Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blantyre and Zomba for my First Weekend Away from "Home"

Colored with a field visit, a national football match, some long bus rides, and some really great company, this past weekend was one of those times that reminded me why I love (and then hate, and then love) life in “Africa.” After spending the last five weeks in Lilongwe – at times stuck in my apartment (in the dark) for lack of transportation (or electricity) – I was so excited to get out of the sprawling suburban city and explore! With a fully-packed backpack and half-hazard plan, I joined the program manager, her five-year-old daughter, and our driver for a three-hour 5 AM journey to Blantyre, where we attended the graduation of some of our community health workers.

5 AM...

6 AM...

7 am...

The community health workers formed a choir at graduation!

Some more CHWs perform a skit. They were pretty good,
but I wish I could have helped with the staging... 

One CHW receives her certificate and shakes hands with
 a doctor representing the District Health Office,
then the program manager, and finally a representative from
the District Nursing Office.

The graduating CHWs sing and dance to end the ceremony.

Me (right), management staff, and the graduates!

My supervisor and all other attendees enjoying "tea time"

Graduates enjoy donuts, samosas, fanta, and milk tea...Yum!

Instead of returning to Lilongwe with the rest of the team after the one-hour ceremony, I began my weekend excursion and first adventure in Malawi. I convinced my friend Emma to make the one-hour journey to join me for the night, and so as I awaited her arrival (which ended up turning into four hours), I spent time with the Blantyre-based program staff. I had no plans, no accommodation, and no direction on how to maneuver around the city, so our driver was nice enough to spend his afternoon escorting me to every “shoestring” lodge listed in my Bradt Travel guide in my attempt to find the most decent accommodation at the lowest possible price. Our three hours together also turned into a tour of the city, including Kamuzu Football Stadium and other “nooks and crannies” of what is known here as “B-city.”

A beautiful view from one of the (nicer) lodges I visited.
I am so ready to play "hostess" in Blantyre!

As soon as the driver dropped me off, I visited Masu, my first and only female Malawian friend that I met at the hair salon last weekend. She was so sweet and welcoming, as we talked about failed relationships (sigh...) and life in Malawi. Emma arrived, and after tea and more conversation, we headed to our hotel to get settled before dinner.  As the sun went down, we quickly discovered why the lodge I selected cost less than $20 for the night: cockroaches! Ugh!! One can of insect spray later, we tried to put this behind us as we headed to dinner, but car trouble added another ripple in our evening plans. Eventually we made it for dinner and drinks at a cute little restaurant where we were later joined by three other friends from out-of-town. The rest of the night involved jamming to the music of the few Malawian artists that I know (Masco and Pixe) at Blantyre’s “hottest” club. Perhaps the most exciting part of the night was the 2 AM attempted mugging of Emma’s purse, which resulted in some awesome battle wounds for her and a mini butt kicking from our other three friends for him.

Masco sings my favorite song "Wa CV," about how he
wants a girl with a good CD. Holler!

Malawian rapper Pixe joins Masco.

On Saturday, the adventure continued as we attended the national football match of the Malawian Flames versus Tunisia. The weather was hot and nearly unbearable, but with the stands full to capacity for this important qualifying match, the atmosphere was addicting! The match wasn’t terribly exciting (as there were no goals) but just being part of the crowd – while draped in my Malawian flag, of course – was energizing! We finished the evening with a (long) minibus journey to Emma’s home in Zomba, where we had a home-cooked dinner and good conversation with a volunteer I’d met a few weeks ago in Lilongwe.

Harvard and Malawi represent!

Rowdy crowd shakes the concrete stands...

Malawi team warm-up. Don't you just love football players?

Stadium almost completely filled to its 40,000 capacity.

Me and Emma at the match!

Go Malawi Flames!

A real fan...

The weekend ended with breakfast with another friend (shout out to Dezio, who's coming to visit me in Lilongwe this weekend!), a five-hour packed bus ride back to Lilongwe, and, of course, an evening involving a free drink (gotta love Harry’s Bar), jazz music performed by my Rasta friend, and quality time with Jenn, another friend who just arrived in Malawi. All-in-all, it was a pretty exciting weekend that reminded me that I’m going to be okay! I’m thinking that this coming weekend deserves an equally entertaining adventure, but we’ll see…

Full bus for the bumpy ride home. I'm still sore 2 days later...


  1. Sounds like you are adjusting well :) Continue to have fun adventures :)

  2. I have just done an export and sbo
    worked out the conversion rates for each bucket and i find them very similar. IE as a % site speed isn't making a difference to conversionsboasia

  3. Absolute football junky. So definitely gonna try and catch a game when I visit Blantyre!