After nearly 40 hours of continuous travel through three countries, including 3 flights, 2 (long) layovers, and a volcano scare, I’ve finally made it to Blantyre, Malawi, where I’ll be working on my summer internship. Jet-lagged and confused, I landed in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, where I met a staff member from the Malaria Alert Center who happened to be in Lilongwe for sample collection and drove me down to Blantyre.
The road from Lilongwe to Blantyre was technically a highway, but not what you or I think of as a highway. Highways in Malawi are used by everyone – pedestrians and bicyclists often outnumbered the cars, and as it got darker I began to realize why traffic accidents are a leading cause in sub-Saharan Africa (hint: horns are not always effective at getting a cyclist or pedestrian to scoot over quickly). Most stalls, selling everything from fruit to cell phones to birds on a stick (fun fact: you can buy 5 roasted birds for 100 Kwacha, less than a dollar) set up right along the roadside – there are no real exits or even places to pull over safely off the road.
The scenery was amazing. What struck me first is how different everything is – the crows here have a white torso, but otherwise look like the crows at home and the trees look different, although I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. The daily life in Malawi is, obviously, very much not like that in America, and it’s easiest to see in how young the population is (most people look to be younger than 25) and by how much work the children have to do. I saw at least 20 kids under the age of 8 herding goats and cattle on the side of the road – one 6-year old was able to herd 20 cattle with just a stick and lots of running. So after the trip, I’m finally settled in to the guesthouse in Blantyre and ready to start my summer internship – I can’t wait.