Tag Archives: language

Day 5: Chatuchak weekend market

for sale

for sale

Saturday morning we headed out, via taxi (upside of taxis in Bangkok: even an hour-long taxi ride can be as little as $1-2. Downside of taxis in Bangkok: sometimes, due to the excessive amounts of traffic, it is an hour-long taxi ride to go a few miles.) to the Chatuchak weekend market. Imagine a cross between a giant flea market and a sauna.

Everything is for sale at the Chatuchak market. Everything. Food (both to eat there and to take home to cook), pottery, Hello Kitty-esque umbrellas, clothing of all sorts, puppies, furniture, massage oil, antiques, plants…

It’s also FULL of people, locals and tourists alike. So, with the already hot and humid temperatures in Bangkok, plus the mass of humanity, and the occasional plastic tarp-roofed aisle ways, though it makes for some good bargains, it also makes for some sauna-like conditions.

I did manage to learn a few new Thai phrases in one of the shops where I stopped to bargain over a souvenir gift. One of the ways that I enjoy interacting with people when I am visiting their culture is to ask them to teach me some words in phrases. Without fail, in more developing countries, this has gotten a warm and friendly response.  It hasn’t worked so well for me in Paris.

Here are a few of the phrases (apologies for my weak attempts at phonetic spelling):

  • Kun sabay di may:  How are you?
  • Sabay di ka/kap: Fine thank you. (women say ka, men kap)
  • Tao lie:   How much is this?
  • Kun chil at lai: What is your name?
  • Chan chi: My name is

Muli Bwangi from Malawi!

Muli Bwangi from Malawi!

Muli Bwangi is the standard greeting, and means ‘how are you?’ Your answer, just in case anyone ever asks you, is ‘dili bwino, caen?” which means ‘I am good, and you?’

After traveling for about 36 hours (and stopping in London and Johannesburg) we arrived in Malawi Monday afternoon.  Needless to say, Monday was mostly a rest day!

Tuesday morning (after a great night’s sleep due to pure exhaustion!) we met in the lobby of our hotel, the Capital Hotel, to be picked up by Ministry of Hope. Just a side note, the Capital Hotel is very nice with friendly staff and it reminds me somewhat of the hotel in Hotel Rwanda…it is sort of an interesting contrast to the surrounding area… Anyway, back to Ministry of Hope, which we were introduced to by its new director, Tony Bell. He and his wife moved here about a year ago from none other than New Jersey! When one of our group asked Tony what he missed about the US? You guessed it, Dunkin Donuts coffee!! (I knew I liked him.)

Ministry of Hope is an organization that is working in the communities/villages around Lilongwe (the capital, where we are staying) with the children and specifically orphans. On Tuesday we helped out in their crisis nursery, which is for babies who have been orphaned mostly because the mother has died during childbirth or of AIDS and the father is either also dead or cannot care for the infant. Some of the babies in the nursery do have families that will take the children back once they have been weaned, but many are without any family.

On Wednesday (today–we are 9 hours ahead of California) we spent the day working at one of the Ministry of Hope centers in the town of Mponela, about an hour’s drive (on good roads). Along the way we drove through many communities and saw a surprising number of coffin makers…apparently there is quite a market for coffins here. One of them was called “Energy Coffins”–seems like an interesting name. We also drove past the Blessings Bottlestore and the Slow But Sure Grocery.

Once we arrived at the center we began playing with the children. Let’s just say, the digital cameras and the video camera were a big hit! The children (and adults, for that matter) love to see their picture and request it after every picture is taken (good thing I have an extra battery!).

Other impressions…the vegetation is quite lush. I was surprised. I guess I thought (incorrectly) that all of Africa was dry and dusty.  The people are friendly.

I made friends with the women cooks for the center (they make lunch each day for the children—it may be the only meal they receive each day) who taught me how to make ‘seema’ which is sort of like Cream of Wheat but made with a corn meal flour. They also call it porridge, which I guess is a residual from the British colonial influence. The ladies laughed at how I stirred the seema (it was in a huge pot on an open fire, and stirred with something that resembled a large wooden oar) and taught me how to say “I am stirring seema” (sorry, I can’t remember that one…).