Before traveling to Malawi I was advised to not go during the rainy season because the rains can cause cancelled flights and I could end up stuck there. After my first trip to Malawi, I learned that being stuck in Malawi would be a dream come true. I scheduled a trip to Malawi in January 2019 and decided to stop and go on a safari in Zambia and to test the driving route from Zambia to Malawi for my team to have as an option that summer.
I remember saying out loud every day, “please let me get stuck here!”…hoping that by putting it out there in the universe it could help make it happen. One of these trips, I hope it does:)
The lions were very active. We saw them everywhere. They would nap in the middle of the road and did not care that we were so close…they slept and looked so peaceful. I have gotten to know some of the guides now and know that I am in really good hands, so I am never worried.
Safaris in the rainy season, or emerald season, are incredible. I really didn’t know that safaris could be any better than the ones I had already been on….I was wrong. Yes, it rains; it rains a lot! Yes, you get wet…there are some really cute rain boots I can recommend to help you get beyond that concern. It is cooler on the drives…I am freezing if it is 65F, but I always pack for being cold to prepare for the 24 hours of flight time on freezing cold planes. The skies are gray, but it helps create perfect lighting for photos, especially for beginners like me.
Driving around in a vehicle that feels like it is designed for military travel eliminates my fears. Many of the roads have been turned into rivers and we had to take alternate routes sometimes for safety reasons. I am a lot more cautions when I take my daughter, and on this trip she was not with me…it allowed for a little more adventure.
The animals are so much more active and they really stand out with the beautiful green backdrop. We were almost plucked out of the back of the jeep once by an elephant, ok, I might be exaggerating a little but it would have been a very cool story to tell:).
I can’t remember the name of these small antelope. On my first safari, the guide told me they were lion “fast food” and that I would always be able to recognize them by the subtle “M” marking on their backside. Since then I have not been able to recall their actual true name…but I always recognize the “M”.
I am so ready to go back and see them all.
We always stop to buy apples from local vendors and then share them with kids. Since we are buying large quantities, we try to buy some from each of the street vendors. It is fun to divide up and buy 50 apples from each one. It feels a little more fair than to buy them all from one vendor. Sometimes we buy other fruits to go along with it, but apples seem to always please the kids.
While working at the clinic the children attending school nearby would come and visit with us. We would have many different groups gather to do different activities. Some would play football, others would share songs and dance moves and others would use bubble wands. I am not sure who has more fun – the children or my team. It is such a fun way to spend time with the kids. By the end of the trip we have all grown pretty attached. The kids are amazing: so happy, welcoming and fun!
After games we would ask the kids to make a giant circle and then sit on the ground while we would hand out the apples without any issues. Other groups have gone and complained of the chaos, but we have always had great success! They are always so appreciative of the treats. We have also handed out glo sticks that were donated. I usually prefer to hand out items of more meaning, but the children always seem to enjoy whatever we bring.
I am so ready to go back and share apples.
My favorite water bottle to use during my trips is this Seychelle bottle. We buy them from Amazon for abut $35USD and it is worth every penny.
During my first trip we used bottles of water that we purchased in country. Hydration is key for my teams as we do hard physical labor in the heat all day. Water born illnesses can really ruin a trip and create all kinds of issues we don’t want to have, especially in a foreign country. Using these water bottles was convenient and helped prevent the illnesses, but created other problems. The children would see the bottles and come running and begging for them, sometimes trying to look through the garbage to find them. Village leaders had asked us not to give the bottles to the children, so it created a lot of sad faces. We did refill the bottles as much as possible, but with a large team using water bottles for a week it created a lot of waste. The footprint we were leaving was not what I wanted. I love learning from mistakes and finding better options.
After that first experience, we switched to the Seychelle bottles. The filtration system in the bottles allowed us to fill the bottles from the village boreholes. This made drinking clean water so much easier. When we would travel to other villages, we could simply fill our bottle and go. They will clip easily onto a daypack or belt making it easy to always have it available. When we would tour or travel in country, we would then be able to fill our bottles with water from boreholes the prior year’s team had donated. We also use these bottles when we go to the safari. It was a great win/win solution. I now use the same water bottle on hiking, kayaking and other outdoor experiences because I know I will allways have clean water.
