Life in Malawi: An Indonesian Perspective (Part 1)


Before I start, I apologize for my hiatus. This blog is a bit abandoned because of my business, lot of things happen since early 2014, and I just realized this is my first post in 2014! How crazy is that? I got plenty story along the way but, the one that I wanted to tell you is just beyond my expectation. Get ready to grab some snacks and drinks! Here we go…

View of Bangula Lagoon in Shire Basin, Malawi. Photo: Emir Hartato (CC-BY-SA)

In the middle of 2013, there was an offering from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) about Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) World Bank project in Lower Shire Basin, Malawi. They need a training assistance for OpenStreetMap, QGIS, and InaSAFE. The first thing on my mind at the moment was,  “Malawi… Whoaaaw… Lot of beaches, beautiful sea, and perfect spot to hang out!” Yes. I though, Malawi = Maladewa (Maldives in Bahasa Indonesia, sounds a bit similar, eh?). Then I Googled about the country it turns out… different thing (please, excuse my geography as I never knew most part of Africa!). But, I’m still excited anyway, I’ve been around Asia, Australia, USA, but never been to Africa. So I applied and I got in!

So, where is Malawi exactly?

In early 2014, I got the update that the project will be deployed in mid-2014. I’m getting very excited! But, it turns out, there were a lot of things that need to be prepared which is hurt me a bit: vaccination. I’m actually believe that whenever people go, there will always a risk to specific disease, but, it’s just for pre-cautious actions. So I got a lot of vaccines before I left Indonesia: meningitis, yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies. One thing that disturb me is: malaria. I hate mosquitos a lot! Back in 2009 when I was dying because of the dengue, since then I want to kill all of them, no joke.

Preventing is better than treating. Other 2 vaccines is on my fancy yellow book!

During the preparation, I also got in touch with my partners: Maning Sambale from Philippines (and I have no doubt about him because I already met him twice) and Séverin Menard from France (basically I comfortable working with anyone but…. Sév, if you read this, I have no offense to you. But you made me worry because I never met and work with you before, so I was doubt! And turns out you’re cool 🙂 ). We did a lot of coordinations remotely by email. Until I left Indonesia on August 8th 2014.

Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok – Addis Ababa – Lilongwe. Ugh, so many stops. But, the flight was okay though so I can’t complain 🙂


The only thing I complain about was, Addis Ababa airport, is soooooooo boring! No free WiFi. I feel disconnected after a long flight. And the way that the ground staff calling out people for boarding was… messy. It seems everyone wants to get to the airplane ASAP like the airline is going to leave them if they are late. Ugh. Worst boarding experience I ever had.

Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is one of the busiest airport in Africa.
There is no free WiFi, at least I can watch airplane from here.

Anyway, I arrived in Lilongwe on August 9th 2014. Time difference is 5 hours behind from Jakarta time. I was arrived in the afternoon. All passengers were not allowed to enter the terminal building, the health department inspecting everyone to check if we health enough to enter Malawi (and not carrying Ebola virus).

Ethiopian Airline park at Kamuzu International Airport, Lilongwe, Malawi

At the terminal building, I was a bit confused because there is no direction where people can apply Visa on Arrival (VoA), so I just lining up with others behind immigration line. And surprisingly….. the VoA desk is AFTER the immigration desk. So they let me pass through the immigration (without stamp, without scanning my fingerprint). It doesn’t take much time to apply VoA, you need to fill some form and pay USD 70.00. After that, I went back to immigration desk to get my stamp and finger print scanned.

At arrival hall, Maning waited for me outside, and Séverin was buying some SIM cards plus credits. I was a bit tired at that moment. Sometimes I didn’t understand either Maning and Séverin. I felt like a robot that ran out of juice! But I managed to get some cash from the ATM and surprisingly…. the biggest note in Malawi is 1000 Malawi Kwacha (MK) which is just about USD 2.5 or IDR 30,000. The maximum amount for each withdrawal is 40,000 MK. I feel rich because I got a lot of notes everytime I withdraw money! 😀

I stayed for a night at Longonot Lodge in Lilongwe, it was pretty decent accommodation with decent price. Still a bit surprised for the price of the food though. Forgive me, I’m a poor Indonesian but 3,000 MK (IDR 90,000) for a meal is just too expensive for me! I usually spent USD 2-3 for a meal in my home country. But, again, I can’t complain. So, I tried NOT to convert everything I bought to my currency 🙂

To be continue…

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