A welcome home poem from my “Wee Sis”   Leave a comment

For My “Big Sis”


Well, noo yer year is up, “Big Sis”,

 Yer gonna be an awfy miss!

 It’ll no’ be the same wi’oot yer Judy

 An’ yer gonna miss a’ her lovely foody…


The kids ootside, doin’ their art

 An’ the wee nursery one’s, in the cart.

 Saying goodbye will be so sad,

 Hope leavin’ yer wean’s disnae make ye mad!

 (Or break yer heart!)


Goodbye tae Gift, wi’ the big hat,

 Remember on his porch we sat,

 When ye asked tae go tae the loo…

 An’ he asked if it was water or poo?!


On yer way hame – how long will it take?

 Bet ye wish ye were goin’ tae the lake!

 Sina, Henry, Ausie, Joe an’ Snoop,

 Banapaya was a hoot!

 “Otsie maso”, “Nice one” an’ “Sure”,

 Ye’ll find Lithgae loch a bit o’ a bore…


Don’t know how yer gonna cope –

 But, rest assured – there is hope…

 Saturday nights, doon at the Swan,

 We might no’ make it hame ’til dawn!


X Factor, Strictly an’ Dancing on Ice,

 Washed doon wi’ a Chinese –

 Noo, does that no’ sound nice?


Back tae yer wee hoose a’ lovely an’ cosy,

 Yer gonna hae tae support the “Rosey Posey”!

 A new neighbour, under yer hoose,

 Ye’ll hae tae be as quiet as a moose…

 (An’ no’ stomp aboot like an elephant

 An’ make Agnes complain an’ rant!)


Hope yer journey on the way hame is good,

 Don’t be marrying a Blessings or a Masood!

 Enjoy yer travels, headin’ oot o’ Malawi

 An’ behave an’ take care o’ yersel, Fi!


Can’t wait tae see ye – it’s gonna be great,

 ‘Cos you really are my very best mate!


Love, yer “Wee Sis” X




Posted October 22, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized

A great Adventure!!   Leave a comment

A great Adventure!!

Posted October 22, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized

Swollen feet….   1 comment

Swollen feet....

Posted October 22, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized

Joey Special   Leave a comment

Joey Special

Note the broken door at the back

Posted October 22, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized

“And I would travel 8966 miles”   Leave a comment

As I type this I am sitting at Nyamapanda Zimbabwe border control.   On the Joie Special (Special Joey!!) bus from Blantyre, Mariam and I have now been travelling for 28 hours.   I use the word ‘travelling’ loosely as we have spent more time at police checks, weigh bridges and borders.   Unbeknown to us, Joie Special bus is dabbling in a wee bit of [voluntary] people trafficking of folks from Malawi who wish to work in SA but don’t have all the appropriate documentation/passports.   I can now say that I have witnessed ‘corruption’ first hand as the Joie Special bus staff member [job title – Bribe Liaison Person] spends anything from 20 mins to 2 hours at each check filling the coffers of the police and other officials to allow our party through.

The journey started around 8 am yesterday morning when we moved from Petroda Roundabout 5 mins up the road to a petrol station.   A preacher came on the bus and preached [very loudly and passionately] in Chichewa for around 50 mins –this was all that happened at the petrol station…finally on the road.   45 mins later- just on the outskirts of Blantyre Special Joey stopped again at the roadside – this time to fill up with ‘black market fuel’ – around 8 x 50l drums were siphoned and drained into Joey’s tank.

This was the point that I allowed myself to think – Mmmm, maybe this is not a professional set up, we have spent 45 mins in a petrol station getting preached at and now spending 45 mins at a road side getting fuelled up.

We had our doubts before we left Petroda when, after all seats were filled, around 40-50 other people came on the bus as ‘standing passengers’ – “Really, are these people going to stand all the way to Johannesburg?”   Of course they’re not…after a few minutes a 3rd bum was squeezed into each 2 seater space.   I think Mariam and I are the only 2 on the bus who have managed to resist this cosy addition – a mixture of being female, Azungo and elbowing them back off the arm rest if one ever gets the notion!!

So, after 45 mins, no AC and lots of bodies and luggage we finally commence our ascent out of Mwanza region towards the Mozambique-Mwanza border…not an easy ascent as the bus struggles uphill at less than 10 miles/hour.

Border No 1 – two hours from start to finish, managed to access a fairly nice toilet for 50mkw and bought two pink lady apples for a steal (result!)