How cool is it that we are building a house together while in this COVID experience!?! We might not be able to travel, but we are definitely helping an incredible family survive, build dreams, and take care of others. This house will provide more than just a shelter for this family. Things are really coming together! They are finishing the toilets today. This week they will be plastering the interior and doing the concrete flooring. Even with all the set backs, he is working hard to finish it up! Thank you to everyone for all of your support and continued donations!!!❤️Together we are making a difference for this family❤️
I look back to my first trip of solo international travel and remember how afraid I was. I had been asked to travel to Singapore to teach a leadership session – alone. I felt like an imposter as I planned my trip. I acted like it was no big deal, but inside I was quite nervous. My friends, who had never travelled, told me how brave I was and then told me about every terrible experience they had ever heard about. They tried to convince me to find a way out or send someone else. I continued the facade and told myself and others how I was not afraid, this was no big deal, and then would spend hours researching everything I thought I should know before I went, trying to lessen the fear and anxiety.
My first solo flight was when I was about 10 years old. I was not afraid at that time, just excited to go. Right after graduation, I moved alone from the east coast of the US to the west. I don’t remember being afraid. Maybe it was simply that I had no idea anything could go wrong in life…I was naive.
Why was I so afraid now?
When I arrived in Singapore, I joked that I had found heaven…it was hot, humid and crowded with so many people. I fell in love with international travel.
I am not sure what created that fear, but I do know that by finding the courage to go alone on that trip long ago taught me to find courage to do so many other difficult or frightening things. I focus on having an open mind, learn all that I can about it, and then move forward.
What do you fear and how do you find courage?
On my very first trip to Malawi, I learned of a farmer with albinism named Douglas. He went through the agriculture training the year before. I was told by the leaders at the school that they were concerned about the farmer after he returned to his home village. I learned that people in Malawi with albinism are treated poorly. There is a belief that the bones of these people are used in witch craft ceremonies. Body parts of these individuals are often sold for thousands of dollars. Attacks have happened on people – men, women and children – while they were sleeping. I was absolutely in shock. This had to be one of the most horrifying stories I had ever heard. Life in the village, actually anywhere in Malawi, was risky for them. They were always watching their back, and relied on their fellow villagers to look out for them too. There is constant fear that someone would be willing to do anything for money, so even amongst their own villagers, they never feel completely safe.
We asked what we could do to help out. We were told that a water well (bore hole) could potentially help him to be seen as a valuable contributor to his village. Without hesitation, we said we would pay for him to have a borehole, if we had to pay for it out of our own pockets. The thought of coming up with that much cash in a few months felt a little stressful, but we knew no matter what we would make it happen. We came home and shared the story and in a matter of 2 days had enough money to pay for the well.
Douglas invited me to bring my team to visit him on our next trip. It was an incredible experience to see how successful he had become.
Having the water well near his house made it possible for him to have a wonderful rotational garden that supplied his family with fresh vegetables all year. Having the well also made it easier for the entire village to access the clean water. Women and children would now collect the water they needed for their daily living from this new water well. This saved them many long trips to their prior water source, which was a very shallow, slow moving stream about 3 km from their house.
I check in to see how Douglas is doing every year, and am so happy he continues to do well.
I love growing and harvesting food. I love preserving food, so when we visit villages and learn about their processes I come home inspired and ready to do more.
Each village prepares a short presentation to show us what they have accomplished over the past year. I love learning about the food they grow, harvest and preserve.
This village was using a new technique to remove the maize kernels. I was amazed at how quickly they could remove the kernels with their thumbs. I tried and struggled with the process. Then they showed us how much faster it was to use the tool they had made from PVC pipe and specifically spaced screws. This little innovation was proving to be very helpful in their process of preserving the maize. I love learning new things, but even more than that, I love feeling the excitement and energy they have as they share what they have learned.
Every visit to Malawi is one of the best ways to feel completely welcome and loved. I meet so many new people each trip and feel like I leave with friends for life.
This is something I have tried to incorporate into my experiences when I meet someone new. Adding a little more kindness in simple ways.
I love to set the challenge for myself to see how many new people I can meet each week.