Monday, 9 June 2014

Impressions of Mzuzu

Another beautiful day! I decided to stay in the house for the morning to work on transferring the information from hand written books onto my laptop to locate the pumps installed by W4Z. So glad I managed to finish one book, but more to go ;)
I love to walk down the hill into Mzuzu town; the landscape is lush green, lots of trees and red sand. Local people are walking or are on their bicycles. There are cars around, but not too many. The whole town seems pretty relaxed and a brilliant size to stay for 3 months. I’m delighted with it I have to say and I’m having fun exploring all the new things. 
Locals are asking you: “How are you Madame?”. I still have to get use to "Madame" to be honest ;) It sounds so posh, but very cute when they're using it!
First I went into the local market and bought some more plastic containers to store food and other items to protect them from ants. After that I made my way over to the bakery! They have really tasty pastries here, plain and cheap :) Exactly the right thing for me :) While exploring the town I found two more bakeries and every day I’m trying some new pastries :)

Viphya Bakery
I discovered a small little side road, which turned out to be a huge hardware market. I was able to buy a drainage stop for the kitchen sink! Did I tell you that I love to explore these local markets, where you can find all kinds of things :)
The local currency in Malawi is Kwacha and the biggest note you can get is 1000Kwacha which is €2! Can you imagine how many notes you have in your pocket? People with white ski are called Muzungu and so the local actually taught me the word for black skin, which is ‘Mufipa’ ;) So now we can have a bit of a laugh with the locals if kids shouting ‘Muzungu’. I tried it out a few times and the kids start bursting out laughing!
Chichewa is widely spoken in the middle and south of Malawi. But up here in the Northern part the local language is Tumbuka. So I’m making an effort to learn some words in Tumbuka and the locals are all smiling if you use some of them!
 So the last week I explored Mzuzu by foot every day. I did walk many kilometres but with that lovely weather I really didn’t mind at all. But long term I need a vehicle. First I thought of a bicycle, but after being out to the villages I decided a motorbike would be more suitable. So the search for a suitable and affordable motorbike has started! I have looked at 3 already, so now let’s see how much they would charge!
Most of the nights are clear and we have an amazing starry sky! I have never seen so many stars in my life! It's really beautiful and as we are in the Southern Hemisphere, all the stars are upside down from what I'm used to ;) Sunsets here are one of the most gorgeous ones I have seen. It reminded me of Goa in India I have to say. The whole sky turns red.

Sunset in Mzuzu during a walk back home!

Last week in fast motion

I had a great week with visits to government departments, arranging Internet access in our volunteering house, visiting the Women’s Self-Help group for the first time, exploring the local vegetable markets, was brought to a huge water lake where lots of monkeys were out and about. I learned that this lake supplies Mzuzu with water. The monkeys were unfortunately so fast, that I couldn’t catch them in a picture.

Huge water lake just outside of Mzuzu

After several, and the emphasis lies on several visits to the Planning department, which is actually in the Mzuzu Football Stadium I got an empty memory key handed over on Friday morning, which I only found out when I was back home. So another visit is due after the weekend! 

Planning Department
Planning Department Office

Outside of Mzuzu Stadium

Mzuzu Stadium
The Survey Department was a more successful after the second visit ;) I got two maps! Yes, proper maps to put up on the wall and guess how long I was looking for them?! Over a week! And you don’t want to know in how many shops and office I had to go to! Needless to say maps here in Malawi are very rare and nobody is using them ;) Anyway, I needed them for my research to have an understanding where the water pumps are located. One mission accomplished! 

Government officer selling maps 
The next one was to get some Internet up and running in the house. I went to three different providers, which have offices in Mzuzu and compared the packages. It was a mess, needless to say and at the same time I was also looking to get the different Internet sticks (called Dongles) fixed. What a mission, I can tell you! Anyway, we decided on one provider called GLOBE for the Internet in the house. We got a night rate for the house and I decided to get an extra day rate for myself. The antenna was fixed on Thursday, but don’t think we had proper Internet. It went in and out and I can’t even count anymore how often I was on the phone to them. A lot of patience needed and we are still waiting for the final equipment. However, we had Internet yesterday and I even managed to Skype!!! Yippee ;) 

Internet hunting
I also got an invitation from a German volunteer for a school inauguration party in 2 weeks time in Rumphi, which is around 1 hour away from Mzuzu. I will indeed go there :)

Women Self-Help groups

One of the highlights of this week was the meeting with Francisco from St. John of Gods to learn more about the Women Self Help Groups. 

St. John of God Centre
I got a good understanding of the aim, goals and the structure of the groups. It was even more exciting when I was invited to attend the Women’s Self Help Group weekly meeting in Mzuzu. One of the members called Margaret picked me up in front of St. John of God and we walked through a very local neighbourhood for half an hour. 

