Chitimba, Malawi: (Day 8) Dec-18-2013

Woke up at 5:40am, spent 20 minutes packing my bags.  I packed using my torch as all power was still off for the night.  Brushed my teeth...also by headlamp.  I felt gross from a nightfall of dancing, sweating, and then sleeping in my own filth.  At dinner, the entire group had been talking about the strong storm we had that night.  They all had said they were woken up and that some of their rooms had water blowing directly in.  Sophie and Noah said that it was the strongest storm they have ever heard and that at one time they thought their cabin was going to collapse and that they were going to die.  I slept through the entire night so I can't comment.

We were on the road by 6:30 and have ~350 km of roads to cover today--about 7 to 8 hours of driving.  We stopped at a market along the way, but were only given 10 minutes to shop.  I could have easily spent an hour there.  I bought one more of the of the things I had gotten before, this time a larger one.  I will have to wrap them up and send them back in a duffel bag as my 2nd piece of checked luggage.

Scenery Through the Rift Valley, Along Chilumba Bay Northern Malawi 

We later stopped at Mzuzu, where the two Costa Rican ladies had to settle the issue with their visas.  We had also stopped at a Shoprite.  I bought a few Coke Lites and a package of oranges for a total of $5 (~2000 kwacha).   On my way back to the truck I was accosted by locals trying to sell me stuff, which has become the norm.  I asked one of them how much 3 bracelets were and he said 1500 kwacha (or about $4).  I told him 1$ USD and he said no.  I walked away, despite his efforts to negotiate, and stepped onto the bus.  From the window he continued to negotiate.  I told him I had 550 kwacha and that's all.  After his numerous efforts to glean more money from me proved fruitless he finally consented.  They also asked for empty bottles.  There is a 25 kwacha deposit they get back for glass bottles but they get nothing for plastic bottles.  They use plastic bottled to hold water they have to pump from wells.   I was happy to give them the empty bottles I had on the bus.  The Fat Fuck...oops, I mean, "FF" was a complete bitch (go figure) when I asked if she had any empties.  She replied, "I already paid my deposit on this".  God forbid this bitch looses out on 25 kwacha (~$0.06 USD) and can't afford to fund her addiction to 7-Up and potato chips...I mean she does go through enough of that just to be classified as a starved pig.  I wish I could just punch her in her snout...
Chitimba Camp, Malawi

OK, DEEP BREATHING......better now, but she's still a FF.

We're back on the road and it 10:30--on our way to Chitimba, Malawi, which is along the northern tip of Lake Malawi.  The lake is ~600 km long.  We arrived at camp just before 2 and it was very hot.  We ate lunch, which was only bread, butter, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Market Outside Chitimba Camp, Malawi
I took a walk into town to a local market with Sonia, Ann Marie, and Cara.  It was very poor.  They were selling secondhand clothing, afro picks, tobacco, peanuts, and various other products.  It was in a field and all the products were on the ground.  They were also selling hair straightener that was premixed and in a large plastic barrel.  Sonia and Cara were saying how non-profit companies send donated clothing to Africa where corrupt organizations then sell the clothing for a profit.  Apparently that is how much of the donated clothing is distributed here in Africa.
Tobacco and Peanuts, Chitimba Camp, Malawi

On our walk we had children clambering towards us and grabbing our hands.  Many had those large bellies those African children on TV have--they get that from malnutrition.  One of the older boys (maybe 14 year old?) had said his father recently died from AIDs.  This is very common here.  AIDS is the largest killer here.  It's sad as many of the children already have AIDs and probably don't even know it.  You can see the symptoms very clearly.  The ratio of children to adults is unbelievably large.  The adults here don't live long lives and the children are largely unsupervised.  There is so much that the Africans can do to improve their lives, but they just don't do it.  Maybe they are just not intelligent enough to learn?  Cara thinks that most of them just don't have the cranial capacity.  I am tending to believe that to be the case.  AIDS does lead to dementia and malnutrition also has grave effects.  Also, malnutrition during pregnancy seems to have a significant impact here as well.  I can go into detail later, but it's VERY EVIDENT that MONEY is NOT the bottleneck for improvement in conditions in Africa.

Cara and I Walk Back to Camp With Local Children, Chitimba, Malawi
Ad for "Pot" Outside Camp, Chitimba, Malawi
On the way back to the camp site Cara and I decided to try to local cuisine and paid a local $5 to cook up some type of fried fish and chips from the casaba plant.  He delivered it to our camp a few hours later, it was ok.  Thankfully Godfrey cooked up a feast.  He made some type of vanilla-fruit pudding, which was also quite good.  It's 8:45 and YES I am still sweating.  I upgraded to a dorm for the night.  I have 4 beds but I am the only one in my room.  It was only $5.  I still don't have electricity, a fan, bathroom, or shower...but I don't have to pitch and then pack up a tent.

