Thursday, April 28, 2011

Academic freedom, blogging in Malawi, and other stuff.

-Here is a great interview at the Nyasa Times with Boniface Dulani, a lecturer in Politics at the University of Malawi, about his blog and academic freedom in Malawi. He is rather eloquent. The academics at the University of Malawi have been on strike for quite awhile now over academic freedom of speech issues.

-So Joy had malaria again. But she received excellent treatment from the all-Malawian doctors both at Chintheche hospital and at the Matiki Health Centre and is well on the road to recovery. A big thanks goes out to both organizations. The Illovo Sugar Plantation, on which the Matiki Health Centre is based, is a massive place.

-Ranil over at Aid Thoughts gives a little more information on the possible causes of the fuel problems here in Malawi and other things.

-And last but not least here is another picture of one of the beautiful little creatures we get to dive with everyday here on the lake.


I heart Opera Mini

So in the world of crappy internet connections at which Malawi must be
near the center, Opera Mini has come in to save my day. I recognize I
am horribly behind the times with this discovery. I've also found a
way to put it on my laptop. Score!

Monday, April 25, 2011

So after a lot of trial and error our business website is online.
There are still a few glitches to be ironed out but that will come.
We are very exicted about our new venture here in Malawi and are full
of future plans. Check us out!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Forex,fuel, and good conversation

So there is a fuel shortage in Malawi right now. Most people here link the shortage to a lack of forex, i.e. Malawi doesn't have enough foreign currency (basically US dollars) to buy gasoline (petrol). I have no idea if this theory is true, but it certainly seems plausible. Does anyone have more information on this? For businesses in Malawi, mine included, availiablility of fuel is critical. I can't run my boats without it. Most business owners I talk to here think that the national bank exchange rate very much over-values the kwacha. They argue that the kwacha should be devalued. Even sanctioned forex bureaus here are exchanging for well above th 150ish kwacha to the USD bank rate. I suppose I agree that the banks should be allowed to float the kwacha more but I'm not really sure that it would solve much. It would seem to me that there are structural reasons why the kwacha is depreciating that will not change whether or not the government officials recognizes this or not. Devaluing the kwacha would certainly help me in the short term but I've not heard any case why its a good idea for Malawi overall. Again if anyone could enlighten me on this subject I would love it hear it.
Otherwise its Easter holiday weekend and here at Kande Beach that means lots of local city-folk flocking here to the countryside for a little breather. The Malawian middle-classes are growing, intelligent, and increasingly populated by black Malawians. This is very healthy. We are situated next to a lodge that caters for all budgets so its a great place to see all sorts of people. Yesterday afternoon I had a great conversation with a Zimbabwean lady who spent over a decade in the States and now teaches German back in Harare. Last week I spoke with a Malawian travel agent about the rapidity with which some Chinese in Malawi are picking up ChiChewa. And just last night I spoke with a British ex-overland truck driver who now works in the construction business in Tanzania.
There are benefits to living out here...


Monday, April 18, 2011

Showing off and the urge to survive

This is a picture of a cichlid mating area. These depressions in the sandy lake floor are made, and protected, by various species of male cichlids during their breeding seasons. They can be over a meter in diameter and perhaps 30cms deep. Considering that the average size of a cichlid is around 10 cms these circular depressions are quite a feat. Apparently they are used by male cichlids to attract, court, and then mate with their fairer counterparts. Many male cichlids also have brillant "breeding colors" during this time of year. Scientists tell us that these kinds of displays and activities are linked to the universal urge in animals to procreate and thereby ensure the survival of their genetic heritage. I pretty much buy this but its a very unsatisfying explaination. It leaves me with too many unanswered questions. Why do female cichlids apparently like meter-wide depressions? Why circles and instead of squares or rhomboids even? Why is this or that particular color pattern attractive and how did it come about? Did the fish somehow choose it (unlikely?) and if not how did it evolve? How do the males decide how big to make their depressions? Is bigger better? Or are shape and depth just as important? Do they learn to make these holes or is it just instinct?
Upon reflection, considering how tenuous the cause-effect connection is between these bizarre so-called "breeding" rituals and displays and the the will to survive, its suprising how easily most of us are actually convinced that their is one.
I mean really, how much intuituve sense does it make that small male fish dig big holes in the ground because female fish think its sexy? Not much really. But then, absent a a better explaination, I, and probably you too, do think that.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Chimbenje, a foxy cichlid.

Amongst the over 1000 cichlids that populate Lake Malawi's depths one of my favorites is the Chimbenje (Fossiochromis rostratus). In the local language here Chimbenje means "fox." This cichlid has earned that name by being particularly good at avoiding fishermen's nets. The chimbenje generally like to hang out in the shallow, sandy, near shore waters of the lake. They are one of the first cichlids that I was able to identify simply because they are so easily accessible. If you are walking through the water they tend to follow behind you in a small pack because as you walk you are digging up the detritus that they eat. This should mean that they are also very vulnerable to a fishermen's seine net which is simply dragged along the lake floor in shallow water, picking up whatever is too slow to avoid it. However the Chimbenje have learned to actually burrow themselves temporarily into the sand in order to avoid these indiscriminate and deadly nets and thus have earned foxy title. In the picture the blue fella is the fella and the white one is the gal.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We're Residents!

Well we've been hanging out in Malawi for the past few months learning about the Lake, the dive business, and getting to know our neighbors but until just yesterday our business residence permit had not come through. Well now it has and Joy and I are ecstatic. We still have a lot of things to do, opening bank accounts, registering with the tax man, buying insurance, and getting our new flash website up and running which, by the way will be located at
This morning we are off to pick up a couple of divers from the nearby Makuzi resort which is nestled in a beautiful little sheltered bay on the lake shore. Yesterday we had a great visit with our friends Johnny and Adela (sorry if I misspell that one) and their newborn little boy Daniel over at their beautiful horse farm ( just up the road. We haven't taken a ride ourselves yet but its definately on the "things to do" list. All in all Malawi has treated us very well so far. I've been a little remiss in posting up here but that will change.