Friday, 14 September 2012

Life in Africa

Well, it’s a little different from Ireland. Having previously lived in Australia, I can categorically say that this is a whole other ball game. In Oz, home comforts were available, cheese could be bought and power outages were not a frequent occurance. It’s taking some adaptation, ok a LOT, of adaptation, I shower with a bucket for Christ’s sake!
However the biggest issue I have is the concept of “Africa time”.
In the developed world time is a linear thing. A project has to be completed by a certain date, a number of things need to be done before the project can be completed and so these things get done side by side to ensure things finish on time. However here, time is circular, one aspect is not started until the previous is finished. And if the project doesn’t get finished on time, pepani! It’s extremely frustrating when you want to get something done. For instance, I arrived on a holiday visa and was to apply for a temporary employment permit when I arrived that the university would organise as I was their employee. However it took nearly a month to get the forms that we had to fill in, (a holiday visa is for 30 days), which necessitated a run to immigration to extend my holiday visa. The simplest things involve at least four visits to someone’s office. It is something I don’t think I will ever get used to, “You are sitting there, why can you not stamp this form for me?”, “Well you see the official stamper is out of his office, no we don’t know when he’ll be back.”

Never leave home without it!
Home comforts. Now, I haven’t been away for long enough to really start missing anything but I can picture myself in a few months having some moments of home sickness moments! Now like any good Irish person, I brought a freezer bag full of Lyon’s tea with me which I am carefully rationing for evenings when nothing but a good mug of tea will do, however simple things are what I know I will miss. Cheese on crackers, good chocolate, salt and vinegar crisps, meanies, home made soda bread, Mammy Lawless’ rhubarb tarts, buying a new top from Penney’s. These are things that give me a little pep in my step and the things I will miss (apart from people obviously, I’m not completely heartless).

Running water. As I write the water has been off for over 24 hours. Having spent the weekend at the lake, all I wanted to do when I got home was have a warm shower. No such luck. I did however have my shower bucket full and managed to have a cold shower this morning before work. Never did I think that I would obsess about water so much but I currently have my ear strained to hear the cistern of the toilet filling up so I can do my dishes!

Being able to buy simple things: hair ties, make up, a magazine. These things are readily available in  Lilongwe but very rarely make the journey north!

But it’s not all bad. Seeing the veg that are available makes me more aware of eating only in season. The veg is delicious. I’ve never seen avocadoes as big or eaten tomatoes that taste as “tomato-ey”. Papayas here are the size of your head. My veg tends to go off quite quickly which I suppose is a testament to the lack of chemicals used.
I have a great circle of friends here. I can go to the Zoo on my own and be guaranteed that there will be someone I have met once or twice there to chat to. While the environment here is very different to home, I think it causes stronger bonds. When you bitch and moan about the fact that there has been no water for over 24 hours and how all you want is to wash your hair, or when you’re dancing like mad as the only white people in the nightclub, it’s a unique experience that you are sharing.
You really start to evaluate your life back home. People here are so friendly and thankful for everything despite them being a resident of one of the poorest countries in the world.They don't call Malawi "The Warm Heart of Africa" for nothing. It makes me question what I need to be happy. As the saying goes “If you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge, and money in the bank you are among the richest 95% of the world”. What more could we want, if we are surrounded by people who we love and who love us in return, why do we feel the constant need for stuff. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to throw out all my personal belongings (sorry Deirdre, I’m not giving up my wardrobe that easily), but it does make me wonder.
Now this post has got a little soppy but fear not people, I will not return a hippy. They say travel changes you, who knows what changes I’ll see in myself at the end of this year. 

1 comment:

  1. I live in africa too and i am african (zambian)! i must agree on the time issue! its drives me crazy aswel! but i must say i love my africa and wouldnt chose to have grown up anywhere else! there's so much raw beauty and great people! hope u enjoy your stay!... oh and welcome to africa!