weeks ago and I was really sad when they left. Their presence has definitely been missed in the volunteer house and around the centre, because all the animal carers loved them too. The day they left was my only day here in Malawi where it has genuinely been a bad day and I haven't enjoyed myself.

One of the animal carers got fired on the day the French girls left, so that also contributed to me having such a bad day. We really liked the guy who got fired and didn't feel that what had happened was fair, so we were all sad about it and that we weren't going to see him any more.

A lot of life here seems to be centred around food and I've had some really enjoyable meals with other people recently. Some of us volunteers had lunch with Maggie, one of the animal carers, who made us some wonderful Malawian food that I want to learn how to make. That same night, Karen, Alli and I went to the house of a Malawian girl, Amanda, who volunteers at the centre. We had dinner
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Monkey acrobatics.
with her family and they'd made us the most amazing Malawian food! It was so good, I hadn't eaten that well in a long time.

The next day we had a special lunch with the animal carers as a farewell for Alli and Karen, who were adored by all the animal carers. Last weekend we went to a bbq at Vicky's house, which was nice, especially because it was a chance to do some socialising away from the centre. It can be like a bit of an isolating bubble living here at the centre sometimes because you could live here without hardly ever leaving, except to go shopping.

Tuesday night is always pizza night because the pizza place does 2 for 1 pizzas on Tuesdays. We sometimes eat communal meals as well, which is always nice but generally people cook for themselves. I eat pretty similar food to what I eat in Australia, but with less variety. I eat pasta, rice, stews, burgers, etc. I've eaten nsima twice, which is the staple food of Malawi, and I really, really like it. It's basically a huge lump of something that resembles white polenta, made out of maize flour and water and it's eaten dipped in a sauce mixture that's normally tomato based and can include eggs, vegetables, fish, chicken or other meat. Next Monday we're going to eat lunch with the animal carers and they'll teach us how to make nsima. I can't wait!

At the start of the week it was Gabbie's (one of the animal carers) birthday, so we volunteers had lunch together with the other animal carers to celebrate. I made a whole heap of food and a birthday cake and we ate in the new picnic area near the bar at the centre. We needed to carry all the food down from the volunteer house and the box I was carrying was too heavy so I decided to carry it on my head, African style, because it was much easier that way. I got some really funny looks when I got near the bar though! People were either laughing at me or looking shocked to see a white person carrying something on their head.

I've been doing a huge range of work here at the centre, because they know that I enjoy doing other work apart from animal care. I've been helping out
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Eating lunch with Maggie.
with the malambe juice project, adult literacy project, animal care, volunteer blog, wilderness trails, orphan care and basically anything else that needs to be done.

There have been some special events recently that have meant I've worked a lot more than usual and it's been a bit more stressful around the centre. A couple of weeks ago I was working at the wildlife centre's stall at the main Malawi Fashion event – basically a big fashion show. I don't generally get excited at the idea of fashion shows and after being at this one for over 7 hours, I'm even less of a fan. Amanda (one of the volunteers) was modelling in the fashion show, which was about the only exciting thing that happened all night. Oh, and I got to meet the president's wife, which is my Malawian brush with fame.

The president and his wife are very unpopular in Malawi at the moment, so there was a lot of security surrounding her at the fashion show. There are concerns that Malawi's president is starting to become a dictator and that Malawi is sliding into autocracy. There were riots in Malawi in July, which were serious and
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Lunch with Maggie in quarantine.
19 people ended up dying. There were more riots planned for a couple of days before I arrived in Malawi but they didn't happen. There were also riots planned for last Wednesday but they didn't happen either. The centre was closed on Wednesday because of the planned riots and it was such a strange day. The centre never closes, not even at Christmas, and it was weird to have such an empty centre – it was so quiet.

There are many reasons the president's so unpopular – human rights aren't being observed, he's made some dodgy political decisions, such as grooming his brother as the next president, basic living costs have increased dramatically, etc. He doesn't like being criticised and people have been punished for doing so, including the British High Commissioner, who was kicked out of the country not long ago. Since then, almost all funding that was coming from the UK, Germany, the EU and the USA has been stopped. The lack of funding has hit Malawi hard, because 70-80% of Malawi's income had been from external aid.

There are always shortages of something here in Malawi. One week there was no cash in the ATMs,
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Archie, a yellow baboon.
one week there was no petrol, one week there was no diesel, one week there were no soft drinks because of a carbon dioxide shortage... We've had quite a few power blackouts, which aren't really much fun. There are a couple of times I've been at the LSPCA clinic and they've been doing operations in the dark.

