November 8-10, 2008
Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi. Our guide book said that there’s not a whole lot to do there, but after two solid days of painful public transportation we needed a break.
Our book recommended a place called Kiboko Camp. When we asked locals for help finding it they kept sending us in different directions. In the end we realized that this is partly because there’s a similarly named Kiboko hotel in a different part of town, and partly because the Kiboko Camp is now called [Mabuya Camp]. The owner (Tim), who is himself a young backpacker type, decided two years ago to buy this place and skip the going home part that comes at the end of a trip. And he renamed it to Mabuya Camp. Another instance where our 2005 edition Lonely Planet was just horribly out of date. We were learning not to trust it more each day.
Anyhow, Mabuya Camp was a really great place. As soon as we saw it we decided that we’d stay here a couple of nights to recover from the long drive:
Soon after we got there this guy Jared approached us:
Jared is a Jew from Los Angeles. He just finished high school, then went on a 2-month army program in Sde Boker in Israel. He loved it. He couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved Israel and how glad he was to meet us.
Jared was in Malawi to teach English. He was the first American teacher we met in Africa, though we met a whole bunch of Brittish volunteer teachers (including those Welsh gals in Livingstone, Dawn and Bethan, plus a gal named Romilly here at Mabuya camp and about 8 of her friends). All of them had similar things to say about education in Zambia/Malawi. Whereas in the western world kids generally progress from one grade to the next on a regular schedule, here that’s not the case – each grade has a big mix of ages. To be a teacher here you only need a high school degree (and sometimes less) so the teaching quality is not that great, and all teaching is rote (teacher writes stuff on the board and students copy). Romilly said that her kids had a really hard time with creative writing assignments like ‘describe your best day’. Some of these volunteers teach in orphanages where tough discipline is frouned upon since the kids have had such a tough life; the volunteers complained that this is counter productive because what the kids really need is some discipline (they don’t have parents to give them that).
We spent a couple relaxing days in Mabuya camp, mostly dipping in the pool and reading books. Speaking of which…what are we reading? I started a separate page where we’re logging our reading list. Check it out and let us know if you have any thoughts or suggestions.
We took advantage of the large book exchange at Mabuya Camp. The thing is, their book exchange library was split into two parts – the ‘classics’ and the ‘holiday reads’. Put another way – the good books and the crappy Danielle Steel romance novels. Ballad of the Whisky Robber qualified as a classic so Pnina was able to trade it for [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy]. But Queen’s Fool was declared the latter category so we had to choose from the bad category. We picked [The Secret Lives of Bees], which was the only title we heard about. It was probaby miscategorized – it’s a best seller.