Birthday Celebrations & Treats- by RIPPLE Africa volunteer Harry Dee:
When we signed up to volunteer in Malawi, we were expecting a fairly basic and simple lifestyle, in which home comforts would be few and far between. However, as previous volunteers will no doubt testify, the RIPPLE volunteering mantra dictates that the hard work that takes place in the day should be appropriately balanced with quality recreation time in the evening. Relaxation often comes in the form of a well-mixed drink (e.g. Gin & Tonic) and some sort of snack (perhaps Cassava chips or dry roasted ground nuts). As if that is not sufficient, we are then provided with a delicious meal by the local team of chefs: Fabiana, Martha and Geddess. As well as using local ingredients, various ‘treats’ are often provided by Geoff, who arrived a few weeks ago.
Yesterday evening we celebrated the birthday of Triona, one of our healthcare volunteers, and the evening’s events offer a prime example of the conditions we have to endure. Being a Friday, we congregated for drinks at 5pm, whereupon we were presented with jugs of Sangria, courtesy of Geoff, and bowls of roasted nuts. As a special treat for Triona, the local choir came down to Mwaya Beach and gave an extremely energetic and enjoyable performance of Malawian songs, including a Malawi-style rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Not long passed before all the volunteers were dancing away with the choir, demonstrating exactly how little coordination and rhythmic capacity they possess. Having worked up quite an appetite, we then worked our way through an award winning meal consisting of:
-Premium Malawian sausages and butter Irish potato mash, served with ginger cabbage and onion and balsamic vinegar jus
-Chocolate brownie and / or lemon drizzle cake
-A glass of Vintage Port
Needless to say, a fantastic time was had by all, as the photographic records clearly illustrate.
Given the penchant for fine cuisine and exotic beverages, you might be surprised to hear that the current RIPPLE volunteers are also unequivocally focused on improving their physique, flexibility and overall health. If you were to stroll around Mwaya Beach before sunrise, you might assume that the volunteers are snuggled up in bed, dreaming up new ways to provide help to the local community. But you would be quite wrong; they will no doubt be already breaking a sweat at one of the many early morning activity sessions.
The Adult Swim Club meets at the beach at around 5:35am with the members diving gracefully into the water to start paddling towards Mozambique. Recent observations suggest that a skinny-dip policy is observed on Wednesdays and Sundays, although this is apparently not official Swim Club Policy.
If the early morning swim does not appeal, then perhaps you might prefer Power Circuit Training, which starts at 5:40am (also on the beach, out of view of the swim club). However, you should be warned that this club requires participants to complete a gruelling session of exercises (sprinting, skipping, upper body and arms) while other participants keep watch to check you are not slacking off. Whilst in some cultures cardiovascular and muscle-building sessions have not yet gained notoriety as a spectator sport, in Malawi it appears to draw crowds on a par with those of a Champions League semi-final. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the locals to join in in the exercises, making it the most popular of the Mwaya Beach morning activity groups.
On the other hand, if you would prefer a more sedate start to your day, you could join the Yoga Club. This club is described as one of the most welcoming, probably as it is currently attended by only one person and would benefit from some new members. Little is known about this emerging and somewhat reclusive organisation, but observers note that it involves lying on a mat and remaining in such a position for approximately thirty minutes.
Whichever activity you prefer, rest assure that you will not only leave Mwaya Beach with a truly life-changing experience, you will also have a toned bum and tum and the abs of steel that you have always wished for.