Back in Slovenia

It is amazing how familiar things seem unknown. I thought I would find everything just normal coming back to Europe, but after being here for 36 hours, there are still things I find a bit funny.

Surprisingly the weather does not seem as cold, as I though. Must be that the Malawi winter made me more resistant to cold🙂

The first thing I noticed dough was the grim, pale faces of everyone even in Munich. Somehow in Malawi everyone seemed to have more energy. It is also less conversation. No “Hello how are you,…”. At first this seemed a bit artificial back in Malawi, but I do miss it. It is a nice habit.

Flying over Slovenia I was amazed how many trees there are in one place – in Malawi the trees are scattered over the landscape and here they are the landscape. It is also really, really green despite autumn starting already.

Again I realized that Slovenes are really mad about their cars. I felt like I was in a car saloon in Malawi. It was a cure to sore eyes seeing my good old Fiesta. Just driving on the right side and shifting gear is still something that I have problems with. Amazing how quickly people adopt. I was driving on the right hand side for almost 2o years and just 3 months in Malawi make it hard for me to adjust. And Julie, here I am the one having problems with the wipers as I constantly turn them on instead of the blinkers.🙂

It was a delight to see my family again, although we were not up to our best as we seemed to have got more than we bargained for the the lounge in J’Bourg. But today the stomachs seem to feel better which is great. We do want to go to a concert tonight.

Walking into our apartment I was so surprised how much furniture and things we have / need. This is still something that I find amazing. For three months I lived without it and it does seem a bit overloaded now. I was trying to make some changes already and threw away a couple of things. Still, I am surprised to see all these things. As I read in a book, all things would take attention from ourselves, so it is best to have as little as possible. We’ll see how long this lasts🙂 It was easier for me to keep focused in Malawi – no idea if that was an evolution of me or my environment. But now I know what to do if my concentration starts fading.

I do enjoy the hot shower where water runs with the same temperature for the whole time and the fact that I do not need to bend while taking a shower. I also love my mattress – it is such a great feeling to sleep on a proper bed instead of some foam block. I love my kitchen, my office, my bathroom… I find it funny that the heating already started. There were days much colder than this in Blantyre and no heating anywhere. So I am very grateful for all this luxury I live in. If anyone things people in Europe are deprived of luxury due to recession, I can only say, that all we have here seems very luxurious. Even the fact that there is not so much dust in the air.

I am in Slovenia, but I do not feel like I have fully arrived yet. And I do like this feeling.

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WIFM (what is in it for me?)

It is in the human nature, that whatever we do, we try to see what is in it for us. Even if we join a volunteer project or work for charity, there are always benefits that come out of it.

For me summing up 10 weeks in a few words is a huge challenge. I could say this was a fantastic experience I will never forget or regret, giving me much more than I expected from.

And what is that?

Lessons learned:

– to trust myself and my abilities much more than before coming here

– how to balance inner peace and workload

– how to not engage in internal fights

– how to be a bit pushy but still friendly (e.g. how to get things done in a nice manner)

– law of attraction in reality

– people like to read what I write

– I really do adopt to new situations quickly and without much stress

Different culture insights

– Malawian food, music, way of life, people interaction, family and country values, business

– Indian customs in UK, India and Tanzania, food from north and south India, culture and celebrations, family ties

– experienced the british way of working and doing business as well as the difference between north and south of the UK about inter-personal relationships, and have been exposed to some british meals with no further harm🙂

– dancing to zambian music and tasting ethiopian food

Business contacts:

– two lovely people from UK I am sure I will remain friends for a long time

– many delightful malawians opened the door of their office for me

The biggest surprise:

– the number of people who read my blog throughout this 10 weeks, some without even knowing me.


Final hours in Malawi

Monday morning Julie took us to the bus station. It was a heart-breaking good-bye. It is amazing how in a couple of days people can grow such good friends. On the other hand it is also amusing how some people do not need even a day to make a bad impression🙂

The drive to Lilongwe on AXA Bus was a pleasant one, with the A/C working and not a lot of traffic. Lawrence was there to pick us up and bring us to the Guest House. Lovely to see Hastings and Langley again. Such nice and warm people. We also picked Garry up, who is a Scottish lawyer working for the next 6 months on that part of the project. I think he really had a good idea about committing for 6 instead of 3 months. Thus he can really make an impact. His lovely wife Nicole we met at the house. A bit of panic was caused by Jernej’s flight cancellation (this Lufthansa guys are really messing it up) we sorted everything out. After an afternoon nap and some skyping and emailing, we headed to Buchanon’s in the Four Season nursery. The last time we were there, the food was really delicious. This time I guess they were to busy and a bit out of stock. Still, it was a great closing of the day vacation and Malawi-experience.

lovely blooming trees

A good night rest on a real mattress (not just a chunk of hard foam) and a slow breakfast at the house and Lawrence drove us to the airport. All clear we spent our last kwacha on the airport, as there is no bank to exchange it. We also learned how to bribe the security guys – you empty the pocket with the money and put it on the table. The guy than just makes an attempt of opening the bag, but does no searching. One than takes the bag, and the security guy takes the money. And the rest of us get a body search🙂

