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One of the boys in Lilongwe

My Scholarship entry - Seeing the world through other eyes

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 9 April 2012 | Views [174] | Scholarship Entry

Stepping out of our air-conditioned car, three separate realities assaulted our senses at once. At only 7 in the morning, the heat from Malawi’s burning sun scorched our skin and eyes, yet we could see the chaotic swarm of locals up amongst rows of trucks, shouting and gesticulating manically at one another. The searing smell of tobacco filled our noses, causing us to cough as we adjusted to the heady air supply. We had arrived at the country’s biggest tobacco auction floor.

With us was our guide, a local. “Today is a good day to be here”, he said. “It has been going well all morning, so there is little chance of a fisticuff and believe me then this is no place for little ladies.”

We scurried along the lines of trucks, which were waiting for the chance to unload their bounty onto the trading floor. Farmers were dozing in the cabs, doors open to accommodate their heads and feet sticking out from both ends. Clearly they had been there a while.

We passed through a lobby standing guard in front of the floor. A sleeping, white haired official was on duty behind a desk, above him a dusty board displaying currency values from a bygone era – one Deutschmark was worth 550 Malawian Kwacha.

The world we entered was one unparalleled by anything we had seen before. Huge sacks overflowing with brown tobacco leaves were neatly stacked into perfect rows as far as we could see. Men of all races in pressed suits walked in lines alongside, trailing an auctioneer bellowing bids at the top of his voice. Along a cleared path ran dozens of men with wheelbarrows, moving sold bundles towards empty trucks waiting along the exit. Noisiest of all were the farmers, shouting from the viewing platform above the floor. Their whole year’s work was about to be quantified in a matter of minutes, determining how they would live for the year to come. Their emotion and determination emanated so heavily from the stands it was almost tangible. We were truly seeing their world through their eyes.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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