Thursday, 1 December 2011

In Uk but still living in Malawian time

Jenifer from Mapanje school
Almost one week since I came back from having the time of my life but still have plenty of stories to share with you.

Miky in the volunteer house
 On the other hand, posting from UK is not as exciting and mainly challenging as doing it from my dear Malawi.

Miky and Olleny (brothers). In the sun hut

I miss the warm and sunny weather, but the most I miss is the warm and sunny people there. They really deserve the name of the Warm Heart of Africa. Dimakukonda ku Malawi.

Children from Cape Maclear practising drums

I was so excited on my first visit to the supermarket here. Lot of colours, nice smell, plenty of choices, all good quality products (compare to Malawian standards) most of them cheaper than in Malawi. Sound silly, but my Malawian diet is not my best memory from there. Being able to choose what I want to eat every day, and for every meal!,chose the flavour, the brand, have a fridge to keep it, cook with gas, ... Felt like a child in a theme park.

Going to the market for the grocery shopping

It is so good to come back to have some comfort: electricity, internet, phone network all the time, no fuel problems, drink the water from the tap, have a warm shower, sleep in a comfy mattress, not having to spray myself the whole day in mosquito spray, sleeping without my mosquito net, not sweating at night, having a quiet night without the orchestra of rats, mosquitos, bats, goats, the cock crowing at 4am with the Malawian sunrise... In general happy of having eveything you want/need with a simple fingers "click". Do you realise that?
Having the sunrise at 4am (Kwacha time)mean that everybody!! (Malawians not the volunteers) and all the animals got up, and start working, playing or just hanging around. Meanwhile I tried to sleep every day till 7.30am when I got up to go to school but wasn't very successful.
The sunset was at 6pm and at 7.30pm (Chicken time), or so, everybody went to bed. I tried to keep my European hours and didn't go to bed before 9.30pm, so I have spent a lot of money in candles :)

Kwacha time means, get up and go to earn some Kwachas, the local currency.
Chicken time means, they put inside the house all the chickens over night and the release them in the morning at Kwacha time again. And means time to go to bed.

My flatmates at night. Seven cokcs and hens sleeping next to my bedroom, with no door in the rooms and crowing at 4am everyday...

It seems like I am complaining but is not that. It is just realising the contrast and appreciating what we have in the Western World. And despite of everything I really miss Malawi and I of course I want to come back. So, you can imagine all the good things they have down there :D

I want to talk now about my last week there. I went to Lake Malawi, to relax, to prepare myself to come back to this side again, and to say goodbye, or see you soon, to Malawi. I stayed on my own for 4 days and 6 of the volunteers came over for the weekend. After the weekend they  came back to the village and I left to Blantyre for one night to make sure I was on time to take my flight back to the UK next day; you know all the fuel and transport issues there.
I have such an amazing time and the best ending to my stay in Malawi. Acutally, the saying of The Warm Heart of Africa comes from this part of Lake Malawi, CAPE MACLEAR, and once again I can confirm it.

Monkey Bay, another part of the lake close to Cape Maclear. I stayed there for two days
Last dinner with the volunteers in Cape Maclear
Enjoying the sunset in Cape Maclear

Something that I think I didn't mention before is that Malawi is a very safe country. Just arrived at the UK and heard about 4 Spanish that have been kidnapped in Africa during this year. Malawi is one of the 10 poorest countries in the World but it is ranked as the 39th in the Global Peace Index out of 153 countries and as the second most peaceful country in Africa after Botswana.

Last day on the village me and two other volunteers went to have lunch with our favourite njinga driver (bike) and to meet his family. We provided them with some food and they cooked it for all of us. One of the volunteers gave him pasta and went we were having lunch he said to us that it was the first time in his life he ate pasta. He is 35 years old and had never tried pasta before... He liked it by the way. Pasta is 3 times more expensive than rice and anyway they cannot afford to buy rice very often.

Below njinga driver Laurence and his family. We had lunch with Miriam and Steve as well.
Laurence was always in the best mood and he says he loves his job. With a perfect English, he taught us Chichewa all the way up the hill during the 30 min  ride in the bike. All for MK150= 60p

Pasta meal, first time for all Laurence's family

Still few more posts to come...
Zikomo kwambiri

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Countdown begins.... 15 days left in Malawi.

It has been a while since the last post.

