Muyende bwino!

On my way to Lilongwe for the JF huddle this weekend, I stopped in Blantyre for a night.

After being the only mzungu (white person) in Chikwawa for a while, it was an interesting experience to be surrounded by other non-Malawians at the guesthouse.

I stayed at Doogles, which is known for being an expat location and true to its reputation, it was teeming with mostly development workers from the UK, America, Japan…

Talking with some of the other lodgers, it occurred to me that even though EWB’s work in Malawi is facilitation and not as a donor or implementer, I was essentially the same as so many of the peers I met that night. University students spending a few months between studies at a developing country. Working in the international development field. All of our projects sounded so innovative and hopeful. But isn’t it always like that on the surface level? What kinds of ripple effects are we actually leaving behind? Or rather a tidal wave since there are so many of us?

I actually felt a bit out of place being in such a Western setting again and spent most of my time speaking to the Zimbabwean bartender rather than to try to be social with the other azungu (mzungu plural). Perhaps this is what reintegration is going to be like? I don’t know if I’ve ever believed in reverse culture shock before but yesterday made me wonder… Maybe it is so very real.

Anyways. I’m at the bus terminal to board the coach to Lilongwe. These were just some thoughts that were running through my head last night.

Today’s Culture Shock: Rastas (Rastafarians) smoke weed. Some people also smoke weed and chamba. Chewing chamba is also a thing. The guard at my office snorts Tobacco. Some men smoke tobacco. Women usually snort tobacco rather than smoking it apparently. Chewing tobacco is not really a thing. And nobody seems to understand when I ask them about getting “high.”

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The Urban Malawi

Since yesterday and until tomorrow, I’m scoping out Blantyre – Malawi’s hub of capitalistic happenings. Whereas all the other JFs across the continent have started their placements, I’m still making my way down to Chikwawa.

From the little I’ve seen so far, Blantyre is definitely a happening place. It’s all people, fashion (weavessss), and cars everywhere.

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The downtown core isn’t a mine of skyscrapers like Chicago or Toronto but all the shiny buildings seem to proclaim a wealth that is not yet present in the surrounding rural districts.

It makes me wonder how much of a difference it makes in someone’s life if s/he grew up in Blantyre as opposed to someplace like Mangochi or Balaka. I have met people in districts who were originally from Blantyre so maybe it doesn’t make a huge difference in opportunities. As always, it’s probably part of a complex system of a number of different factors.

Today’s culture shock: The average life expectancy in Malawi is around 55. It has been quite rare to meet an elderly person.