Tomorrow we eat breakfast at 5:30 and then have to pack our own lunch--since we have a long day of driving and will not be stopping for lunch.  Our trip is 650 km and will take all day.  Standards in Eastern Africa (e.g. Kenya & Tanzania) are even more basic so we need to lower our expectations.

The beach was beautiful today at the lodge, but it was a bit windy by the time I got back from the market.  I just walked the shore a bit.  I chatted with Beth, Cara, and Sophie a bit about Colleges in Australia and some of their drinking games.  Everyone else has hit the sack so I'm going to go to bed and sweat while maybe watching a movie?

Our Accommodations in Chitimba, Malawi
My dorm, as well as all the other rooms, have metal--maybe tin--roofs.  Throughout the evening I heard large plantains falling from the nearby trees.  This, coupled with the smacking of branches, made for a very musical evening.  Furthermore, there are monkeys that jump from roof to roof that really makes the noises quite interesting in here.

I'm happy that I have 5 windows that open because the breeze is nice, even though if it is still a sauna in here.

Oh, one thing....Every place here in Malawi has ONE type of beer--Carlsberg.  It seems that they have a brewery and/or bottling operation in Malawi.  How Random?

Enjoying a Carlsberg on the Beach, Chitimba, Malawi

Kande Beach, Malawi: (Day 7) Dec-17-2013

Dawnk-yuh-val, which means thank you in Danish.  A word I just learned from Debby.  Yesterday was an amazing day.  We had spent the entire day at Kande Beach, Malawi.  Breakfast was served at 8:00am, a delightful change of pace compared to the typical 5:30am serving time.  Unfortunately I was up at 5:00 anyways.  Breakfast was extra delightful as we had eggs in addition to the cereal and bread--I ate mine sunny side up.

A Small Island in Lake Malawi at Kande Beach, Malawi
After breakfast  I went snorkeling with 5 others in our group.  I was given a mask, snorkel, and flippers--which left my skin raw and which I'm sure will be very painful once they start to scab over.  We were shuttled to a small island just over 800m from shore.  This 1/2 mile trip was provided via an inflatable raft with an engine on the back.  We had to walk out a good 200 feet into the water as the beach was incredibly shallow.  After this shallow introduction to the water the depth dropped significantly.  We were dropped at the island and then left there with no clear directions on where to go, not to go, or when/where to meet up.

As is typical for me when I snorkeling I panic a bit when first in the water.  The restricted breathing replicates the horrible sensation of having an asthma attack.  Coupled with the leaky goggles, poorly fitting flippers, and crashing waters against the rocky island entering my snorkel, my experience was an intense one.  I calmed myself down busing some self-reassuring techniques.  I decided I would at least swim around the island, while others had decided to jump off the cliffs on the island.  It took a bit more time than I had anticipated to swim around--the current and waves were much more intense on the far side of the island.  Haha, "Far Side of the Island"--I imagine this would be the resulting album if Dave Gilmore and Jimmy Buffet formed a band, maybe the "Pink Parrots".  Ha, if you are not laughing to that then there is something supper seriously wrong with you.

I saw some colorful fish, small mind you, but still interesting to view.  Given it is a freshwater lake I had not formed too many expectations.  I would say it was worth it, simply for the experience just to get in the water, but not for the viewing.  For only $15 for as long as we wanted, it was quite a bargain.  I have never seen so much fish poop in my life.  I actually thought they were white worms, until Sophia educated me proper!  After circling the island I was ready to call it a quits.  I would have had to wait at least another 45 minutes for the raft to return as he was currently taking the Aussie family of 4 SCUBA diving.  I decided to swim back to shore.  800m, which is exactly 1/2 a mile.  What I did NOT take into account was the cross current.  Having taken this into account I would have realized the total distance required to swim in-order to return to shore was actually closer to 1000m.  I swam back and mid-way lost a fin...I  told you they didn't fit well, right?  I waited for the fin to surface, but after 30 second of treading water it hadn't surfaced.  I decided to abandon it figuring it would be washed to shore...eventually.  Swimming with one fin made things incredibly difficult due to the asymmetrical nature of kicking with my foot and my fin.  All in all I made it back to shore ~30? minutes after leaving the island.  I was proud of myself as this was, by far, the longest and farthest I have swam, without breaks, and with no life jacket.  Oh yeah, had I mentioned that we signed no releases, received no life preserves, nor were we provided with any information other than, "get in the raft" and "ok, jump out now".

