Archive for September, 2011

Dry season

Posted in Malawi, Uncategorized on September 13, 2011 by soilplantfood

The first time I came to Malawi, it was the rainy season, and the most remarkable feature of the landscape was the abundance of maize (corn) growing everywhere – planted along roadsides, in tiny vacant lots, in yards, between buildings, anywhere a few maize plants could fit, they were planted. Somehow, this gave the city a sort of grand feeling – walking on a path in a vacant with maize plants on either side of you made you feel as if you were in a large field, despite the fact the maize may only stretch for 10 feet in either direction. Now, it is the dry season, and the most noticeable thing is the absence of not only maize – but any green plant life. Even large trees have dropped most of their leaves for lack of water. This isn’t a drought like that which has affected large parts of Ethiopia and Somalia – the dry season is just that, a season that comes and goes in late November – December. Other things I hadn’t previously noticed include cacti, and this beautiful tree covered in purple blossoms (picture soon). The wind bows dust around in little clouds a phenomena called “fumbey” in chechewa, which sticks to the skin leaving a dry dirty film. Before I left the US, I stayed for 3 or 4 days in Baltimore where it rained constantly, for several days before and after my stay. In many ways it feels like I have been plucked from a steambath and into an oven – except that it is not that hot here – only a few degrees above 80. But my skin feels the dryness. I think I will be very happy for the rains.

For this first week, I am staying at a “hostel” called Mabuya Camp. It offers private rooms for mk3300 per night (exchange rate varies somewhere between mk160 – mk195 per $US), or a dorm room for mk1300. Because of my luggage I took a private room. The accomodations are basic – communal bathrooms and showers, thatched roof on the rooms, simple screen on the windows. It’s not bad, it’s cheap for the amount of privacy it offers, but the lack of a kitchen and the ability to prepare my own food is difficult for me. But! Soon – next week I will be moving into a house with a family I met last time – they are not Malawian – although he has lived here most of his live, but I am really looking forward to living with people. Especially being new.


Back to Malawi

Posted in Malawi, Uncategorized on September 4, 2011 by soilplantfood

I have two suitcases sitting in my bedroom, one at 49.85 lbs, the other at 49.6. Most of the weight in the suitcases is from glass petri dishes, powdered growth media, sterile plant growth pouches and a printer. The few clothes I am taking are crammed into a carry-on bag. The rest of my belongings are packed into plastic boxes sitting in a friends garage, besides my furniture, which I am lending to the person renting my room. After finishing a Masters degree, publishing a paper, writing a proposal and taking my PhD comprehensive exams and orals, I am finally heading back to Malawi! It only took me 17 months! This time, I go for the whole growing season. I will be on my own. I

In less than a week I will land. I am excited, nervous, happy and apprehensive. Since I have left, Malawi has gone through some troubles. There are fuel and foreign exchange shortages, the government is preparing a budget without the help of foreign aid (which made up around 40% of the national budget), and there is concern that this will damage food security even further. All this lead to nationwide protests against the current government in July. In addition, whereas in my previous visit, I was there to watch and learn and gather information, this time I actually have to do something. And while I know, more or less what awaits me, I know that there is absolutely no way of predicting the our path – especially when it involves one or more of the following: travel to developing countries, agriculture, weather, marginally-stable political systems, and/or research. So with that in mind, here I go!