Assorted observations about Malawi

For aggravating reasons Twitter doesn’t work via SMS here, so I’d have to use a computer to “microblog”. And then it just feels silly. Instead, I’ll just occasionally post lists of stuff that crosses my mind on this blog:

  • Malawian English isn’t big on prepositions or certain adverbs. I’ve noticed the following default phrasings: “Can you pick me?” instead of “Can you pick me up?”*; “Drop me here” instead of “Drop me off here”; “I’m coming” instead of “I’m coming back”. I’m on the alert for more.
  • It is much harder to switch which hand I use my turn signal with than to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road; my windshield gets cleaned every time I turn. Thank God those lovably inconsistent Brits didn’t take it upon themselves to change which side the clutch is on.
  • Making change is a catastrophe here, just like in every poor country I’ve been to – there’s even a paper about it. Half of my purchases involve a set of back-end transactions across a network of up to 5 people to get the right change. How do they even remember who owes whom? What makes this so different than in the US? I have no answers.
  • You don’t get used to the smell of mosquito coils. It actually gets worse with more time. Didn’t know that could happen.
  • People here are nice. Like crazy nice. If a random foreigner walked up to your house and tried to ask questions, I’ll bet you’d shoo him off the porch. The women here try to give me their only stool to sit on and sit in the dirt, and it’s a struggle to politely turn down. Having my enumerator take it is a little better I guess.

*I’m not sure how the misguided prescriptivists who abhor sentence-ending prepositions would even say this.

3 thoughts on “Assorted observations about Malawi”

  1. Mum has been having the same problem driving here in the States Jason…Very clean windshield when we go around corners!!! I remember mozzie coils growing up…stinky..

  2. Having done lots of right hand driving when back in NZ, I can attest to the windshield wiper turn signaling being the hardest thing to remember. Occasionally, you’ll find a right hand drive car that will have the signal/wiper levers on the US side (typically GM cars, e.g. Holden). That can sometimes be doubly confusing…

  3. Last year, one of our enumerators bought oranges for me once a week for two months because I joked that I was worried about contracting scurvy. Malawians really are way nice.

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