Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Some things I'll miss, and some things I miss less

My departure date is approaching at an alarming rate.

I’ll be leaving this lovely little country of Malawi in just over a week from now, and will be flying back to Toronto from Lusaka on July 31st.

I really do feel at home here, so it is startling for me to consider how far away I will soon be from what have become normal elements of my life here.

While there are things that I’m not sad to be leaving here or that I am looking forward to returning to at home, there are just as many (and probably more) things that I will miss very much. I started jotting down a little list - I may add more to these later.

I look forward to regular hot showers, but I’ll miss bucket showers
There is something about a hot shower with good water pressure that is just so fantastic in so many ways. I don’t think I ever appreciated showers quite enough before. On the rare occasion that I get a good ol’ fashioned shower – water spraying down from an overhead nozzle with just the perfect amount of water pressure - I just revel in its wonderfulness.

That being said, I am also a fan of my usual bathing method – the bucket shower. My daily bucket shower requires just a small bucket full of water heated up on the stove (I’m too big of a wimp for cold showers) – so efficient! I have really gained an appreciation for just how little water is actually necessary to get oneself nice and squeaky clean.

I look forward to the way garbage is dealt with in Canada, but I will miss how little garbage is generated here in Malawi.
My Canadian self was initially rather horrified by the way that garbage is handled here. Take littering, for example. Since I was a wee child I have had the concept of littering being a very bad thing drilled into my head. So naturally, I would cringe at the sight of bottles and wrappers being chucked out of minibus windows or over one’s shoulder while strolling down the street. But, then I thought of how trash is really managed here. It is not like in Canada where there is a system for garbage collection, and where you can often find trash receptacles on street corners and elsewhere. In most cases, garbage is swept into a pile and occasionally burned. At my house, for example, we have a garbage pit in the backyard. In town, all the litter is swept into an open storm sewer and occasionally burned. The burning takes place indiscriminately – whatever happens to be in the pile is burned. Plastic, batteries, paint – whatever!

However, I love how much less waste gets produced here. At my house, so little of what we use comes packaged. The vast majority of our food comes from the market or a family member or friend’s farm. The consumable items we use most often – candles, toilet paper, etc – have minimal packaging. We produce a small fraction of the amount of garbage an equivalent household would consume back in Canada.
Photo: Pile of garbage in the parking lot next to my office. It gets burned every so often when it reaches a certain size.

Photo: Burning trash in the garbage pit in my backyard

I look forward to the wide range of vegetarian friendly products in Canada, but I’ll miss Tasty Soya Pieces and all the wonderful green veggies in Malawi.
Tofu, tempeh, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans – yum!), veggie burgers, TVP, etc. . . the list of vegetarian delights that await me upon my return in Canada are nearly endless! For dinners here I mostly alternate between eggs and soya pieces (beans take tooooo long to cook!).

I do love “Tasty Soya Pieces” though. Tasty soya pieces are a magical Zambian product and are the best dried faux meat product I think I’ve ever had! I’ll fill up any extra luggage space with packages of ‘em! Plus, here there is an abundance of wonderful options when it comes to green vegetables - mustard, rape, pumpkin, sweet potato, and bean leaves, not to mention all the cabbage, Chinese lettuce, etc etc. It is glorious!

I look forward to leaving behind the cockroaches in my kitchen and mice in my ceiling, but I’ll miss house geckos
Even as I write this, I hear mice scurrying around my ceiling. I know that if I step into my kitchen, I’ll be greeted by cockroaches of all sizes scuttling about the floors, counters, and cabinets. So goes life in southern Africa! One kind of critter that I will be rather sad to no longer have lurking around my living spaces are house geckos. House geckos are cute little critters that you often find dotting the walls inside buildings here. They roam around with their handy little suction cup feet, and feast on mosquitoes and other annoying creatures which are seemingly omnipresecnt. Cute AND helpful – awesome!
Photo: My resident house gecko

I look forward to no more rainy seasons, but I’ll miss the predictable weather here.
Oh, the rainy season. How I was not sad to see it go . . . From December – March you can expect at least one sudden downpour a day. The open storm sewers in town become raging rivers while paved roads become flooded pools and dirt roads become muddy, impassible, messes. It is also the time of year that mosquitoes are out in full force, resulting in peak malaria infection rates.

I will, however, miss how predictable the weather is here. You pretty much know what you’re going to get. Back in Canada, for much of the year we have to rely pretty heavily on weather forecasts, as who knows what it will be like outside on a given day. I remember the last winter I was in Canada and living in Waterloo – I’d be in a parka one day, and fine in shirt sleeves the next. Plus, during the dry season here, you can expect beautiful sunny days practically every day - not bad :)

Photo: Ah, the perils of rainy season driving

Photo: A "road"

More to come next time . . .

1 comment:

anaïs said...

Very nice post, inspiring for a Canadian leaving for Malawi in a few days...
As for the rainy season, what you've described is pretty much how it's been in Montreal this summer!