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.