This is Steve Calling
Hello, this is Steve calling from Darkest Africa.
(I vow never to use that expression again.) More...
This is the beginning of my first full
month in Malawi. And already my first impressions of the country
are being formed, and my first difficult decisions are being
HELLO, this is Steve calling from Darkest Africa (I vow never to
use that expression again !). Just letting you know what I am up
to, here in Malawi.
Malawi is already proving fascinating to me: the dusty (and bumpy)
roads; the friendliness and formality of people; the daily throng
of workers, walking, cycling or crammed inside any vehicle that
actually works; the cheap and delicious fruit; the expensive comforts
of home (Cornflakes at £4); the rising inflation and the measly
amount that we are paid (£70 a month); the amazing fact that
we are still well paid, and most manage on the equivalent of less
than £10 a month !?).
There are lots of things I could spend an age talking about. Instead,
though, I want to talk about two things:
(2 cheery topics that you may/may not have thought were relevant in
- the hiring of workers, and
- AIDS in MALAWI
Firstly there is the complex issue of hiring workers. This could
be a night-guard, a cleaner, a gardener, a cook, or general dogs-body.
They are paid from part of our allowance - so whatever little we
get paid, they get a fraction of it AS THEIR MAIN INCOME.
Now, there are 2 arguments - both persuasive - about the merits
of hiring / not hiring a worker (or, perhaps, in Politically Un-Correct
terms a 'servant') which have been troubling me since I arrived
in Malawi. It could be argued that, however little the pay that
a worker receives from you, it is still providing work and income
- enough to survive on. Negative aspects have to be ignored for
the greater good that work (and probably shelter) provides. The
opposing view is that you pay the worker a pittance, to do menial
jobs that you don't want to do yourself; you treat them poorly -
much as in the bad old days of Colonialism. In fact it could even
be a modern form of colonialism. When you think of the voluntary
nature of our being here, to perpetuate a kind of slave labour is
very difficult to handle.
As yet Rachel and I are still undecided but will probably employ
someone to clean clothes / iron on a part-time basis, as well as
a part-time gardener and full-time night-guard (VSO recommends a
guard and pays the bill).
Secondly, and on a lighter note (!), AIDS is very prevalent in
Malawi (the worst incidence in Africa) and it is something everyone
is concerned about (conservative estimates say 20% are infected
with HIV). Now, surprise surprise, a traditional healer in Liwonde
claims he has found a cure for AIDS. Everyone wants to visit him
and take the herb.
People (that includes fellow professionals) can talk of nothing
else: 'Can it be true?', 'Are people being healed? (Did they have
the disease in the first place?)', 'Can we get our company to transport
us there?' It really is THE big thing in this part of Africa, and
the subject of much Malawian humour, some of which I understand
(when they talk in English), and some I don't. (I know when a joke
has been told, though, as much hand-slapping and raucous laughter
always follows. I tell you - Malawians know how to have fun at work!)
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