Friday, 19 August 2016

Malawi – Home away from home

August 6-7

Hello everyone!

We’ve made it into the country. We’ve made it to our occasionally-powered house. Time to explore Lilongwe, a land far away from home.

A fan celebrating at a Malawi league football match we watched

Well, some of it. The city seems to be a bit of a sprawl. Being a little bit out of the centre, we’ll need to invest in a car in order to live happily out here. For now, the school are sending buses around which will take us to key places in Lilongwe.

This includes shopping. Our apartment needed (and still needs) a lot of equipment in order for us to feel more comfortable. Much of this can be bought from a shopping complex which has two major shops: Chipiku and Game.

The shopping centre is in the heart of Lilongwe city centre

The latter seems aimed at expats and reminds many people of a Wal-Mart or Tesco superstore. Many of the products are imported from South Africa, resulting in prices which prevent much of the population from shopping there.

Chipiku is a more local supermarket, though does stock some very interesting products as you can see below. Maybe we’re not quite as isolated from the motherland as we thought…

The weather doesn't seem ideal for custard...

Coconut and cashew is one of the stranger flavours on offer

Saturday lunchtime seems a particularly busy time in Chipiku; getting a trolley up and down the aisles was a challenge amongst the throng of people. As we finally arrived at the cashier’s desk, the power went. The young lady reclined in her chair and stared at her nails for a minute or so until a back-up generator kicked in. I asked her if these temporary blackouts happen a lot. The long pause before replying ‘No’ suggested that they’re used to these issues.

Another day, another power cut

Other home comforts in this complex include a curry house called Bombay Palace, where all teachers were invited that evening. The school’s director had insisted that this place served some of the best curries he’d tasted. I’m going to have to go a few more times before making a final judgment on that.

Can't claim this as my own photo - I was too busy eating!

Before the curry, we had gone on a walk to locate the local market. We lacked precise directions and the knowledge that the market probably would be closed – or at least winding down – as the afternoon disappeared, so ended up wandering along dusty land which constitutes a pavement.

Kerbs: optional

As we ambled along, we realised that we were heading towards some noise. It sounded like a sporting event. Feeling adventurous, we turned off the main stretch and into a car park. We were greeted by a stand flanked by large, curving walls: a football stadium.

Not your usual football stadium, particularly with those walls being packed with people sitting or standing upon them, and not a usual way of entering a football match. We were peering through a corrugated iron sheet to see what was happening when a stocky man in army uniform – complete with large gun – approached us. After asking him who was playing, he motioned us to the side of the sheet and up a wooden plank, where a man was selling tickets for 3000 kwacha (£3) for the covered section of the stadium. We bartered and got what we thought was a good deal – 2 pay, 2 go in free. Not a bad view, either.

Getting a view from up high

It wasn’t until researching after the match had long finished that I knew we were watching EPAC United host Wanderers, a team from the other major city of Blantyre. We also weren’t aware that they don’t do 3pm kick-offs here. That 3000 kwacha bought us approximately 20 minutes of game time before the referee blew his whistle.

The pitch was bone dry and very bobbly

You could argue that we were hustled but I would disagree. Even with the limited amount of action we saw – much of which resembled Wimbledon in the 1980s due to the bobbly nature of the pitch preventing a passing game from working – it was thoroughly enjoyable. EPAC’s fans were passionate and erupted when they scored an injury-time winner/equaliser (no scoreboard, after all!). Completely ignoring the risk of falling and death, dozens of people were leaping and dancing atop those high walls which fenced in the stadium.

A group of fans ignoring the football, instead dancing and chanting
their way around the pitch

We’ve come out here for something different, to try new things and enjoy, experience, aid and appreciate local cuisine and culture. Ultimately, however, it’s nice to have a taste of home every once in a while. Whether it be enjoying football or a buying a bar of British chocolate from a local supermarket, there’s often something here that will remind us of home. As you have seen, other experiences will also remind us how far we’ve come and how different our lives are to those of people living back in the UK.

Love you all,


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