After one Uber ride, two flights, and a car ride later, I finally arrived into Blantyre, Malawi yesterday afternoon. Blantyre used to be Malawi’s capital city before they changed it to Lilongwe, a city a little over three hours away in central Malawi. Without further ado, here are my preliminary observations from Malawi so far.
1. You could either get an electronic visa online prior to arriving into Malawi 🇲🇼, or get a visa upon arrival at the airport for $50 USD. And, yes, they do accept it in U.S. dollars.
2. You will see a lot of corn 🌽 and tea crops growing in Blantyre, Mulanje, and Thyolo in Malawi. However, tobacco is Malawi’s biggest export, accounting for over 50% of their total exports.
3. We visited Mulanje district, a district well-known for its tea plantations. The district is also known for the largest mountain in tropical southern Africa, Mulanje Mountain. ⛰
4. You will frequently see people gnawing on sticks of sugar cane because sugar is also one of their exporting products. The months of May and June are their sugar cane season, but they seem to have enough stocked up to gnaw on year-round.
5. Malawi 🇲🇼 broke away from British colonial leadership in 1964 after living under the British regime since the early 1890s.
6. Whether it’s religion or language or infrastructure, the British influence here is undeniable. English is their official language and it is said that close to 90% of the population are Christian.
7. Even though the official language is English and that’s what they learn in the schools, most people seem to prefer to speak in Chichewa as that is the language they grow up speaking at home. English is the commerce language and what they learn later on if they are lucky enough to enter school. 🏫 It is not uncommon to see large groups of Malawians not understanding or unable to speak English.
8. Malawian English takes a little bit of transition time to properly understand it. To me personally, it is harder to understand than all the other forms of English (i.e. British, Australian, Kiwi English, etc.). Although, I cannot pinpoint why.
9. Aside from a few nice hotels and restaurants, the Malawi I’ve seen in Blantyre, Mulanje, and Thyolo so far have not been accessible at all for people with mobility disabilities. Sidewalks are often nonexistent.
10. Never mind proper services for people with disabilities, the able body community here seems to be struggling to get their basic necessities (i.e. education, housing, proper job, etc.) met.
11. Despite the countries tremendous developmental challenges, I do admire the tepid attempts by government agencies and non-profits to move forward with the disability rights issue.
And I am extremely grateful to be working with the U.S. State Department to humanize the lives of people with disabilities here in Malawi and advocate for a just world with equal opportunity and rights for people of all shapes, forms and conditions. #InterconnectedWorld #BetterInformed