The Republic of Malawi is the long, skinny, land locked country sandwiched between Tanzania and Zambia. Malawi’s lack of natural mineral resources and decades of political corruption has left it among the poorest countries in all of Africa, and respectively the world.
Malawi is a country that you can’t help but to feel like you should stay and help, but it needs so much help it’s overwhelming. We walked through a village school that had less that 30 desks for over 1200 students. The walls were crawling with bats, and their droppings littered the corners of the classrooms. The village had an ambulance donated, but can’t afford to keep gas in it so it sits and rusts.
We were told things are slightly better than just a few years ago, most attribute it to the prime minister at the time dying while in office. It sounds like a morbid thing to say that someone dying has been a good thing, but authorities found the equivalent of $40,000,000 stashed in his home when he died. He takes millions in bribes while the people of his country only earn $300 per year. Yes, PER YEAR!
The 2nd in command took over and has been working to improve the country with some success according to locals. In the 5-days we spent along lake Malawi the national election took place and needless to say it was a big deal.
There are not many African countries that I would want to be in during an election, but there was not even a hint of violence in Malawi. There was an excitement, there was hope, it was a happy time. A time to try and move the country forward, but that time will only tell.
Despite all of the problems and crushing poverty, there is a certain feeling I got when talking to people in Malawi. People were kind and genuine. Most interactions we had with people were on our tours or when shopping in the craft markets. Even though the sale pitch we saw it come through. It’s tough to explain, but it makes it hard to barter the price of handmade goods from who lives with all these challenges. It’s also common to trade things with the craft market vendors, and do you know what the vendors want most in trade? Socks.
The men of Malawi are excellent wood carvers and have access to beautiful woods and we knew we wanted to bring something’s home as souvenirs. We also had gotten a few new items in our wardrobe before we left Thailand so we had a few extra shirts. We set off to barter shirts for carvings, but needless to say when it came to the shirts we didn’t try too hard to get too much of a discount for them. It was worth a few shirts to see how excited they were to have something new to wear. The man below had Adam’s old shirt on before we even made a deal, but look at that smile!
A visit to Malawi certainly made me think. It left my mind full of ideas and wishes to help.
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