Playing Dutch Yahtzee at Kande Beach, Malawi
Once back at shore I played some Yahtzee and ate some lunch.  Afterwards I went into the village, which required me to leave the gated premises of the Kande Beach Lodge.  I had asked for Goerge and waited at his cousin's 'stand' for him to return with the custom item I had purchased for Kelly.  It was nice to have watched him make it from scratch, cutting, chiseling, sanding, polishing, etc.  He then taught me a game called, "The Boa Game" which is a popular game around the area.  The game was very similar to Mancala--a game I bought from the discovery store in Beachwood place when I was young.  It's a fun game, I'll teach anyone who wants to learn when I'm back 'home'.

Bao Game, Kande Beach, Malawi
He beat me 2 out of 3 games.  Afterwards I told him I wasn't interested in purchasing the game and he didn't push it.  I noticed he was wearing the same shirt and shorts as the day before and that he had fractured his large toenail on his right foot.  We sat on the ground in his village playing the game and there were a few chickens nearby...other passersby stopped to say hello and then continued walking.  This beach is visited relatively often by overland trucks, but the village is set back a mile or so from the lodges.  Most people don't leave the gated premises so the villagers have limited interactions with the tourists.  When we were sitting on the ground I noticed his pants were torn in the crotch and I felt very bad.

Many people in Malawi have asked for 'trade' and not just money in exchange for their products.  They ask for old shirts, socks, etc..

George Holding a Key-chain He Had Made for Me, Kande Beach, Malawi
I socialized a bit more with some of the people on my tour as well as a couple people from the overland truck that had just arrived, from Acacia tours.  So far on my journey I've met an Intrepid Tour, G Adventure Tour, and an Acacia Tour.  I had looked into all three of these tours.  Nomad spent one extra night in the Serengeti, was a few days longer, and had a few shorter days of driving.  Also, Nomad ensured their trucks had no more than 18 passengers, while the others had up to 24.  These are the reasons for my choosing Nomad.  However it seems the people on the other tours were younger, more outgoing, and less "by the books".  An Aussie girl from the Acacia Tour was telling us how they took a cab while in Nairobi and went to a local fish market and ate there.  I know our guide would advise us to stay at our hotel and eat there and everyone in our tour (the sheeple) would eagerly comply.  Last night when Debby, Vincent, and I went out to the village for a local house party one of the Aussie mothers (the one I DO like) had said, "why go out there, it is just a bother when you have a bar here".  She clearly doesn't grasp the idea of 'living' and 'experiencing' the African culture.

Sailing in Lake Malawi, Kande Beach, Malawi
Anyways,  from 3-4:30 I went sailing with Cara.  No one else had wanted to get up from their hammocks and I was happy she had agreed to come along.  Sailing alone could get a bit boring.  I rented a catamaran for $10/hr and took it out.  It was a lot of fun, though the boat was a low quality one and the rudders didn't function at 100% (I would say 70%, which was good enough).  I taught her how to sail and she caught on quickly.  We talked about the others on the trip and we both agreed how our trip is a bit 'to scheduled and formal" and that we both had wanted a bit more adventure.  We sailed as far as a mile out from shore and then headed back in--which was a bit difficult with the current wind conditions.

Cooking BBQ Chicken, Kande Beach, Malawi
Once back at shore I showered and got ready for the evening.  Talked with my mother for an hour and had BBQ chicken for dinner.  Debbie had been invited to a local bar that evening by one of the villagers she had purchased a game from.  She invited a few of us to join in, only I agreed.  After talking with Kelly for 20 minutes or so, I grabbed a beer, changed into short-sleeves and applied some bug-spray.  By 8:45pm we were on the way out of the gated area and into the village.

We were led by the same guy that showed us around the village the previous day.  All three of us, Vincent, Debbie, and myself, were a bit uncertain as to how our night would unfold.  We walked for about 15 minutes through brush and a narrow path in the dark until we arrived at a house party.

NOW LET ME SAY THIS!  If I had witnessed anything even close to this scene in America I would be backstopping faster than I have in my life and I would NEVER look back.  Imagine a broken-down house with an unlit yard and 3 large blaring speakers on the ground close to the patio.  There was a D.J. playing Rap music and half a dozen young men dancing in the center of a crowd.  One of the guys we walked with had said there were between 100 and 150 there.  There were anywhere from 40-60 children and I would guess 70% of the crowd was under 24 (~90% under 30).

The purpose of the party was to help raise money for an upcoming wedding.  The wedding was on Dec-21-2013.  People paid 100 Kwacha ($0.25) to request a song and once it was played only they could dance on the dance-floor, but they were able to invite anyone they wanted.  A couple of people had put in some money for us to dance with the children so the three of us (VERY white people) were dancing in the middle of a circle comprised of ~100 local African Villagers.  We were accompanied with quite a few dozen children of all ages...some as small as 3 years old.  Most were fighting over who could hold our hands while we danced.  I had kids, boys and girls, climbing on my back and grabbing my hands and arms to dance with me.  It was amazing to see how happy/excited they were to see us.  After one of the songs I had given a small boy a high-five and then another 10 kids close by had come up to me giving me high-fives.

One thing I noticed immediately while walking up to the house was the overwhelming smell of body odor.  Some older guys (18-24 yrs old) were dancing with their shirts off and jumping all over the place.  There were two guys who were sagging their pants, a few more were sporting afro-picks.  Many had their shirts off and I was temped to follow suit--it was hot--but I kept it on.  After about an hour of dancing with the children and talking with some of the local guys we left.  We walked to the beach with some drums and played the drums along the waterfront for a while.  The others had ordered some local beers, but I was dosing off and went to bed around 10:45.  I passed out right away.

I had noticed that many of the young adults (mostly boys) were keeping the children in line.  It was very dark and I couldn't make out any of the faces from a distance farther than 5 feet.  It was quite the experience, possibly the best one on my trip so far.  Debbie had agreed.

Standing Next to a Hand Carved Malawi Chair in Kande Beach, Malawi

Kande Beach, Malawi: (Day 6) Dec-16-2013

Woke up at 5:00am.  First time in 5 nights I was able to sleep in a bed...granted there was no mattress and I had to use a sleeping mat from the camping supplies on the bus.  I also took my first hot shower in 6 days.  It was my 2 shower in 6 days, my last shower being 4 days ago.

I'm writing this at 8:45am after having been driving in the truck since 6:15am.  We're stopped at a random passport check on a main road.  The two Costa Rican women are having some difficulty because they never received a stamp for entry.  They were going to get it at another location because I think the port of entry we were at yesterday was not equipped with the proper stamp?

It's going to be a warm one today.  It's already blistering hot and I'm sweating like crazy and it's not even 9.  I'm stuck behind the Aussie lawyers and ugh...  I really like Paul, but Erika I could do without.  She's so unpleasant.  I accidentally left a few empty wrappers on my seat from yesterday.  3 minutes into our drive she throws them back--not handing then, but throwing--over her shoulders and into my face and says, "here, these are yours".  I bit my tongue and just got some pleasure that she's a fat fuck and probably the ugliest thing I've seen so far in Africa.  Whenever we take a water stops at the markets she gets 2 liters of 7-up.  As the song made famous  by Eric Cartman about Mrs. Broflosky goes, "Oh...she's a Big Fat Bitch".  After talking with Sophie about traveling through Southeast Asia we are stopped by immigration officers for a routine check.  While we are stopped and the heat continues to build I politely asked the couple in front of me--Paul and Fat Fuck (now to be known as FF)--"if [they] could please lower their window so I could get some air".  FF's first response was "well, why don't you lower yours".  I bit my tongue again and thought--I wanted to yell and do what I DO BEST--which is to use my intellect to belittle someone.  But I think it's justified because what I said was factually accurate and I felt she obviously needed the education. 

I told her the following:  I told her that I can open it, but that is really didn't effect me and that I will ask the people behind me about that later.  Because we are traveling at ~60km/hr and the outside air is essentially static the relative wind speed is -60kph.  Given Bernoulli's theorem the wind outside will deflect inwards due to the lower relative pressure inside our vehicle.  This deflection is not a stepwise function (it's actually a differential equation based on the velocity of the car---though I left this part out!)  and therefore must take some distance to move inwards.  Thus for me to get an ample breeze the window in front of me, YOUR WINDOW, and the window TWO in front of me should be open.  While driving, my window will cool off the seats behind me.

I stopped here, but I could have gone on to say, "notice how the people sitting in front by the first 2 windows do not have their hair being blown around".  Case in point.  I find that expression sort of awkward because isn't it the Case (story) that provides the point (argument)?  I think Point in Case makes more sense.  Unless the actual expression is Case AND Point, in which case I'm just an idiot!

Buying Some Samosas, Curbside en route to Kande Beach, Malawi
We're  back on the road and ~2.5hrs into our 6-7 hour drive to Kande Beach, Malawi.  We stopped at a village along the way and I bought a bracelet and some type of samosa (w/ rice inside).  We arrived at Kande beach around 1:15.  Today was the first time we had access to internet in 6 days or so.  It was slow and it was billed by the minute.  But I was able to get my emails.  We met at 3 for lunch and then left for the village tour.

The tour was nice--very eye opening.  A local villager took us around to where the houses were, he actually took us into his own house.  We saw their school where 1200 kids go and have to share one room every day.  We also saw their 'hospital'.  Their next closest hospital is 17km away, which it unattainable for many since there is only one car in the entire village.  The hospital they have is mostly for treating pregnant mothers, HIV testing/drug administration, condom dispersal (though they typically run out very quickly) and for treating malaria.  There is not enough money to provide bug nets for every bod--bug nets cost $12 apiece.  We also learned that School fees are $150/yr and the government doesn't provide any support--the government also doesn't require schooling.  One of the villagers walked with me during my tour and explained he was going to study mechanical engineering, in the capital city, Lilongwe.  I have a feeling that their 4 years of engineering will not even give them the education on how how to fix automobiles.  After further questioning I discovered that only 5 to 6 people a year (out of >100+) make it to a university.

Children Pumping Water, Kande Beach, Malawi
This guy's name was George, A.K.A. Black Magic, and was very polite and smart (relatively speaking).  They did not get paid to walk and speak with us about their lives in the village, but the idea is that if we were to buy anything while here we do so at 'their' shops.  I told him I will look at his shop and would like to buy a ____ (will not reveal until I return home).  After the tour I also bought a couple of ___.  I had asked, "how much" and they had told me $55 a piece + $10 for that other thing.  They said that because I am getting all 3 they will sell it for $110 (priced at $120 if no discount was to be applied).  After some negotiating and me walking away I ended up buying everything for $60.  Ok, back to the tour.
Cassava Plants (Recently Planted), Kande Beach, Malawi

We learned about the cassava plant and how they used it for sustenance.  They cooked the leaves and prepped the roots for either flour or chips (depending on if it was the sweet or sour plant variety).  They then would stick the bare stems--face up--into soil and it would continue to grow.  They had chicken coupes but only used the chickens for eggs.  They did eat chicken but only on days like Christmas and
Chicken Coupe, Kande Beach, Malawi
birthdays.  George's mother was Zambian and he used to live there, but when she died he came to Kande Beach, Malawi to live with his father and 6 siblings.  His father died when he was a young teenager and he continued living here with his grandparents.  He is now 18 and is trying to save up for university...which costs about $750/yr.

I gave some biscuits to the children in the village--they were fighting to get more...very cute, but quite sad.  On the way back to our lakeside rooms I asked George about the differences between the hatch and aluminum rooftops.  He said that the aluminum was expensive, while the hatch was 'free'  After trying to ask the question 5 different ways I finally learned that to roof an entire house with aluminum costs between $75-$150.  It's eye opening that such a small investment (by our standards) is too large for many of the people here.  Consequently, many live with inferior roofs that leak and require more maintenance.

Handing Out Toy Airplanes at the Local School, Kande Beach, Malawi
There are only 2 houses in the village that have TVs.  No one has internet or phones.  Most of the children have ringworm infections on their scalps/bodies which remain untreated.  The children play barefoot and wear clothing that would be considered 'too worn' for donation purposes in the states.  I wish everyone in America could have experienced this type of imagery.  In their free time the children try to learn and play soccer, or work around the house or village cleaning/cooking.  In our free time we learn about what else we can buy.  It makes me sick the way most of us live in America--we have so much, yet we're still so worried about what clothing is 'more fashionable', what furniture matches better, and what car brand is more luxurious.  Consumerism just breeds discontent and furthers the fragmentation of society.  Add to that people's obsession with social networking and you have a morally-bankrupt society that still considers itself "the greatest nation in the world"...get over yourself America!  If you are so great why do your people work harder and longer than ANY other country in the world, contain among the least cultured/educated people within the educated world, and depend on government imposed tariffs just so our workers can continue to produce inefficient goods.  Add to that the notion that our student loans costs 2 times that of what it costs to buy a house and that our schools are up to 5-10 times more expensive than most any other schools in the world.......Yeah, what was it that makes America #1?

Anyways, I had dinner at 7, had a few beers with some people from my tour and went to bed around 9:30.  I wanted to watch a movie in bed since I brought along 25 videos and have yet to watch any--however, it was still too hot and I was dripping with sweat while laying over my sheets in just my underwear.  I thought the only thing that would stop the discomfort would be to go to sleep, I was right...however I woke up 4 or 5 times throughout the night with nightmares.