After a long time, I logged in here :). Actually, my plan was to update everything here in this blog. But, because of the slow internet and problem with the uploading of photos, I share the photos and my thoughts in Facebook. May be, I can update this site later when I’m in Norway :).
Today, 3rd March, is a holiday in Malawi and it’s for Martyr’s day. So, I decided to write something about Malawi on this particular day. Martyrs for African freedom are honored by giving representation in Malawi’s flag.
The flag of Malawi has 3 equal horizontal stripes of black, red and green with a rising sun at the center of the black stripe. The black stripe represents the African people, the red represents the blood of martyrs for African freedom, green represents Malawi’s ever-green nature and the rising sun means the dawn of freedom and hope for Africa.
Their staple food is ‘Nsima’, porridge like food made from maize flour. They eat rice, vegetables and meat too, if they can afford. Though it is not common, some people eat rats and termites too. We can see some people sell rats which are hooked in sticks. As I was surprised to see that, some people are surprised when I said that I eat crabs and prawns. They said it’s not common here in Malawi.
We can see a lot of road side shops with baskets and masks. Basket weaving and mask craving are very common in Malawi.
The majority of Malawians are Christians and the minority is Muslims. I heard that there are so many different types of Christianity in practice and each one of them has its own church. A member of one kind of Christianity is not allowed to get married a member of another kind. If they want to get married, one of them must be converted to the other and it takes time. Almost everyone in this country is very religious.
The people like singing and dancing. In ceremonies and in church, they sing and dance a lot.
I admired (and a little scared too) to see the way they carry their children on their back. They just cover their children with a piece of cloth on their back and just put a nod. I always worried about whether the nod would, at anytime, loosen. But, I could see that they are very confident on carrying like that. The cute little babies sleep comfortably on their mother’s back.
Usually, their names have some meaning. I came across many interesting names as I use to register the names of the patients. Some of them have the direct meaning in English like Gift, Ambulance (may be the child born in ambulance or the mother going to the hospital for delivery in ambulance), Innocence, Wisdom, July, Meter, Precious, Future, Loveliness, Fortunate, Church, Lovemore etc. When the names are in Chichewa language, almost always, the names have a meaning. Sometimes, it looks like there is a big story in the name itself. Some names have very strange meanings:
- Chimwemwe – happy
- Mfitiidzafanso – even the witch will die
- Timalakwanj – what we do wrong
- Nkaphaidyani – If you kill, you must eat
- Tiopa izi – we are afraid of these
- Badyani – keep on eating
- Tifelanji – why are we dying
- Tobalire – let’s have this / don’t take it this from us (they named like this because the previously born children died and they want to ask the witch not to take the new born away)
- Mumderanji – why hate that person
- Bwerera – go back
I knew the meanings of the names from my colleagues. When I ask whether this single word means this big meaning, they said ‘YES’.
See these too:
Working Place, Pathology Laboratory, KCH (Kamuzu Central Hospital)!
Though I had been working in a developed country with good facilities and technologies, I feel that I have many things to learn here too, may be in a different way. I could improve my competency on different issues.
The laboratory here, of course, has the important instruments and crucial basic facilities and it is air-conditioned. So, it is not so difficult to work here though we have some problem with environmental, health safety issue.
The technicians are exposed to hazardous chemicals or vapor like formalin as we don’t work under any fume hood/fume extractors. The vapor level is monitored periodically, but I still feel the smell and irritation in the eyes sometimes. As there is no fume hood, we work with the patient samples in an open table. The ventilators that are fixed in the laboratory walls do not help much. May be, the technicians are also get used to the condition and they do not complain much.
I am happy that I could make some improvements in the laboratory. My suggestion of changing a protocol was accepted and adapted now after I tested and proved the betterment of the result. As I could arrange regular monthly laboratory meetings, we could discuss various issues and move towards the improvements on many things. I used to send reports to Norway every month and I am happy that I receive very good comments. Examples are:
1. Good and extensive report. Sounds like you are doing a great job.
2. Thanks for very interesting and well documented report. I am impressed by the work you do and the way you go forward. Very impressive!
3. Great report and I am pleased that you have managed to achieve so much already.
4. It is always interesting to read your reports. Very good and detailed report. It seems like it is moving forward and that you achieve a lot!
5. Very good reports. I enjoy reading them.
Colleagues are very nice too and it’s not hard to understand why Malawi is called as ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ :).
