Malawi – Monday 8th March

Following a pretty awful journey I’m in Malawi. I do sometimes feel like long distance air travel was devised as a none-too-complicated torture device. I find it almost impossible to sleep sitting upright – especially with someone in front of me who’d clearly mistaken his seat for a trampoline. So I got a couple of hours sleep between leaving on Saturday afternoon and arriving 20 hours later, via Amsterdam, Nairobi and Lusaka, in Lilongwe.

I had a good meal yesterday evening and a very good night’s sleep last night, with neither a cat nor mosquitos to pester me. Unfortunately the wireless internet at the hotel is on the blink today, so I can’t email through the policy committee papers and blog posts I’ve been working on during the journey.

I also finished the copies of the Guardian I’ve been stockpiling from the last week, the last couple of editions of Democratic Left Scotland’s magazine “Perspectives” and Eric Hobsbawn’s “Revolutionaries”. It was good to catch up on the Chilcott Inquiry, John Venables case, Michael Foot obituaries and the cricket. I’m still amazed at how much I can read and digest while travelling. Not that I’m about to start spending significant amounts of time on buses and trains, you’ll be glad to hear.

I’m currently waiting to get picked up to go to Mzuzu. I’m by the pool listening to The Specials – not on my iPod, but rather oddly on the public announcement system.

Once I get to Mzuzu I’ll be delivering a workshop on dealing with the media. It should be interesting. From my first view of the Malawi papers, it’s not quite as cut-throat as the Daily Record, or the rest of the British media. I’ve always wondered about how appropriate foreign ‘experts’ flying in to give advice is. I’ll be careful to make sure this is an exchange.

My first impressions are that Malawi is very like near-neighour Zimbabwe, which is where my partner is from, and which I’m familiar with. I tried to start a conversation with my taxi driver George about snow – confirming no doubt the widespread prejudice that people from the British Isles are obsessed with the weather. He was amused when I pointed out that it was snowing as I left Scotland. He said he’d never seen snow. He was even more amused when I told him that where I’d grown up I’d never seen the sun. Thankfully, we managed to avoid the subject of trams.

The weather is quite different from Edinburgh (though the chief doesn’t send quite so much sun on Malawi as she does on Leith) – it’s rather warmer. I’m staying at the Korea Garden Lodge, which is pleasant, and indeed, quite Korean. This is most marked in the cuisine though the Scottish influence shows through with the vegetarian option for breakfast: fried potatoes. I opted for bananas and guava juice.

I’m looking forward to seeing Ronald (who works for CONGOMA and spent some time in Edinburgh a couple of years ago) and Eva (who I worked with at SCVO) again, and meeting the rest of the CONGOMA people.

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