On the weekend we had Run for Wildlife, which is one of the centre's biggest events of the year. This year was especially important, because it's the first year the wildlife centre has actually been in charge of the Lilongwe marathon, which is Malawi's only marathon. There was a marathon, a youth race, a 5km fun run and a 10km fun run and there were a lot of people who ran in every event. A huge amount of work went into organising the run – we worked until 9pm on Saturday night and started work at 4:30am on Sunday. I was completely exhausted by Sunday afternoon!

We had some workers from the centre who ran in the 5km fun run and I painted all of their faces as lions and tigers. They looked so good, lining up at the start line
LilongweLilongweLilongwe

Fully loaded after grocery shopping.
as a bunch of animals! They were so enthusiastic about getting their faces painted, which I didn't expect. One guy even left his face paint on for the rest of the day and worked at the centre all day painted as a lion. He apparently got laughed at quite a bit by the people going around on the VIP tours of the centre.

Another important event that was held recently was the launch of Malawi Tourism Week, which was held at the centre. The centre was given a complete makeover for the launch, with the construction of an amphitheatre, education room with art exhibitions and a new seating area near the bar. It's looking really good now! The launch was really good, especially the group of primary school children who danced – they were amazing! Africans sure can dance!

Some work that I was quite proud of here at the centre was the fact that I wrote two project proposals in the space of a week and that they were used basically unchanged. The first one was for the malambe juice project, which is now moving into stage 2 and is going to expand to include production of
LilongweLilongweLilongwe

Dinner at Amanda's house.
fruit jam. That one was quite easy because I could use the proposal from the initial stage of the project and just make a few changes.

The second project proposal was for the adult literacy project and this one was a bit more difficult. This project is also moving into stage 2, so I was able to use the initial project proposal, but there were quite a lot of changes that needed to be made. The project's expanding to include not only adult literacy classes, but also English language classes for those who have successfully graduated from the literacy classes. Before this week, I'd never written a project proposal, so it was a little bit difficult but now that I've done two, I feel like I've learnt a really important skill and that I've actually done something concrete that's been useful for the centre.

Well, I hope that everything I do here is useful... Except when I'm too tired to work, which is what I am right now. I'm falling asleep as I'm sitting here.

The weather's really starting to warm up now and I get so tired when it's this warm during the day. It's the
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre

Alli and Karen's goodbye lunch.
sort of heat that just makes everyone want to fall asleep. It's going to be interesting to see how much work gets done in the next few months as the weather gets hotter.

Tionana!


Additional photos below
Photos: 82, Displayed: 31


Advertisement

Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Lunch with the animal carers.
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Karen, Allison and the animal carers.
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Food preparation area.
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

These monkeys were in luck!
LilongweLilongwe
Lilongwe

Our attempts at intimidating the opposition, using war paint.
LilongweLilongwe
Lilongwe

Our face paint looked good, our volleyball skills not so good...
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Me and Allison and our face paints.Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife CentreLilongwe Wildlife Centre
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

Playing jungle speed again.
LilongweLilongwe
Lilongwe

Karen, me, Alli and Vicky at the airport, when Karen and Alli went home.


1st October 2011

Africa rulez!!!!!
Ahoooj Kim, I am so happy for your happiness!(And sooooo jealous that you are still there in Africa:) Your blog entries are really positive and one can feel from them how much you are enjoying your life there...I already miss Africa and Togo so much (that is why I am soo jealous:) I've been back in the Czech republic for 2 weeks now and I had to get used to our fast moving life again.In Togo everyone was laughting at my fast walking and I kept hearing: "Maja, walk the African way!" When I finally got used to their african tempo I was back in Prague where everybody is nearly running in the streets..So enjoy the \"African time\" because you will definitely miss it in our always rushing countries.. And ooohhh I miss their food too..Do they eat FUFU in Malawi? The paste is made of igname (I think it is called yam in English) and they eat it with some souce with fish, chicken or lamb and it is sooo good.. So, once again enjoy it there as much as you can, eat, pray, love:) and I hope we will be able to meet after your stay there to talk, talk and talk about our african advantures! When are you actually coming back?(Sorry, for this question, I know you don\'t want to hear about coming back)....Posílám pusu a pozdravy od mé rodiny a Akima:)

Tot: 2.46s; Tpl: 0.1s; cc: 7; qc: 56; dbt: 0.0485s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb