Bwanji, Bwanji?

Slang is a peculiar thing, more so in another language. Bwanji, bwanji? literally translates into “how, how?” but it covers all number of sins (how much is this, what do you have there, how much do I have to pay etc.)

Another great piece of Chichewa slang is “bo-bo” which is an informal greeting between equals derived from the french “bon bon” (literally good good). The expression doesn’t really make any sense but Malawians seem to take this in stride. I once explained the translation to a friend and he didn’t seem to find it strange to greet someone by saying good-good.

In other (more mundane) news, I have really been enjoying my time in Malawi but the stress associated with this type of field work is looming in the background (and it appears to be ALIVE!!). In the past 2 days I have received no less than 50 emails regarding the format of the questionnaire, surveying procedures, manuals, the budget (easily the most stressful thing I have had to deal with in Malawi) and everything else under the sun. In the process of this mad rush, I have learned a great deal about project management and the real-cost of implementing large-scale studies in Africa. When I get home at night, all I want to do is curl up in bed with a good book, a Toblerone, and my mind completely blank of all project-related thoughts. Sadly, things don’t always work out that way.

Complaints aside… life is pretty good (and when it isn’t easy I just have to remind myself that (1) at least it is interesting and (2) holy crap… I’m in Malawi!). For lunch today I had rice, beef, and relish (salty, yummy cooked greens), all for a whopping 200MK (CAD $1.25). The women who sell this food out of big plastic buckets in the field across from the IKI office are lovely and totally get kicks out of my meager attempts to speak to them in Chichewa.

I have also really enjoyed my time at the office, liaising with Mike (the new in-country head of IKI), hanging out with the Malawian staff (James, Davie, Danview, and Humphries mostly), and doing completely random office tasks (creating a sleek new white board calender with electrical tape, assembling a fan to the amusement of all involved, and filing [from which I derive strange enjoyment]). I am being driven a bit crazy by the poor internet connection but un-plugging for a few months cannot be a bad thing eh?



One response to “Bwanji, Bwanji?

  1. Hi, I’m an undergraduate and a fledgling researcher currently in Lilongwe 🙂 I was really curious about where bo-bo came from. Thanks for this great post, and I think I’ll read through the rest of posts related to Malawi. Zikomo!

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