On safari in Malawi enjoyed the birds and the bush. However Curiosity has a permanent need to ask questions. One of the pleasures that increases with age?
By passing intriguing local villages in a jeep was frustrating. Managed to arrange a half day when we could stop and visit one.
Not long enough at all. But time to raise hundreds of questions. Seeing other peoples lives always does, doesn’t it? Curiosity revelled in the chance.
Lets set a scene. A village in the shore of a huge lake. A country with very few natural resources and we are awaiting the rains. Dark clouds and lightening every evening, but still dry. The mud roads are cracked and dusty. Little green vegetation. But every now and then an ancient baobab or a magnificent flame tree!
Traffic is mainly women carrying loads on their heads and men on seriously overloaded bicycles, huge woven carriers precariously balanced. Yes, cars and trucks but they dont seem to relate to village life. Little obvious public transport.
The immediate question is the houses. Hand made mud bricks! Each house seemed to have its own kiln for drying them. And Yes, the rains do eventually destroy. So just recycle the mud…..a fresh set of bricks.
Fresh reed/grass thatch bundles stacked near the houses. A new roof for the coming rainy season.
The houses are mainly for sleeping and storage. Life is lived outside, especially cooking, which has a special shelter. Too dangerous inside.
No piped water. Just a well with hand pump. Hard work we found.
Then carry your Jerry can home on your head. Sometimes a mile or more.
Each house is set in a small compound. Beautifully clean and swept. Fresh earth latrine in one corner and a screened off area for washing oneself. Chickens roam around but are well cared for…main protein source. Protected at night in a unique style of hen house! Woven from straw and twigs, it has ladder up for access.
The strange piece of netting underneath catches the solid droppings. Fertiliser for their crops!
Many artefacts in daily use are made from local materials. The girls are experts at weaving. This one is plaiting strips which will be sewn together for a sleeping mat.
You can see a lovely woven tray holding todays catch of lake fish. Their other protein source.
Here is a similar tray being used by a fisherman who has propped it across his dug out canoe. Saw one of these being made, from a whole tree. Apparently very unstable in waves and even more dangerous because people here cant swim!
Can you begin to see the questions? A society still living a pattern of life used for thousands of years. Everything locally made, recyclable. Craft, skill and historic know how.
Agriculture too. Grow your own food. Live off your land. Mostly corn and many fresh vegetables. No tractors! The family plots were being cleared with hand hoes and machetes, seeds hand planted ready for the rains. Hard work. But you have to grow a years stock of food with enough left to sell for school fees and material needs.
There are treats though – roasted termites! Perfect protein, apparently mouth-wateringly delicious. And in good seasonal supply. Way ahead of us! Insects are an excellent food source…..
Half a day was no where near enough to do other than observe and ask questions.
But it was obvious that there was no obesity. People were muscular, and seemed very happy. Some malnourished children though from poorer families. And living in dirty rags…though to be fair, at 30 degrees clothes are not really essential.
Kids as ever were fun and inquisitive. This one loved his Man City T shirt and another football fan had inventively created a football for himself.
The village had no mains electricity. But everyone had mobile phone!
How was that done?
By these: miniature solar panels.
And why? Because they underly their banking system. No actual banks.
You take your charged phone to the village “ATM”…actually a thatched kiosk, where you can download cash or do transactions on your phone!
Then you can spend your cash at the village shops
Or go to see a UEFA football match in the local thatched roof cinema..which has its own solar panel!
Mind blowing isnt it? A primitive society making a huge leap frog jump like this? Yet continuing with a thousand year way of life.
You can see why there are questions to be asked. And not about them. About us!
And dont moan about poverty, the NHS, roads or anything until you have been to Malawi and gained a perspective.
Final Pic: Lady around my age ( they sad she was 90, but doubt that) having a rest with her family. Intergenerational living…..and still contributing. Gathering firewood.