Malawi, a Chichewa word which loosely translates to “Land of Extremely Long and Sweaty Bus Rides” hosted two travelers for their term break. This is their story.
The travelers began their journey with a day in the capital city, Lilongwe. They explored the markets and marveled at the strange fruits and vegetables they encountered there. They tasted a local dish, nsima (prounounce see-ma), which is made of maize flour and is a staple in Malawian cuisine. After a day in the city (there’s really not much to do there) the travelers embarked on a six-hour bus ride from Lilongwe to Cape Maclear.
Cape Maclear was a paradise the likes of which the travelers had not experienced in quite some time! They stayed at a charming and beautiful lodge along the shores of Lake Malawi. They spent their days gorging on delicious food, splashing in the cool waters of the lake, and buying souvenirs for their friends and families. They took a boat ride out to the various islands of the lake, they fed fish-eagles, watched monkeys play in the treetops that line the shore, and snorkeled with the brightly colored cichlids. In the evenings, they feasted on freshly caught fish and homemade smoothies. The lake was a perfect place for the two travelers to rest and reflect.
After three days though, the travelers grew restless. What else is there to see in this country, they wondered? With that, they took a seven-hour bus ride to the Zomba Plateau, a region in the south. They stayed at a truly terrible hotel, ate two of the worst meals in recent history, and took off for a hiking adventure, desperate to redeem their time in the area.
Oh! Were the travelers treated to such beauty! On the plateau, they discovered vendors selling sweet berries, which the travelers gobbled up until their stomachs protested. With berries in hand, the travelers spent two butterfly- waterfall- wildflower filled days exploring the plateau and enjoying a break from the heat. They hiked over boulders, through fields, and under pine trees.
On the second day they followed a guide, who along with extensive knowledge about the plateau and the country, also shared a love for food. The travelers were so excited! They wanted to learn more about cooking nsima and other local foods, and they wanted to introduce new recipes to their friend. One thing led to another and it was decided that the travelers would join their new friend and his girlfriend at their home to share a meal.
As soon as the travelers came down from the mountain, they rushed to the market. What fun they had, picking out the ingredients they would need for their evening! They gathered everything they needed and prepared themselves for their dinner. Within two minutes of arriving at the modest but beautiful home, the travelers were outfitted for meal preparations, and they began washing and chopping and roasting. Three hours were spent together, with the four friends cooking and teaching and learning. Such a feast they created! The travelers showed their friends how to cook shakshuka and babaganoush and they learned how to make nsima and banana cake. The travelers were giddy with excitement! They couldn’t wait to try these new recipes back in Rwanda. The four friends sat together and ate and ate and ate until they thought they would burst! They shared stories and laughs and they appreciated the rare joy that such a serendipitous evening creates. When they parted with smiles on their faces, the four friends knew what a special moment they had shared. Though the travelers knew they would not likely meet these friends again, they knew the memory of the evening would remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Having thoroughly explored Lake Malawi and the Zomba Plateau, the two travelers decided to return to the city to prepare themselves for the long journey home. They opted to split the ten-hour travel into two parts, so they wouldn’t have to spend so long on the bus. Little did the two travelers know what was in store for them….
They boarded their bus early in the morning. The bus was relatively empty, but this didn’t concern the travelers. Two hours later, they were still sitting in exactly the same spot. Tired and frustrated, the travelers tried to investigate what was going on. As it turns out, the driver had no intention of moving the bus until it was so full that the last several passengers would have to stand! The travelers were flabbergasted – in their home country of Rwanda, this has never happened. They decided to take action. Several moments of juggling later, and the travelers were doing their best to attract other passengers to their bus. Finally, after another hour, the bus began its journey.
Two hours later, the travelers were informed that they needed to transfer busses. With a final kick in the backside, the travelers sent their bus on its way. They demanded front seats on their next bus and settled in for four more hours on the road. By the time they reached their destination, they had just enough time to eat dinner and dip their toes in the water before falling deeply, deeply asleep.
The next morning, the travelers boarded their very last Malawian bus. They arrived back in the city and stopped by the market one last time to fill up on roasted sweet potatoes, fresh guavas, and one final serving of nsima. The next day, having done their part for the Malawian local economy and sufficiently worked on their tans, the two travelers boarded their plane and returned home, rested and ready for their work to resume.