I beat the rain this morning by two minutes. My tent was rolled up, my stuff was packed and I was early for my turn in the cooking group. Unfortunately I then decided to help other people with their tents and that’s when we got showered completely with fresh water from above. It felt nice though.
When we left the camp we got stuck in the sand with the truck. While some folks were digging the truck out the rest of us entertained the kids who came together the minute they sensed some action. We learned some Swahili and made fun of each other’s names – many people here call themselves funny expressions like “beans on toast”, “cheesecake” or “hot and spicy”, and their kids just do the same. The names change daily, we met “gift” three times in the past few days and it was always another kid.
The Malawians are fairly poor and they see white tourists (“mzungus”) as walking dollar signs. They will ask without shame to have you trade specific items for their wood carvings, paintings or bracelets, anything goes. I had people ask for my left earring, pens, my sunglasses or my clothes. While they love to follow you they are good natured when you turn them down and they don’t pester you continuously. In general you seem to be better off trading used items instead of paying for the souvenirs. In my opinion the items are still fairly expensive even though on the big scheme of things they are probably dirt cheap.
In Mzuzu where we went grocery shopping I struggled to spend 1,000 kwacha (maybe $8) on a huge bagful of snacks, yet on the markets they were asking this price for a smallish wood item or a bunch of postcards.
It’s Sunday which means that public toilets have no running water, there isn’t power everywhere and many people wear their best outfits. It’s pretty interesting to see how well people are dressed in general. You wouldn’t know that this is a poor country, not from what the cities look like or how people behave and certainly not by their clothes. Many clothes are donated which is why we often see Tshirts of local French bowling clubs or Mike’s Truck Stop etc. However a huge number of people wears suits and they even look almost tailored, they definitely don’t look like hand me downs.
Also, again, everyone is happy and friendly. It really puts it into perspective: people who have everything are usually unhappy, I don’t see a lot of easy smiles in the US or in Germany…
We pressed on through the hills to Chitimba which is at the north end of Lake Malawi. It’s another beach camp, really beautiful, and again we have to remind ourselves that we are not at the sea but at an actual lake. No swimming here as there is most certainly bilharzia in the water, and there are hook worms in the sand.
The camp, like most others, has a bunch of dogs, and my latest best friend is Mkosi, a large black Great Dane. Mkosi is a bit confused about the attention I give him, especially compared to the two other mutts.
The Gap group I was with recently came to the camp three days ago and I’m pretty sure that from today on we have the same itineray, just three days later. I may run into them in Dar or Zanzibar potentially.
I just dealt with an ant infestation in my tent (lots of “Doom”, and I will have to sleep through the fumes) and am now at the beach bar drinking one of the weak local beers named Kuche Kuche. We put on the movie “the gods must be crazy” in the background which is pretty cool as it is set in the Kalahari Desert where we visited the bushmen – only part of this movie is a comedy. I must remember to watch it when I’m back at home!