Pang’ono pang’ono

While my progression in mastering the chichewa language is very slow, there are some words and sentences that stuck. This time I wanted to share a saying which is typical for life here: pang’ono pang’ono. It translates loosely into ‘little by little’ or ‘with baby steps’.

A man alongside the road has already said it to us when the roads were quite bad because of the rains. Slowly we were driving through mud and large pits in the road, however an old man smiled genuinely and encouraged us: ‘pang’ono pang’ono!’ he meant that we would get to our destination eventually, as long as we would not stop. A lovely saying.

Sometimes days or weeks pass where we have the feeling that we are not really progressing with the construction of the houses. When people back in the Netherlands asked us for pictures we often realised we had not taken many for a while, simply because there were so few new things to show. This was especially the case when we were working on electricity and the water pipes (the pipes are in the ground now, but unfortunately we did not get the pump to work so we don’t have running water yet). Now all those pipes have disappeared in the ground again and on the pictures you cannot see that there is now power on the sockets. Electricity was a big step though! We now have a fridge, can cook without building a fire and we can charge phone – both our own as the phones of all our employees.

But suddenly it was the day on which the doors and windows were installed. We have made many pictures again! These kind of moments are a reminder to me that – even though we don’t always see it – we are still progressing with baby steps: pang’ono pang’ono.
Panoramic pictures from the inside of the first house in order to show the windows and doors on the family whatsapp group.

A small victory

Yesterday I wrote about the huge quantity of plastic bags I got with my groceries, however today I managed to avoid most plastic bags. I refused the plastic bag with the onions, I just took them with me as they were (it was only 3 meters to the car anyway). I had brought a cotton bag for the groceries at Asante shop and I even bought cooking oil without the plastic bottle! When we came here, Rik brought a bottle of whiskey with him, and now that one’s empty we had a beautiful glass bottle just laying around.
We had already seen big 20 liter buckets of cooking oil alongside the road and yesterday I asked Dany how it works when buying oil around here.

It turns out that you can buy set quantities, 500ml, 1 liter, and so on. The bottle I had was 700ml – which was too complicated – so I had it filled with 500ml cooking oil. For those who wonder how expensive it would be around here: it cost me 450 kwacha (which is about 0,56 euro or 0,62 US dollars).

Local cooking oil is less transparent than we are used to, but I was told that it should get its ‘true color’ in the sun or when heated.

Next to the fact that I avoided adding another plastic bottle to my collection, I actually like the look of this glass bottle in my ‘kitchen’ much better. Back in the Netherlands I would have never thought about it, but here this small victory made my day even better!

After three months in Malawi

Now that I am here for a longer period of time, I think I have a relatively good idea of the country and its problems. Some problems affect me as well, like the lack of waste processing. I still own every piece of trash since my arrival, simply because I cannot bear the thought to burn it.
So now it is just there, always in the way and an eyesore, but I just don’t have a way to process it myself (yet!). I have some plans to start processing my own plastic into new objects, however a lot needs to happen before I will be able to make my first bowl, plate or flower pot of thrash. And until then, all this plastic is just there..
And it’s not only on our little piece of sand, but plastic is also to be found alongside the roads and in the villages. Most common are the blue (sandwich) bags which the people here seem to love so much.

Recently, at a supermarket, we bought two packs of biscuits, a bag of dried soy and deodorant. How it was being packed: the two packsof biscuits went together in one blue bag, the deodorant got its own and the four items were then put in a black plastic carrier bag. They didn’t understand enough English to explain to them that I actually did not need any of those three plastic bags, so now those are also added to my personal collection: the bag on the beach.

Issues that do affect me personally, but which I still find difficult to see are all in some way related to poverty. Deforestation, overfishing, pollution, no access to education and hunger. With some of these the link with poverty is obvious, however for example the case of overfishing I find very difficult. How are you ever going to convince people to fish less if it’s the only way they know to get food on the table? The biggest part of the population is unemployed and have to be self-sufficient in order to eat. So they farm a small patch of land, keep some chicken or a goat and thus fish as much as they can.

People in the small village we drive past almost every day.

Really not all is bad, because despite everything the people of Malawi are really very friendly and cheerful. Who has ever been here has undoubtedly seen many kids smiling, dancing and waving. Every time we drive to Monkey Bay – to get money from the ATM or to do some groceries – we pass some small villages where we always have to wave. ‘Azungu, azungu!!’ they call, which means foreigner or white person. In the village closest to us those calls have already changed into the names of Rik and his brother – Joeri or Reiki they scream (they don’t know the name ‘Rik’, and two syllable words actually sounds a bit better to yell on repeat). At least we feel very welcome here!