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Published: November 27th 2012
It was a mission trip for my church that brought me to this beautiful country. I had hardly heard of Malawi before, didn't know the language Chichewa even existed. When our Air France jet liner landed in Johannesburg, the airport was so westernized I didn't consider Malawi could be any different. The moment I started to get nervous was when we boarded the tiny prop engine air plane and traveled two hours north east bumping and listing. I could literally hear the wind and my seat did not seem bolted down; my seat belt wouldn't fasten!
Regardless of our journey into the country, I was more than impressed. Everyone at the airport was very friendly. I was hesitant to let anyone take my bag for fear of having to tip ten people; but they asked for nothing. They just smiled at us and bowed quite a bit. The lodge we were taken to seemed a bit rustic, however, it was so romantic! The sheets were clean and smelled of flowers; there was a wash basin with clean water. The eating quarters and main entrance was not a far walk from my room; Although, I was too busy being
mesmerized by the beautiful scenery and the crisp air. While recovering from the jet lag, the first couple nights I slept like a baby and relaxed like a queen while having my every need anticipated by the friendly people.
When it was time for exploring, we ventured to the city of Blantyre. Every city has its decent places and it less than appealing areas. This city impressed me as it was small, and had some less clean areas, but the personnel all treated me the same everywhere. Even walking outside the city, where the ladies sat on the side of the road selling their garments and sugar cane, i received the same courtesy. I remember seeing people everywhere, hearing music constantly, and not seeing any turmoil.
Taking an excursion outside the city led us to a village whose huts were made of the clay bricks they manufactured in their front yards, if you will. Grass roofs kept the insides cool. Water from a river over a mile away - carried on their heads back to the village - provided hot tea and ensema (their version of rice) for all of us visitors. It was just like I had imagined except the rebels, and the violence portrayed in movies like Blood Diamond and Rwanda were obsolete.
Another village we visited required travel by bus because of the distance. There was one part that made me especially nervous. The road had been washed out at one point, and so the gentleman who was guiding us laid boards down in line with the tires to cross a ravine at the bottom of the hill we were to climb. This was the moment I feared for my life and exited the bus to climb the hill on my own two feet! Afterwards I found it extremely comical, but at the time all I could imagine was one of the boards snapping, or getting just across the ravine and somehow the bus stalling and sliding back down the hill in to it. I was so impressed by the skill of the driver and his reluctance to succumb to fear.
The most memorable moment of the village at the top of the hill was the weather. It was a clear day, cool breeze, in the sun it was about 80 degrees F. When you looked out over the country side you could see mountains in the distance to the west, and a river somewhere to the east. To the north you could see miles and miles of plains. It must have been at least 10 miles or more out you could see clearly, it was so beautiful! To the south, however, you could see nothing but a grey column. It was almost magical though, as you stared the column came closer and got bigger. In minutes it was upon you, and raindrops the size of quarters fell on your face. Not cold, not uncomfortable, but magical and within 30 seconds - it was over! The rain passed and you could watch the column fade away in the distance. It didn't block out the sun but it went up as far in the sky as you could tell, and just kept going. I wasn't drenched after the episode. I was thrilled and couldn't stop saying, "Did you see that?!" It was phenomenal!
A third village we visited also left me with a special memory. As this entire trip was a missionary trip, every village we visited we shared something western with them. In every village we built a newer better water pump, closer to their village than the nearest river. This allowed each tribe to pump fresh water from the water table beneath them. It looked almost like a bike, it was so easy even the young children could operate it. In a few villages, we pulled out our guitars and sang for them. Some of the villages shared their song, their food, their homes, and their laughter with us. But this one village was special.
We shared with them the magic of film. We set up a large screen, and with a projector gave them something they've never experienced before. By this time I had picked up some Chichewa as you tend to do when you are in another country. We had translated both Narnia and Finding Nemo into their native language before we arrived in Africa. When we played it on the big screen they just oohed and aahed! They jumped a little and laughed when the beaver in Narnia started talking. They giggled when Dori sang her swimming ballad and were spooked when Bruce held his Shark meeting. It was just the most amazing experience I had ever had. After the movies we laid under the stars and asked them what they thought, they sang to us and told us their favorite parts of the movies. I think I counted almost twenty shooting stars in five minutes. Too many to make wishes on.
Blantyre, Malawi and the surrounding villages in the country have my highest recommendations. I cant imagine a better place to experience the still untouched romance of Africa. The movie Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep was an inspiration to me through my trip. However, it holds no candle to the actual experience of a lifetime. I strongly encourage you to visit the country over any other country in Africa. Visit the people, the culture, the shopping; you will not be disappointed! Malawi is traditional, romantic Africa!
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