A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Malawi

So in a few hours I'll be at the aiport to take a flight back to Canada. It has been a great time in Malawi and valuable learning experience. To summarize some of the things that I have done / not done in the past 5 weeks:

Things that have not happened / things I did not do:
- Contracted malaria (not yet at least!)
- Been mugged
- Been kidnapped
- Had my accommodations broken into
- Bribed someone

Things that did happen to me / things I did:
- Got tanned
- Went on a safari
- Hiked around up mountain
- Hiked up a plateau
- Visited Lake Malawi
- Had diarrhea...a few times
- Been told by a stranger that they wanted to marry me
- Been asked my phone number by a stranger
- Been asked my email address by a stranger
- Took the minibuses
- Walked alone at night (don't do it!)

Physical Changes:
- I lost have some weight...or it has redistributed itself somewhere...
- Become tanned
- I have developed quite a rash on my arms, I actually think I am allergic to my malaria pills
- I actually look pretty tired, I've had a lot of trouble getting a good night's rest for the past 5 weeks. I think its due to the malaria pills

Things I'm going to miss:
- Friendly people
- The landscape is very lush
- Generally a healthier lifestyle due to walking everywhere
- Slower pace

Things I'm looking forward to:
- Convenience and variety of food
- Being able to walk around at night
- Just general higher standard of living...though I lived quite well in Malawi
- Greater efficiency in North America

Things I've learned:
- Though I lived in something of a bubble in Malawi, just by seeing the country you can see how many issues there are from gender inequality, to lack of access to food / water, to HIV / AIDS that are complex and interrelated
- Give more. 2000 MWK / 5 CAD is almost nothing to me, but means a lot to say the maid cleaning my room. She was pretty ecstatic at the tip I left
- Innovation and entrepreneurship are important to a country's development. Not saying by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship will solve all of Malawi's problems, but Malawi's seems to be stuck in the habit of doing things the same way and then relying on huge sums of international aid.

Overall it has been a great experience and I'm glad I was able to spend the last 5 weeks in Malawi. Until next time!

Posted by Analyst 00:46 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

What I have Been Working On

So if you're been reading my blog you might be thinking "wow this analyst has doesn't actually do any work!" So this post is dedicated to the work I've been doing. The goal of my mandate is to help the organization I'm working with develop a strategic plan for the next 3 years.

Week 1: was orientation and meeting the organization
Week 2: went around the country interviewing stakeholders. They ranged from local non-profits to large organizations like UN AIDS and World Vision
Week 3: we held a 2 day workshop to come up with ideas for the strategic plan and invited a number of stakeholders
Week 4: drafting and reviewing the strategic plan
Week 5: wrapping up, completing a final mandate report

In the I passed onto the organizatiosn
- Interview guide and notes
- Workshop decks
- Draft strategic plan for validation with stakeholders
- Deck outlining the process we went through
- Implementation tools

Though there's still a lot of work to be done as their plan needs to be reviewed by stakeholder and probably refined, it was nice to hear from the Executive Director that he thought the work I did was valuable to the organization and helped to develop their capacity.

Other things
- I had to extend my vistor's permit because I had been in the country for more than 30 days. It costs 5,000 MWK / 13.51 CAD to extend the permit for another 30 days. The immigration office is extremely unorganized - did not open on time, no real system of who gets served first, no signs as to where you need to go, you need to go to multiple places to pay, get the permit approved. An Industrial Engineer would have a field day mapping and improving their system.

Posted by Analyst 23:45 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Day Trip to Mulanje

On Sunday Sameer, Kristina, and Lawrence (the person who runs the organization I'm working with) took a day trip out to Mulanje. Mulanje is about a 1 hour drive from Blantyre and probably most well known for being the town right next to Mulanje Mountain, Africa's highest peak south of Kilimanjaro.

There are lots of tea plantations in a nearby district called Thyolo. The tea plantations are pretty much all British / foreign owned because a long time also the Malawians who owned the land signed a contract saying they would give up the land. The Malawians didn't know what the contract said.

Mulanje Mountain and tea plantations

This large new hotel where we had lunch. They were very very slow.

Some people on a bicycle taxi. Pretty much you hop on the back and you pay the rider to take you somewhere.

We hiked about 40 minutes to Likhubula River waterfall and “Old People’s Pool”. Apparently its a pool of water where you can see the spirits of old people. Also, the pool is supposedly 60 meters deep at some point.

View along the way

The waterfall and old people's pool

I bought this hand carved wood Malawian cedar box for 1900 MWK / $5 CAD from a market near the trail. It makes me happy but feel guilty (mostly guilty) at the same time that it was so inexpensive. And I was probably getting the foreigner's price too.

