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zambia cut short, malawi's breath of fresh air!

ZAMBIA | Monday, 21 November 2011 | Views [702] | Comments [2]

My last days spent in Malawi were that of fun, rewarding, sadness. I finished the school mural and went on some interviews with a local village for story telling which I will put on the website being created by the managers at Butterfly Space. We are attempting to create an around the globe folk story pod cast and live stream where traditional and new stories from different backgrounds are being shared as a way of cultural exchange. I am very happy to be a part of it and will thus take part in some more interviews and also illustration of these stories.

After being with the children who are suffering from Cerebral Palsy, a result of untreated malaria, I feel empowered to get trained in massage therapy targeting such ailments. By learning to stretch and strengthen these muscles, I will be able to pass on routines that are set for preventing ultimate unuse of these limbs. It is one of the first times I have actually felt so passionate about a progrm revolving around massage therapy and how it can be implemented in Africa. I am smiling for the benefits that my schooling might actually aid me in here.

I decided to take off on an adventure to Zambia. Its a large country filled with distant villages and secluded lives in the bush, with an opposing spectrum of the natural wonder, Victoria Falls. My friend Jack is there and so we planned a reunion, we have not seen one another for nearly 6years since college. I was excited and enthusiastic however sad to leave Malawi. Yet travelling even on hot smelly busses always irk me, the act of movement is required for my happiness where as stagnancy can pain my soul. So yay, a ticket to Zambia and off I went!

My first bus was from Lake Malawi to the capital. It should take 5hours to arrive, however the bus carrying 65 seated passengers and nearly 30 standing squished in the aisle on top of the children and babies on laps and luggages dangling on for their dear life, allowed us arrival at about 12hours later. Oh my what did I get myself into. Anyway I arrived in the capital Lilongwe and did a couch stay for 2 days with a lovely family running the organization warm heart travels. It was fun as the man there allowed me to go out to the bush with him where we visited a sponsored family and took them for a ride in the car. My heart smiled when they attempted to alight from the car without knowing how to open the door. They pressed the body against the door hoping it would pop open without using the handle. I loved this rural life and the new experience they were embarking with me next to them. So lovely.

Later that day, I was contacted by my friend Sam who is was my angel who saved me after the robbery. He helped me call my parents and got me to western union and the police station to sort myself after my trumoil at the festival a month earlier. I left with no contact info and no way to reach him yet my parents got a call from him and I found he was searching for news about how I was now a month later. Luckily he lives in the capital so I met up with him and said my thanks for his grateful contribution to my safety. We plan to meet in a month or so when I returned.

Early morn I got in a minibus to the boarder. I got stuck when I found that the boarder patrol would not take my malawian or zambian money. They require US dollars. However there were no US dollars in Malawi, and the nearest bank in Zambia had just ran out of them. If I wanted to pay, I would pay at least 2dollars worth of Malawian money to get 1usd. NOT WORTH IT...this was sign number 1, I shouldn't leave Malawi. Anyway, after calling their chief, and me giving my robbery sob story, I was let through no problem. I loaded into a small sedan meant for 5 people. WE managed to fit 3fat ladies, myself, and 4 lengthy men, two of them sharing the drivers seat and leg space at the wheel. Of course this was illegal so we had to take a diversion down a bumpy side road and rickety wood bridge, every bump scraping the undercarriage, I was sure we would brake the car sending me into a flurry of stranded stress, yet within 20minutes we made it to Chipata where I caught a bus to Lusaka (zambian capital city).

After dark, I arrived and caught a cab to the Mogal guest house where peace corps often stay. The nicest place I have stayed in Africa, meaning they had a fan and carpet,,,no power though and cold water, still comparable to other joints I have stayed for sure. I spent the next few days with the Peace corps crew, a rude awakening. Well peace corps does amazing things in fact, the volunteers work extremely hard and long but of course this is Africa so there are many days of rest and play. They mostly build and live in their own mud huts but they are given a considerable amount of money to furnish their home. They also get paid 300usd a month to use however they wish, completely free medical care throughout their stay, discounts on all major brands like north face, oh and a 6,000dollar start up cash bonus at the end of service....hmmm volunteering or a job? Even at that, some of them complain its not enough, this is of course the heavy drinkers who want plush beers and nice foods. Volunteers, uh huh.

