Visiting the UK

I am Majid, a Malawian by nationality. I was born in the early 70s. I had my education in the small village called Mwamadi in Zomba. In fact, I grew in Zomba. I met my english friends when they they came to live in Malawi in 1997. They introduced me about Servas when we met at one of the tourist resort where I used to run my business. We talked a lot about it. I was very interested because it was the kind of organisation that I never suspected the existence. They gave me more information about it. After I read and understood the association, they gave me the application forms to fill as I was more and more interested about Servas. By the time I was filling the forms, I already knew what Servas meant about.

Arrival in London
I was scarred arriving in London. It was so busy, so fast, so many cars everywhere, absolutely everywhere and many tourists. At first, I found I had to take real care to walk about but then after some time you just became like everyone else and walked fast and bumped into other people. I found it difficult to get used to automatic opening door at the supermarkets, the height of buildings, no one in the shop with a stick looking at you but video cameras instead, no one to barter with, females stripping to nothing in a pub (totally shocking), entering a shop and seeing myself on the video. Once I got on an electronic escalators and I did not know what it was and I got a bit panicked and tried to get off it by going in the opposite direction - I must have been funny to watch. I found bread in England was fantastic, the yolk of eggs not very yellow as if they don't get enough sun. My favourite food in England was chicken and chips.

The supermarkets were enormous, the chocolates bars and sweets were very nice and so many to choose from. Those kind of megaphobia funfair whizzing fast and twisting in the air - they were just amazing and the big rocker thing going up and down - it was amazing and wow! The weather was dodgy and not a real summer (definitely by Malawi standards) but I had a fantastic sleeping bag to keep me warm, luckily! A lot of Welsh people haven't been to England and at first I couldn't believe this, it seem ridiculous. I found the Welsh were very friendly and I really enjoy welsh cakes which were very good. Another amazing thing was that there was so much greenery, so much vegetation and trees everywhere.

The Underground was very strange to me. How busy London city was - just so busy busy and busy. It is so big compared to cities in Malawi. I saw a lot of different people living in London, it appeared as if they were from all over the world. There were too many big builldings and looking at them made me dizzy; When I saw Canary Wharf in the London Docklands, where I was staying I really thought it was going to fall on me. London Bridge was gigantic, how they they made that I don't know, if it was in Malawi they would never bridge there. In London people don't seem to be very friendly because they always seem to be on such a rush from their job to get home.

One thing I'd never seen before and I tried out for the first time was how to dance to Salsa music. Friends took me to a Salsa club and it was really great. One of the friends was gay and that was strange to me because in Malawi no one is gay or says they are. The Cambridge University is big and was built long ago. I went there on a weekend trip from London and I found it very huge. You can't compare it with the University of Malawi which seems so smaller by comparison. Another thing was the guide-dogs for blind persons, you never see this in Malawi. British people seem to be working very hard, even harder than us here in Malawi. Tesco shops were so many and so large full of everything and the Mc Donald shops where you can get food anytime and quickly after two minutes.

Things I did

I went to Wales to do a voluntary community environmental project. It involved the construction of footpath for disabled people. I was based in a small village called Llangain. I went to the Music Festival in Cardiff where there were some 58 000 spectators. I visited one of the amusement arcade in Wales. I visited some of the famous beaches called Tendy and Pembroke. I went to the place called Centre for Technology. This is where there are exhibits about all things which are being made from natural ressources. I now have many friends that I made in Welsh pubs that we visited. I have also been to many different villages in Wales, even visited different castles where I tried to sell my carvings.

The workcamp

I did not expect to construct a footpath, I thought I would be looking after children, also I did not expect to be at the same village for four weeks. It happened this way because I really liked Wales and I liked the place and UNAIYS.

The workcamp was actually very nice although I was always given tough jobs to do, may be because they were thinking that I was a very hard working Malawian boy. I really enjoyed all my three work camps. It made me become a very hard working man at least I hope the leaders thought so, I worked hard too - it definitely felt like it. It was very nice for me to meet different people in the different villages making many friends.

In short I would say that it was worthy work and I enjoyed it immensely because there was a lots more things enjoyable that I cannot mention here one by one. There was one Italian boy who was particularly good at communication, and a crazy Japanese man who could not pronoounce the word 'beautiful' he said 'beaut-who' al the time and he made me laugh. The volunteers came from all around the world such as France, Turkey, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, England, Japan, Denmark, Belgium, Slovakia, America, Spain and Malawi 'the warm heart of Africa.'

I really like that I made so many friends and exchanged and learnt about other cultures. It was very nice for all of us having different kinds of food being cooked at the camp by people from different parts of the world with different tastes.

Where we lived
We stayed at the Church hall in Llangain village, we slept on the floor and there beds too but I prefered my own roll mat on the floor. The church hall was near the farm of Mr and Mrs John. We washed in bathrooms with hot water as there was a generator there.

Majid AYAMI