Iris Malina

Iris | In Greek mythology, Iris (/ˈɨrɨs/; Ἶρις) is the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. She is also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky [...] She travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other, and into the depths of the sea and the underworld. Malina | The slavic word for raspberry

Lake of Stars

Kategori: Malawi

The view from the tent on Sunday morning

This festival only takes place once a year, and it was cancelled both in 2012 and 2013, so the incredible timing of me coming here just when the festival happened was just perfect. Me and my newfound friends rented a tent from the backpackers hostel in town and set out for the lake on Friday. The ride took us something like four hours in total, even though it is not very far, and for the bulk of that time I had two paper boxes of live baby chickens in my lap, chirping away. 'Just a minibus full of chicks heading for the festival', hilarious.

And the festival really was right on the beach, with a very (or so I imagine) caribbean feeling. And so was the campsite. Three small stages, a handful of bars serving 'green' for MK800 a bottle (~15kr) and some food and market stalls. Just lovely to dance to a great range of music, whilst having the feet embedded in the white beach sand. The audience was a mix of backpackers from abroad, volunteers and locals. Good times!


I found a bar with my name written all over it!
 Colour explosion among the market stalls
Mafikizolo from South Africa
Felicia, Julie and me!
Star Bar right on the beach


Kategori: Malawi

Lake of Stars
This little baby will give me access to what I hope will be three days of awesomeness up at Lake Malawi. It is a music and arts festival, on the beach. I mean - that cannot be bad. I'm finally going to the lake!

Project update

Kategori: Malawi

You may think now that I'm all pleasure and no business, after all those elephant pics - however not true! I have completed the first two objectives, out of three. The first being a survey of the study area, i.e. the urban section of Likangala River, with observations and photos, connected with GPS-points that I have plotted on a map in Arc GIS, with the help of excellent cartographer Gwaligwali (best name ever).

And yesterday, I set out on a mission to measure the water discharge at the main road culvert, using the super accurate (notice the sarcasm) 'orange method'. That is having a floating device (e.g. an orange, hence the name) travelling down a section of a known length, with a known geometry, and from that estimate the water discharge. I went there on my own, bumping along the road construction site on my bicycle. The spectacle of me walking about in the shallow water, with a measuring tape and a range of floaty thingies, caught the attention of a small crowd! Before I knew it, I had five school children inside the culvert, and another 15 outside 'helping' me!

Next thing is the third objective, which is the actual water sampling and laboratory work, but I don't have to think about that until next week!


Three merry little helpers
Actual progress on the report!

I've got wheels!

Kategori: Malawi


Keen on exploring my immediate surroundings I decided to buy a bicycle, which I will sell later when I leave town. I wanted a used bike, but there was no one to be found, so I settled for the cheapest of the new ones; a Humber. MK23000 (roughly 450 kr), plus assembly and trimmings, and I sat down to watch the mechanics put together my new vehicle. It is a very crude and heavy thing, but it has got undeniable charm! I wish I could bring it back with me to Uppsala, would be the only one of its kind there!

And finally, after an hour and a half, I could zoom down to the college, with the warm wind in my face. And everyone seemed to notice me all of a sudden. I mean, I'm already very easy to spot with my pinkish skin and light brown hair, but this is different. Everywhere people whistling, waving, shouting and smiling. A muzungu woman on a bicycle is apparently a rare sight!


I cannot see the sun for all the clouds

Kategori: Malawi


I woke up this morning, pulled away my curtains only to notice that it was not sunny?! We are in the middle of the dry season, and that generally mean sunny, quite hazy days with temperatures around 25° to 30°C. Funny how quickly one gets used to sunshine..

I also found myself adopting a very different sleep rhythm here, as opposed to back home. When its get dark at six, there is very little to do except watching the odd movie and do some knitting, or reading. So I have been off to bed around ten(!) most nights, and now struggling to sleep in longer than eight in the morning. I did not know I had it in me!


Sunset, and a papaya tree

Liwonde National Park

Kategori: Malawi

This weekend I left Zomba for the first time, to go to Liwonde National Park, just 45 minutes drive from here, up towards the lake. However it took me three hours altogether, because I had to rely on public transport. 'Public transport' being the madness that are matolas, shared minibuses, and bicycle taxis.

So I went to the bus depot in Zomba, and immediately a flock of minibus drivers approached me, convincing me to step in to their vehicle. These buses do not run on a time table, more on a fill-up-and-go basis. So I had to sit, jammed into a seat, for another 40 minutes before finally hitting the road. And then there is stops along the road to let some people off, and even more people on. Four people per row is minimum. At one point I think we were 30 people in there, of which half a dozen where infants. And the police stopped us three times, expecting bribes for overlooking the vehicles lack of warrant of fitness.

And so I got off in Liwonde town, only to be surrounded of boys with bicycles, bicycle taxis, that all wanted to give me a ride to the camp site. That is 6 km along a dirt road, in the scorching mid day sun.

