We moved to a new campsite on Lake Malawi for two nights. Lake Malawi is huge and looked more like an ocean than a lake. Unfortunately, we had been warned by a number of different sources that the water in the lake contains a parasite. Thus, we decided not to swim or even shower while we were in Malawi (the water for the showers was pumped straight from the lake).
We were able to do a little bit of shopping just outside our campsite. During our shopping there, we learned a lot about the tactics of some of the desperate salesmen. Frequently used lines such as that the price offered was merely "out of friendship," "looking is for free," or that we should buy something from them so they could buy breakfast (otherwise they will starve).
I was able to barter with a couple of the salesmen. I had a pair of speedo swim trunks that some of the street vendors were interested in. Trading in the swim trunks, I was able to get a substantial discount on a chess set I was interested in.
The cultural village walk the next day was interesting, but felt like a salespitch most of the time since almost every place we stopped asked for donations. As soon as we exited the campsite two people from the village attached themselves to each of us and started telling us about life in the village and answering all of our questions. We were all a little confused why they were doing this, but we later found out that they were souvenir salesman hoping to get us to buy something at the end of the tour.
When we actually arrived at the village we were surrounded by little children who held our hands and asked us to take their pictures. They especially liked those of us with digital cameras who could show them their picture. Several of the little girls would start giggling hysterically whenever Heather showed them their picture. The kids were really cute and it was hard to see them with their tattered clothes and dirty faces. I wish there had been something more meaningful we could have done than hand out pens or candy or take their pictures.
After visiting the home of a villager, we stopped at the hospital where the local assistant doctor discussed the medical struggles of the area. He is in charge of the local clinic, but because he is an assistant doctor he can't perform many routine procedures. People have to travel to the hospital, which is over 50 miles away for any services that the clinic cannot provide. Unfortunately, most of the local people do not have cars to travel such a long distance to visit the doctor. One statistic I heard was that there is only 1 doctor for every 50,000 people in most of Africa. In fact, at one point in our safari, we gave a ride to a sick native to the hospital.
Next, we visited the primary school. Nobody was there since it was a Sunday, but the headmaster came in to ask for donations. As they explained the donation system, we didn't exactly have a lot of confidence in getting money in the mail to Malawi because of corruption. (Of course, you shouldn't send cash in the US mail system either as it is likely to not make it to its destination.)
We finished the tour with a visit to the Roman Catholic church. This was definitely the highlight of the village walk. The singing was incredible with the congregation clapping and dancing as they sang. It really was a treat to watch--I wish I had had a video recorder. We stayed for part of the sermon given in the local language (Chichewa I think). We felt bad intruding on their services like that, but they didn't appear to mind too much. Towards the end the preacher pointed to us and the entire audience immediately turned around, looked at us, and chuckled. We're not sure what they said, but I had the distinct impression we were being made fun of!
After the final salespitch by our initial tour guides I just wanted to get back to camp. Most of us managed to escape the tour without buying anything. Of course it helped that most of us didn't bring any money at all on the tour!