I arrived in Malawi at about 4:30 PM on June 2. My flight was delayed for 4 hours in Kenya (NBO) but I had a pleasant trip, met quite a few interesting people, and got in safe and sound. I stayed over night in Lilongwe at the famous Korea’s Garden Hotel (complete with “sort-of” Korean food [not bad] and “sort-of” clean sheets [not great]). In the morning I woke up, ate a quick breakfast, and hit the road with my driver Gift. We made 2 trips to LLW (airport) to pick up other expats and finally left for Zomba (4 hours south) at 1:30 PM.
I shared the car with Christine (a PhD student at the University of Colorado) and Gorav (a fellow Canadian and current masters student at J.Hopkins’ School of International Relations in Wash., DC).
The ride itself was fairly uneventful with the exception of an hour spent at a police road block while Gift tried to argue his way out of a speeding ticket. I ended up paying the 5000MK ticket (about 25-30 USD for going 35km/h over the speed limit) and we resumed our journey.
By the time we arrived in Balaka (a large town and trading center 1hr north of Zomba where we were dropping off Christine), the sun had fully set and the stars were out in spectacular fashion. In some of the darker patches of road, you could see the smoky splendor of the milky way. We arrived in Zomba around 7:30 PM and I was out like a light by 8:30.
The next morning I woke up to a cacophony of roosters, dogs, and monkeys; all seemingly vying for the title of town alarm clock. After collecting some Kwacha from Davie (the IKI accountant), Gorav and I walked into Zomba town and did some shopping in the local (very well stocked market). The market sprawls over the equivalent of a city block and offers everything from welding services to giant avocados (size of a child’s head and going for 50cents a pop). We also went to shoprite, my favorite bakery (Baker’s Pride), and Metro Cash and Carry to pick up other necessities. The walk was lovely (strolling under the shadow of the stunning Zomba plateau) and Zomba doesn’t seem to have changed much since I was here last year (in late August).
It seems necessary to make a few comments on the state of political affairs in Malawi, and Zomba in particular. Many of you may already know that the university (Chancellor College or Chanco) has been closed for some time now as many professors refuse to teach in light of questions about the government’s infringement upon academic freedoms. What’s more, the government has officially pushed the date of local elections back to 2014 (though they were originally supposed to be held in April 2011). Though the local newspapers report frequently on government corruption/excess spending (i.e. pressures placed on the electoral commission, the purchase of a new presidential jet, etc.) there is no real tangible sense of discontent amongst locals/residents here in Zomba. That being said, I cannot say whether there is little discontent because people are generally happy with the government (unlikely given the circumstances), people are not prepared to share their misgivings with uzungus (not surprising), or I am oblivious to populace movements against government corruption (certainly possible).
More observations to come. In the meantime, Malawi is as beautiful, welcoming, and warm-hearted as ever. I am so grateful for the opportunity to come back here and hereby extend my thanks to the many people who have helped me get from Vancouver to Zomba (in one piece none-the-less!)