Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Malawi the Beautiful

This whole semester my blog stories have been pretty grim. I bet some of you may even think that I am the most miserable of all beings and absolutely hate living in Africa. But it is not so. Yes, living in Africa is a challenge! Everything from cooking to cleaning takes an effort. Constant power outages and things plainly not working can drive the sanest of souls absolutely mad!

But there is another side of Africa, the easy going side, where no one gets in any hurry. Where people take time to visit one another on a path and neighbors come by just say hello. Where people laugh and find joy every single day even when there is nothing to laugh about. And the countryside: it is breathtaking! I absolutely love to look out the car window and watch the scenery pass by. Magnificent mountains reaching high into the sky and the sprawling plains with a cluster of huts sprinkled here and there. Little children playing with homemade wire cars called galimoto. A man dressed in a Nyau mask made of straw walking through the village with a crowd of people following him. A woman with a huge bucket of water on her head, a baby tied to her back and several other young children tagging along behind. All of these scenes are everyday life for millions of Malawians!

The most glorious of all sights is Lake Malawi, after which the country got its name. Malawi in Chichewa means “flames” and during the sunset it does look like it is on fire. In places the lake is so wide that it looks like an ocean. The lake water is clean and pure and is full of fish that can be found only in this lake. I love to sit on the beach with my feet in the water and watch a sunrise or a sunset. The sunrise is so beautiful with the lazy sun slowly making its way over the mountains of Mozambique, gradually changing the sky into magnificent colors. On the horizon I can see fishermen in their dugout canoes, some just tiny black specks on the horizon. At night they use torches to help them see what they are doing. In the inky darkness I can see those spots of light as if the starry sky fell on the ground.

Malawi’s tropical climate makes it perfect for the lush vegetation. The green is so bright that it is almost poisonous. The wide array of colorful flowers will dazzle you with its brilliance! Purple jacarandas, flaming red flowers of a flamboyant tree, pink and white frangipani, strange looking bottle brush trees, and so many more! Pictures cannot give these colors any justice and the scent is intoxicating.

My favorite time of day is sunset. At sunset the color of the clouds can range from deep purple to light yellow. Sun rays filtering through the clouds make the lighting look semi-dark, as if there is an eclipse. This yellow lighting looks absolutely amazing with all the greenery. My favorite scene is the “pancake” tree in the middle of a green plain with an evening orange sunlight catching its leaves and a heavy dark blue cloud in the background. It is absolutely gorgeous!
Africa has this amazing phenomenon. It gets dark here quick, like “blink and it is dark” quick! And once it’s dark, it is dark! You cannot see your hand in front of your face! The blind darkness is filled with the sound of insects. Sometimes the noise they make is so loud it is almost deafening. The lightning bugs sparkle here and there, making everything look like a fairy tale. I love to go outside on my porch at night and look into the starry Malawi sky. The Milky Way here is absolutely amazing and the stars twinkle in all of their glory. They are so low here that I can almost touch them. During the dry season I can see forest fires skirting the mountains like an expensive necklace. All of these phenomena make Africa as beautiful a place at night as by day. Each period offers its own jewels to gaze upon.

And the rains! The rains are the lifeblood of Africa! They come fast and furious with tremendous thunderstorms that shake the house. Nothing sounds better than the pitter-patter of the raindrops on a tin roof. So soothing! I tend to miss it during the long dry season. You can see the rain move across the country. You can actually hear it come! It sounds as if a raging river is fast approaching and all of a sudden you are soaked through!

And the critters here, oh my! If you are a lover of strange things like I am, you will love this place. You can find anything from poisonous snakes, wicked looking centipedes that are called bongololo to monitor lizards and chameleons that are enormous! Not a day goes by when I do not encounter one of them.

So, takulandirani! I welcome you to Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa! Beware when you come and visit it! Once the African sand gets into your shoes, you will have to keep coming back to shake it out!

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