Monday, August 13, 2012

Malawi, the Good and the Bad

It's that time again. Bid lists are out. Much of the FS world is now busy researching, worrying, lobbying, and dreaming about the next post.  Researching posts is tricky and time consuming.  You are relying on relatively few resources to decide if Banjul or Guayaquil  is someplace you can live for the next three years.  Jill, who hosts the  FS BRU came up with the brilliant idea to have each of us write a blog post highlighting the best and worst of our current post to help out those of us bidding this time.  So here goes.

The Five Best Things About Malawi

1. The lake.  Lake Malawi is huge. It runs almost the length of the country.  There are lots of little places along the length to the lake where you can go for a get away.  By far my favorite get aways are Domwe and Mumbo Islands at the south end of the lake.  What's not to love about this?   It's paradise, right?

2. The yards.  Most houses here have a huge yard.  I love our yard.  It has a pond, a vegetable garden, a patio, 2 screened porches, and lots of room for the kids to run and play.  This is the first house with a yard we've had since joining the FS. I've really missed being able to sit outside on Sunday morning sharing a quiet cup of coffee with Dave.  Of course I don't have to mow the grass, I have gardeners for that, or I might like the yard a whole lot less come rainy season.  Man does that grass grow quick once the rain starts.  

3. New businesses.  Since we arrived two years ago a number of new businesses have opened expanding our options for shopping and eating out.  We now have a Spar (a sparsely stocked Spar, but it's another option for groceries) and a Game.  Still no Starbucks. Oh Well. We  do have Ama's Kohfi who's carmel latte keeps my Starbucks cravings at bay, and they make a mean mocha caramel cake.   Latitudes is a fancy new place perfect for a night out.  And if you are really in need of a mani/pedi or a massage, Tips and Toes is just the place. It's only been open two months but it usually seems to be busy.  I'll be heading there later this week when my kids head off to Green Camp.  

4.  Critters.  This is Colin's contribution to the list.  He loves wildlife and our back yard is full of critters for him to catch and terrorize. Hedgehogs, tortoises, lizards, frogs, it has it all. He has memorized the birding book and puts it good use identifying all the avian visitors to our back yard.  Thanks to the pond we get a lot of beautiful birds visiting us.  From the the tiny blue Waxbills to the occasional Heron they are very cool. 


5. Safari. Safari recharges my batteries and makes me fall in love with Africa all over again.  Going on safari was a childhood dream, one I really didn't think would ever come true, but since moving here it has, over and over again.  I never get tired of going on safari.  There are not a lot of options for viewing wildlife close to Lilongwe, but there are places close enough to enjoy over a long weekend.


6.  Community.  I know it was supposed to be 5 good things but I have to include the community here. Maybe it is a small post thing, but there is a real sense of community, and not just among the embassy folks.  It is very nice thing to be a part of. I am really looking forward to school starting in a week because it means that all my friends will be returning to post and I am looking forward to getting all caught up on what's been happening in everyone's life over the long school break.  

The Five Worst Things About Malawi

1. Grocery Shopping. This is a consumables post for a reason.  Grocery shopping takes hours.  You end up going to every single grocery store in town and still come home without some of the things on your list.  It has been much better the last few months, but last year there were long stretches of time where you couldn't buy butter, or sugar, or sodas, or beer.  Yes I said BEER.  It is getting bad when you can't get beer. Even when you can buy beer the choices are Carlsburg green label, Carlsburg Special, Carlsburg Stout, and Kuche Kuche.  I really wish I had know this when we were packing out in Germany I could have brought some Dunkels and Hefeweizen with me.  

2.  Traffic.  It isn't the same kind of traffic issues you have in someplace like Manila or Jakarta but driving here is awful.  People don't even slow down for red lights, pedestrians walk in the middle of the road to keep out of the dust or mud, bicycles are everywhere and they all seem to have wobbly tires so they weave and swerve in front of you without warning, and worst of all are the minibuses which are simply a health hazard.  The roads are full of potholes, and the edges are badly eroded sometimes having drop-offs of 8 or more inches where there should be a shoulder.  It is easy to flip a car if you are not paying attention to the edge of the road.  

3. Smoke.  My neighbors on all sides dispose of trash and yard debris by burning, this on top of their staff using wood to cook all of their meals.  The smell of smoke permeates my house at all times.  My throat was never this raw from the pollution in Jakarta. Leaving town doesn't help either.  Crop residues aren't composted or plowed back into the soil, instead they are raked into big heaps and burned.  Flying in during dry season you can spot dozens and dozens of smoke plumes when flying over.  

4.  Critters.  This one balances Colin's love of critters.  While theoretically I love that he is getting the chance to develop his love of nature there are critters in our yard I would prefer not to know about. Specifically spiders.  Big hairy spiders. I hate spiders.  HATE THEM! And we seem to have a colony of giant baboon spiders (tarantulas) in the back yard.  Colin has no problem scooping them up and carry them around. UGGH!  YUCK! 

Oh, and the cockroaches.  And ants.  There are ants every-flipping-where. They are horrible.  My snake phobia has reached all new heights.  It makes no difference that we haven't found even one dangerous snake in our yard, I am terrified than one day I will walk out and there will be a mamba waiting for me.  Just knowing mambas and cobras and boomslangs live around here is enough to make me crazy. 

5. Internet. The internet speed has really increased since we moved here two years ago.  It is still really expensive, but at least it is now fast enough to actually be able to watch a YouTube video.  The big problem is vandalism.  The lines are constantly cut, and sometimes stolen. It's not unusual for us to have no internet for days at a time due to someone stealing the copper or cutting the fiber.  This weekend alone there were at least 7 lines cuts that I know about.  It is very frustrating, especially as we head into this year of homeschooling when I am really going to need the internet. 

If anyone out there  is looking at bidding on Malawi PLEASE feel free to contact me.  It's not a bad posting, but it sure makes a difference in your happiness if you are prepared.  


Monica said...

critters. no good about that. no siree.

alex said...

Yep... sounds pretty similar to Benin!