Sunday, July 27, 2008

Llongwe to Mangochi and Back

After I received National Institute Health IRB training I was an official observer at three different male circumcision rites near Mangochi, Malawi this past Sunday and Monday. This project is an official research grant funded by NIH. Due to reasons of confidentiality, I will not be reporting any data or photos about my experiences during the circumcisions. But I will say that any the expectations of what I thought I was going to see do not represent what is currently happening. The boys were between 5-8 years old, so the hope of imparting information to them about AIDS/HIV prevention during these rites would not be appropriate due to their age. My word that I was circumcised, however, was sufficient for me to enter the ceremonies.

Our travels were to Yao tribal villages on the Eastern shore of the southern end of Lake Malawi near Mangochi. We stayed in Mangochi near the point where the lake starts the Shire River, which eventually flows into the Zambeze River in Mozambique. This was the passage way that David Livingston found this way to Lake Malawi, although some portage was required around some falls.

As I have mentioned previously, the Yao people are mostly Muslims due to their role in the slave trade business with the Arabs back in the early 19th century. Yaos settled in the southern part of Malawi and Mozambique. Male Muslims are not allowed into mosques unless they are circumcised so it is an important part of their religion.

We travel to Mangochi through London, Johannesburg, and Llongwe traveling the last 180 miles by van from Llongwe. While waiting to go to Mangochi, we stay as always at the Capital Hotel in Llongwe, now run by Sunbird. In recent years, the hotel has been upgraded with new carpeting and furniture, but wireless Internet access really requires you to take your lap top to sit just outside the business center in order to get any speed.

We arrive on Sunday and leave on Wednesday afternoon for Mangochi, allowing for considerable down time. Whereupon, I indulged in two full body messages on separate days, which rank as some of the best I ever had. One of the reasons is that she messaged my butt where the legs join the hips. This are is often neglected, probably because of modesty concerns, but it feels soooo good. The cost is 3000 Kwatchas or about $21 but you must pay in cash because the spa is run separately from the hotel.

We arrive at Mangochi after dark at 7PM. Malawi is between 10 and 15 degrees below the Equator so the amount of daylight is fairly constant throughout the year. Being winter here, the sun rises about 5:30 AM and sets about 5:30 PM but there is only additional hour more of sun in their summer. The nights are chilly, in the upper 50’s and the days are in the lower 70’s and they are comfortable if the wind is low and the sun is out.

We stay at the Villa Tafica Lodge, a restored mansion of the banks of the Shire River and next to Queen Victoria Memorial Tower and later dedicated to a ship that sunk and the lost of 127 lives.

Looking from the bridge, the Lodge is on the left. Malawi women carry all kinds of things on their heads. It is truly amazing the weight and variety of things they tote.

Some examples

And just below the bridge, we saw this sign.

One late morning we went to Mkokola Lodge on the shores of the smaller lake Mangochi to have lunch. After as hour’s trek on dirt roads, we came to this beach.

This was taken at the grounds showing these beautiful red flowers common to Malawi and a Baobab tree (called the tree of life locally). These trees grown a trunk the size of a Redwood tree, but never grow taller than 100 feet. This is a small one. Some are carbon dated to be over 2000 years old. They are succulents and are only found near lakes.

One of the circumcision villages we attended had a traditional dance by the women starting about 9 Pm and lasting all night. In the morning they were still there and one of women encouraged Judith to dance with her. So she did.

Here are some other village scenes.It's wash day.

The routine when taking picture of children is to show them their photos afterwards and they point to themselves with great joy.

Young girls carry their siblings around just as their mothers do, wrapping them to their backs with a blanket.

The children take care of the young and each other. They are very happy with their lives. Some are mal-nourished however showing signs of being anemic.

Many have not seen a white person and when stepping out of the van they gather round and stare at you. Judith’s blue eyes and hair especially are a source of amazement.

And they have an opportunity to see sunsets like this.

The country side is beautiful and varied. I took these from the van traveling back to Llongwe.

A market along the highway.
Malawi a very poor country. However, it has great beauty which is undiscovered. Someday, the lake front will be developed and the standard of living will be improved. But the people are happy now. I hope they remain as good hearted as they are now.


FredR said...

Terrorism, a form of post traumatic shock disorder, starts with the child. You can help prevent new cases of traumatic shock disorder from developing in the future's society by teaching the value of health. Preventing routine and ritual forced infant and child sexual traumatic shock and teaching children how to take care of their flesh is better than causing it to dysfunction from amputation. The male and female prepuce is a valuable functional specialized structure for enhancing sexual desire. The nerves severed in the process were connected to the reproductive parts of the brain. You know that this causes a disuse atrophy affect involving reproductive brain neuro-chemistry malfunctions developing after puberty. Circumcision should only be performed on fully matured, informed, consenting adults.

Please make yourself informed that the neurological and cellular structures of the masculine prepuce foreskin and gee string are homologous to the feminine labia and G spot. Therefore female circumcision would supply the exact same proclaimed benefits of HIV prevention. It's already happening to millions of innocent little girls in Arabic and African cultures.
Fortunately the Clinton administration got a law passed making female circumcision illegal. So now there are a few young men suing for equal rights protection under the law. And they win, too.

HIV is only known for sure to enter through the blood. The only way male circumcision prevents new HIV infections by up to 50% in men only, is because it removes 50% or more of the flesh of the penis, reducing the surface area where rips can occur while having rough unprotected reproductive sex with HIV infected prostitutes. The proclaimed benefits only apply to men who treat women as if they were whores and sluts, instead of as the creators of humanity, according to the laws of Mother Nature and physics.

Dad E said...

fredr-Chill dude. We are only witnessing what happens and not advocating anything.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Great pics and story - I found Africans to be very warm people, and even envy their non-electronic life from time to time. Their job every day is to get up and survive, so I wouldn't call it a simple life though.

Dad E said...

Without TV, TiVo, theater, books, magazines, sports, and electricity, there is a lot of down time and I would go stark raving mad. But I didn't grow up with their culture which is so much about family and neighbors. I understand why they just kinda mosey along. There is not much to do when you get where you are going, so why not take our time and not anger up the bones.