Monday, August 6, 2007

I’m already in love with this beautiful country!

After three full days of traveling I have arrived safely in Malawi, Africa! Although I have been here for only a day and a half, I'm already in love with this beautiful country. For the next few days the delegates and I are staying at the Kumbali Lodge. The lodge is set on a farm and when I step outside of my hotel room the view takes my breath away. My favorite part about the hotel is the bed net that surrounds my bed like a princess canopy. Its main purpose is to keep out the mosquitoes, which are very common in Africa and often carry with them diseases like Malaria.
In just the two days that I have been in Africa, I've learned so much about this country and the people in it. Yesterday, after settling in at the lodge I had the opportunity to watch a dancing and singing performance. Some of the locals gathered at the farm to perform and teach other children the art of dancing. I myself have not an ounce of rhythm in my body, but the young dancers were incredibly talented. My favorite part of the performance was when a group of young boys presented us with a form of dance using dumbbells. Their instructor would choose a routine and sound out the beats by blowing his whistle. Depending on the routine they would strike the dumbbells under their legs, above their heads, while in mid-air jumping, and they would do this synchronized. I was fascinated by their performance and I can only imagine how much hard work and dedication that it took for the boys to complete the routines in unison.
Today, I traveled to Lake Malawi. I was able to take some time and relax by the pool and get to know the other delegates. I always imagined that Africa would be beautiful, but I never imagined it to be this beautiful. The entire ride to the lake I couldn't take my eyes from the window. Along the way, I was able to experience a village market. There were so many people, and you could buy just about anything you could possibly need, from peanuts, to clothes, fruits and vegetables, and even some sort of unidentifiable meat. In addition to the marketplace, there were also many street vendors selling goods. On the way to the lake, our bus driver Isaac bought us a fruit from baobab tree. The fruit is oval shaped, and about the size of a softball. It is green and fuzzy, but when you crack it open it is filled with a solid white center. The Malawians consider this to be a sweet. I tried it, and it was very sour, and unlike anything I've tried in the US. Even more interesting though was a vendor selling dried mice on a stick. Isaac told us that it is very common for young boys to collect these mice and sell them on the street in order to bring home some extra money. The boys will dig holes in the ground and stick bowls of water in the hole. The mice can't see very well so they fall into the hole and either drown or drink all the water and then die. The boy's then take the mice cook them with salt and put them on a stick to sell on the street. One of our delegates was dared to eat a mouse, and so we pulled the bus over and bought a whole stick of dried mice! The brave delegate described the mouse as being salty and furry, not something he would want to eat by choice, I know my stomach never would have handled it!
The trip thus far has been very laid back but tomorrow is when the real adventure begins. Throughout the week I will be learning about Malawi and the type of work that the UNFPA is doing here by visiting hospitals, clinics, orphanages, and surrounding villages. One thing I have found very interesting is the convergence of different cultures. When the airplane was just a few feet above the ground and I had my first glimpse of Malawi, I was shocked because all I could see were huts covered with grass roots. I don't mean to sound naive, I never expected to see skyscrapers or elaborate city buildings, but I certainly thought there would be more then grass huts. After leaving the airport I began to see more of what I am used to, people talking on cell phones, advertisement signs along the main road, it began to look little more familiar. Today while I was looking out the window on the bus, I witnessed this sort of culture shock again. I saw women carry tall, heavy baskets on their heads and a few minutes later there were a group of young girls playing jump rope. These similarities and differences in the two cultures are very interesting, and they help me to realize that even though we are living completely different lives, we are all similar in some way.
Well, it's late here in Malawi, and I'm still jet lagged from the trip, so I'm going to sign off for the night…I promise I'll have many more stories to tell tomorrow…I hope you will tune it…

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