Smooth flight to J’bourg, where we are enjoying the benefits of the Diners Club Card in the lounge. Ups… ready to board on the plane to Munich.

in the lounge we got more than we bargained for (still not sure what caused our stomach problems)

Check in tomorrow, for my closing remarks🙂

Daisy in a Schoolbus-disguise to Mulanje

Sunday we enjoyed another easy-lazy morning. Sitting outside, chatting, having breakfast and relaxing. We also went to book our bus to Lilongwe on Monday, and found out the noon bus was canceled. At the moment, there are real problems with the fuel shortage in Malawi, so this might be the cause. So we were left with the 7.00 a.m. bus, as we wanted to see the scenery.

Julie needed to see a client in Mulanje, so we decided to drive along, as Jernej hasn’t been to that part yet. First it looked like it would be only us three, but then everyone joined in. It was a funny experience with six of us in Daisy. Felt like a school-trip. We started later in the afternoon and drove first to the Mozambique border – again fascinated with the market in Rue.

A coffee and sandwich stop at Kara O’Mula (best chicken sandwiches ever) and then we returned to Blantyre just when darkness was closing in on the city. On our arrival the house said it’s final good-bye with the power cut. So it was a romantic packing the bags in candlelight. Somehow the generator does not seem to work properly. After that I invited everyone to farewell drinks to Mustang Sally’s. Peter unfortunately had to work, as he had loads of work to do. Nishi and Thomas decided Blue Elephant (and after not finding it Ryalls) was a better option. So Julie, Jernej and me headed to Sally’s and it was a superb evening. I will really miss her and can’t wait to see her again. Such a powerful little lady. Love her lots!

We did not stay long, as we had to get up quite early. I did appreciate Nishi turning up to say hello. It was a pleasure meeting her as well. Lovely person.

Tranquility in Majete

Thursday around noon McDonald (the taxi driver) picked us up, to take us to Majete. About an hour and a half later we entered the Wildlife Park south of Blantyre. It is quite a huge park and it is aiming to become one of the top five. Most of the animals were killed by poaching in the past, but since African Parks took over, they established the park and brought back elephants, zebras, black rhinos, buffaloes, antelopes, impalas, hippos…

view from main lodge - hard to beatWe loved the place from the first minute on. About 200 m from the main lodge (where meals and drinks are served) there is a small pond where animals come to drink water. Zebras greeted us with their appearance and all the other animals followed their lead (apart from black rhinos and elephants).

our tent

Jonathan the chef showed us to our tent. What a great idea to put tents instead of chalets. They were very, very comfy with a nice bathroom attached to it. No, we did not totally adopt the Tarzan lifestyle🙂 A bit luxury does none harm.

I must say I was a bit worried about spending two nights there, as there is not much to do apart from watching the animals – no internet, no bars, no other guests and no electricity (unless from 6.00-9.00 p.m.). We did book a game drive, but it was scheduled for 6.00 am Friday. So my mind did play a bit mad. It was hard to adjust not to work and not to leave. My husband would usually say, when visiting friends or a pub or similar:” let’s go slowly”. And this usually drives me nuts, as I do not understand the concept. Either you get up and leave or you stay. How can one go slowly ?!? And I had the feeling I was leaving Malawi slowly – I spent enough time here to not have the urge to travel a lot more, and being done with the project my mission seemed completed so it was hard to find a reason to stay. A very interesting experience indeed.

The first evening the animals at the pond helped me to relax. Well I admit a Green helped as well.🙂 We made it an early night as we had to get up for the early game drive. We slept like babies. After the generator shut down at 9.00 the silence in the camp was so deep. No sound, not even from animals, really relaxes the mind. And in the morning at around 5.00 am the birds would start singing and the sun would slowly send the beams in the tent. What a wonderful wake-up call.

jernej boarding the safari shuttle

Francis and driver were there to pick us up and show drive us around for the next 2 hours. Francis explained about the animals, their behavior and about the park. We saw different kind of animals and Jernej even spotted an elephant across the river. Unfortunately this was as close as we got to them. We saw hippos from closer and it was real fun observing them. Back at the camp, Jonathan provided us with a huge breakfast. It helped us be lazy and catch up on a bit of sleep🙂 We enjoyed the fan, as the camp expected the Deputy of Minister of Tourism (apparently they changed them two weeks ago), so the electricity was on even in the morning. We had an earlier lunch as the delegation would occupy all of the main lodge later on. We met two other guys, one of which seem to be the manager of the Park. They were both overwhelmed us telling them we saw the Aardvark (anteater). Apparently this is really rare and we were extremely lucky. And we did not really know how to appreciate that, longing to see the elephants🙂

The rest of the day we spent reading, napping and watching the animals, although there were just a few on that day. In the evening we asked the other guest to join us at dinner. His name was Kevin and was an architect from South Africa. A really nice guy. He would design a lot of lodges in reserve parks and also people’s houses in the parks (apparently a very popular thing in SA). And he also helped turning old houses in HIV clinics with the help of US.AID. A really interesting and nice evening, so we enjoyed the evening very much. By now, I was really relaxed.