On the way to the Self Help group meeting

I loved this walk a lot as I felt like I was in contact with the locals and the real Malawi! We came up to a house, where one woman was sitting outside on a straw mat crocheting. That was our meeting place ;) 

Meeting spot
I loved it already. Margaret had organized a translator for me who was a local teacher called Robert. The meeting was held in Tumbuka. Around 12 women were present and the meeting was started with praying. Social things were discussed like visits to hospitals and a planned walk through town to raise awareness and get support for orphans, where parents had passed away affected with HIV/AIDS! I decided to sponsor them and participate in the walk on the 30th of June! They were delighted and me as well :) 
Mzuzu Women Self-Help group
Then the interesting part started. Every woman’s name was called out and each woman paid in the 3 different pots – loans, savings and social funds. 

Book keeping

Payments made
The accumulated money from the last few weeks was given to one woman from the group called Gene. It was a huge sum – 76.500Kwacha, which is around €141. Gene was so proud and had a big smile in her face! She told me that she would start a ‘fish’ business. The group agreed that Gene has to pay back 5.500Kwacha weekly, which includes 10% interest. 

Gene receiving a huge loan
The meeting was closed with another prayer. It was an amazing experience to be able to take part in the meeting and experience it first hand! I was grateful for that and thanked all women from the group in the local language. They were so appreciative :)

Water samples – Coliform tests

The next project was to find a place where we could get Coliform test done, which are not so expensive. I had the idea or suggestion to test the water after we put in a well to make sure the water is clean enough. So I walked for an hour to the other end of town to visit the local Waterboard. 

Northern Region Waterboard

After seeing two different women in two different offices, I finally was in the right place. She told me they are able to perform Coliform tests, however they would charge 1000Kwacha for it which is around €2! That’s a bit much and I explained to her that we are a NGO working with donations. She said she has to speak with her accountant about the price. So far she didn’t come back to me! I might also check out the local Central Hospital and see if they are able to help.

Water pump Installation – 2nd trip

It was great to get out into the field again and visit the local villages. Every village is different, not only do they differ in houses and sizes. The atmosphere in each one of them is different and I can learn from each one. I just try to take everything in and enjoy myself with the locals. Their happiness about clean water is contagious!  There are new things revealed each time. I learned that some villages are actually named after their chief! I had no idea ;) Another inside was that women are not allowed to dig any wells! It was against their tradition! This causes all kinds of problems; as in some villages the men are too lazy to even dig a well for the women to fetch water and for W4Z to install the pump!

Water pump No. 5

Local village waiting for the pump
Building the slab
Carrying the pipes down to the well

Local kids
Collecting the sand for the cement!
Carrying the sand to the well!

Pipe installation!
Waiting for water!
Maintenance advice!
Everybody would like to wash hands :)
The joy of clean water!

Celebration of the new water pump! Watch the video :)

Sponsored by Susan, Bruderherz & family, Poldi, Kerstin & family, Karin & Klaus.

Florence & Kerstin
Florence son
Saying goodbye

Water pump No. 6

Local Village

View from the well
Toilet in the local village
Shower facility from the outside
Shower facilities inside
Old water source!
Collecting sand for the cement!
Local girl waiting for water! 
Maintenance instructions!

More instructions!

The well is almost ready!

Water is flowing!

Celebration of the new water pump! Watch the video :)

sponsored by Begonya, Deirdre, James, Stephen, Gerard, Luigi and Brigitte. 

Water pump No. 7

The local village
Kitchen facilities

Toilet stone house!

Hand washing facilities outside the toilet!

Village life
Installing the pump

Mixing cement

John and Rose having a chat! She is the wife of the chief of the village.

Local families

Excited kids!

Pump is installed by Rose!

Water is flowing!

Locals dancing

Celebration of the new water pump! Watch the video :)

Sponsored by Ellie, Jacinta, Anne Marie, Asia, Aisling & John.

Water pump No. 8

Local village

Local kids carrying pipes to the well.


Locals singing

Local boy dancing :)

Water is flowing!

Celebration of the new water pump! Watch the video :)

Sponsored by Matthew Green.

Now the focus will be to get an understanding of local traditions and culture as well as religions.
 I’m on a motorbike hunt and fingers crossed I will find one soon to rent! I can’t wait to be more independent :)


  1. wow all looks amazing ...can we still donate ?

    1. Yes sure, anytime! I'm here until End of August and will make sure the pumps are installed :)

  2. Hi Kerstin! Das ist wirklich ganz toll, was ihr da macht, großartig!!! Habe auch gerade gespendet, wünsche euch noch gaaaanz viel Erfolg und dir eine tolle Zeit! Liebe Grüße, Tina

  3. Ohhh, das ist ganz lieb Tina! Vielen lieben Dank fuer die Spende :) Es ist hier wirklich in guten Händen und die Menschen hier in den kleinen Dörfern freuen sich so riesig über eine neue Wasserpumpe! Ganz liebe Grüße nach Hamburg!

  4. Kerstin, I am so pleased I was able to help in a small way but compared to what you are doing it's only a drop in the ocean. We don't know how lucky we are. Seeing the smiles on the children's faces when the experience clean, running water is just wonderful. Good luck with getting your motorbike!

  5. Thanks a million Deirdre! Sorry I just saw your comment, which you had already posted 2 weeks ago! Each drop in the ocean Deirdre is so valuable for these people her! Thank you so much again! Going out to these villages and taking part in their everyday life is amazing. People are so grateful for all these new working water pumps :)