Here things are getting more difficult to come to town. Fuel prices are increasing everyday. There is no fuel in Malawi and sometimes the only choice for the minibus drivers is buy the fuel in the black market. That means the price of transport increases and the service is not as good as before and have to wait for one hour to take a minibus sometimes, of course after being half an hour in the njinga taxi (bike). When you make it to get to Zomba, lately you find out that there is no sit down and wait for the electricity to come back to use the ATM or the internet. Once you are in the internet you have to be very patient, since it is very slow and comes and goes freely. Besides the internet price is very expensive, something like two pounds per hour, which in Kwacha is a lot!

Sun hut decorated for the Bday.
No more complaints :) Want to start talking about the Birthday Party. We had such and amazing time! Everybody had rice with beans and vegetables and then the cake. I had in my list 40 children who are usually around the village, but that day they showed up more than 70. I was worried if every child could have food. Finally all did and then we started with the adults. In total over 100 people ate that day and that made me feel very happy. Obviously we didn't have plate for all, so asked the kids to bring their own plate, you had to see then running home for the plate :)
Waiting to be served...

Mama (Matrida's grandmother), Matrida (with her plate) and me ready for the party.

After eating and exchanging some gifts the party started and we danced listening to Malawian music and danced in the Malawian style. It was curious when I gave the presents to Matrida (3 years old) and she didn't know what to do with them. We helped her to open them and she was wrapping them again, a bit overwhelming for her everything. Certainly an unforgettable Birthday for me, Miriam and Matrida.
Mama provided us for the party with the Malawian national wear; the kind of skirt that you can see in the picture.
Miriam, Matrida and I ready to cut the cake.
Cutting the cake with Matrida and Mama.

Time to talk about the project now. The three volunteers who are donating the money the fund-raised in the UK to builds schools (supportafrica) have finished to build some schools and mine was not in the list finally... But the good news are that Miriam, the volunteer who is teaching with me at Mapanje School is donating the money herself to build our school. The total cost to finish it is 30.000 Kwacha (140 pounds). The builders (people from the village working for free) started working last Saturday and it will be finished in one week approximately.

Some volunteers are donating money for the feeding program and have bought maize, ground nuts and sugar to cook a porridge and feed the children every day after the school. With a budget of 20 pounds approx, they bought food to feed all the children of one school one meal everyday for a period of two months.
Peeling peanuts for the feeding program.

Snack ready for the break at the school.
At the school when it is the break time between the lessons the food that the children have is: Boiled cassava, roasted maize, mangos, some of them potatoes, bananas and ground nuts. Basically what they grow in their farms. It is usual see them eating sugar cane as such. The luckiest ones has African cake, which is made from maize flour, sugar, banana and water. Mangos grow here everywhere and you just go to a tree and take them.So here, there are not issues about the children asking for the last biscuits they have seen on TV to bring to school. They all share their breakfast and give some to the ones that don't have any.

Break time.

The government provide every family with a piece of land for farming. It subsidizes around 80% of the actual price of the fertilizer they need to plant the crops at this time of the year (beginning of the raining season). They have to pay for a bag 500 Kwacha (2 pounds approx.), but due to corruption the prices are more expensive (2500 Kwacha) and some families can't afford to buy it.

One story from the previous week we visit the orphans was again quite shocking. Two orphan kids, a girl and a boy, leaving in their own. Because of the extreme living conditions, the girl decided to get married when she was 11 years old and as result we visited the boy, 14 years old leaving completely on his own and of course not going to school. One volunteer pay money for him to have the school uniform and to pay the school fees for one year. All together less than 4 pounds for primary school.

Teaching in the afternoon school with the older ones. Always plenty of volunteers to come to the blackboard:

Students bring their sisters and brothers to the school.
Balls are made of a bunch of plastic bags wrapped together and tied with a piece of string.

Some facts:

  • When I told to the local teacher at my school how much I paid for my flight to Malawi, she told me: "With that money I will be a wealthy person here"
  • Some of them ask you if in England (Europe) we have houses like theirs.
  • Babies don't wear nappies and the ones who are lucky to have them are reusable of course.
  • They don't have money to buy dish washer liquid and use a kind of scourer and the mud to rub the pot and a bit of solid soap sometimes.
  • Some of the children who manage to have the school uniform cannot go to school all the time because they don't have money to buy washing powder always.
  • They sell hand packed oil mini-bags, of less than 50ml volume. Not everyone can afford to buy a 500mls bottle. 
  • This is how the majority of the logistic works in Malawi, and how they supply the villages:  having a soft drink is the best treat you can get, if you find a place with electricity. Diet Coke doesn't exist in Malawi and they have pineapple, passion fruit and tropical Fanta. Buy water is more expensive than the fizzy drinks.

