Malawi wawi

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I arrived safely in Lilongwe at about 2pm this afternoon - 7am US Eastern time. To put this into perspective, I left for the airport at 6:30am on Wednesday, so door to door it was about a 24-hour trip. The flight from New York to Johannesburg alone was 14 hours, but I was wide awake. I watched two movies, one good (The Darjeeling Limited - love that Adrien Brody) and one bad (Love Happens. The previews were so promising...), read my fluffy new chick book (Something Borrowed), and exhausted my new Ryan Adams collection on my iPod. The plane was not too full and many people had empty seats next to them or even entire rows, but I was in a two-seat side row with a dude next to me who had to pee on the hour, every hour (though he was perfectly nice about it and never woke me from my cat naps).

When I saw little glimpses of land peeking through the clouds upon our landing in Johannesburg, I got a crazy rush of excitement mixed with a feeling of achievement like I've never quite experienced it before. I guess what I mean is that I'm proud of myself for going after one of my dreams. It took so much planning and hard work to find Maloto and to get to Malawi, but now that I am here, it feels amazing.

It was another two-hour plane ride from Johannesburg to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, but I had a whole row to myself this time and passed out for the entirety of the flight. The Lilongwe airport is surrounded by a grass-thatched huts and dirt roads - we could see people moving outside of their houses as we got closer to the ground. When we landed we walked down the long steps to the outside world and towards customs. The airport itself reminded me a little bit of the one in the Dominican Republic, being part-inside and part-outside, with the humid air sort of just hanging out at the baggage claim. I got my first taste of Malawian bargaining when Anna was told she had to pay 6,000 Kwacha (about fifty US dollars) for her second laptop (she brought a brand new one for the Maloto office) and she talked the attendant out of charging her.

Anna's friend picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel in Lilongwe. It did not dawn on me that this was a British colony until the 1960s and thus cars drive on the left side of the road (which makes me feel like we are going to get into a head-on collision every time a car passes us). On the sides of the roads are women balancing large baskets on their heads, children carrying bundles of sticks, or lying in the grass, or leading herds on donkeys. There were lots of donkeys, as well as what looked like small cows and bulls, which may have been steers or oxen - or perhaps cows are just smaller here? Soon I will have to brief myself on South-East African Zoology 101. I wanted so badly to be able to get out of the car and take pictures. Anna also pointed out a large piece of land where Madonna is opening her school in Malawi, though apparently people live where they want to build it and they are trying to kick them out of their homes so they can use the land. This seems counterproductive to me, since Madonna says she is trying to build Malawians up by creating this school, not tear them down.

The hotel where we are staying for the next two nights is quite nice - gorgeous landscaping with what look like palm trees everywhere (though I'm not sure if there are). We were given glasses of yummy mango juice when we checked in (again...Dominican Republic?). There is also a health club, a pool, a bar and a restaurant - and 24-hour room service. I've yet to eat the food in Malawi - and barely touched the airline food - I have been subsisting on Luna bars and trail mix for the past two days. The food here is one thing I'm nervous about - I'm a fairly adventurous eater but I'm more worried about it being too heavy/meat-based - I'm a fruits and veggies kinda girl. Only time will tell on that one, I suppose.

Anna has meetings with the Ministry of Education tomorrow but she says it is safe for me to explore Lilongwe on my own. I also need to do things like buy more adapters and get Malawian currency. I plan on having a good treadmill session in the morning and then perhaps venturing out on my first mini-adventure. Hopefully some pictures are in all of our futures!

See that tiny country sliver of a country between Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique in the southeast part of Africa? The one that looks a little bit like New Jersey? That's Malawi!

Here's a close-up - I'm in Lilongwe now, the capital city, sort of in the south central part of Malawi. My final destination in Mzuzu, which is further north, just north of Nkhata Bay and west of Lake Malawi.


Black said...

This sounds so exciting! I really want to do something like this as well.

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