Posts Tagged shopping

Home is where the bread is

This afternoon left work early to go into town for some essentials, like bread flour. The bread in the shops here is generally white and has a crumbly texture like cake, with no substance or flavour. I now understand the dismay of some Germans and Dutch when they come to the UK and can’t find the good quality bread they are accustomed to on the continent.
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Cinema Matawale

Various small retail triumphs today. After the morning’s induction – a very useful talk with Felix Kauye, the Chief Govermment Psychiatrist – we headed into town to do some shopping using Rob’s car. Rob comes in to Zomba from Blantyre every Monday and Tuesday, staying over in our large house, and while we are without transport his RAV-4 is a luxury. Found the local Carlsberg depot where one can buy a crate of 20 Carlsberg “greens” for K1470. That’s a mere 74 kwacha (30p or R4.60) per beer, including bottle deposit. I think we’re onto a winner there. Then into town, where I manage to find white bread flour – in 10kg sacks, for about the same price as the crate of beers! I’ll need to bake a loaf of bread in the little oven about every three days to get through that bag in four months. I am very pleased with this. Driving back to the house, Steph points out a small rattan couch being sold next to the road which she was quoted K3500 for. We stop and talk to the man who seems to be in charge of making them. This time, with more than one person showing interest, the price starts at K4500, but we rapidly bring him down, eventually negotiating two couches for K6000. Only one is ready now, and we’ll pick the other up tomorrow. That’s £24 for a very basic lounge suite – plus K300 (120p) for a gentleman to carry them to our flat. I do feel almost a bit bad about this, because the couches are well made and seem to be worth much more.

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Somebody’s got to do it.

Malawian landscape south of Blantyre

Malawian landscape south of Blantyre

Friday night in Blantyre, Rob took us to a genuine braai (bbq), with many other ex-pat volunteers from the UK and Australia. They were mostly medics and the talk was often of the difficult and basic conditions in the hospitals and the relative lack of concern of some staff. We discussed the figures which the Medical Registrar at the Council offices gave us – that there are 200 Malawian doctors registered compared to 2000 international doctors registered in Malawi. We decided this must be how many international doctors have registered historically, as although most would agree that there at least as many ex-pats doctors as Malawian doctors currently working, the 10:1 ratio seems unbelievable. We know the medical school has just increased its intake to 40-60 students per year. They will do a full medical degree, as opposed to the Clinical Officers who do a three-year medical degree and are expected to carry out many medical duties due to the scarcity of doctors. A single such Psychiatric Clinical Officer, Mr. Phiri, has been the only clinician at Zomba Mental Hospital for the five years before Dr. Felix Kauye arrived in 2004. ZMH is expecting a further four clinical officers shortly, so in a matter of a few weeks the clinical staff at the hospital has increased from one medical officer and one psychiatrist (mostly doing research though), to four psychiatrists and four clinical officers.

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Saturday Rob recommends we drive down south from Blantyre, Read the rest of this entry »

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Shadows in the dark

Malawian roads at night are hazardous. After a morning of reviews, summaries and reflections (VSO style), all the volunteers and employers had a last lunch together, followed by heartfelt goodbyes and good wishes, and a final trip to pick up extra supplies. VSO has thought of most practical things, and supply a foam mattress, cooking plate and fridge (and other smaller sundries like mosquito nets and water filters) to everyone. Our employer, Zomba Mental Hospital, had kindly sent the clinical nurse manager, the HR manager, and a driver to meet us and drive us back to Zomba. Tagging along with them was a detective who used the opportunity of a ride to Lilongwe to get details of a case he was working on.

Everything must go!

Everything must go!

So it was a tight fit in the hospital’s double cab bakkie! We left Lilongwe with seven people squashed into a double cab (the senior nurse sitting on the lap of the HR manager in the front, four of us in the back), with three mattresses, a fridge, multiple bags, backpacks, an iron, boots and the driver’s sister on the back. It would be a four hour ride down to Zomba. Read the rest of this entry »

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