The campsite is called Bushman's Baobabs, with baobab being the huge, chunky, funky looking tree that grows all over the park. The main hut and the 'dining hall' did not have any walls, only a thatched roof held up by tree trunks, whereas the toilets had only walls and no ceiling. All in all a terrifically relaxed place, with very friendly staff and a bar where you could grab whatever you wanted and simply put a mark on a bar list. Flocks of elephants, impalas and warthogs could be seen just outside the camp (with no sort of fence in between), from the elevated viewing deck overlooking the majestic Shire River.

I signed up for a boat safari along the river, expecting to see crocs and hippos. And we did see crocs and hippos, but more importantly ELEPHANTS! Elephants out in the river, grazing the reeds on the river banks. I never even thought one could get so close to an elephant,sitting in a boat! 


The view from the viewing platform in the camp
To young fishers
It is a baby elephant!
Baobab trees, look at the car for scale
The dorm I slept in
I'm a poor lonesome traveller, and a long way from home...
And so the sun set, just before six as always, and the few guests gathered around the dinner table, and later around the camp fire. Beer in hand. Malawians all drink Carlsberg, referred to as simply a 'green', with the closest brewery being established in Blantyre, by a dane who thought Malawi lacked a good beer.

Life is indeed good.


On my plate

Kategori: Malawi

Todays lunch, at the collage canteen. 
I got a question about the eating habits of the Malawian, and what I eat when I'm here. The main food staple here is Nsima, which is the beige lump on the picture above. It is a thick porrige like thing, made of ground corn. It does not taste much in itself, and it is served with a range of different relishes (stews and sauces), which can be based on for example beans, beef, chicken or fish. You may it it with your hands, but that is quite messy.
I have not attempted cooking this myself (yet), because rise is also common and grown in the country. I buy vegetables and fruits at the market or from people selling it along the streets. GIANT avocados, tomatoes, onions, leafy greens, eggplant, potatoes, and bananas, papaya, lemons and melons. It is cheap and delicious, and the market is a delight! There is also Malawi produced peanut butter, honey, coffee, tea and beer which I quite happily indulge.

Not quite zenith..

Kategori: Malawi

... but pretty close.
My stubby little shadow, at noon.
Malawi is situated on the 15th latitude, just below (if north is considered up that is) the equator. This means that the angle of the sun at mid day is pretty steep, but not quite overhead. I keep noticing the length of my shadow, beacuse it looks really silly! We are heading towards summer and wet season here, and it is getting HOT. Thankfully, it is still quite temperate in the shadow and indoors.

Dagens u-landsproblem

Kategori: Malawi


I woke up this beautiful sunday morning, my muscles stiff after the hike yesterday, looking forward to brew some Malawi coffee (yes, there is Malawi coffee!) and drink it outside in the sun. This was however not possible, since there was no electricity for most of the day today. Ah, healthy to get a little reality check, to not take such amazing things as electricity for granted!


Zomba Plateau

Kategori: Malawi

By coincidence really, I met two other guest students, Julianna and Felicia. They are both from London (although Felicia is swedish originally), they will be here for a few months as well, and they're staying in a house very close to mine! I suggested to them that we explore some of the surroundings together, and early this saturday we started with 'the Zomba Plateau'.
Zomba mountain is the blue, hazy backdrop of Zomba town, rising more than 2000 meters above sea level, and 1000 meters above the town and the surroundings. The steep hike took us almost three hours, and when we finally made it up there we treated ourselves with a coffee on the patio of the luxurious Ku Chawe Inn (accommodation prices way out of our range). In the afternoon, we paid a guide to show us the best spots of the plateau, walking another 3,5 hours in the blazing sun. The elevation, however, makes the temperature really manageable.
Waterfalls, baboons, birds and loads of pretty, huge, colorful butterflies where the highlights, along with some nice views of my new home town. Unfortunately, the haze was so thick that we could not se Mt Mulanje, with it's 3000 meters (!!) in the distant south. All in all a great day in great company. And I'm now looking forward to visit Mangochi, Cape McClear, Liwonde, Mulanje, Majete... sooo many places!
Felicia and Julianna next to Williams Falls.
The Emperors view, named after the visit of Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia.
View of Zomba town
The Mulunguzi Dam, from where our drinking waters comes.
Southern region water board notice.
Julianna challenging the locals in chess.


Kategori: Malawi

After a few calm days of settling in and getting to know my new surroundings a little bit, I am now ready to start my research. Yesterday afternoon, my supervisor and I went for a little drive, to see the river which I will study. Ah, the surreal feeling of bumping along a red dirt road in a 4WD, across a mountainous African landscape, and having little children waving and shouting 'Muzungu, muzungo', exactly as I was told they would do. And to see all the mango, avocado and papaya trees scattered over the farmlands.
Overlooking Zomba
And so we arrived to Likangala, a small perennial river. Especially small this time of year, in the dry season. The river flows through agricultural land, down passed the main road, the hospital and through the south part of Zomba where effluents from the wastewater treatment plant join in. It seems like the road works wont be an issue in the end, which is great news.
Likangala River, with some children swimming.
My job is to survey the land use and specific activities along a particular stretch of the river, analyze water samples for physiochemical parameters and try to connect the two. Still intimidated, but I'm starting to feel that I can actually make this happen!
The muzungu herself!

