Weekend in Zomba

It’s not often that I spend a weekend in Zomba. I’m very pleased that I’ve been away almost every weekend, and feel that I’m seeing a good deal of Malawi in the short time I’m here. That said, it has been good to spend the weekend here for a change.

This was our backyard last week after work one evening. The rains had cleared the air

This was our backyard last week one evening after work. The rains had cleared the air, and the scene was as crisp as a stage set. The warm evening light is fantastic - and I promise that I haven't touched this photo up at all (though it is a panorama). The mangoes on the tree on the right are practically glowing!

Backyard muddy river

Backyard muddy river

The rainy season is well under way. Almost each day there is a truly colossal downpour, preceded usually by gusts of wind and some impressive claps of thunder, as well as the traditional darkening of the sky. I will rely on these warning signs heavily when I’m biking, as it would be really stupid to be caught in such a downpour. Within a few minutes the roads flood, covered in muddy water which conceals all manner of treacherous potholes and cracks.

Saturday morning rains fill the gutters quickly

Saturday morning rains fill the gutters quickly



I did manage to get my motorbike home on Friday, though had to fashion a rear number plate out of cardboard and sticky tape at the hospital. I’ve got the licence disk, but no place to display it, so I suspect that’s a bit illegal. If I’m stopped by the police at one of the myriad and pointless roadblocks on Zomba main road I’ll have to convince them that I’m on my way to get a licence-display disk. I do have a letter of sale saying I’ve only had the bike three days. Yesterday and today I rode into town, carefully and thankfully uneventfully. In the same way as I was when I first got a car licence, I didn’t have the guts to park in town in the bustling thick of things. Instead I parked outside the district assembly, nice and quiet on Saturdays. This did mean that I had an extra long way to walk back to Shoprite in town when after shopping I got to my bike and realised I’d forgotten my helmet in town. The woman at Shoprite was very friendly and helpful, and had put it aside for me. I asked her what the word was for “forget” in Chichewa, and we had a good laugh and handshake.

Food seller in market. What's on the tray behind him?

Food seller in market. What's on the tray behind him?

I found a guy selling the seasonal flying ants at the market. Every year apparently around this time, the ants are harvested as a good source of protein, though I’m not sure if they’re actually a delicacy. There are a myriad types of ants discernible to the naked eye here, many with wings. The flying ones are of all sizes, but it is the big juicy ones which are eaten. Their bodies are very fatty apparently, so they are dry fried till crispy.

Ant wings outside the hospital door, under the night light.

Ant wings outside the hospital door, under the night light.

The wings will have long since fallen off, as they are very loosely attached and each ant seems to use its wings only briefly, then they come off and litter the ground under every electric light in Zomba.

Mmm, delicious.

Mmm, delicious.

The result from washing one rucksack and putting the second one in.

The result from washing one rucksack and putting the second one in.

Next up it was time to wash my two rucksacks. Although they don’t have any obvious markings of dirt or soiling, I’ve know that they’ll be embedded with a layer of the same grime which I wash from my hands every day. Or worse in fact than my hands. The rucksacks have been on the floor in the hospital, in minibusses, in my room, in hospital transport, dragged, tipped, smeared, stood on. I was quite sure the dirt was hidden on the dark canvas fabrics. I was right. As always when washing here, there was a very satisfying amount of dirt which came out.

Saturday evening was a farewell party for Sarah, a VSO volunteer in Zomba who is ending her two-year stint here. We went up to Muzuku Lodge, on the hill overlooking the Zomba Plateau, and had a braai. Enjoyable party, and we will all be sad to see Sarah go, as her enthusiasm for everything she does is infectious. Like most volunteers here, she’s not sure what she’ll do next, and is not sure that she wants to go back to settle down immediately in the UK. It seems many volunteers are here when they haven’t really known what else to do with themselves, and the answers are not necessarily much clearer when they finish here. At the party somebody was handing round a packet of the fried flying ants, like they were peanuts. I crunched a couple, and they were fairly tasteless, a bit like cardboard. Slightly firm on the outside and a little bit soft inside. I’m sure they’re much nicer fresh and crispy from the pan!

Emergency toast

Emergency toast

Sunday morning, rains again, so loud on the roof it’s difficult to have conversation. No electricity, but still managed to organise some toast. Adaptability and flexibility: VSO would be proud!

Finally, I’ve written a bit about some of the horrible beasties we’ve got in our house, so now a photo of one of the cutest! It must be gecko hatching season, because we have these little guys all over the place – there are usually about two on my walls when I go to bed. They will grow up to be one of the ubiquitous geckos we have outside also, helping us by eating small flying insects.

Baby gecko: he's sitting on my little finger

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