RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 84

Monday, 9 February 2015

This blog is the second one to be written by volunteer teacher Sue Morgan

The Other Side of Malawi…the Rainy Season

Malawi is stunningly beautiful and full of lush vegetation which just flows through the landscape in never ending shades of green. The people are totally dependent upon fertile ground to grow essential food stuff, and this is the first country I have ever lived in or visited where people genuinely do live off the land because of the abundance of grain, fruits and vegetables. But of course, you can’t get any farming done without a bit of rain!

And if you think you know what rain is…think again! At times, it’s more like a deluge that can only be described as standing under a waterfall. It is not at all cold but in seconds you are completely and utterly wet through. There are also regular and spectacular thunderstorms, and personally I love the swirling and ominous black clouds that are accompanied by ear splitting crashes of thunder. Most days the rain lasts about half a day either in the morning or the afternoon – then the sun comes out and in an hour you are warm and dry. On really good days, it rains at night and the days are gloriously warm and fresh.

Potential visitors to Malawi, please do NOT be put off from coming because of the rain! It really can be a welcome, refreshing respite from the sun and in a bizarre way you feel really local when you are one of many huddled under a tree or just laughing with fellow (Malawian) cyclists because you have forgotten to take the umbrella and rainsuit and you cannot possibly get any wetter!! If you should come to Malawi in the rainy season between December and April, you will need the right gear! Whatever you are doing as a volunteer, you will inevitably be cycling at least 10km a day and most days you will get caught in a downpour. A jacket is NOT enough!! The photograph below shows me kitted out for cycling 7 km in a downpour. Check out the size of the umbrella which cost MWK2,000 (about £3 or US$4.50) and the rainsuit which is completely waterproof cost MWK6,000 (about £9 or US$13.50). The umbrellas can be bought locally (I am planning to get a rainbow coloured version!) and the rainsuit comes from Mzuzu (after seeing me look like a drowned rat on several occasions, a very kind teaching partner at Mwaya Primary School went and got mine for me).

As a teacher, an interesting side effect of the rain is the noise level in the older classrooms which all have tin roofs. I have, on two occasions, had to resort to sign language and written instructions on the board like ‘Take out your exercise books’ because it was impossible for anyone to hear anything over the deafening noise of the rain. Actually, we all just ended up laughing and abandoned the lesson! On a side note, I have got used to young kids coming into the classroom with machetes (slashers) and hoes because the rainy season is planting time and they have field work to do before and after school. Check out the age they start helping with field work in the picture below!

Don’t take my word for it – just come and see for yourself!