Minor Field Studies

Kategori: Malawi


So to clarify the circumstances to which I am here; I have got a scholarship to conduct a so called 'minor field study' (MFS). The scholarship is from the Swedish International Development agency (SIDA), and the sum is 27 000 kr. More than a hundred departments on swedish universities can issue these scholarships, and in 2014, 775 applications got approved.

The money are supposed to cover (or almost cover) the travel and living expenses (including vaccinations and such) for a period of eight weeks in a development country. The subject can be anything, ranging from peace and conflict studies, to medicin and to engineering. In my case the country is Malawi and the subject is water chemistry, altough the specifics of the project have yet not been decided.

The idea and purpose of the MFS is to offer students a chance of practical work, international connections and to develop deeper knowledge about their chosen subject. And in the process, maybe even get a chance to do some really good research.

I have a supervisor over here, one at home at Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (SLU). Uppsala University are the ones to approve my MFS application and later project report, and SIDA are the ones paying. 





Kategori: Malawi

This little creature woke me up this morning by playing violently with its baboon friends just outside my window!

Surprise, change of plans!

Kategori: Malawi

My little office
The view from my little office

"Welcome to Chanco, home of academic freedom"


Today I got a brief tour of the university campus, where I will spend most of my time here. It is Chancellors Collage, the largest campus out of four, which together constitutes to University of Malawi. I met my supervisor for the first time, Dr Samson Sajidu, and got settled in a little office with a nice view. I now have access to internet, however quite slow.

I got a tour of the chemistry laboratories where I will conduct my experiences. I am quite intimidated, I find chemistry quite hard as it is.. but I suppose after this experience I will be ace at water chemistry! It is a nice campus, with red brick buildings, and it is very close to my house. The walkways around and between the buildings all have solid roofs, and I am told that is because in the wet season, the rain is so intense that otherwise you would be unable to move around.

Not so surprisingly, my project plan is already a subject of revision. The river which I hoped to study is currently affected by major road works outside town, and possibly dammed. In which case, a study there would be a waste of everyones time. I will find out tomorrow, when I will get a tour of the surroundings by Samson.



Kategori: Malawi

This neat little bundle of 63 000 Malawi Kwacha in cash was handed to me at the money exchange desk at the airport, when I handed over $150. Wow, just wow. 


Kategori: Malawi

On the road from Blantyre to Zomba
I'm now sitting in the big house where I will live the upcoming two months. I have a big bedroom, where I have installed my mosquito net (nearly killed myself falling in the process), a big living room and a kitchen with all the facilities I need. The water in the tap is drinkable, but I think I will boil it for a while, at least until my stomach has adjusted to the water quality. There is one more guy from the university staying here, really nice to have some company. And since he is from Malawi, he can share quite some advice on all sorts of things.
The journey itself were easy. Almost too easy. Everything were on time if not early, all papers were in order, the passport got the visa stamp of approval without any eye brows being frowned, the bag arrived without hassle and my ride to Zomba stood there, with "Malin Ullberg" on a sign, when I stepped out of the airplane. Too easy. Except maybe for the scariest airplane landing I have ever experienced.. The plane sank towards the ground waaay to fast, sometimes so steeply that the 'roller coaster-feeling' turned my stomach over. All passengers shrieked of horror, in unison. And when the plane hit the landing strip, it turned over first to the right, so that the tip of the wing almost touched the pavement, and then to the left, before gaining control... My legs were jelly for quite some time after that.
Fun fact; the whole Ethiopian national football team where on the plane from Addis Ababa to Blantyre.
From there, we covered the eighty-odd kilometres to Zomba in a little car. And my initial feeling was, well, very 'Africa'. Red soil, sparse vegetation, small houses made form burned bricks, women in colorful clothing, carring babies on their back and large parcels on their heads. Children running around, playing. Vegetable stalls along the road. And dozens upon dozens of white minivans, acting inter-city shuttle buses. At one point, my driver (which is the head of the chemistry department) stopped along a few such stalls, and within seconds we had six people hanging in through our windows, offering carrots, tomatoes, onions, cabbage and peas to us. A kilo of tomatoes costed me 150 MWK, which equals something like 3 kr. And now I'm sitting here, on a red velvet sofa, with a surreal feeling in my gut and a headache from all the relieved tension and stress, and from the lack of coffee.
I. Am. In. Malawi!

One last Swedish sunset

Kategori: Malawi


The stress (which was really quite nauseating earlier today) are subsiding, slowly, with every successful step along the way. You know, to get on the right bus to the airport, find the right check-in desk, confirmation that my tickets are in order (I forgot to write my middle names when ordering the tickets..), that my passport is indeed valid, that my flight is on time, that no illegal items accidentally ended up in my hand luggage..


And now, I am witnessing the last Swedish sunset for quite some time, from the gate where I will soon board the plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I'm as much terrified as excited!





Kategori: Malawi

It is happening. Tomorrow at this hour,
I will (hopefully) be in Zomba, Malawi. Wish me luck!