After an eventful first week at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, CJ, Abby, and I were looking forward to further exploring Malawi with Dr. Nesbit. We packed our backpacks and set off to Lilongwe. In order to get there, we first had to get to Namitete by hopping on the back of bicycle taxi! This mode of transportation was a first for all three of us, but it was one of the most fun experiences so far. It consisted of us balancing on a seat located right behind the taxi driver. For CJ, Abby, and Dr. Nesbit, this was quite easy. But for me, trying to take photos of the gorgeous scenery, fumble through a conversation with my driver in Chichewa, and balance on a seat with no handlebars, it was quite the sight for the locals!
After the three-mile bike ride to Namitete, we crammed into the back of a minibus, which mimicked the real life version of a clown car. For Malawians, it wasn’t a matter of “if” all of the passengers could fit, but “how”. The four of us squished into the back of the bus with 16 of new “anzangas”. All the way to Lilongwe, the bus would stop at various stops among the villages where merchants with fruit, grilled corn, or candy would approach the bus to selling their goods. Although we were in tight quarters, it was an amazing and memorable experience!
We arrived in Lilongwe and went directly to the crafters market. The merchants sold items ranging from fabric and art to wooden carvings and jewelry. We did our best work to barter with the merchants and came away with beautiful pieces of cloth, hand-carved bowls, and one-of-a-kind canvas paintings. We then got a quick bite to eat of “American” food followed by a walk to the large Lilongwe market.
The large market was filled with goods delegated to their appropriate section so that the vegetables would all be in one section, fabric all in one section, clothing all in one section, etc. After walking through all of the perfectly arranged vegetable section, the four of us voyaged across one of many of the rickety wooden bridges to get to the other side of the market. We were all a little skeptical at first, but after trusting Dr. Nesbit and saying a quick prayer, we made it across to the other side (no help to CJ rocking the bridge back and forth on purpose right as we were at the pinnacle of our trek!). We made our way back to the Zitha house at St. Gabriel’s where the other visitors were preparing for a group dinner! We are currently sharing the Zitha house with a wide range of people including Scottish/German doctors and Malawian clinical officers. Our days here in Malawi have been packed full of fulfilling activity and business as well as exploration and enjoyment. We have another big day planned for tomorrow as we prepare for our second week in this culturally rich, picturesque, and ethereal country!
A personal note from CJ: While sitting in the back of a small “bus” that was stuffed to the gills with people – I suddenly realized I was flat out having a blast. The moment was strange though – it was hot, crammed with people and the bus driver was legally insane. He swerved to miss cyclists, honked at everything, pulled out against traffic, slammed on the brakes for no apparent reason, and mashed the throttle pedal all while hanging one arm out the window and blaring Malawian rap music. What a way to go out if that was the Lord’s will. While all this was happening – Dr. Nesbit looks over at me and says “CJ, in Lilongwe watch out for the “azungu traps.” Naturally – I said….”errrm, what?” What she meant was while walking along the side walk, road or wherever there would be a hole. I’m not talking about a small hole in the ground – I’m talking about like a mine shaft. Filled with pipes, nasty water and trash. You may be taking it all in – watching people barter and trade, looking at the scenery or whatever and the side walk ends and opens up to a 5 foot deep hole. Azungu traps……..