Day 1

Thursday, February 4, 2010
I arrived today! And Malawi is beautiful. As we descended through the cloud layer and neared Lilongwe, the first thing I noticed was ho absolutely green everything was. It makes sense, we are in the rainy season and this area has been receiving regular rainfall since November, making the whole countryside lush and verdant. The second thing I noticed was that absolutely every inch of land I saw was farmed. Tiny little 1 – 2 hectare farms covered the landscape, leaving way only to homes and villages, which seem to be small and frequent. We landed early and were rushed through customs because the president was also arriving today and the police and other officials wanted to be ready for that. They had rolled red carpets along the run-way and had a small stand up waiting to greet him. He was just elected as President of the African Union, beating out Omar Kadafi He is very popular both among Malawian’s and abroad – and most of it has to do with the fertilizer subsidies.

Seig met me at the airport and we got into a British style truck (steering wheel on the right side – drive on the left), and were then detoured to avoid the presidents impending motorcade. On the way back into the city I confirmed what I had noticed from the air: Maize is planted EVERYWHERE – along roadsides, in gardens, next to grocery stores and shops. While the Midwest my get fantastic yields, it seems that Malawi is determined to make up for that on sheer persistence. Besides maize, the rest of Malawi’s agriculture is similar to that of North Carolina: tobacco, peanut (groundnut), cotton and sweet potato round out the bulk of the crops. One can also buy fresh bananas and mangoes – as we did this afternoon, but I have yet to try them to see how good they really are.

Despite these treasures, it is evident that this country is very poor. Roads are pot-holed, few people seem to have a full set of teeth, at any turn someone will approach trying to sell something and the site of someone walking 50 lb sacks on bicycle seats is common

Seig is a professor from Michigan State University – She worked and lived here in the 90’s after Banda was deposed. Sometime during here stay here she and her partner adopted 2 little girls, who have since lived in the US. She is here on a sabbatical for the year with the 2 daughters who are new 13 and 14 and in the equivalent of 8th grade. I am staying in one of their rooms so I awake in the morning to posters of Twilight and Taylor Lautner. They go to the international school and last night – though exhausted I quizzed them on their French homework.

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