  • Cinema time. Every Thursday afternoon we go to the cinema with the children from the school. For 300 Kwacha, 1 pound approx. you can bring as many people as you can fit in the room. You are lucky if you arrive and they have electricity, what didn't happen the last two weeks.
Cinema time.

If you want to donate money to supportafrica this is the link:  

You can see pictures of the project and the three volunteers working in the building of the schools and with the children. I have been living with them for more than a month and can tell you that your money is going to be invested to improve African Children Life Conditions.
Zikomo kwanbiri ( thanks a lot) for reading me. Hope I can bring to you a little bit of the amazing Xperience I am living in the Warm Heart of Africa! 

Tionana (See you)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Already halfway through the Malawian Xperience

Nsangalala in Malawi= I'm happy in Malawi.

Almost halfway of my African experience and has gone so quick! Seems like few days here.

I'm gonna start today talking to the visit to Lake Malawi last weekend. What an awesome time! Definitely not the same Malawi as living at Domasi. White  beaches, transparent water, sun, snorkel and gorgeous kanpango fish, perhaps the best one I have ever had, ah and electricity, almost forgot what was it! 
At Malawi lake. Cape Mc Clear

I have some good news from the project. Three of the volunteers had been fundraising money and they are going to build two of the schools apart from other donations, one of the schools is mine. So, hopefully by the end of my time here I will be teaching under a roof, instead of a tree. And what is the important thing, children will go to school even if it rains, and raining season is coming quite soon, since starts in November.Two of the volunteers them are working building with the builders. Yesterday, I worked with together with all the volunteers helping with the building. Carrying sand, water and bricks from some distance to the school location using the Malawian style, that means carry whatever, doesn't matter size or weight on your head.

They start very young carrying things on the head. One day, on the way back from the school there was a 8 years old girl carrying a full bucket of water on her head and couldn't hardly walk. I asked her to help with it and try to put it on my head. Of course, I couldn't even lift it up to my shoulders, so we shared for 200mts from the tap to her house. Honestly, don't know how can they do it. You can see children under 5 doing it and the male children working in the fields during the spare time, preparing it for farming. It is just something normal and everyone here have some job to do. Children come to school with their baby sisters/ brothers and hold them meanwhile in the class.

I want to talk about some disagreement as well. Regarding the school, what happens at least with my school is that the church next to it is perfect built and even with banks to seat down. The school, as I said before have less than half wall built and we teach under the tree. Shouldn't be in the other way around? First education and then religion? Just, my personal opinion.

The church

The school

On Mondays afternoon we go to visit the orphans. Because there is no money to keep them and feed them in one building they are distributed living with different families. The personal stories we listening to are shocking. One of them was 4 orphan kids, 11 the oldest and few months the youngest. There were 3 girls and a boy and the 11 years old girl have to look after and feed them all. How can a 11 years kid do that...? Apart from that, two weeks ago we had rain for two days and their tiny house was absolutely destroyed. Everything here is made from mud. The manufacture their on bricks backing the mud and don't have money to buy cement so the filling is mainly made from sand...So sad stories and there are so many orphans...For me the saddest point is they don't have "any" possibility to improve their life. Is not you work or study hard to have a better life, they can't even afford to eat everyday. But as I said before always keep the smile. Don't we have something to learn from here?

Orphans' house

Some more comments:

When we go to school children join us on the way and Azungu is a motivation for them to go to school. When we walk back from school most of the children come with us until the village and they ask to carry your rucksack. What the local teachers explain to us is that for them that means like they are kind of rich since they can't afford to have a rucksack maybe never.

One children of the school brought us popcorn yesterday to school as a gift. He paid for the popcorn. So kind and so cute. He doesn't even wear shoes....

Many children can't go to the government school because they need the school uniform for that and they can't afford to pay the 500 Malawian kwacha that cost it (in pounds, less than 2 quid).

Next Tuesday is my Birthday and it is  third Matrilda's Birthday as well the same day. She is one of the kids I am living with. On Sunday we are having a big party to celebrate the Bdays and Miriam's Bday (another volunteer) as well. We are having rice, beans  and vegetables for all the village and a Birthday cake. I bought 15kg of rice and 5 kg of beans to feed around 60 people. Miriam and I paid for the cake and Matrilda's family is killing a chicken for the celebration. Most of them don't even know what a cake is... I am looking forward to it and will tell you about in the next post.