I guess this is why my friend was amazed when I told him we would be constructing a water tank for the school in Malawi. 'Oh you got a grant huh?' I retorted with, 'Umm no, I pay for it in fact'. Shut him up fast. Basically in the peace corp if you want to implement something, cash is on hand at most given requests. I know I sound harsh but for as much as the peace corps do for the area, I still find it crazy to say its a volunteer program with all the bonuses I see happening. Anyway, they are well respected in the area and at least they have a history in Zambia for sustainable works.

Next few days we traveled down to the boarder of Zimbabwe to Livingstone, a huge tourist town right on the edge of the natural wonder "Victorie Falls". On the bus, I got my first flash of unwelcoming, a man saw 2 inches showing on my legs and must have felt sexually arroused by me, or disrespected because he told me to cover up because only prostitutes dress like that. HMMM breathe...Next I accidently touched a mans leg when I was grabbing my bags, again, arroused or what? He growled "don't touch me legu' ". Maybe I should just go back home to Malawi now i thought.I could see if I were claiming blasphemy on the word of Jesus Christ they could be mad, but come on, I am a tourist headed to a hostel in the largest tourist town in Zambia...a prostitute? that is from your own mind sir!

Anyway I got over it and we headed to the hostel, I was in a bad mood though. My friend jack didn't help so much because he seemed to be competing with me. We were both sharing biased views, I was in love with Malawi and he with Zambia and he therefore countered every comment I made with "well in Zambia bla bla bla..." Like when I went out in my typical peace colors (red, yellow, green) and got the usual response, what I consider shouts of compliments and he said "if you keep wearing that you're going to get that a lot here. Rastas arent respected here." To which I said, "until I am dead, you won't find me without these colors, they are my religion" Come to find out from the locals that in fact just like Malawi, Rastas in Zambia are regarded as peaceful people in the community. My friend who'd been living in the village for too long was having an opinion that I was no longer trusting after several similar comments that I inquired about from the locals. I thought it best to keep my distant as much as possible for awhile during this trip and find my own zambian experience.

The first day, a group of us headed out to Vic Falls for devils pool. A 2km walk and we were at the stream of massive water flow. One step too far and you would be rushed over the edge. Apparently many people commit suicide over the edge there, no chance of survival whatsoever. We took turns jumping into the 3meter deep natural pool formed by rocks. On the edge, we dangled our bodies and heads over the edge watching the water run down while the guide held our legs to prevent our deaths. What a rush. The adventure back home was intense as a storm brewed and we were caught in thunderstorms and lightning striking only football field distances from us. We could see our guide was scared and the water rained so heavily we were soaked within 5minutes and had to use him as a bridge across a dangers ravine to get to safety. "I don't like lightning" he said. That night he found us as the hostel and told us a nearby village was struck by the lightening, a woman and baby stood and were struck and killed as we had been crossing the rocks...natures power yet again revealed.

That night I met an eclectic group of a man from New York, an English girl, a South African boy, and German lad. We all got along so well and sat for hours entertaining eachother with stories and laughs of our travels. 3 of them told me they were traveling to Malawi and I just wished so much I was going with them. Malawi was ever in my dreams.

The following day, I headed to the gorge near the falls where I participated in several life threatening forms of amusement. First I abseiled down the 70meter gorge frontward, and backward, fast and fun, the 25min walk out was tough but beautifully desert like and filled with lizards and strange noises. Next was the zipline, I did this too many times to count and it was so quiet I could sit above giggling to myself like a child. Finally, the famous gorge swing. Worse than a bungee many claim. First time is easier than the second I was told, but I didn't believe it. So first swing  I went backwards, I tried to scream but the air was sucked from my throat and grasped for dear life as I free fell for 5 seconds, doesn't sound like long eh? you try it...I thought I could s*** my pants right there. Dear god that was horrible but fun. Next, forwards jump. WAAAAAAY worse. I knew what was about to happen to me and this time I had to physically step off the edge onto nothingness. I couldn't control my legs which ran in the air seeking to grasp at something. I was freaking out man....ok enough feats of living life dangling from a rope. I was over it. My night was spent swimming in the chlorined white water pool and trying to calm my nerves at the hostel. For three days I ate rice, bananas, bread and peanut butter while the peace corp people lavishily dined. They deserve it but man my envy kicked in.

The worst part of being with my friend who had planned for me to do volunteer work in his village, was realizing that in fact, because of the holidays and a big event happening in December, I would basically be a bi standard and not get to participate in the events they were holding. Ok, had I known, I could have researched and found my own program but I think Jack was just eager to share his projects with me, I don't blame him but I was over the experience of resting. I wanted to work!

