Sunday, 2 May 2010

Going Home

Last blog from Malawi and I'm not really sure what to write. I've been trying to think of some neat way to sum up all my feelings and experiences, to conclude the blog.

But I can't. I don't think this is the end of us and Malawi (and won't be the end of the blog) so I'm just going to write about what I can see and hear now and hope that I remember it clearly in years to come.

The evening sun is getting low and beginning to make me squint. Ants are crawling all over my feet and I've just been handed some ropey wine in a dirty glass. A is next to me reading his car magazines and I can hear some gospel singing over the noise of at least 5 different languages (including unreasonably loud American English) chattering here, round the pool in a Lilongwe hotel.

I feel happy, lucky, satisfied and ready to go home.

F x

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Climb Every Mountain

Here's a little nugget of self-awareness I've learnt this year: I'm no mountaineer.

Actually, I already knew that (some of you may remember the Ben Lomond incident) but I thought I couldn't get on the plane without having tried it all. Given it my all. Left no stone unturned. Pushed myself.

So I did. I agreed to climb 2,000m to the Mulange Plateaux. I knew it would be tough physically and it was, but I managed (just). But it was my fear that was the biggest problem. I don't like heights. I hadn't realised how much I don't like heights until I was nearly vomiting with fear having walked across a slippery waterfall 1m from the precipice. I knew my reaction wasn't normal when I looked up and saw my friends happily posing for photos on the other side.

A cajoled me the rest of the way and the views from the top were superb. The rats, the drop toilet and the shower (a room with a bucket) not so lovely. But fabulous evening with pals, sausages and marshmallows.

The way down was worse. I'd been awake half the night worrying about it, listening to the rain and wondering how full the rivers and waterfalls would now be. Very, it turns out. A didn't leave my side and our pal Arjan, who could see the tension in my jaw, was a trooper, walking behind me, grabbing and heaving as necessary.

I spent most of the decent on my bum, sliding and slipping over the rocks. I got back across the waterfall (now a raging torrent, I exaggerate not) very inelegantly clinging to the rocks, shaking my head and being heaved out of the water. A then pointed out that I had ripped my trousers and my backside was 'hingin oot'. I cared not a jot. That's how much I was consumed with getting down in one piece. "Everyone can stare at my grazed bum all they want, so long as I get off this bloody mountain" were, I believe, my exact words.

It was my first real case of one step at a time, don't think about it, mind over matter. People do this for fun at the weekends, it's really not that bad but for me it was a big deal. I see it as this year in miniature, breathing, keeping calm, carrying on, relying on others.

And now I'm back. I can barely walk and still want to cry when I think about it, but I did it. There, done.

F x

Friday, 23 April 2010

Things I Will Not Miss


  • The spiders (naturally)
  • The occasional waft of B.O, the smell of the dried fish in the shops and the smell of the cheese plants in the garden
  • Taking anti-malaria medication
  • Living behind bars
  • The driving (awful, truly awful - we've even seen a massive articulated lorry holding on the biting point in reverse on a hill down to a roundabout because it had no breaks - genius but terrifying)
  • The pedestrians
  • The hut

F x

Things I Will Miss


  • The people
  • The sunshine and sun-sets
  • The fruit and veg (though am looking forward to proper sized peppers, carrots, onions and potatoes - fiddly wee muddy things are annoying to prepare)
  • The free time
  • The hut

F x

Further Goodbyes

It is all I'm doing right now and really mixed feelings about the whole thing.

I've grown 'rather fond' of Malawi and our life here and it feels strange to think that in just over a week I'll be back where I belong - wonder if all of this will seem like a dream?

Very excited about being home again (and sure this is the right move). Just hoping we stay healthy and safe over the next 10 days and then this whole thing will have been wholly good.

Fingers crossed
F x

Monday, 19 April 2010

Things I would do to make Malawi better off

Are (in no particular order):

  • Make sure people aren't hungry, have clean water and soap;
  • Make sure all children are taught to read, write and think critically about things;
  • Conduct a massive civic anti-corruption campaign, with the help of the Churches, progressively increase civil servants' pay, criminally prosecute more and more instances of it and heavily publisce all guilty verdicts;
  • Import some lions, reduce airfares and do some serious tourism promotion;
  • Build good train and road links to ports in Mozambique and Tanzania (the roads in Malawi are actually relatively good);
  • Pick one of the regional trade blocks, leave the others and throw a lot of resources at selling stuff to its neighbours;
  • Build irrigation systems and put the management of the water and energy companies under some serious performance related pay measures;
  • Slash (maybe abolish) agricultural subsidies in the developed countries;
  • Use farmer co-operatives to increase agricultural production; and
  • Make court judgements enforceable against the state.

Most of which are, to some extent, already underway.

F x

PS - am wondering what the answer to the same question for the UK would be......