Sunday, 14 August 2016

Malawi – Welcome to the warm heart of Africa…eventually…

August 3-4

Hello everyone!

In January, Hannah and I accepted new jobs to teach in a school in Malawi.

I know what you’re thinking. Where on earth is Malawi? Hopefully the map below can help.

I think I can guess your next query. Why on earth have you decided to live in Malawi for the next two years? Well, look at the pictures below to give you some idea…

These aren’t our pictures. We’ve only just arrived in the land described as ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’. It took us long enough to get in so we’re certainly sticking around for a while.

Our first flight was an overnighter from Heathrow to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. We were delayed by about half an hour, which was possibly due to the man at the check-in desk having moved my seat position but not bothered to tell the cabin crew. A woman found me on the plane, asked me to identify myself and then proceeded with relief to radio other people that I was indeed on the 777 and that my bags should stay on the aircraft. Ethiopia itself seemed lush and green, as well as quite cold – the capital is quite high up.

After a short layover in Addis, we took a second flight to Lilongwe, our home for at least the next two years. We flew over much of Malawi to reach our destination and the lay of the land had changed considerably. Much drier down here.

The airport struck me as being rather small, particularly the terminal. I didn’t get the impression that many flights land here.

It transpires that three major flights arrive here (from Addis, Nairobi and Johannesburg). In an inspired piece of scheduling, they all arrive within 30 minutes of one another. This results in a mass swarming of immigration which simply cannot be coped with.

Immigration itself was an interesting experience, though we’ve since been told not to judge the country on the effort and patience required to get into it. The government had spontaneously decided that our work permits weren’t sufficient to enter the country, and that we needed to buy a visa ‘sticker’ at US $75 a pop. Aside from those sitting on the desks on the border, no one seemed to know about this. Not even workers trying to be helpful and direct us to the correct line. We thus queued for about 45 minutes, got to the front and were then told to join another queue, which took another 45 minutes for us to get the sticker. Luckily for us, everyone else had passed through by this point. Time for deep breaths.

As we were told by our school’s director outside the airport…This is Africa. TIA indeed. Now that we’re here, I’m really excited to see the real Malawi and enjoy its more positive reputation.

Love you all


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