Another early night, waiting in vain for the elephant to knock on our tent, and the morning birds sang in our last day at the park. A late breakfast and some more reading at the main lodge and off we went.

Back in Blantyre a great reason for joy as Julie was back. I missed her a lot and it was great to see her again and spend another 1,5 days with her and Jernej. We walked up to Malawi Sun and chatted away. For dinner we decided to check out the Curry Corner. I read somewhere that was the hottest curry. Well, I guess I am very used to hot food, as I did not find it that hot at all. Good Indian food anyway and another great day ending. Two more to go….

What to do?

After a good night rest and a bit longer sleep than usually, it was time to show Jernej my home-town for the last three months. We walked from the house and first stopped at the local market.

Blanytre local market

Amazingly enough, this time none would bother me. I guess Jernej really is a tall man. Such a funny thing, as he is a really kind and warm person and to me is always a surprise how his appearance suggest the opposite. Anyway, I did not mind. It was great to enjoy the market without being the center of attention.

I also used the time to say good-bye to some clients, as I was already in town. I guess several trips to town have not ended with a scon, croissant or coffee at Malawi Sun and this one was not an exception. It also gave us some time to think about what to do the next two days.

Our plan was to head the morning bus (4.00 am) and to drive for about 14 hours to the Nyika Plateau in the North. It is supposed to be really beautiful. Staying there a day we planned to head down to Nkhata Bay to chill out for 2 days. The more I did the time and money calculations (I was again shocked by the prices of transportation if one is not very keen on using the minibus – about 300 EUR p.p. for 2 hours drive. A real rip-off) we decided it would not be very relaxing, as most of it would be sitting in the coach.

car hire + petrol = broke

Plan B was to rent a car and explore the game parks Majete and Liwonde. Well, Liwonde is on the way to Cape Maclear so we did not feel like going the same road down again in less then a weeks time. So the idea was Majete and three days in Salima. Finding out about the prices of a 4×4 was another experience. About 100 EUR per day again without petrol. A real shocker and one does appreciate the support and comfort that Daisy provided us with. Otherwise I guess I would have not seen so much of Malawi. And as Cool Runnings was occupied it was time for plan C.

Good that the new “The Eye” (a free brochure on Malawi tourism & Co. was issued) and had an add in for Majete. We thought about it for a while and decided that two nights in a game park would be a far better experience than the lake again. So the decision was made. After having some problems to make a reservation on the special with the park itself (they claimed they did not have a special) we found Annie our saviour. She is a very nice lady, owning a Ngobile Tours – Safari and Tour Agency in the Old Town House and she was the most professional person I met in my almost 3 months in Malawi. Amazingly, she just returned from her 1 year study in Salzburg (Austria). She helped us out and we are sooo00 thankful for it.

In the evening Nishi and Thomas felt keen on going to Mount Pleasant again, as they really fell in love with the place. Nice indian dinner for the three of them (I was still full from lunch) and a drive back home as a courtesy of Peter, the lodge manager.

Peter of Mt. Pleasant

To finish up, we had a drink at Mustang Sally’s, Jernej by now being good friends with Rob, as he would sit at his table the first day he spent in BT.🙂

Final day in the office

wow, here we are… almost 10 weeks after landing in Lilongwe, my Malawi BCA_CBE experience has come to an end. Way to fast and I am sad to have to leave.

The last days in the office I was not very talkative as I was finishing up the projects. I must say I am very pleased to have been able to complete three assignments and thus also generate the income for the project. I am also very, very, very pleased that the idea of the hospitality event came to my rested brains and Julie for coming over, as the event itself as well as the clients after will do much good to the project’s budget. Nishi is also talking to some very interesting clients, which will improve it even further. Yup, I guess we girls rock.🙂

Today in the morning Tione and I had the final client presentation and it went really well. They all seem to appreciate our work so much that it makes one really humble. I cannot say often enough what a great experience this has been.

successful delivery - happy client(s)

As the two projects were finished I also made the apprentice appraisals with Edmund and Tione. They are such great guys and I enjoyed working with them. I love their passion for learning and it is amazing how quickly they implement new ideas and what they learned. In Europe people would usually fight against new ideas and changes and also would find thousands of reasons why not to do something. Here, they just do it. Lovely! It is really rewarding to work with such people.

It is also amazing what things they would notice I do and it was a great feedback for me as well and a very, very, very positive one.

As there are interviews going on we just had a couple of minutes to say good-bye. Jernej brought POTICA with him, so this gave the warm heart of Africa a sweet taste of Slovenia🙂 It is sad to say good-bye to this wonderful people. I will miss them much. I got a signed Nsima-spoon with all their names, a great “chitenje” (scar of the local ladies) and an apron with Malawi map. Sooooo cute! And it does break my heart to leave them….