Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Happy Families

As I got back to the office from the AXA coach station, I saw lots of very proud young people walking out from the Polytechnic having received their degrees from the President.  They were all wearing the traditional academic gowns and mortar boards, and looked great.  I said "congratulations" to each one I saw, which seemed to go down quite well.

The downside was the the presence of the President (or more "importantly" the police on the roads), causing enormous traffic jams, so I had to leave the office particularly early to get to my next meeting in town.  No matter.  It gave the chance to go to a shop I'd been advised to visit to get hold of a good album of Malawi gospel music, so I'm looking forward to listening to that.

Delighted Families
I popped in to Ryalls for a quick drink late afternoon, and it was wonderful to see all the very nicely dressed families out in the hotel restaurant to celebrate their children's graduation.  The Malawis love academic success.

I went over to a family who were just leaving to say how nice it had been to see all the smiling faces around the place, and to ask if I could take a photo, thinking that the two young men who had graduated would stand together and have a shot taken.  Instead, I was encouraged to follow them to an outside spot of the hotel to take a family photo - well, actually a load of photos, including additional ones when the father turned up late.

Nice flowers, too
I've promised to email the pictures to the families this evening. Unfortunately, looking at the photos when I got back to the house, it seems that the centre of my lens was misted up, so there's something of a soft focus look to them. Oops.

Today has been a bit discombobulated.....

So today I had a meeting with a client booked for mid-morning in Blantyre, so stayed at home instead of going to the office so that I could stroll up into town, and then pop in to the Malawi Sun hotel to order a cake for Friday, my last day in the office.  Unfortunately, the meeting was postponed half an hour before it was scheduled, so I just went to the Malawi Sun.  I ordered the cake to pick up at 07.30-ish on Friday morning, and then called Arthur to come and pick me up in Daisy.  I had a coffee in the food hall whilst I was waiting.  He wasn't very long at all, so I left the (average) coffee unfinished and we drove back to Business Consult Africa.

I no longer have a desk in the office due there not being enough space right now, so I perch on the edge of other peoples' desks as best I can.  At lunchtime, I get some cash from Peter and walk along the Chipembere Highway to buy my coach ticket for Monday morning from the AXA Coach booking office.  There was a very loud religious/church event taking place on some land next to the national stadium, with marquees and big crowds.  Turns out it was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a particular church in Blantyre, and it was quite apparent from the noise that everyone was enjoying themselves.

I walked on to the Chichiri Shopping Centre to get something to eat, but didn't find anything that took my fancy, so just walked back to the office.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Education mode

This morning I ran an hour-long seminar for Youth Business Malawi (YBM) clients on the importance of knowing your customers. Sadly there weren't many of them there (around 8-9), but they seemed to find it quite interesting, although getting them to interact was a bit like blood from a stone at first, but eventually they opened up.

There were two guys there who ran a clothing and textile design business, and they were wearing some examples of their products, which looked really good, so I've got their address and will be visiting them to see if I can pick up a nice item or two for David back home. They are also musicians, and so I've promised to pick up a copy of their CD to take home with me.

Then this afternoon, I ran a tutorial for the whole team on how to develop a basic website on Blogger. This was in response to interest generated when we did a proposal for the Government's Business Growth Scheme (BUGS) to design a template and instruction "manual" that Malawi small businesses could use to get an online presence without paying 30k-40k kwacha to web design companies (a complete rip-off).

The feedback on the tutorial was pretty good. They've all now got to get their own sites designed, built and up and running by Friday morning, when I'll judge the winner and award a prize (although what the prize will be, God alone knows).

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Over to Mustang Sally

Rob (left) - owner of Mustang Sally Club
This afternoon, with the others out for the day, I decided to take advantage of the warm sunshine and stroll over to Mustang Sally's to have one of Rob's excellent value Rib Eye steaks from the braai (served with potato salad and salad for just 600 Kwacha (£2.50-ish).

The usual crowd were in there, so we all sat out in the garden area, had a few beers, ate the food, and enjoyed a good chat.  A fun afternoon and early evening.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Got to get the shopping done

Basket Stalls in the Market
This weekend I decided I had to finally sort out what I'm going to be taking home for people, so I wandered out of the house in the morning, prepared to put in a great deal of foot-slogging around Blantyre.

I first went for a mooch about Blantyre Market, which is quite big, and contains all manner of stalls selling everything from 1970s English school textbooks through to second-hand clothes and shoes, to furniture and food.

It's bustling, quite dirty in some areas, but great fun at the same time.

The "Photographer"!
I didn't buy anything, but the highlight for me was one young guy who let me take his picture, and then offered to use my camera to take a picture of me. Thankfully I saw that one coming, and politely declined (otherwise I had a totally unjustified vision that he'd have been off with it faster than Linford Christie).

Then on to Mandala House where there's a crafts and gifts shop called La Galleria. I picked up a few little items here, before pausing for a coffee at La Caverna, a lovely cafe with seating on the verandah of the house overlooking the gardens.

La Galleria, Mandala Houe
Refreshed, I headed back into town, and roamed about, popping into various shops. There's another little Africana shop opposite the Metro supermarket, and I went in there to buy a few bangles. I asked the owner, a very nice young Malawi lady, if she knew where I could buy some Malawi music CDs, and she gave me the email address of a friend who is a musician (I've emailed him and am now waiting to hear back from him when and where I can meet him. She also pointed me towards an electronics shop across the road from the Mount Soche Hotel, and I next went there and bought 4 CDs for 3050 Kwacha (that's about £10) - and they're all good stuff.

By this time, it was the middle of the afternoon, and I'd been on my feet all day, and had developed a large blister on my right foot, so I hobbled back towards the house, and to pause at the Alem Ethiopian restaurant on Victoria Avenue for a quick bite to eat.  I had Zigin Wot (a very spicy beef dish served with injera - a yeast-risen flat bread made of teff flour, with a slightly spongy texture that is the staple bread of Ethiopia).

Then back to the house for a bit of work and a lie down.