Rory asked me some questions about my life on a tea estate in Malawi. Thank you! Also, check out his blog!
I met Flora in Cape Maclear, a beach resort in Malawi. She wanted to share her experience of life in Malawi, so I decided to ask her a few questions…
What brought you to Malawi?
A job! I wanted to work in hospitality, not in Europe or the States. The day after taking that decision, I read a job advert for “Manager for lodge on tea estate in Malawi”, looked up where Malawi was, applied, had a skype interview, got accepted and 1 month later I was on my way to start my life on Satemwa Tea & Coffee Estate in Thyolo, 1 hour south of Blantyre, Malawi.
How long were you in Malawi?
What three things do you like most about Malawi?
The people. The mountains. The lake.
What challenges did you face living in Malawi? How did you overcome them?
Retrospective, living in Malawi was a challenging time, both professionally and personally. And also really rewarding! Coming from a very different professional background, it was my first time to have a management position in hospitality. Having worked in restaurants, bars, catering, etc., the industry was not entirely new to me, but being responsible for a team of 21 people and the level of micromanagement were definitely firsts! It was tough to become accepted as a member of the team, but with being friendly, patient and trying to include everyone in my decision-making processes, we grew together.
Besides that, the power situation was (and still is) simply dreadful. Load shedding for several hours a day makes it almost impossible to run a business. Mostly we were relying on a generator. Becoming off the grid is an expensive affair in Malawi as importing solar devices is highly taxed. Also, living in a remote area comes with having a bad phone signal and on/off internet connection, affecting the responsiveness to booking requests. Explaining that to international guests who expect certain standards in a boutique hotel like the one I managed was not always easy. Also, staying in touch with friends and family was therefore challenging.
Living in a beautiful house on my own was great, but having neither running water nor electricity most of the time, a leaking roof and the location made it tough! The one hour drive to the next big city was out of the question most of the days after having worked for 12 hours. Still, with time I made amazing friends who came to visit me and who also were really worth the drive to Blantyre! Also, every Monday night, the ladies from the estate and the ones around met for art night, working on our projects, which was good fun. And I started taking tennis lessons. When I packed up to leave, I found a list of things I wanted to improve at the lodge, written in the week of my arrival. I was proud when I could check off all those bullet points!
How does Malawi compare to other African countries?
That’s a tough question! It’s so hard to compare, as I haven’t been to many African countries yet, and the continent is so huge and diverse! But in my experience, people are very friendly, warm and smiling. I always felt super safe. Malawi is not wealthy, but people are extremely generous with what they have.
Why should people visit Malawi?
To hike the incredibly beautiful Mulanje mountain plateau where you can keep going for weeks, having an incredibly well-organised system of mountain huts, guides, porters and of course peaks! To taste some of the world’s finest teas. To swim and snorkel with the colourful cichlids in turquoise Lake Malawi, a worldwide unique ecosystem that feels like an ocean, without salt. To go on amazing safaris. To live small city life in Blantyre, including clothes shopping and bar hopping. To take the 68-year-old Ilala ferry to Likoma island to enjoy some relaxed island days. To road trip on mostly good roads. To discover Zomba mountain on the back of a horse. To spot some incredible bird life. To dance at the Lake of Stars festival. To experience the generosity, warm heartedness, and friendliness of Malawians.