After meditating for 3 days, I decided I was over Zambia and I would head back to Malawi early. I went to the local market on my last day which was by far the best part of my trip. It wasn't the tourist market but rather a 4-6km walk out of town to the second hand, hand made, local goods market. I found fabrics galore and most unique to any I had ever seen. I got 1meter for less than a dollar and no one was trying to weasel money from me. One man even gave me back my money as I accidentally handed him 5times the amount I owed. This is the true Zambia I was seeking, yet now I would leave soon. awe...still my heart pounded with the thought of my Malawian reunion.

I broke the news to my friend,who I think understood before I said it that I was ready to leave. I boareded the bus with the German lad from our new friendly crew and headed north to Lusaka. After parting, I was on my way on a bus to Lilongwe (malawian capital) On the bus I met a kind Congolese man who was in the logging biz ( i bit my tongue and enjoyed his company) He bought me lunch and we talked for hours about Rhumba music and the congo culture. At the boarder the Malawian man said "back so soon huh? How long do you want to stay?" I replied "Can you just put down 'forever' please" He laughed and gave me a free month, but I was serious, a forever stam was what i wanted!

In Lilongwe, I found I was a bit stranded as the couch surf I scheduled wasn't answering his phone and my phone wasn't sending text properly. I was stuck. Somehow my angel Sam called at that very moment to see how Zambia was.After telling him I was in Malawi and explaining my plight he hung up and called back within 20mins to say his family was going to keep me for as long as I needed. Sam doesn't live there so I felt a bit strange  but I could care less as long as I wasn't in another guest house.

At Sam's parents home, they apologized several times for the lack of running water and cemented floors as they were still fixing up the place. I giggled at their thoughtful nature but assured them I needed  nothing more than a safe place to rest. For the next two days, I was woken by mama at 6am and given a new towel slippers and a hot drawn bath in a real bath tub they had never even used. By 8pm mama came to me for another bath. Two warm baths a day! Was I in a five star hotel?! They told me I was their last born child and Ive already made plans to come stay for at least a month and volunteer at the orphanage mama helps out in in september. We sat each night watching Church Emmanuel which is a self proclaimed Nigerian profit who lays his hand on people as they gyrate on the floor claiming the devil is in them. With one touch he is able to heal them...im only amazed that people actually believe this 24hour broadcast. They even have segments where people hold signs saying 'Jesus bought me a Nissan truck' gag me now. Oh well its entertaining for 20mins I guess and I love to be with my new family so I put up with it.

I was finally able to get my passport and traveled a bit in Lilongwe on my own. When you can safely travel in capital city, it says something great about the country. Yay Malawi!! Sitting outside the super market where I had just bought fancy rice cakes and tahini, I was waiting for my ride and was approached by and old man selling his paintings. This is where my heart sank. I told him I had no money, because in many ways I still don't since I don't have a bank card. But he convinced me at least to look at the art which was gorgeous. I felt so strange eating something this man would never eat, not even pitching him a few bucks, and trying to ignore his 30min long presence as my guilt sank in. If you give to one, you must give to many I thought so I didn't pay him but here is where my heart gets confused. I just didn't know what to do at that point. I went home and forgot the old man but even sitting here now I regret my decision because it's not a youth selling wares, it's an old man who is obviously having no other means of survival. Life is so confusing sometimes.

Next day was back to Nkhata Bay, my malawian lakeshore home. I surprized everyone as I told them I would be there later and arrived early. I snuck to the bar and surprized the barman (my bes friend) and he was sooo excited to see me. The night was followed by a great few games of mafia around the dinner table and a nice relaxing night in the tent at Butterfly Space. I was back at home with my family here on the bay and jumping into the lake was like a babtismal connection with my soul.

What I learned from my travel away, was that we can visit a place for a new experience, but we can never forget what our heart actually yearns for. As I left Malawi, I also left project behind I intended to complete when I came back, I left friends who I may never see again, and I left the sanctuary of my hearts resting place. I am on a search for the place I want to spend most of my African experience in. Other than exploration, I had no reason to leave Malawi. An Ethiopian proverb explains it well...

One should never try to climb two trees just because he has two legs.

-Ethiopian proverb

I agree!

Love you all. More journal coming soon!

Tags: butterfly space, devils pool, folk stories, malawi, mama malawi, nkata bay, t-club, victoria falls, zambia



Great stories. Have you created the podcast yet? If you have, do you have a link to it?

  Rashaad Feb 20, 2012 2:19 AM


no pod cast, i dont even know how those work...i probably won't make one it seems time intensive, but what is the benefit, i could be convinced

  kena Feb 20, 2012 7:39 PM

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