Apologies for having completely disappeared for a month! I think a big part of it is that after 2 + years here, the things that used to stand out and warrant a post now seem so common place – we’re so Malawian that we can kill mosquitoes with one hand, expertly navigate fuel queues, and handle water cuts and power outages as part of our routine. I’m just not as surprised anymore when I see a monkey riding on top of a truck in the middle of town, or witness thunderstorms so violent they shake the house, or when it takes three months to get help replacing the rotten, molding ceiling tiles that we’ve been complaining about.
Life has moved along at a quick pace – discussions of the current political situation are common place, but it is just as common for Malawians to be well versed enough in American politics to ask specific questions about the election and Newt “Gingalich”. We continue the process of making new friends and saying goodbye to old ones, a constant and emotional cycle. I often feel like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, tearily saying, “why does everyone want to leave me?”
We were excited when the local fast food place decided to start delivering pizza. I’m still not sure how they do it, as no one really has an address here – it’s just “go past the Wanella BP and take the first dirt road on your left and go past the green gate until you see four dogs and then take your 6th right and we’re the red gate (it’s actually more rust-colored) on your left just past the fence made of reeds – you can’t miss it. Then honk three times so we know you’re there.”
The other big news is that there is a sugar shortage. This is big news for two reasons. One, sugar is a major cash crop in Malawi – Malawi produces so much sugar, there should never be a shortage! And two, in Malawi, sugar is the bottom level of the food group pyramid. (Sugar and salt, really, major parts of the Malawi diet – and despite this they all have beautiful teeth.) Most of my colleagues drink their tea with an average of six heaping spoonfuls of sugar. I always watch this process with fascination, expecting the sugar to spill over the edge of the cup after soaking up all the tea. (Although I can’t talk – the Folgers Instant Mocha Chocolate Cappuccino drink mix I have every morning definitely has more sugar than that.) People are queuing for sugar and there are limits on how much you can buy when it is in stores. I was very excited when the nice check-out lady at Shoprite let me buy six bags instead of the allotted five. There are rumors that the sugar is being sold abroad for much needed Forex. But if Malawians didn’t protest at the lack of fuel, or lack of soft drinks, you have to think a sugar shortage will drive people over the edge!
I’ve also been busy writing articles for local publications and was recently published in The Eye, Be My Guest, and the Air Malawi in-flight magazine, Ulendo. The previous post on Gertrude Benham was in the latest edition of The Eye. I think she was amazing – and I love that Nyasaland (Malawi) was a major stop on her journey. She was so calm and casual about the threat of lions and leopards – I guess she hadn’t seen The Ghost and the Darkness.
We have been trying to make the most of our last few months in Malawi, enjoying time with friends, starting to wrap up work, and figuring out what’s next. We have also had some amazing weekends away at tea estates, Zomba, and the lake. While it’s hard to think about leaving Malawi – time is going so quickly – we are definitely relishing the time we have left!