Warming up to Malawi

Moving to Malawi has taught me a number of things about myself. I had no idea how much of a home body I am and how much I need to have my ‘shit’ together!

The Shire river

The Shire River

Malawi home

Home sweet home!

Sugar cane fields

Nchalo Sugar Estate

I thought camping in my own house would be fun. I thought all of my family sitting around the gas cooker, waiting for mum to hurry up and cook dinner (which happens to be scrambled egg and toast for the 3rd night in a row) would be an awesome bonding session. I thought not having TV would encourage us to play scrabble, or cards, or snakes and ladders – only we forgot to pack the games! I imagined all of our pets settling in just fine.

Trip up to Malawi

Car trip up to Malawi from Mozambique with the dogs, tortoise and 5 guinea pigs!

But out of the 5 guinea pigs that were transported all the way from Mozambique to Malawi, only 3 have survived. One died of a heart attack after our dogs attempted to break into the cage. My husband kindly built a new one. It took him 2 days, with help!

Malawi Garden 059We left the property for 1 hour. And in that time our dogs gnawed their way through the wire and killed another one. Ate its head but left the body. My kids seem to be okay with this, but funnily enough- it’s me who seems to be struggling with the death of a guinea pig! I haven’t spoken to my dogs for 3 days!

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I’ve learned ‘moving’ is not so easy. Who was I kidding when I thought I’d take everything in my stride? My youngest child asks me to take him back to Mozambique on a daily basis. In fact he has even packed a suitcase and headed for the gate himself. “Well if mum is not going to take me, I’m gonna walk myself!’ He has also completely rejected our new house and garden staff and runs away crying any time they come near him.

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New garden

My new garden coming on!


Then there is the photography, or more so, the lack of it! I thought that three weeks into our new life in Malawi, I would have taken thousands of pictures by now. I should have published at least 2 posts by now, surely? New country = over flow of material. But that’s just the thing; I’m a bit nervous to take photos here. Many of you know what type of photography interests me. While I love the landscapes, it’s the people who truly inspire me. But it seems the ‘people’ do not like to be photographed.  I have spoken to a couple of Malawians about taking photos and got 2 things straight. One, you NEVER take a photo of a policeman here – instant jail time or mega multi-million kwacha fine! And you ask for permission before you take a photo of a person. I do that in Mozambique without difficulty, but maybe it’s because I’m new to Malawi that I don’t feel as at ease with the people here, yet. When it comes to taking photos of people, it’s important to make them feel comfortable. It’s important to engage in conversation and draw them into ‘what you are doing.’ It’s important for them to trust you.

Nchalo Donkey cart

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I have been to the roadside market a number of times so far. And every time I go there, people have shouted ‘Hey American, come here.’ Or Hey you!!! 2 things I get from this: 1, there must be many American visitors in this part of the world and 2, bloody hell – but I’m going to miss not understanding the language! They speak fluent English here and I can’t play dumb!


But let’s be straight – I am well aware that moving is a ‘transitional’ thing! Malawi is very different to Mozambique in so many ways. Things are going to be different here. I may have to find a new approach to getting material. I may have to do more organized interviews and less spur of the moment stuff. I don’t know. I’m definitely feeling things out! But I have to say, it’s driving me crazy!!! I want you to see what I am seeing here. It’s AWESOME! There is chaos. There are thousands of cyclists who are the mafia of the road. There are goats, sheep and cattle that stroll in between the market stalls. There are donkey carts, shop names such as ‘One way to heaven coffin shop’ and food that most of us blog readers would consider ‘fear factor’ material. One day, I will taste a rat kebab – that is my Malawi mission!

But it’s all going to take time. I’ve arrived here with a sense of urgency; make friends quick, get house sorted, start a routine, explore, totally redesign garden, employ staff – get back what I had!!!

I have never been one to sit around and hope or wait for to things to happen. I’ll make it happen – but 3 weeks into our new adventure, I’m fast realizing that ‘things’ will happen in ‘Malawi’ time and not my time!


Have a Malawi G & T!!!