Police Stop No 1 – just into Mozambique and Special Joey is pulled over – the ‘African Dance’ begins – negotiations in money, hand shaking, animated and lots of raised voices later the staff hand over 300ZAR (around £200) to get us through the barrier.

Police Stop No 2 – more negotiation and more money exchanges hands – all very visible and no hiding…

Police Stop No 3 – just before crossing the Zambezi River by suspension bridge the police pull us over for an epic wait – just short of 3 hours – people were pulled off the bus, passports checked and a heated exchange between one policeman with a big gun but very young face and a Special Joey staff member.   After another significant sum of ZAR is handed over we are allowed to cross the bridge.   A few minutes after this one of the Special Joey staff announces that he is sorry for our delay and that we will have to spend the night in Mozambique as the Nyamapanda border closes at 9pm and we will never make that time.  [This was the police intentions – to keep us waiting that long that we would miss the border crossing.]    “But do not worry we will park at Engen Petrol Station for the night and you can buy food and use the toilet”   Yes, you’ve guessed it – food shop and bakery closed for the night [even tho staff still behind the counter, but just counting up] but did get pointed in the direction of a toilet where I would have benefited from my dive suit – floor swimming with some kind of fluids and don’t think it was Mr Muscle or CIF.

All Malawians now off the bus and sitting down on chtengies getting settled for the night – nsima coming out of plastic bags and bottles of SOBO.   Some of us were less organised and pleaded with the Special Joey staff to take us for food.   Ten minutes later, all back on the bus and back across the bridge we had just spend 3 hours negotiating to get across!!   Sat at a roadside in Tete, we managed to get some fried goat, chips and salad.   A very welcoming bite but took a fair bit of mathematics to get the price right – converting from meticals, into kwacha into ZAR…eventually got it!

Thankfully, a friend had suggested that we bring a bottle of wine on the journey [“You’ll need it, believe me” were her parting words on Tuesday night – yes, she’s done this journey before!]   So, after our goat and chips we opened the wine and shared it with a guy who was also travelling from Blantyre to Johannesburg but he has a flight to catch tonight at 8pm so he has abandoned Special Joey and just grabbed a minibus to Harare then hoping to catch a flight to Jo’burg so that he can catch his flight back to Galway tonight – Good Luck to him!!

Having been promised that we would leave Tete at 3am so that we would reach the Zimbabwe border at opening time, we drank a fair amount of the wine then threw someone off our seat so that we could get one hours’ sleep before leaving [that was at 2am this morning].   Managed to get a few hours’ sleep but the bus did not leave Tete until 5am.   We reached the Mozambique-Zimbabwe border at 9am.   Mariam and I had to pay $55 for a transit visa – “But we are only passing through for a few hours, that is expensive!” [me]   “Ah, you think so eh?   You are very lucky; you only have to wait 30 mins for this visa.   We cannot even get a visa to your country!” [him]   “Okay, fair point, I’ll say no more” [me]   …especially with a prominent portrait of Robert Mugabe staring down at me from behind him on the office wall…

So, through the border we all are and now waiting while a tyre gets replaced, the back door gets welded back on so that it closes and some food and cold drinks.   Oops, just hear engine starting up – hopefully we will be on the move soon…I can only hope!   We have a bus to catch from Johannesburg at 845am tomorrow – will we make it…watch this space…

Now sitting on the Eastern Line train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverly…wow, a few miles have been travelled over the last 10 days!!  [9866 to be precise – just checked]   We never did make that bus leaving Jo’burg on Friday morning.   We spent another night on the bus and trundled across the Beit Bridge Zimbabwe/SA border mid-morning.    At lunchtime, still no sign of movement as one passenger is having problems trying to cross the border – it would seem even the Bribe Liaison Officer and no amount of ZAR will help this time…the smell on the bus is getting overpowering by this point and Mariam and I admit defeat.   We have done well and travelled far on our 25000mkw (£25) bus ticket but it’s time to call it a day.   Grabbing our backpacks, we cross the border independently then find a minibus to take us to Jo’burg.    Mariam and I only had one rule for our trip – we were keeping it fairly flexible about where we stopped and for how long but our plan was to make sure that we always arrived in our next destination  before dark…first day and rule broken!   We arrived in downtown Jo’burg at 8pm Friday night…the minibus driver instructing us “Do not step down from the taxi here!”   No chance of that pal… It’s the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life – the further into the city centre we got the more litter, street kids, gangs, several medical and police emergency response vehicles at roadsides and not a pale face to be seen.   I felt very conspicuous and pulled my scarf up over my face just because I felt that I stuck out so much.   Thankfully the minibus driver spoke to a cab driver and helped us transfer our bags straight from the minibus into the taxi – there were no problems at all but knowing that Jo’burg is the 3rd crime capital world-wide had my imagination running riot…

