Butterfly Space

14 Feb


I freewheeled down through the valleys to Nkhata Bay and, on recommendation from Gerard (Mzuzu), rode up and around the lake to Butterfly Space, with the aim of staying for one night.

Butterfly Space is part beachside campsite, part social enterprise hub. Any visitor can work as a volunteer by setting up or joining any project that can be realised in Nkhata Bay. Examples include setting up a new community radio station (and building the aerial), teaching computer skills, building furniture, painting murals, organising nutrition workshops etc.

You can turn up unannounced, pick a project to get involved in, and you are given half price accomodation. However, many volunteers fly in especially (mostly from England) for a few months*.

I arrived at Butterfly during Alice’s (one of the 2 English managers) 30th birthday party. Lauren the South African, who I met in Zanzibar briefly, was also there. Soon enough I was right at home, drinking beers and 25ml sachets of 40% sugar cane spirite (15KW / 3p) at a local hall, dancing and drinking, banging the tables to keep a beat for Dani the fire-hulahoop dancer during the power cut.

I stayed at Butterfly for the next 6 days, always planning on leaving ‘the next day’. Drinking with Josie the owner and football mad northerner, attempting to make myself useful with the community radio project with Andy from Squeeky Hills and Lauren, swimming with Morna the incredible Scottish soon-to-be olympic torch carrying 17yr old mermaid (who basically saved my bacon during our second lake swim), watching football with Jeff and Jen the salty Brightonites, lounging with Dani the hula-master (and Kena the other hula master) and Laura the summery BBC art director, and sharing a dorm and playing dumb games in the evening with Libby, Emma (Blister Balls), Ian and Elaine Mate, Jim from NASA (who invented a diamond string cutting machine designed to slice rocks on Mars) and many other good folk. Chip came down to visit for a couple of days at one point too and found the whole thing very home-away-from-home. I agreed, because for my part, the whole week was a jolly good drunken blur.

The radio project made some headway. It’s in the earliest of stages and the local budding journalists are seriously lacking confidence and basic training. Feature number one: happiness survey. We (Andy, Jeff, Josie, Ian and Lauren) organised for the journalists to interview the people of Nkhata Bay on how happy they are, why, etc. The same will be done in Scotland thanks to Ian Mate and so Malawians can compare their lifestyles and passions with the Scots in some way, in an Nkhata Bay Community Radio special.

In the lake, there are fish to chase and rocky swim-throughs, also plenty of infecting bacteria that seemed to get the better of Blister Balls. There were big spiders on our mosquito nets, bright yellow jumping spiders on our laps, talk of mambas, blister beatles and malaria carrying mosquitos going spare. Massive black clouds (a la ‘Lost’) hung over the lake – lake flies, spawned 200m under the water, mating above the water, and then doing whatever you do when you have 24 hours to live – and we humans mingled in, playing cards, pool, drinking beer, eating food, making plans, drinking more beer. Very fun week.

My next move was to go south 50km to Kande Beach, just in time for the whole Butterfly crew to van it over for another all nighter birthday party, bringing together almost every guesthouse owner I had met in North Malawi thus far. More beers, more sachets, more ‘I’ve-really-got-to-leave-tomorrows’, and finally, on Monday, I left. Lungs, liver and legs in need of some light relief and restoration.

*This beats the average volunteer project hands down. Marius and Lukas in Mbalizi for example, are locked in for 12 months teaching classes in computing and, as usual, they paid (over the odds) upfront for the pleasure.


One Response to “Butterfly Space”

  1. alice July 10, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    great to read about your trip, thanks for the mention and kind words
    more power to you

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