BootsnAll Travel Network

Muzungu At The Malawi Border


We stop at a small town for supplies and “toilet stop” near the Malawi border and to spend the rest of our Tanzania shillings…scores of young boys in dirty and unbelievably tattered clothing surround the truck selling sweets, pastries, bananas, nuts…most of us stay on the truck…I don’t want the pastry but I do want the Rastafarian scarf on a young guy’s head-I buy it from him for 700 shillings-about 70 cents. He is delighted as he touches his bare head-probably had traded for it in the first place. We watch two women being introduced to a man-they bend elegantly at the knee as they extend their hands.

Malawi Border
We are the third overlander across the border that day, the kids outside the truck tell us….and then they ask for pens. I tell one that I have already given my pens away to all the children. “Fibber!” he yells at me. Then he says something and I only hear the word “white.” I ask him to repeat what he has said and then I learn the word “muzungu.” Rod says it means “white vomit from the bottom of the sea” and is a word for anyone that is white. Rod steals away the word and wears his black T-shirt with “Muzungu” written across the front and back in white.

At the border Bob gives his Sifnos Greece pen to the immigration official who stamps his passport with a crack on the desktop as if he were killing a cockroach. The immigration guy is happy. I think Rod keeps a carton of cigarettes and some magazines in the truck and hands them out to grease delicate situations.

Truck pulls out to cross the border and then begins backing up which confuses everyone but we discover Janine had dropped her towel and a little boy is running about 100 yards behind the truck to give it to her. She threw pens and sweets out the window to the boy in thanks. She has a soft spot for the children!

Coming into Malawi the land becomes lush and green. The terraced rolling foothills look manicured-not a bit of land wasted-breathtakingly beautiful. A couple miles inside the border the truck stopped for lunch at the top of a hill but a group of children and a couple elders were there and watched us eat which made us all very uncomfortable. What are we going to do about the little ones, I asked George. “Nothing!” he said with a resolute tone. Tim from New Zealand played “soccer” with them with a small ball from the truck and they really knew how to handle the ball! When we left they were happy to get all our empty plastic water bottles and some sweets and pens thanks to Janine again!

Malawi definitely has a different feel. Most of the country is rural and very poor; people are friendly…we see more waving at the truck-especially from young girls…little towns…we go through the little village of Chatinze…Don’t Walk Alone Resort…Dental and Maternity Clinic…Man On Man Hair Dressers…Come Boys Hair Salon…little huts dot the middle of fields with women standing alone waving with their arms up wide…we see the universal thumbs up from young men. We are elated…little guys as young as 5 and 6 tending small herds of cows quickly turn and whistle… We stop and buy a huge bag of charcoal from a family by the side of the road for 2000 Kwatchas ($4.)

…Judy Shop… We can see the floor fires in the little mud huts that people live in. We see six bicycles carrying huge bags of charcoal instead of a rider…I’m looking out the front windows and see a huge white truck coming at us…oh shit I yell-waking everyone up-and James has to veer to the side of the road…children stand waving and whistling as if they were extras in a movie-Melissa and I wonder what they were doing the split second before we got there…kids holler at the top of their lungs both arms waving….we give the thumbs up and they whistle and holler louder…even adults wave with both arms in the air…the soft friendly Malawi people….poor but healthy looking. They weren’t so friendly in Kenya and Tanzania. Malawi is one of the poorest but friendliest countries but Rod says they won’t be so friendly in Namibia and South Africa.

Then the roads turn to shit. Britain has the contract to rebuild the road to Lake Malawi so we are on pot-holed dirt. I try the ejector seats over the wheels in the back but quickly retreat to my own middle seat. Mud huts are made of hand made mud bricks here. Malawi is lush, green…rolling foothills…then through more little towns…Wannagwa Shopping Center is a small 8×14 foot building divided into two little stores…fields of marijuana are one of Malawi’s biggest crops.

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