Getting to our backpackers hostel around 9pm we spotted a Protea Hotel directly across the road – no contest.   After that journey we deserved a treat.   I have never smelled so bad in my life and didn’t realise the full extent of it until we were standing in the Reception of Protea.   [Mariam]  “I hope that is something from the kitchen I am smelling”   [me]   “Nope, that’s us Mariam.   Let’s try and not move our legs our arms too much [reduce wafts] and just shuffle to the elevator and get into the room before they change their minds”

We spent 2 nights at Protea which gave us the energy and encouragement to continue with our journey!   We caught the Baz Bus on Sunday morning to Durban and had a delightful journey!   This is where I pitch Baz Bus for anyone who fancies travelling to SA.   They are a fantastic outfit – flexible bus passes which allow you to hop on and hop off as your journey allows, dropping you off at your hostel, a door to door service, great drivers and very informative too.   Our 7 day flexible pass cost us £110 approx – a great price for the service!   Many people travel alone with Baz Bus and do so safely and meet other folks along the way J

Due to our time constraints we could only spend one night in Durban.   I have been assured that it is a lovely city but since we arrived at night and left early the following morning I can’t really comment…other than Banana Backpackers do have big fat rats that like to travel between the kitchen and laundry room so book elsewhere!

Arrived in Port Elizabeth and felt that I had landed in California.   Beautiful white sands, palm trees, detached bungalows with swimming pools and alarm systems, golden retrievers lounging in green lawns behind electric gates, yummy mummies sun visored-up(i-pod clipped on) jogging along the board walk with their kids in prams.   This was where I felt the real contrast from Malawi – a different world.  I hadn’t seen a pram for a year and forgot that public toilets usually have soap, handtowels and music in the back ground, never mind running tap water!   As we travelled South roads improved, bathrooms improved, cars improved (BMWs, Hondas, VWs), pavements appeared and no-one was barefoot.   Washing lines with a variety of clothing on the line, it took me a while to consider why this was a strange sight but you rarely see a washing line in Fatima – usually chtengies and t-shirts thrown over thatched roofs or hedges to dry in the sun.   I also started to see obesity again…

Talking of obesity – Mariam and I have had every fast food known to man in the last week.   Not always through choice, but because we have spent most of our time on buses we were eating at service stations.   However, I did have my best meal in the last year a couple of nights ago in Port Elizabeth.   Ocean Basket [another plug] – yumm yumm.   Mussels in lemon and garlic sauce 🙂

In Port Elizabeth we had a lovely walk along the ocean front to try and get rid of our flat [bus seat shaped] assess and swollen ankles and managed to visit the PE Museum which was quite enlightening.   Due to time constraints we did not manage to do a Township Tour but, again, another fascinating contrast.   In Jo’burg, Durban, PE and Cape Town, townships were very evident and some directly across the street from new builds and housing estates.   These townships are where black and coloured people were forced to dwell during apartheid – no running water, poor sanitation (portaloos) or adequate electrical supply the people who live in/are born into these communities are greatly disadvantaged and hard to believe they still exist 20 years after Mandela’s achievements.    This trip through SA has certainly made me more curious on the history of this beautiful country…

We drove through Tran sky (where Nelson Mandela was born) – a very mountainous area with beautiful views, clear skies and fresh air – very unlike the ‘Africa’  in most of our minds…it reminded me of the Black Forest but on a much larger scale…

Our last 2 days in Africa – we spent in Cape Town in the lovely Danny Long Legs Boutique (Google it!!) in the city centre.   We managed to visit Cape of Good Hope (most south westerly tip of Africa), Cape Point, Boulder’s Bay (home of Penguins), a boat trip to catch the seals and a mountain bike ride around the National Park where we saw baboons and ostrich.   We reached the base of Table Mountain yesterday to discover that the winds were too high for the cable car to operate…bit of a bummer but being our flexible and versatile selves we jumped on a red open topped bus and did a city tour instead!   And, of course, we couldn’t fit in a wine tour but we did manage to sample a few bottles over the course of the last week 🙂

It was a great way to end our year.   Travelling South over the course of a week allowed me to digest our ‘western’ ways and infrastructure gradually…despite being on a bus for the majority of the time we have laughed lots, recalled our experiences in Malawi and celebrated our success with lots of clinking of glasses and nice seafood!   A fantastic end to a fantastic year with a fantastic friend! 🙂

So, yes I’m now on the train – just scoffed a M&S sandwich and bag of crisps…think it’s time for a wee glass of wine.   Think that I’m somewhere between Peterborough and York so should be in Linlithgow around 3pm to surprise the family – they think that I’m arriving tomorrow…hahahahaha!!

