Grit, Spit, and a Whole Lot of Duct Tape
By Fiennes Tent: Harry Taylor, Matthew Morkle, Kyle Macdonald
Having travelled from Mt Mulanje to Senga Bay, a poor yet picturesque fishing village on the gorgeous Lake Malawi, we started Monday morning somewhat fatigued. Rather than being broken by PT, which seemed somewhat excessive after 5 “leg days” – leaving some members of the group hobbling like old men – it was decided that we would begin the day with the unparalleled joy of writing our journals.
After reflecting on the challenges we had experienced the week before, we then picked our way through the fishermen’s web of nets, watching as they wove together tears and snags, down to ‘Cool Runnings’ (a bar and backpacker’s lodge, run by the charismatic Samantha). This was to remain our base for the duration of our stay. Sam is currently assisting a local primary school in Senga Bay, helping to develop it and supplying a mix of volunteers and professionals to construct new buildings as the school grows and matures. Very nobly, Sam donates 45% of Cool Runnings’ profits to the school, in order for it to possess enough capital for its exponential growth. Sam’s generosity has made many consider how we could give so much more.
During the week, we had 2 main construction projects. All work we did throughout the week contributed towards these projects. 12 Questors were put to the main project, the construction of an eco toilet, where the deposited faeces are used to produce fertiliser for the local fields. One group bolted together the galvanised roof and worked on a way to introduce light into the toilet block. Another group crafted the toilet doors whilst another welded the doors that allowed access to the ‘turds’. Others built toilet covers, while others actually built the foundations, the arches under which the faeces was stored, and the structural walls.
The remaining 8 Questors built the foundation and main structural wall of a classroom for the ‘soon-to-be’ Standard 4 pupils. This wide spectrum of tasks ensured that every Questor had developed skills in areas where many are weak – a major one being brick laying. What was generally very haphazardly laid bricks in the week we were taught about in construction in the first term, was now looking far more professional. This was mostly thanks to our fantastic team of professional builders, who nurtured and helped us throughout the week. It was fantastic to see local people being employed to help out, rather than from an NGO on the other side of the world. This is the future of aid in Africa – helping others to help themselves.
Enhancing our knowledge of the construction industry was by no means the limit of our stay. First we accepted the honour of playing a local team at soccer in Senga Bay, all of a far lesser age than us, yet they still managed to thrash us at 4 – 1…… Showing us that with age does not necessarily come skill (although the game was great fun). We had the pleasure of playing full contact rugby – finally – in the shallow water of the lake. Ecstasy emanated from the forwards at finally being able to crash into each other and after catching our breath, we then enjoyed a game of beach volleyball. We also spent the afternoon on one of our last days there exploring a spectacular island that lay 2km from the lake shore. Climbing, cliff jumping, snorkelling and spear fishing. We were fascinated to see the massive volume of spiders webs (warning – Quest is not for arachnophobics!) The spear fishermen seemed to meet with quite some success throughout the week, with some very substantial hauls!
The week also involved many cultural experiences, from using bike taxis, to buying goods at the local market, to experiencing the fantastic yet hectically different nightlife of the surrounding bars and clubs. We were also blown away by the impressive and superbly carved woodwork for sale in the local stalls. That someone can capture an incredible wild animal in ebony while I struggle to even carve a spoon with tools of far better quality is an incredibly humbling yet fantastic feeling. Sam also gave us a talk about the customs, law and religion of the local people, which contrasted greatly with that of Zimbabwe, particularly how the countries are ruled differently, as well as the history of Malawi.
All in all, the week has been fantastic, seeing a completely different culture and environment to the area surrounding the Quest base, teaching us new skills in construction, enjoying the beauty of the vast Lake, and all in all having a great time! Many thanks to all who hosted us during our time there
It was also this week that we said goodbye to Alex, who we shared many experiences and trials with, including the conquering of Mt Mulanje. With the sponsoring of Quest Africa, Alex is hoping to do something never done before – kayak along all 3 great lakes of the Rift Valley all on his lonesome: Lakes Malawi, Tanganyika, and Victoria. We wish him the best of luck in his endeavours.