Other costs
- It was 100 MWK / 0.27 CAD per person to enter the mountain reserve
- It cost 100 MWK / 0.27 CAD for someone to guard our car while we hiked
- A guide for about half the day cost 2500 MWK / 6.76 CAD

Other stuff
- Apparently street vending is illegal and people are only supposed to sell things in the markets where they pay the city a small fee every day. However street vendors are literally everywhere
- Official taxis are supposed to have license plates with red words (these cost a lot more money) and are only supposed to stop in designated places...but pretty much anyone who owns a car is willing to be a taxi
- Apparently people like to cook with lots of oil because it means you're more well off. In less wealthy areas people don't cook with as much oil
- For woman it is more favourable to be larger, especially when you're married because it means your husband is providing for you well

Posted by Analyst 05:27 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Good Friday

We had a four day weekend for Easter. On Good Friday I was sitting the lodge and heard singing. So I ran out to the street (which is maybe 80 meters away) and there is a huge crowd of a few hundred people passing by and singing.

This is the tail end of the group

See how far the group goes? It goes farther!

I have a video but the Malawian internet has decided they don't want to let me upload it. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to take a video but no one stopped me...They had at least one police officer with them.

They stopped at the bottom of the hill where someone had set up speakers and they all started to pray and repeat what was being said through the speakers. Well I think they were praying I couldn't actually understand anything. More and more people joined the group - they either walked or hopped off trucks.

The is the back of the group praying...uhh I hope this wasn't disrespectful.

Other things

Malawi has a Pacific Mall, though not quite as large as the one in Toronto...
So far this woman is winning for most inconvenient thing balanced on head. What she's carrying looks like it could be twice her height!

Posted by Analyst 12:23 Archived in Malawi Tagged good_friday Comments (0)

My Visit to a Private Religious Hospital

Earlier in the week I had a running nose, felt very tired, and a bit weak. On Wednesday I felt too tired to go to work so I slept in the morning before meeting Alice from WUSC, Sameer, Cynthia and Kaitlin for lunch. Alice immediately insisted I go to a hospital to get tested for malaria. Though I had been reading on the internet and I didn't have many of the symptoms (fever, vomiting, chills, nausea), Alice said that symptoms can vary between different people.

So Alice drove me to the nearest reputable hospital, which is about a 5 minute walk from where I live, the Blantyre Adventist Hospital. I actually walk through it everyday on my way to work. It has the slogan "We care, God heals".


Now I am fairly paranoid about contracting any diseases here and I think most people worry about getting HIV from needles. Getting tested for malaria involves drawing blood. In Malawi there are public hospitals and private hospitals. Apparently the Blantyre Adventist Hospitals is one of two private hospitals in Blantyre and one of the best in the country. From what I have heard the public hospitals are more crowded, often short of necessary supplies, and not always clean. Due to either the cost of private hospitals, or the wait time and sometimes lack of service in public hospitals a significant number of Malawians try to self diagnose and treat their illnesses.

I didn't take any pictures inside because I just wanted to curl into a ball and sleep (which I did and people waiting around me looked at me funny), and it seemed a bit weird to take pictures inside. But it didn't seem too different than a Canadian hospital except for being smaller, having dated and less comfortable furniture, dimmer lighting, and being more confusing.

There was a sort of process map like thing outlining how a visit goes high up on the wall. This how my visit went:
1. Go to one of three counters (they're for different things), tell the receptionist what you want and fill in a little form. The receptionist doesn't know how much things cost. Get a number and wait for them to call it.
2. When they call your number you go to a little counter to pay upfront (1100 MWK / 2.97 CAD for doctor consultation) and then you sit in a smaller area closer to the doctor's offices
3. A nurse will call your number or name to take your weight, blood pressure, and temperature
4. Wait in the smaller area until a doctor calls your number or name
5. In my case the doctor asked me what was wrong, and I pretty much said I was here for a malaria test so he filled out a little form for lab tests. He brought the form to a women who is processing payments.
6. Woman processing payments calls your name and you pay (4600 MWK / 12.43 CAD for drawing blood for malaria test). She didn't have exact change so she made a note that she owed me 100 MWK / 0.27 CAD. I didn't follow up for it.

My lab test form and payment receipt

7. I was supposed to take my completed lab test form to the laboratory but I had to ask someone where to go. Once I found the lab a person drew my blood told me the test would take 10- 15 minutes to complete. I am quite sure he used a new needle from a new plastic wrap. I did a bit of paranoid Googling later and it seems unlikely I would contract diseases from getting my blood drawn. Being a rare foreigner he asked me questions about myself and seemed interested in going to study in Canada and wanted my email. I told him my employer was very strict and didn't let me give out my email. I did direct him to a few websites though.
8. Doctor calls me in to go over the results

Whole thing took about three hours. It was a bit confusing as there wasn't really clear direction of what was happening or what to expect...though it might have been I was too tired to read the process map on the wall.

In the end I didn't have malaria, hooray! I walked back to the lodge and after 16 hours of sleeping I felt quite a bit better.

Other things
- More people asked if I was Korean or Japanese. I don't really know why people think this. Maybe they have access to Japanese / Korean dramas, music, cartoons?
- I was in a burger shop and I noticed they had a "macon and cheese" burger. What is macon? It is sheep prepared like bacon!

Posted by Analyst 09:30 Archived in Malawi Tagged hospital malaria blood_test Comments (0)

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