Thanks for reading me :)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Images of my new life in Domasi!

Finally, I managed to upload some pics, but was not easy at all. Need one hour to go to the internet: half an hour in a njinga ( taxi bike) and half an our in a minibus (a van with 20 more people and all sort of luggage or shopping included alive animals like chickens) , it is really slow and comes and goes as it hope you enjoy them. I have hundreds of them, all amazing...
Today, they are some of my house, village, children and one of the schools.

Have no time to write this week. I start feeling at home even though life here is not easy, but start missing family and friends too.
The living room, main bedroom and the door to my bedroom
My bedroom after refurbishment

Having dinner (nsima) with my family
The toilet
The tap, 50 mts away from home

My garden
My house
Te shower 50 mts away
My village
One of the best schools
One child at the school

Friday, 30 September 2011

Teaching under the tree!

Have few minutes to update you meanwhile someone pick me up for the weekend from Zomba to go to the lake.

First of all want to correct my Chichewa (Malawian language) , is not uzulu but Azungu (white people).

Second and crutial: my passport is amended already! The Consul told me I would need to go to Zimbabwe (a different country) to order a new temporally passport, since Spain doesn't have and embassy in Malawi. I was not looking forward to that, as you can imagine! Well, I went  to the immigration office in Zomba and  as one more example of their kindness and generosity the fix my passport and even made a case for it to keep it safe! They didn't ask for any money, but of course I gave some to the person who fixed it. So grateful to them!!!! That wouldn't happen in UK or Spain, would it?

When I wrote the title: Teaching under the tree I actually meant it!. They have a half built school, just haft wall and no roof so we are teaching under a tree next to the future school. They put a plastic on the ground and sit down, we take the blackboard out from the church near there. The teacher carry a bag with all the stationary to the school and back. I have taught for two days this week. In the morning they are small children and prefer singing and playing. In the afternoon they are around 10-12 and they are really looking forward to learn. They, understand quite well English and are very smart. The shame is they don't have the stationary needed . Only half of them have a notebook, the other half write in a sheet and use a piece of cupboard as a support to write or even their lap. 

I am staying with a family and they are lovely. The second day they fixed the window for me. The removed the cupboard and put a glass and even a curtain :) Yesterday they brought a table and a chair into my bedroom and they don't have any for them in the house.They have two lovely children Matrilda (she is 3) and Effort (he is 9). The girl love singing and dancing and she is really good! you have to see her moving her hips! and she is a really clever girl! Effort is so nice too and stay always next to me. 

Today, I am going for the weekend to the Lake Stars Music Festival in lake Malawi with some volunteers and the coordinator of the project. I am looking forward to it!!! And they are going to be two Spanish bands as far as I know.

One thing I still need to sort out is about the food. I am not eating the local food yet, what means my diet is basically bread, peanut butter and macadamia honey, and biscuits...hopefully this weekend can have some nice meals.

Oh did I mention that these people drive on the wrong side of the road as well? 

So much to tell...

Will try to come to the internet next weekend and probably update some pictures.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Hello from Malawi!!

After 9000 kms and 24h later I arrived successfully at Malawi and came back in time 100 years...or even more.
I have almost been sent back to the UK because my passport just broke in my stop in Johannesburg, but luckily the allowed me to get in Malawi because I am volunteering. I need to fix it to get out though...and can't do it myself, so waiting for the  Consul advice about what to do.

Malawian people is lovely. They are very happy and kind and share everything they have with you, although they don't have anything to eat,  no even a ball to play and not shoes to wear. Kids love "uzulu" (white people).They shout "uzulu uzulu" when you arrive to the village , they love just holding your hand and touching your white skin.

Being here is harder than I imagined, the conditions they (me now) are living are so extreme without electricity at home, cooking on the fire, without no kitchen at all, having the tap water(that can't drink) 50 mts away and the toilet is a hole in the ground surrounded by a lot of flies.

Being here for less than 48 h and have so many things to tell... This morning we visit one of the "schools": One room over 15 m2, with dusty floor and just a blackboard that can have more than 100 children of different ages.

There is no way I can express what being here looks like and will try to upload some pics but the computer I am in town no, doesn't even have the USB or SIM card connection.

Hope can update you soon

Friday, 23 September 2011

Last night on this side of the world :)


Heal the World:

 Less that 24 hours left to live the time of my life!

I will be leaving  for Malawi tomorrow. I will arrive on Saturday afternoon at Blantyre airport, after one stop in Johannesburg. 3 hours driving and will be at Domasi ready to start officially my African experience.

