Last night we had our first Malawian meal and it was surprisingly good! Chicken with some rice and leafy greens, and then the most delicious bananas. The bananas here are about half the size but five times sweeter than bananas at home. After dinner we all hungout in our rooms and were passed out asleep by 9:30 pm. It was a long day! This morning we woke up at about 8 am, had eggs and pineapple juice for breakfast and then headed to Freedom Gardens about 30 minutes away from Lilongwe. I really didn’t understand what we were going into, and it wasn’t something I would seek out on my own, but it was so inspiring and greatly informative. Freedom Gardens is the only land in Malawi that uses sustainable farming. A lady in her 50’s owns the land with her son, Daniel, who is 24 and went to college in Africa. Daniel now runs the land and gave us an amazing tour of the 25 acre property, which was initially sold to them from the government as a “wasteland”. Daniel’s parents believed that they could turn things around, so they took the land and “started small”, hoping to learn through trial and error to become a successful sustainable property. Daniel showed us the natural ways of composting, by recycling all the old branches and leaves and putting them in a 4 foot pit where everything eventually decomposes and can be crushed into soil. By recycling vegetation like this, you not only are helping the environment and being sustainable, but you are producing richer soil for your crops. Then we were shown techniques to make your own pesticides which do not kill the good nutrients that soil fertilizes. These integrated pesticide management techniques, such as “hedging” and crushing certain leaves and crops and mixing it with water, are ways to work towards sustainability. Lastly, we learned about water harvesting with a natural irrigation system. In the middle of the property was a huge pit that collects rain and is stored during the dry season. Because the pit is underground, the water is then immediately dispersed to the surrounding trees and plant-life. All of the natural irrigation systems were somehow inter-connected to eachother through pipes or man-made holes. The whole day was very inspiring for these people coming from nothing still have the determination to work towards sustainability, and are actually brilliant agricultural individuals.
After our three-hour tour, we were served another home-cooked Malawian meal, but this one I was not a fan of since we saw and heard them slaughtering the chickens. Yuck. Thankfully Anna brought PB crackers so I had those which held me over. We left Freedom Gardens around 4 pm, and this is when we experienced the highlight of our days. As we were pulling out from the property, some of the workers children started sprinting after our bus screaming things (we think they were asking for money). Either way, they were absolutely adorable and were keeping up with the bus for a good 5 minutes. Anna then decided to throw two packs of fruit snacks out of the window, and the kids started going crazy! One of the professors from UN A&T had a huge bag of “Cracker Jacks” in her bag, and followed by throwing those out the window. The children all raced to the bag and the little boy who got to it first started screaming and held it up in the air like a trophy. It was the most adorable and funniest thing I have ever seen, and that’s how every day will be like once we get to the schools in Zomba!
On our way home, we stopped downtown at the “black markets”. SCARY. It was literally unlike anything I have ever seen before, and I wanted to videotape it but my camera died. Party fowl. The second the bus pulled into the circle, we were bombarded by people trying to sell us things. I had experienced this in Jamaica before, but the marketers and beggars are on a completely different level. It was humorous at first, but then it just got kind of uncomfortable. Thankfully, the market in Zomba is not nearly as intense, but Dr. Kelly wanted us to experience it so we had somewhat of an idea of how the market works. They did have pretty culturally unique items, so I definitely will be buying stuff at the Zomba market. Now, we are back at the lodge (the power just went out) and we are leaving for our “special party” at 6:30. We have no idea what this consists of exactly, but Peter planned it and sent out invitations to locals, exc. It is outside the premises of the lodge, and we were told to dress up and there will be a buffet dinner (nervous) but that is all we know. We are all joking that we are going to Madonna’s house, because Dr. Kelly said once we find out the place we’re going, we will have heard of it from the news. However, for those of us who don’t watch the news, I might still have no idea where we’re going. Either way, I will obviously be taking a lot of pictures and will upload them later tonight when/if the power comes back on. Tomorrow we head to Zomba where we can finally unpack and get settled in; I am so excited!! Touch base later.