Tuesday, 25 June 2013

From Sunshine to Chiperoni, Postcards and Shopping at the Market!

There is a common myth that Africa is always hot or warm - the pictures we see on TV are of warm places with scorching sun and suggests that factor 50 is a must! This is a myth! It's mid-June in Malawi and I'm dressed like it's winter in Edinburgh complete with scarf and gloves. It's raining and windy outside - this is what is called Chiperoni and is definitely the cold season.

Limbe is particularly freezing and always feels colder than the neighbouring Blantyre (a bit like the distance between Edinburgh George Square and the Botanic Gardens). This is probably the only time that I actually put more clothes on coming into work than I do when leaving it! The tables have turned on Malawi and the weather is so cold that I'm to wish I was back in Edinburgh just so I could put the central heating on.

I also heard from Julie that I work with, that they received the postcard from Malawi - I'm glad it reached them. I know it can take around 3 weeks to get from Malawi to Scotland, that's if it ever makes it! I really enjoy the experience of buying the postcards - the negotiating with the vendors and the very random selection of images which are available.

This is also a bit like the market - especially when shopping for gifts. First of all, it's always a good idea to look at a selection of the stalls - even though they sell mainly the same thing and then start negotiating on prices. I know a few of the stall holders now so normally go to them. Happiness is particularly good at sourcing the bargains and the best stuff. He goes around saying "for my customer, she is my customer." - he sells paintings and Joseph Sells wood carvings - they have a good double act going!

So Saturday at the market was an experience - there were a group of tourists all trying to buy gifts, some being unnecessarily rude and rather annoying. I see one women shouting that she is not getting a "good price" for the bracelet she was trying to buy - at 300 Kwacha it was actually rather cheap. She turns to me and says something like "this is a rip off".  Further along and I come across the same person - to her surprise I'm now greeting someone in Chichewa - I'm no stranger to this Market - I know how to play the game. There are some thing in Malawi that never change - negotiating at the market is one of them.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A day in the life...

A day in the life is not really an accurate title but its close enough. Settling back into life in Blantyre has been interesting. Its warm enough but not too hot and I find that even after a few days I was once again used to the climate and the dust!

The first few days here, I did the usual things of going to the bank, getting my phone sorted out and doing some shopping. I had forgotten how generally expensive things are here and prices have gone up quite a bit.
I also managed to break my sunglasses before leaving Edinburgh. I didn't have to look hard to track some down with the street vendors selling them along with postcards and jewellery. I wasn't surprised that the street vendors pounced the minute I was on Victoria Avenue, I was surprised that when I said find me tomorrow that they actually did.

Driving around at the weekend wasn't too bad though it still amazes me that some Malawians choose to walk along the road and not on the pavement. I don't mind driving in Malawi, I don't think its any more stressful than at home, still potholes, other cars and buses, bicycles and possibly the odd goat. The search for parking spaces is similar to Edinburgh with tram works replaced by roadworks and attempts to fix the increasing number of holes in the road.

Back in the Mary's Meals office, I'm once again sharing a desk with Florian, he never seems to mind that I manage to take over the end of his desk.  It feels a little odd to be back at Limbe and working with Mary's Meals - I think being here makes me appreciate how lucky the team I work with at the IAD in Edinburgh are. I'm not saying this means I won't still fall out with the photocopier though.

There are some things about Malawi that I had missed and some things not so much! So I may have missed the Passion Fruit Fanta but its fair to say the Cadburys chocolate here doesn't taste as nice!!