Since I am not having electricity at all, can't say when is going to be my next post. I guess I can have internet access if go into town at the weekend. I will put some pictures and share my impressions of the Warm Heart of Africa. On the other hand, I feel tremendously good thinking I am going away from here (internet), technology and all the materials things which "are" essential in our everyday life. I have so much to learn there and I will like to share it with you all. This way you can also enjoy it somehow, learn something and perphaps be the next one going there, who knows?. All feedback or any question are very welcome.

Hopefully, I can feel I am making my little contribution to those less fortunate people, althought I know what they are going to teach me is much more than I can teach them.

I feel really lucky of having this opportunity. I want to thank you to all my people who supported me from the very beginning and especially to those who make this experience possible.

Thank you for reading me and I hope you can find this blog useful.

(I am going to try to fit everyting in my suitcase now)

See you soon...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Want to volunteer? Here you have all the info!

Volunteering in Malawi

Watch the video:

At this rural youth project you can be one of few volunteers to get a real glimpse of life in this developing country helping at this rural youth and community project. After securing your place with £95, help at this project and in return receive free volunteer accommodation during the first weeks.

Based near Zomba and only approximately 3 hours from the airport, at Blantyre (transfers from Lilongwe also available but transfer times longer). English is spoken by most of the staff.

Specific duties are allocated after arrival to each volunteer based on the volunteers interests and local need. An open mind and the willingness to get stuck in is essential for sucess for this project as living conditions can be quite 'rustic' living alongside poorer families and organisation minimal as the volunteer programme develops.

Placement at a Glance

Volunteer options
Assisting in all areas and activities with a youth group.
Project location
Shared self-catering volunteer accommodation.
Working hours
Usually full-time 5 days a week. Occasional weekends
Project operates
All year. No start dates.
When to apply
Spaces limited - only 10 spaces ! Early booking recommended.
£70 per week (weeks 1 - 2) Extra weeks £35
Airport Pick-up Service
Available for all volunteers. Approx. £50.

Your Experience

Here you will have the opportunity to get involved with this friendly youth and community group with a variety of very different tasks which may include one or more of the following: organising activities, assisting with a feeding programme for local orphanages, providing one to one mentoring, support with training, assisting teachers and mentors with group sessions, perhaps teaching your own classes, visiting village orphanages, teaching English, basic writing and maths, arts and craft, sport, health education and general maintenance.

Interested but not sure? For the less confident or less travelled try a volunteer placement at an established African project first ideal for first timers such as Morocco, Ghana or the live-on-site Uganda school project where volunteers, children and support staff are all in one place!


This placement is a typical African project ideal for people who can approach their volunteering role independently and confidently with a ‘can do' attitude and want to get stuck in with a project where everyday is different and life with the challenge of poverty is an everyday part of life. As structure is still limited as the project seeks out the best use of volunteer support, energy and ideas, volunteers will be required to provide input, ideas and put themselves forward on a daily basis, working collaboratively with the project staff available and fellow volunteers.

Camping or music festival experiences may also assist with the transition to basic living standards which are rudimentary at best!

There are no organised free-time activities for volunteers at this placement although weekends,  providing no activities have already been arranged, can usually be taken to visit the national parks and explore the local villages independently or with other volunteers.

What's included in this programme

Accommodation in shared volunteer house or with local families. Friends are placed together.
An English speaking coordinator is provided and is available for all queries and extra support you may need during your visit.
An airport pick-up and transfer service is available from Blantyre or Lilongwe airports for approx. £55 payable on arrival.

This programme is ideal if...

I would like a placement where I can really make a difference off the tourist trail.

I would like a project where I can use initiative, make my own ideas happen and leave a lasting positive imprint on the local children and community.

I am volunteering in the summer and would to escape the volunteer crowds. I have experience in youth work and education and would like to offer my skills and expertise.

I do not have any experience but would like to help in any way which can make a difference to this new underfunded project.

Check out all the destinations:

  • Argentina

  • Bolivia

  • Costa Rica

  • Ecuador

  • Ghana

  • India

  • Kenya

  • Malawi

  • Mexico Merida

  • Mexico Puerto Vallarta

  • Morocco

  • Nepal

  • Paraguay

  • Peru

  • South Africa

  • Tanzania

  • Thailand

  • Uganda

  • Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    A little bit of it and its lovely people!

    Click the link below:

    80% of the population live with less than 1 U.S. dollar a day.