Better Homes and Gardens: Malawi Edition
The boundaries of our village are lineated by the shore of Lake Malawi to the South, and the unpaved road (prowling with baboons) stretching to the provincial capital to the Northwest. Our house is located close to the market, at the base of a hill that leads to the health clinic. The market, the bustling heart of the village, teems with women relaxing in the shade and selling their husbands’ catches of fish, male tailors sewing outfits out of beautiful chitenje fabric on hand powered sewing machines, and people selling eggs and soap out of closet-sized shops. During the school term break, children often work in the family business. The other day, while buying Chinese cabbage, we observed a boy, aged approximately seven, buy a single cigarette out of a pack from a female vendor aged around ten, presumably for his father or uncle.
If you walk for approximately 200 metres in the opposite direction of the market, you’ll reach the borehole. One of half a dozen in the village, it draws clean water through a hand pump. Small girls methodically pump the handle to fill several buckets full of water without pause, while my arms ache after one bucket full. No matter, because the girls often insist on pumping water for us themselves.
Another landmark in the village is the cemetery. It is a swath of land covered with scrubby trees and dotted with wooden crosses. Located to the side of a path we use to traverse between our house and the guesthouse/office, we’re overly cautious about stumbling upon it in the night time. To do so may impart rumors of witchcraft among village inhabitants. Witchcraft is the solution to all that is unexplained. Recently, one of our local staff members explained to Chris that on several occasions he found small sums of money missing from his house. Rather than question his family members or search for it in his house, he immediately suspected witchcraft.
As I mentioned in the last post, two mountains tower over the village on either end. One is uninhabited and is habitat for baboons and hyenas that occasionally skulk around the village at night, resulting in a cacophony of angry dog howls at 2am. The other mountain contains some houses, as we can occasionally glimpse tendrils of smoke from cooking fires rising from the trees. On Tuesday, inhabitants of the mountains attempted some controlled burning of the bush. This is usually done at the start of the dry season, to prevent wildfires from careening out of control as the months pass and the land becomes parched and highly flammable. Rarely, however, have I seen truly controlled burning. Often times there is collateral damage as winds change. As night fell, the burning bush stretched down the sides of the mountain, molten twinkling. By moonlight it looked like a volcano erupting.
Our closest neighbors, whose yard borders our back wall, is a family of four. Matthews and his wife Janice are in their late 20s, and they have a five-year-old son named Moses and a 7-month-old named Davies. They invited us to dinner this week, and we feasted on the staple food of nsima (known as nshima in Zambia), beef with a rich soup, and cooked Chinese cabbage. We also watched a Bollywood movie poorly dubbed over in ChiChewa. There was a lot of violence, and a glaring lack of musical numbers.
Many of the houses in the village have some sort of wall, often constructed of thin reeds and tall grasses, to separate the dwellings of one family to the next. Our house is a square white building surrounded by a sandy courtyard and a brick wall. Housing is provided by my employer, which pays K 20,000, or $50 a month, to rent the four room building.
In the front of the house, there’s a large living room with four comfortable, brown couches and a coffee table. A small hallway leads to the rest of the house. On the left there is our bedroom, equipped with a double bed shrouded by a green mosquito net, a shelf, and a pole for hanging clothes. Next to that room is a guest bedroom, (which lies empty in anticipation of Todd and Maureen’s Christmas time visit!), which we use mostly for storage. The right side of the house is composed of a pantry/kitchen area.
|The living room|
|The hallway behind the living room|
|The rememberance wall in the bedroom|
|The guest bedroom|
|The pantry/indoor kitchen|
|The pack porch, used as our outdoor kitchen|
Our actual cooking are is on our back porch, as we are currently using a charcoal burning brazier. To cook on one of these, you add a small pile of charcoal, some parafin or a candle stub to get the charcoal lit, then fan it vigorously until all the charcoal ignites. It takes about 20 minutes to get it hot enough to actually cook on, so no meal here is ever instant. However, during the week we eat breakfast and lunch prepared by our excellent cook at the guesthouse, and often take home leftovers for dinner, so we only have to cook for ourselves a few times during the week.
|...which is a re-purposed USAID container of cooking oil.|
|Our "stove," a charcoal brazier...|
|Lastly, our "chimbudzi," or latrine. There is an inside wall dividing the structure into two small rooms. Our bathing area is on the left, and the latrine is on the right.|
Electricity has been a new development. Some of our neighbors have reported waiting years for the ESCOM electricity company (based in Salima) to come install electricity, but our wait was only about three weeks. Our landlord has been very persistently asking them to come, which probably helped. Our house was already wired for electricity, so they only had to connect the line and install a meter. We will have to
|Our steadfast security guard, hard at work protecting the compound from errant chickens and curious children.|