Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend, co-worker, and housemate - Lara Gooding. Lara is here in Malawi for three months from Seattle, and is volunteering with JRS in JC:HEM, the higher education centre in Dzaleka. If you'd like to read some more of her experiences, including one exciting one about almost being t-boned by a cow, visit her at http://laragoestoafrica.wordpress.com/ and check out her blog!
Preparing to leave Malawi, I'm having a lot of bittersweet thoughts about my impending departure. Things I'm going to miss like crazy (my coworkers, mandazi, chitenge, the scenery..). Things I'm going to absolutely 100% never want to see again (looking at you, massive cockroaches).
There's a lot of reflection going on throughout this process, but it's easiest to start with the more tangible things.
For those of you who know me, I loathe this process. During the career test we took in like 8th grade, that asked if we liked putting things into boxes, my answer was no. And my answer is still no. It always feels like I'm forcing myself into a little compartment, which ultimately leads to crippling panic, which then leads to an adamant refusal to proceed with the task.
Therefore, for future me, or for future ex-pats with the itch to travel to Malawi, I bring you:
The Malawi Packing List
• Two long skirts (Cover your knees!)
• Seven t-shirts
• Two tank tops (Ex-pats are allowed to show shoulders outside of work)
• One pair of jeans (Seriously. It's too hot for them. Don't bring more.)
• Work out shorts (In case of hiking or dance class or exercise)
• Your three second favorite bras
• Lots of sturdy underwear
• Two swimsuits
• Approximately $1500 USD hidden all over your carryon and person
• Makeup and tampons and favorite toiletries, because they probably don't exist here
• Your medicine, including favorite OTC stuff. (Again, doesn't exist here.)
• One pair of tennis shoes, one pair of sandals, one pair of nice shoes, one pair of water proof shoes. (I went for Birkenstocks and Crocs, and got flats here. Make sure they’re durable, because Malawi beats your shoes up! Especially in rainy season.)
• Cards and pictures from home
• An unlocked smart phone with a SIM card (not necessary, but definitely nice to have.)
• ATM card (Make sure your bank unlocks it in Malawi and in all of your country layovers)
• Water purifier – Steripen is best (super useful for travel, rural areas, and when the power is out and you are also out of boiled water/want something faster than boiled water)
• One liter water bottle with a lid that covers the mouthpiece
• Computer or tablet (but you'll have limited internet access, and laptops are easier to access the internet with)
• Sunscreen (the intensity of the sun here is very different from home, and it is super expensive here)
• Hand sanitizer (handy when you are travelling or in camp, not available here)
• Books or digital books (paper books can be donated, and a kindle or kindle app on a smartphone is very portable)
• Jewelry – small to pack and makes you feel more at home and put together
And there you have it. Anything else you need you can get here, and you can get it for cheaper. For what you do bring, don't bring anything you are very attached to, because the hand washing is hard on your clothes. And bring stuff you can leave, because you'll load up on chitenge and carvings and jewelry and beautiful Malawian things that trump anything you brought out.
And I hope you do make it out to Malawi because in its simplicity there is such beauty here. You don't need a lot to feel completely at home and to never want to leave.
Reading through Lara's list got me thinking as well, so here are some of my additions to what she has above! Most of these would have been wants or handy to have, but are not super necessary – good things to note for those of you who are planning to come for a longer period of time though!
• Extra batteries for devices – laptop, camera, phone… power goes out a lot and it is super helpful!
• Headlamp or good flashlight (preferably one that can be recharged) for when the power is out
• Hair dryer and flat-iron if you use them frequently – get a travel one (made for 240V) or you will quickly burn them out (they are available here but are not good quality, and if you’re out here in rainy season, these are a waste of money and space – the humidity combined with the flash storms will nullify any styling you do anyway.)
• Lots of videos and TV shows on an external hard drive or on your computer
• Familiar bedsheets (once again, makes you feel more at home)
• Playing cards and other portable games – fun with roommates, easy to transport
• Favourite teas – basically can only get black and rooibos here
• If you eat a lot of them, nuts and energy bars – can generally only find peanuts here (can sometimes get walnuts and almonds at the expensive grocery stores)
My biggest tip – pack light or pack a lot of things that you will use up or leave behind! You are going to find so many awesome things here, and if you are in need of almost anything, you’ll be able to find it or a substitute, possibly more expensive than at home, but it does exist here! Clothes can be bought in the open air market for really cheap and are from North American second hand stores, or new in some of the Chinese shops or South African retail chains here in Malawi. Or you can get them made by a tailor for pretty cheap. Shoes can be found at the open air market or along the side of the road. Food-wise, you may have to do some shopping around to get everything you long for, but it is generally possible to find everything (things I haven’t found: whole wheat flour or pasta, salsa, corn chips, chocolate chips and roastable marshmallows; rarities include good cheeses and pork).
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.