Malawi Part 1: The People

So, for the last two weeks I have been in Malawi, Africa. This was my first adventure in Africa and I have no doubt I will be back in the future. Since returning it has been a bit of a culture shock, more than I expected really, given I was only away for 2 weeks.

My two weeks was spent in a number of places, primarily Manase in Blantyre. Then using a house in Manase I was able to visit areas like Zomba, Mulanje, Setemwa and Liwonde. Over the 2 weeks myself and the other 5 in our party traveled heavily and enjoyed the sights and sounds of southern Malawi.

Too much for one post!

I have split this series of photos into 3 parts as I feel it was too much for one. So where possible I have tried to section out the images which are relevant to each other. They are not a chronological representation of the trip.

Part 1 (this part) will focus on the people of Malawi.

The Kids

Firstly the people of Malawi we met were often very happy and very open about their circumstances when we spoke to them. Children are always smiling and chatting with each other. Like kids everywhere some are outgoing when you chat to them some are really shy, the common thing was they all loved seeing their photo on the back of the camera after it was taken. I can’t say the same for the adults, and like with most places it is definitely better to ask when taking photos. Even when taking shots from the car of just general scenery I think people saw the camera and assumed I would be taking a shot of just them and they often asked me not to take photos. I had no problems with this but we did notice some people were quite aggressive about this so any prospective travelers should judge the mood of the area when it comes to this.

 

Chewin

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Pick me

I enjoyed driving past the schools, seeing the lessons under the trees, we were lucky on one day to see students arriving at school. I thought this would be a great opportunity to show normal life. Primary schools in Malawi are state funded, so children with access are able to gain some formal education. Secondary schools are a little different however, with only those who can afford it being able to attend.

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Seeing the kids arriving I thought I would get out of the car and take a few snaps of the buildings and things, problem is the kids all knew what was going on and they all wanted their photo taken, before long there was a lineup of kids right in front of me. I literally turned around and saw a line of kids dancing towards me. It would be nice to go back and do some work with the schools at getting some form of school photo done.

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The Adults

Life as a kid is not easy, and despite the outward appearance of happiness and blissful ignorance (what being a kid is all about), they live with difficult realities I never had to deal with as a child, and I wish no child had to deal with. Malawi is top of the list of premature births (bringing its own problems and complications), and Malaria, Aids and malnutrition are still very real problems.

Some people we met were grossly underpaid, these were not people employed by other locals but these were people employed by European companies! This is shocking and sad in this day and age, it is evident that someone is making a lot from the skilled work these people are carrying out and it was evident it was not any of these people. We met people being paid only £15 a month to make dresses for an Italian company, after being promised £30 a month which would have been a significantly better existence. On £15 a month home is a room of about 8 feet by 12 feet sectioned off at a third of the room to make a bedroom. Living is basic and this shelter costs £3 a month, which although sounds little is a third of wages and leaves little for food, which is not particularly cheap. Basics are expensive despite the amount of crops you see growing.

I think, of the city and the countryside, that the villages around Lake Malawi generally had a much higher quality of life than those in the city of Blantyre. The easy access to such a massive resource of fresh water and food (fish) seemed to make life a little easier. People were not cash rich, but then out of the city I am not sure how much people really relied on cash rather than trade of crops and fish etc.

Below is the small village we stayed near:

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The people in the village we stayed nearby used the lake for food and water, to bathe, wash clothes and cooking utensils. Using water is far more labour intensive in the city where all water for each of these activities has to be pumped from a borehole. However, I have no doubt that being this far away from the city of Blantyre made medical attention difficult to reach, coupled with the lack of cash we could see travel was also difficult.

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In the city areas the streets where crowded with people and the few shots I managed to get of life do not really do the streets of the cities justice. There are minibuses everywhere, these private buses offer the closest thing to public transport for most people. There are coaches, some of which look better than those in the UK (the toilets function for a start), but they are out the reach of most people. The minibuses are often crowded and poorly maintained making them dangerous to travel on, but they may be safer than the bikes with a padded seat on the back, I honestly can’t be sure.

Any time you stop in the city (as with a lot of cities) people are trying to sell something. One of these happened to be lollipops, these seemed to be everywhere. Often people approaching the car either sold phone top ups, fruit (of all kinds), lollipops or they just wanted some money.

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I think if I took anything away from this it is that everyone should really see this stuff for themselves and make their own minds up. However, I realise Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa are not top of everyones holiday destination lists. Shame really as it is not just the amazing people you should go for but also the incredible landscapes, wildlife and plants of Africa.

Malawi Part 2 – Landscapes
Malawi Part 3: The Wildlife