Got up a bit late today. I actually wanted to go to the market and for some other shopping today. But I had to wait for the plumber in the morning. I started doing some cleaning and cooking as the house keeper gets his off in the week ends. Then I feel a bit lazy to go out. Instead, I retired myself in the sofa that is kept in the sit-out.
My daughter was preparing for the tests next week at school. I asked her to come and do her home work using the table in the sit-out. So, she also joined.
A big garden around us, the breezy environment and the voices of the little birds in the trees made my mind very peaceful. I started talking to a good friend over the phone and the talks went on for nearly one and half hours. We haven’t talked after we left to Malawi and thus we shared a lot of stuff.
After lunch, we went to the local market for fruits and vegetables and supermarket Chipiku for some other stuff. We planned to ‘walk’ with friends in the evening, but couldn’t do it because of the laziness in the morning :).
I always want to take some pictures in the local market, but forgot every time. May be because of the all excitement inside the market :).
We have moved to a new house in area 10 and we share the house with Tor and his wife now. This house is also a good one. Only problem is that it is a little far from Anjali’s school. But we have good friends living very close to us and this gives us a big advantage :). As their daughter is also going to the same school, we could share the transport every morning. In the evenings, we collect them separately as the they have different after school activities.
Area 10 house……
Initiation ceremony in Malawian culture is something like the ‘Puberty ceremony’ (பூப்புனித நீராட்டுவிழா) in Tamil culture.
A young man who sells newspapers asked me to buy the newspapers from him every day and we agreed on that he delivers it at my working place. I thought reading the local newspaper gives more knowledge of the country.
One article in the newspaper described how a few communities stood against the ‘initiation ceremonies’ to the female children. As it sounded like ‘puberty ceremony’, I asked my Malawian colleagues about this. They told that such ceremony takes place only in very rural areas, in the communities with more uneducated people. They also said that, however, people in Malawi are now trying to abolish the tradition throughout the country as it is an unwanted ceremony. Then I wonder why such ceremonies take place in our Tamil society even now, as a very grand celebrations.
(But a couple of my Tamil friends argued with me in facebook I should not compare the puberty ceremony with the initiation ceremony as they are totally different from each other. May be they are right in some issues which happens in initiation ceremony, but not in puberty ceremony. However, in my point if view, the puberty ceremony is not an event we have to celebrate :))
The local language in Malawi is ‘Chichewa’ and I am trying to learn the basics. When we want to know the translation for something we say in English (for example ‘good morning’), then they will tell you something in Chichewa. Still the meaning differs literally.
I have to read many of patient’s names and I find it difficult to read the real Malawian names. It’s not that easy to read doctors hand writing; remember the prescriptions :). When it comes to Malawian names, it becomes even more difficult. In Chichewa, there are many consonants placed side by side, and some letters are silent and therefore do not know how to pronounce.
However, my colleagues said that my pronunciation is much better than that of other foreigners. When they went on detail, I understood why my pronunciation sounded better. Because they have sounds like ‘nge’ (ஙே) and ‘nje’ (ஞே) in Chichewa and the same sounds we have in Tamil and that may be the reason that I could be better :).
Another funny thing is that they pronounce ‘L’ like ‘R’ and ‘R’ like ‘L’. When one of my colleagues told me ‘ellor message’, I was confused. What he really meant was ‘error message’. Then another colleague called me ‘Kara’ and I corrected him and said I’m ‘Kala’. Then, they explained me why they mix up these two letters. In Chichewa, they pronounce these two letters interchangeably. That’s why they used to mix them up even when they speak in English. I remembered the British comedy TV series ‘Mind Your Language’ that my whole family loved to watch. It’s a series that talks about an adult education college in London and about a classroom where many foreigners are taught ‘English as a Foreign Language’. One Chinese woman always sound ‘R’ like ‘L’ and ‘L’ like ‘R’ and the teacher corrects her all the time and he confuses himself too in a few occasions. May be the Chinese has the same situation as Malawians :). When Malawians tell one letter/word, sometimes they end up with an ‘o’ sound. For example, when we say ‘L’, we say just ‘L’. I heard they saying ‘Lo’. In the same comedy series, one Japanese man pronounce most of the words ending with an ‘o’. (Btw, if anyone like to have a good laughter, I recommend to watch that TV series).
We will be paid to get a teacher to learn Chichewa. So, I have a plan to do so :).