Embrace a Malawian Experience!
- Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa”. As a rule, Malawians are very friendly people. It is customary to greet by shaking hands, of which there are many styles. Sometimes your hand will be held throughout the conversation.
- It is courteous to ask people for permission before taking pictures. Do not take photos of police officers, hospitals or any officials.
- Music is part of Malawi’s culture, with influences from the Zulu people of South Africa, the Islamic Yao people of Tanzania and others. Most of the tribes have their own music and dance styles with locally made drums and rattles. You will experience greetings of song and dance. It is appropriate to respond with thanksgiving and smiles.
- About 80% of the people in Malawi are Christian, with the rest being Muslim. There are a few Malawians who still practice traditional beliefs.
- The native language is Chewa. Some people in the towns /cities speak English. However, most villagers will not understand English.
- Chickens, goats, and an occasional pig are used to supplement the standard dish of boiled cornmeal called nsima. Nsima is eaten twice a day, usually at lunch and dinner, and is preferred by most people to rice or potatoes. Fruits are plentiful, including mangoes, melons, oranges, bananas, and pineapples. Vegetables are not popular.
- Soft drinks are quite prevalent, especially Coca-Cola, fanta and Sobo
- The Malawi currency is called Kwacha.
- Men dress in a Western style, wearing shirts and trousers, women in villages often wear traditional attireconsisting of two or three chitenjes, which are large pieces of colored fabric used as a skirt, a headdress, and a sarong like wrap that holds a small infant on the woman's back.
- It is winter in Africa around May-August. The low is about 57 degrees and the high is about 78 degrees. The mornings and evening can feel cold and windy but the afternoons warm up nicely.
- The overall custom is to dress modestly and a slightly more formal than the US
- Jeans are acceptable as long as they are in good condition. Women may wear trousers or skirts below the knee
- Plain T-shirts or decorative T-shirts are acceptable
- Women dress modestly in Africa. Therefore, it is not appropriate to wear tank tops, sleeveless shirts, deep v-neck shirts or shirts that will show your stomach or back or cleavage.
- It is recommended to wear natural fabrics such as cotton
- It is advisable to bring a light sweater or long sleeve shirt for cool evenings/early mornings. The best plan is to dress in layers for winter months.
- No need to bring flat irons, hot rollers, curling irons etc… One blow dryer per room should be fine. (This is a pony tail kind of trip)
- Men—long pants and shorts are appropriate for work sites. Short and long sleeve shirts are appropriate.
- Women—long pants and longer capri pants for work at project site. Skirts for church should be knee length or longer. Short and long sleeve shirts are appropriate. NO TANK TOPS. Shirts should be modest and should not show excessive cleavage.
- Men and women--Bring a lightweight jacket. It can be quite cool in the mornings and evenings and you will want the extra layer.
- All clothing should be modest and conservative. No loud or “crazy” prints (skulls and crossbones, etc.)
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes. Tennis shoes or boots are good choices. Note that the dirt is very red and will stain white shoes and socks.
- Do NOT bring any gold, silver, or precious stones jewelry. It is very tempting to thieves and pickpockets.
- Put your name or initials with permanent marker on clothing labels to make it easier to find your clean, laundered clothes
People Asking for Money in the Malawi Villages
- When you stop at various villages, it is possible that a child or adult may ask you for money. Or, they may want you to give them something you have. This does not happen a lot but does from time to time. When we stop at a village it is always associated with one of Peter’s churches. Peter will know ahead of time if we are bringing something to give away to the kids and will explain. If we leave something for the village (for example: soccer balls, toys, craft material, DVD’s) it is custom to give it to the head elder of the church.
- If you want to make an offering to the church, talk with Peter. He will connect you with the appropriate elder.
- If you give something to one child and others see it, you could be swarmed by all the other children.
- Talk with Peter, Emma if you have questions at any time. There is a strong sense of hierarchy and order we want to respect.
Responding to Beggars in General
- Many of the world’s poorest are children. Their needs are tremendous, and the desire to meet those needs is strong. But we absolutely cannot give to beggars. In many countries, giving to one will start a riot. In other countries, giving a piece of candy to a child in the clinic may be viewed as an attempt to bribe the child and can infuriate the parents. So please, do not give to beggars.
- You will be traveling to a third world country that is as far away from the American way of life as you can get. Developing countries tend to move on their own time table and this can be a great annoyance to Americans. Please prepare yourself to “go with the flow”. There are many times we may hurry up only to wait. Traffic, schedules, people emergencies often get in the way. And, if we do arrive on time, chances are the person we are meeting won’t be on time.
- While in Malawi we stick to a tighter timeframe but there are still probabilities of running behind. We often find Peter hurrying us up so we can meet our next commitments.
- The days will be long and full. Please pray for God’s patience and grace.
- Respect the culture and laws of the country
- Respect your group leader(s) and the others in your group
- Show grace to one another and be patient
- Stay with the group, if there is a group
- Communicate any injuries, illnesses, fears or concerns to a leader
- Help each other
- Always be on time and listen carefully to instructions
- Suffer a little and avoid complaining too much.
- Enjoy the blessings of traveling together
- Pray for one another Thank you, Chuck Wolfe!