Wow, I’m in Africa!


Already a month has past and we have slowly begun to settle into our new home, and environment. Although time has gone so quickly, it feels as if we have been here for several months.

It’s difficult writing about one subject only on the first blogpost, as this month has been a big ball of impressions, experience and thoughts!

The first time the “wow, shit I’m in Africa” hit me, was while driving from the airport to our new home. Sitting in the car with 6 other, rather new people, (Mozambique’s arrived later that evening) I knew I was going to live 9 months together with. Looking out through the window at an orange and dry landscape, scanning the fields trying to see any “african animals” I have seen on animal planet. The driver just laughed allot, when I asked where all the animals where at. It honestly felt like I was part of a scene in some kind of adventure film.

After the most bumpy car ride I have ever experienced in my life, we arrived at our new home. All limping out of the car, because of butt-ache. Around us were several of curious eyes looking out of small peak holes, through fences and walls, to watch the new azungo’s arrive.

“The azungo house,” as the locals call it, meaning white people house. It is situated in the poorest part of Lilongwe, so as imagined there are not many white people in the area, but always a new bunch living in this house each year. So people are not shy to introduce themselves to you, and its not a problem feeling welcome in the area.

Its overwhelming how much attention and love we have received from the people around us. I remember my granny reading to me from a book, saying that the malawians are supposedly the kindest of people. So far, this seems to be very true.

Its hard to describe how different the culture, scenery and atmosphere is here from home. Imagining Africa as a child, a place I always was confused to call a country or a continent (very bad and embarrassing, but true), I imagined drawings from books I had. Full of amazing colours, patterns, and people carrying massive amounts of weight on their heads. First scene outside of the house, was exactly this. I woke up before 7am, not from an alarm clock on a smart phone, but a rooster waking the neighbourhood, to start the morning. Then the second “wow, shit I’m in Africa,” hit me. The very moment we stepped outside of the gate, a hurdle of children running towards us, tiny little kids dancing and shouting “azungo, azungo bo,” and giving us a fist bump. Just a normal morning in Chillinde.

I have realised and learned many small things during these first weeks. Like for instance greeting people is very important. And it takes time to get the handshake right. When you think you’ve finally nailed the: first handshake, bro shake, back and forth a few times until the other person gives a cue to go on, to then snapping the thumbs together, followed by a fist bump, someone else comes to greet you and does it in a whole different order, and you feel as foreign as you did the first time you tried. Also the moon. The moon here is always lying down. In Norway a half moon is standing. Looking at the moon in the evening is when I really feel the distance between here and my home in Norway.

Another daily “wow, shit I’m in Africa” realisation (this is something that still hits me daily) is the names of the shops! For me, going out of the house every morning, seeing “Please teacher shop” or “One missed call food shop” or driving past the “Flex appeal” training centre, puts a big smile on my face. Not to mention “TheTrump tower” bar, or “Good life America.”

We have also experienced the saying “African time,” it is very real. When the bus leaves at 8, it could leave at 9, 10 or even 11! This is something that has had a positive impact on me though. I realise that here, I am not a slave of time, like at home. I can estimate the time by looking at the sun, as it gets dark at 6pm! And I read allot more than before, as most of my reading is while waiting for something that is delayed. If you have an appointment with someone, always bring a book!
I think this has a lot of impact on why the culture is like it is. There is so little stress on a daily bases, compared to in Norway. If the electricity goes, people don’t get agitated or irritable, but just “okay, then we will do something else.” Or if the water goes, we always have some buckets in storage, and it will be even better to take a shower when the water is back. It’s an attitude that is difficult to adopt in a few weeks, coming from a country where it’s completely different, but it is something I really hope to learn from and take with me home.

The past week we are slightly back on track with our real purpose here, music. We have finally begun to work on our workshop ideas, solo projects, teaching and planning for what music projects we want to fill the year with. Still I am learning new things everyday, and still coming to ease with realising that this is my new home. I can imagine that it is probably something I won’t get used to until, a few weeks before leaving, typically. Amongst all the impressions, and experiences, you sometimes forget the reason why you are here in the first place, as there is so much more to learn from this experience, than just the music itself. You really do learn to appreciate the values you have at home. Being far away from your usual society and really getting to know the feeling of missing friends, boy-/girlfriend, and family. At times I think we all realise how used to the commercialised and western way of living, we are, and that maybe we are more fond of this society than we want to be. This experience is something I really feel trains and challenges you as a person, and your attitude to things in general. The exchange isn’t all about the music, music is kind of the safe spot of this project; the one way we all can communicate, but its an experience that changes you, and will therefore have an impact on your music.

I am so excited for what is to come ahead!

Sunniva Lilian Shaw

Sunniva is a half Scottish, half Norwegian 22 year old cellist, based in Norway. For the past three years she has been partly freelancing, through playing with various bands. She has recently gotten into production and has been focusing on solo projects.

Sunniva is looking forward to learning about the local and traditional music, and hopes to use the skills from musicians in malawi in her own music, as well as start projects with locals. She is excited about being a cellist in Malawi, as there are few cellists there, hopefully she can teach someone! She hopes she can think of new ways to use the cello and integrate african rhythms in her playing.  

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