Thursday, March 24, 2011

Internet is up.

So we've finally managed to get some internet up here onto our laptops. Its not lightning speed but it works. No more needing to update via my phone. I'll also be able to keep up on the news a bit better so expect more frequent postings.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NGOs in Malawi: part 1

So I took the director of an NGO diving the other day. His
organization has operations in several countries but he said that
working in Malawi is the worst. When I asked why he said there was
simply "no follow through." . In the late 90s he had actually pulled
out of Malawi but had decided to return in the early 2000s. This NGO
does mostly agricultural development projects that are, crudely
speaking, pro-compost and anti-Monsanto. He called the Malawian
government's food subsidy program "dangerous."
I've already talked about my thoughts on that particular program. In
this post I'm more interested in why many NGOs in Malawi are
frustrated these days. For this director is not the only one
experiencing difficulties. Last month many Aid agencies started
cutting their funding to Malawi because they too are frustrated.
In a series of posts . I will try to talk about some of the possible
causes, and my opinion of their likelihood, for this frustration
ranging roughly from "its their own fault" to "its Malawi's fault."
and finally to "its nobody's fault.

Friday, March 11, 2011


So I bought a refrigerator in Lilongwe at Game. I was happy to see
that they could deliver it. They said it would take two or three days,
maximum a week. Its now been close to two weeks and still no
refrigerator. So I called up Game. After several callbacks I learned
that it is in Mzuzu but the delivery truck is broken. So I ask when I
will recieve my refrigerator. The lady working for the delivery
company proceeds to go into a long explaination about why the truck is
broken but assures me my refrigerator will arrive the following day.
It doesn't.
This is of course frustrating but also interesting, maybe, culturally.
From my (Western) point of view explainations as to why I have not
recieved my refrigerator which do not include a specific ( and
believeable)date when I can expect to recieve it are not comforting,
and indeed decrease my confidence in the company's competence.
But perhaps from a Malawian perspective explainations and appealing to
reason, rather than fulfilling obligations is seen as more important.
Certainly my impatience with hearing such explainations was not
recieved well by the lady on the other end of the phone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mwana palibe

In "The Nation" newspaper here in Malawi today there is an interesting
article about a cultural belief held by some in Malawi called mwana
palibe. According to the article couples who follow mwana palibe
should not have sex during the day if their children are not at home
nor should they have sex at night unless all their children are asleep
at home. If they do have sex outside of these times, then it is
believed that their children will become violently ill.
I'd like an anthropologist to explain this one to me.
On the other hand, publications do a disservice both to Africans and
their readers when they highlight the exotic or "wierd" aspects of
African cultures above those aspects that are more mundane and
therefore common to all cultures. The most common reaction to Africa
that I hear from travelers coming through our little home on the lake
is not how wierd and unfamliar it is but how accessible and "normal"
everything is. The point is not that difference is bad but that it is
usually exagerrated and that we should be suspicious of the reasons