is Steve Calling
Hello, this is
Steve calling from Darkest Africa. (I vow never to use that expression
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 made...
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.
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
- the hiring of workers, and
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.
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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