Posted October 22, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized

Show me the way to go home…   5 comments

6 days left in Fatima [now 4!!] …and heavy, heavy rain fall over the last couple of days and more forecast for the weekend – hope the road is okay for getting out!

Finding that I’m winding down at work now…getting slower and slower…déjà vu – was doing the same thing this time last year 🙂

What’s left to do?   Clothes sale on Saturday morning – “All items must go!” (100-200mkw/item) -some spending money for my pending road trip with Miss Nanabawa 🙂

A visit to Magdalena on Saturday afternoon – I will take the soft toys kindly sent by Joanne Robinson for the children as a farewell gift.

Judy and Nyack will prepare the “Last Supper” on Saturday night – rice, dhal and curried pilchards [I hope] – fab meal!   [Judy has been Googling banana recipes since Saturday to see which wonderful pudding she can make from bananas and condensed milk – a wee change from her lovely banana loaf…]

Sunday morning – last visit to Church – will say a wee farewell speech there and take some sweets for the kids.   [Pastor George is writing me a referral letter for a church transfer Liz!! – hope you’re impressed… :)]

Sunday afternoon – party for the regulars – James, Andrew, Mikey, Sunga, Michael, Rod, Lameck, Vincent, Affulo, Robert, Deborah, Mary, Lana, George, Gracious and probably 20 others…dreading this most of all…get a lump in my throat just thinking about it 😦

Monday morning – bake some cinnamon rolls [David Atherton’s Recipe] and take them into the college Monday afternoon as a wee farewell tea for the staff.   [Note to self – must finish packing Monday also]

Monday night – a few stiff brandy and coke’s with Judy   I’ll miss her measures! – And I’ll miss her loads too!   Not looking forward to saying goodbye…but we are already planning our ‘much-looking-forward-to’ day out when she returns to Scotland at the end of January J   Imagine coming all the way to Fatima, Southern Malawi and meeting a gal who lives just 20 miles away 🙂  We’ve made a great house share and I’ll miss our alternate nights cooking and washing up, sitting on the back step blethering and discussing the finer details of the infamous ‘head-to-toe assessment’!

Tuesday morning – my last trip on the Fatima to Blantyre road in the motorised caterpillar!!  Will be crying then too I’m sure…

THEN, the crying stops – Mariam and I have a great adventure to look forward to…and a great end to our year in Malawi.   We came out to Malawi together last October and have become great friends with a similar sense of humour and I love her very laid back attitude – she’s the only person I know that has managed to go a full year in Malawi and been able to avoid completing any of the dreaded VSO quarterly reports!!  I know that we’ll have a great last 10 days travelling – might even be the final, final blog post…

We leave Blantyre next Wednesday morning on the bus for Tete, Mozambique.   We will spend a couple of nights in Tete, in a budget hotel (with a swimming pool!) by the Zambezi Riverside…next stop Harare in Zimbabwe…Mariam is doing the research for this city so can’t tell you much about it I’m afraid!

Then back on the bus to Johannesburg, SA for a couple of nights where we hope to stay with some of Mariam’s family…last bus trip to Cape Town (a biggie apparently – more than 12 hours travelling!) where we will do a bit of sightseeing (table mountain and a wine tour for sure!) before boarding the big “Paraffin Budgie” (in the words of the late Dougie Shaw) back to the UK.

My feet will be back on Scottish Soil by Sunday 20th October – all going to plan!!

Cannae wait to see you all!!!!! 🙂 🙂






Posted October 3, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized

Fatima Farewell party   4 comments


With alice who gave me this malawian outfit as a leaving gift..


Receiving gifts from the students…a bowl from Vincent


the executive choir sing a farewell song – goodbye!


Madame P’s  (the boss) farewell speech


The dancing starts!


A great night..one I’ll treasure 🙂


Posted September 29, 2013 by fionagalbraith52 in Uncategorized