Friday, 26 February 2010

Public transport

The public transport in Malawi is something very singular. There isn't bus to go to city centre or any where in the city. If you want use public transport you should take a “mini bus” that is like a van. The conditions of a minibus isn't nice because most of them are very old and they don't care so much about maintenance. So you can easily find minibuses with the front glass cracked, without rear view mirrors, holes on the car floor, wreckers everywhere, broken speedometer and much more that you can discover when you get in a mini bus. People can bring almost everything that they need to carry with them, like big bale of clothes, hoes, bags of maize or flour, baskets with bananas, and animals like chickens and fishes, but these ones they carry outside trough the window or tied somewhere out of the car.

Another singular issue about minibuses is the overcrowding. They only start the journey from the bus station if the car is full. A normal minibus has 15 places to seat including passengers, driver and man to collect money. But they like to put inside it many people as they want to. Once I was on a minibus with 21 people! The price from my house to city centre is K80 (US$0.53) but some times you can negotiate the price it depends from where you get the minibus. To get a minibus you don't need to worry in go until the bus stop because you can get anywhere that is possible they stop or they will go until you. It's common when I'm going down the street near my house and a minibus is crossing the street when they see me they turn the street just to ask if I need to get inside.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Holidays: Mount Mulanje, Lake Malawi and safaris

I had two weeks of holidays in Malawi in the end of last year. I visited some places that I found exotic beauties by its unique landscapes and wildlife. The first place I visited was Majete Game Reserve. It's a park to preserve the Malawian wildlife with 691 km2 completely fenced where you can make safari and see some animals like: elephant, rhino, buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, kudu, waterbuck, impala, warthog, hippo, bufalo and monkeys. I did a safari for about 4 hours and I could see almost all these animals, only rhino I didn't see. The first elephant I saw was a little bite scary because I was outside the car looking for a elephant that had left a footprint and, suddenly, a big elephant appeared behind the car making a thunderous roar!

The footprint's owner

Majete Game Reserve

Majete Game Reserve

The second place I visited was Mount Mulanje. It is a mountain that has a maximum elevation of 3,002 m. I did a walk of 40 minutes until the waterfall. It's very beautiful and you can swim there.

Mount Mulanje is located in the middle of tea plantations

Mount Mulanje's waterfall

After Mulanje, I went to Liwonde National Park. It has an area of 580 km2 extending along the Shire River. The animals that we can find there are similar to the animals in Majete Game Reserve. I slept one night there and it was amazing to hear so many different sounds from wild animals. In this park I saw my most beautiful view from an African sunset.

Liwonde National Park

I did a boat safari on the Shire River and I could see a crocodile and many hippopotamus. Sometimes the hippos were very near to the boat.

Hippos in Shire River

Finally I visited the Lake Malawi. I stayed in a nice lodge in Salima called Safari Beach Lodge. The Lake Malawi is very similar to a sea. Its view is like a sea but the water is not so salty.

Lakes Malawi's beach near Salima

During my stay in Salima I went to Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay that are also at the Lake Malawi. In Monkey Bay I went to the most beautiful beach that I visited in Malawi. Its name is Venice Beach. The water is very clear and the sand is really white.

Venice Beach in Monkey Bay

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Book fair at schools

As a part of my volunteer work in Malawi I've been visiting some primary and secondary schools to make a book fair for the students and teachers. First I go to the school to talk to the principal about DAPP (Development Aid from People to People) and the Book Shop Project, and I ask to the principal if it's possible to make a book fair in the school. All the schools have accepted this idea of make a book fair. Actually I think it's a really good thing for the students to improve their education because the schools in Malawi are very poor in libraries. It's very rare you find a library in the schools. Furthermore, I've noticed that the Malawian students like to read books. It's mazing to see how many children come all together when they see the books displayed on tables or even on the floor. They can buy the book because the prices are accessible for them. The children books and junior novels are K50 (about US$0.34). It means less then a bus ticket, K70, from my house to the city centre that takes about 15 minutes.

This picture shows the book fair at Baptist Primary School that I went last week. I went on Tuesday and it was supposed to be only that day. But the children asked to go one more time so I went there also on Thursday.

These are students from St. Theresa Private School that I went on last Friday. At this school I had a different experience. The children were very excited to see me, a “white person”, at their school. When they had first seen me giving hand to a child all of them came together to also greet me giving hands. They liked to touch me, mainly my hair and my bracelet. There was a moment that I needed to hide myself into the teachers' room because it was really a lot of children pushing and touching me. This was similar to a experience that I had when I came to a rural community to give gifts to children.

This book fair was at Kalibu Academy that I went on this Monday. This is a private school that follows the University of Cambridge curriculum, as I saw on their sign. This school is a rich school and it's different from the others that I have visited because it's very clean and has a very good class rooms like we can find in Brazil or Europe.

This book fair was in Rose Garden Primary and Secondary School that I went on Wednesday. The children were very happy to enjoy the book fair. I saw that they have a library but it's completely empty. I asked to a teacher where the books were. He told me that before there were some books but now the library is under reconstruction. But he didn't tell where they put the books.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Malawian food: Nsima

I've been taking lunch at my project, DAPP Book Shop, that I work as a volunteer. The main dish made every day in my project is a Malawian staple food called nsima (or nshima). It's like a soft pudding and it's made from white maize flour without any spice, even salt, so, it isn’t tasty. You have to eat it with some tomato sauce and vegetables. Almost every lunch there are nsima, a kind of vegetable cooked with tomatoes, and also egg or a kind of meat, that can be fish or other meat like chicken or goat. The cooked vegetables are usually pumpkin leaves, spinach or cabbage always cooked with tomatoes, salt and a lot of cooking oil. Only once a week there is rice instead of nsima. Usually I bring soya beans that I cook at home as a complement for my lunch. The most interesting thing when you see Malawians eating nsima is that they eat with hands! I tried to do the same twice but it's difficult for me to use hands to eat.

The food in the DAPP Book Shop is made by a cooker. His name is Thokozani. He cooks in a small kitchen using a simple wood-burning stove and not so many kitchen utensils. The first time I saw this kitchen I was afraid to eat food made there. But after I became familiar with that place there is no problem. I like the food that he makes.