Mike and I had the opportunity (finally, whew!) to travel to Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is HUGE and more accurately resembles the ocean not the algae infested body of water you typically picture when presented with the word “lake.”
Lake Malawi contains the most species of fresh water fish in the world. It was an incredible experience and Mike and I actually went snorkeling. Well, I should say that Mike went snorkeling and then held me as I dunked my head underwater and looked at all of the beautiful fish. Vibrant oranges, eye-catching teals, the colors were incredible!
Despite the fact that Easter Weekend is apparently the Spring Break of holidays, which meant our neighbors were blaring Backstreet Boys and traditional Indian music until 5am (who knew a reed hut wouldn’t keep out the noise?) and everyone was openly smoking weed, we had a blast.
We stayed at a place called Tuckaways. It was started by a man from the UK who had a soft spot for his surrounding community. Everything we spent at Tuckaways went back to the Chimbwe village in the form of fresh water and other various projects the man had been invested in-Malaria prevention, AIDs awareness, etc. Unfortunately, we learned that last year the owner passed away, but the two establishments he owned continue to operate and provide funds for the community.
The Lake provided what one from the United States might view as “stereotypical” African experience. There were MANY young Malawians walking around and swimming in the lake naked and performing various other necessities without clothes. For example, swimming out to a boat and scooping out water so that it wouldn’t sink which was a morning ritual of a few kids we could see from our hut.
It’s very interesting to note the dramatic difference and emphasis we (Americans) put on the human body. But, Mike and I decided that a bunch of white kids running around naked wouldn’t have been as cute anyway…ha!
The Lake provided us with the opportunity to once again note the dramatic difference between expats and Malawians. Many expat families stayed in EXTREMELY expensive establishments while on vacation ($190/per person/per night!?!). Okay, I know Mike and I are both frugal, but to see the separation between people leaves a bad taste in your mouth to say the least.
It’s a difficult position to be in. You cannot simply give away all of your money because then how would you live? Also, that’s not necessarily helping anyone or anything as typically when you give money away to people who are asking for it it’s going back to a “leader” so that the funds can be distributed; this is especially true with the street children in Blantyre. Often, the children don’t keep the money that you’re giving them and in turn you’re promoting this hierarchy of the streets.
Mike and I have committed to helping others in different ways.
1. Rather than give people begging money we now give them food which they are always appreciative.
2. We pray for people. Again, you can’t give money to everyone it’s just not feasible, however you can PRAY, it’s free and everlasting.
3. Rather than focus on individuals we don’t know, we give the people we work for us “care packages” and goodies once a month. For example, this last month we made Easter baskets for Maggie’s children and bought the men food and hygiene products to take back to their families.
4. Employing people. This, I will save for further analysis in another post as both Mike and I came into this country fervently expressing our desire to NEVER employ Malawians…it simply seemed too “colonial” to us. However, providing someone with a job that they’re coming to every day rather than wandering the streets begging helps Malawi as a whole (as I said, more on this to come).
Anyway, if you haven’t added Mary’s Meals:Heartland on Facebook please do so! You can see the backpack video that I uploaded (for several hours)…sheesh!
PS Happy Birthday to Mike! He’s the big 2-5 today 🙂