A few pictures from Africa (Malawi and Zambia)! Enjoy. more to come.
Malawi – Democratic Progressive Party. Locally known as Diesel, Petrol, Paraffin.
Back from Zambia, and the country of Malawi is in a national diesel crisis today. There are long queues at gas stations that don’t even have gas. Word on the street is that suppliers haven’t gotten paid yet diesel supply has been cut off. We have fuel for another day but it will be up to our driver’s bribery skills to get more gas. They are driving to Zambia tonight in hopes to get some more.
I really hope we make it out.
In other news, I’ve only got a few more days in Malawi and then it’s off to Seoul. Much to write about.
My days are filled with long bus rides.
We get flash mobs every now and then – children hearing the bus coming and running to the side of the road to see what’s going on. They all start waving intensely and jumping up and down. The adults, however, stop whatever they were doing altogether and stare at us expressionless. It’s a bit unsettling. I wonder what they are thinking. We must look really odd to them. I thought maybe it was because our group is Asian, but our driver says Japanese tourists come to Malawi often. There are so many of us (Koreans) in our group that we travel separately from the European, Taiwan and US team.
There are some who have bicycles and/or cars but the majority of people travel by foot. A bicycle probably costs about $50-$80 USD, and it’s very expensive, considering people live on a dollar a day. The bus driver says it would take him 3-4 months to save up for a bicycle. Malawi is not much of a tourist destination, and if it is, it’s not a final destination in their itinerary.
I’ve learned that Malawi is overpopulated, so you can’t go longer than 20 minutes without seeing someone walking by.
I should add a note here that Malawi does have some developed areas. It’s not without some modern amenities. We stay at the same hotel/area that are frequented by pilots, politicians, and government officials. There are two cities in Malawi that are bit like the towns you see in the US. They have supermarkets, car/motorcycle dealers (even Hyundai!), nice restaurants, gas stations, etc. We’ve been to an Indian and Italian restaurant now – with a Korean restaurant on the schedule for tomorrow night! I’m not sure how a Korean restaurant made it down to Lilongwe, but I’ll find out soon enough.
There are LG TVs in our rooms, with only a few channels: CNN, BBC, TV Malawi, Hotel Programming and then some eerie show that looks like it’s being filmed by a hidden camera. It turns out that there it’s the show Big Brother. It takes up an entire channel’s programming. Really creepy…
Malawi’s biggest exports are Chombe tea and tobacco. I’ve seen kids walk around with tons of chewing tobacco canisters in their hands (hopefully trying to sell it). There’s a Carlsberg brewery here (beer from Copenhagen) and it’s pretty much is the ONLY beer that’s sold here. The market for tobacco has recently tanked, after the WTO banned the type of tobacco grown here. They manufacture burly(sp?) tobacco, which is a type of flavoured tobacco. The WTO deemed it too addictive, thus banning it from sale.
I’ve made friends with our driver, Mosef, who’s happy to talk to me about the local economy and what the tourist industry is like. I asked if owning a bicycle or car was expensive, and he suggested I buy him a car. I don’t think he was being facetious. We had him taste test a Chocopie – we introduced it as ‘Korea’s #1 cookie” and he approved. He knows three dialects spoken in Malawi and even Swahili.
A few Chichewan words:
“Moni” – Hello
“Muli Bwanji?” – How are you?
“Malawi Ndia Bwino” – Malawi is awesome
“Mzanga” – Friend
“Zicomo” – Thank you
“Mowa” – Beer
Gotta go for now – I’ll post after we get back from Zambia.
Internet access is severely restricted during my stay in Malawi, so I will try to post as much as I can. Unfortunately, that also means pictures can’t be uploaded as well.
Door-to-door travel to Lilongwe, Malawi from South Korea took over 30 hours of traveling – an entire day evaporated! The stretch from Hong Kong to Johannesburg over the Indian Ocean was a grueling 13-hour competition with myself on how still I could sit on a slab of rock wrapped with cloth. After a few attempts of body slamming into my seat, I gave up on figuring out how to recline it and relegated myself to a sad piece of stationary luggage.
Once we touched down to Johannesburg, we had about an hour to kill until our connecting flight to Malawi. There were plenty of duty free and souvenir shops filled with dried venison/game, South African wine, Kinder Bueno, local crafts, and…. vuvuzuelas!!! You too can relive the World Cup!
In true Korean collectivisitc spirit, everyone in our group handed out Choco-pies and Shrimp Crackers… (shh… we are saving the soju and gojuchang for later)
I met two girls on the flight to Malawi who were from a high school in Shanghai. They were on summer break and doing Habitat for Humanity with her classmates. They were also going to Jacaranda, a Malawi orphanage for those inflicted with AIDS/HIV.
After a “short” three-hour flight, we finally arrive in Malawi where I’m met with much warmer weather. (It was freezing in South Africa)
We are staying at the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe. There’s an awfully cute note in the bathroom that says to conserve water. However, this also reminds me of the advice given to me by the SF health clinic to close my mouth while showering so I don’t accidentally drink it. We all use water bottles to brush our teeth as well. Brushing my teeth with bottled water is something I haven’t gotten used to yet. It seems like a waste of potable water.
Also, no mosquito bites to report so far, except for the ones I got in S. Korea.
The roads here are mostly dirt and there are villagers walking around everywhere. It’s hard to describe what I see, but I guess it’s like you’re in an old Western movie. Replace the saloon with one-room brick enclosures, horses with oxen, dogs with goats, and cowboys with African villagers. Oh and you can buy roasted rats on a stick. I guess that’s Korea’s equivalet to bun dae gee? bo shim tang?
I saw a makeshift wooden stand (think lemonade stand) with the signage: “Bill’s Bicycle Pumps”. It was literally this guy just standing on the side of a dirt road, behind a wooden stand with a bicycle pump. (A++++++ WOULD BUY AGAIN?)
Today, I got to meet the First Lady of the Republic of Malawi – aka Her Excellency! We were at SAFI (School of Agriculture for Family Independence) to watch the 2nd ever graduating ceremony. There were about 30 students graduating and the First Lady flew in from D.C. to personally congratulate them.
Apologize for the hurried post, I wish I had more time to elaborate . I will be able to post a bit more in a few days. We are going to the beaches at Lake Malawi tomorrow and then to Zambia soon after.
I finally landed in South Korea!
It reminded me of how much I still hate traveling by air. My total travel time was about 18 hours with the layover in Narita, Japan. The flight was midday so I couldn’t force myself to sleep. When I wasn’t getting scolded to stay seated or failing at rightsizing my armchair-headrest-lumbar-back-light-tv angle ratio, I spent 90% of my time sitting down wondering what to do next. I ran out of an entire week’s worth of planned reading material in 3 hours. You would think that you would be able to do something very productive without teh Internet or any other distractions, but no – you get into this zombie like trance that prevents you from doing anything for more than 1 hour at a time.
I had booked first class tickets for this leg and back on the bazillion Continental points I was hoarding, so while I was physically comfortable and well fed my mind was about to go insane. The entire trip was kind of a black hole for me, and somehow, by the power of magical time-space continuum gods, I lost a day of my life, landing 17 hours ahead of my distant life back in San Francisco
And…. we’re off!