When living in another country its inevitable not to notice differences. From the day the plane arrived in Lilongwe, until now when I´m sitting in the shade of a huge summer hut, my brain has constantly been scanning the environment. I´m trying to adapt to the new situation, and to do that, I need some sort of understanding of the Malawian culture.
Malawi is nicknamed ¨The warm heart of Africa¨. It is a well-fitting nickname, not just because of the very hot temperatures during summer, but also because of the friendly people. After a few days I learned that I could greet anyone I wanted, strangers on the streets, in the stores, everywhere. Not only once, but I have ended up greeting the same person four or five times a day. Malawians also like long handshakes. Their handshakes can last for whole conversations. Sometimes it doesn´t even matter that the conversation is over. Once I walked around holding hands with a guy until he started conversing with someone else.
The first weeks in Nkhotakota we have been, and still are busy getting the music school up and running. We arranged an open day called Cultural Wednesday so that the cultural center would get attention and new applicants. The house band ¨The Zebra Band¨ played some of their songs, and the dance troupe, drum group, and TaKagunda girl percussion group also did their performances. Lots of children showed up, they enjoyed the show. All in all, Cultural Wednesday 2016 turned out to be great success. Maybe too great. Actually we got almost 200 applicants, which is way too many students for the music school to handle. Now we have to sort out who will be allowed to attend classes. This was an unforeseen challenge, though the problem is not too big. The music school doesn’t need to look for students in a long time.
I will also work with the TaKagunda project, which is a percussion group consisting of girls. After the last year’s participants left, the group shrank to half its original size. Me and the teacher John Makawa went to CCAP, a local school, and asked if the girls wanted to join the group again. They did, and in the afternoon we had our first practice. It looked like they enjoyed the class, therefore I´m positive that the TaKagunda project is back with full force.
It would be difficult to write this blog without mentioning poverty, because it is something we see every day. Nkhotakota is a town in one of the poorest districts in Malawi. People wearing worn out clothes, beggars, or children that are malnourished are common sights.
Although most people are living with next to nothing in terms of possessions, it seems like many have enough money to buy a little more than the basics. When I´m buying food at the market, it is always crowded. When I eat in restaurants around town, I see people having lunch, dinner or even breakfast. There are barbershops, fuel stations, banks, phone shop, and other stores who need costumers with a little purchasing power. Even though it´s a poor town, it´s important to remember that Nkhotakota is more than poverty and suffering. If it wasn’t, there would be no point of having a culture center, because no one would come.
The everyday life in Nkhotakhota is quite different than the life I was used to in Norway. Currently we have lacked water for more than a week, usually the electricity is out more than half the day, cockroaches, spiders, mosquitos, lizards, and geckos are using our home as their own. I´m looking forward to continue the work with the music school, and so far I´ve enjoyed my experiences in The warm heart of Africa.