I live in a house with 8 guys, 5 of which have arrived so far. We have electricity, mosquito netted beds, wifi, a common area…and even hot running water. In fact, our area on campus is commonly referred to as ‘Little America’ (the name was picked long before I had any say on the matter). But if I’m being honest, the name is fitting. My first night in Malawi I went to dinner at the Hirotos house, where they served us tacos, a side of fruit salad, plus brownies and tea for desert. They had a nice cool house on campus, and afterwards it was remarkable how much we all felt like we had never really left America.
The next morning was a little different.
It was time to go get food to stock our houses for the coming weeks. We walked off campus to the alleged bus stop across the street. There was nothing to signify that a bus stopped there apart from the occasional bus that stopped there. I’ve been told that the Malawian national modo is “there’s always room for one more.” I’ve included a photo of our crammed mini bus to assist your perspective.
Our bus pulled into town and everyone poured out onto the crowded streets. I was following the group of people I was with, and all I know is that eventually we ended up in what is commonly referred to as, “The Marketplace.”
Think of an incredibly crammed farmer’s market with narrow dirt corridors and numerous vendors at every turn. The way it works is you arrive and hire a bag boy or two to carry all of your groceries for the day. Then you wander around as the natives come up and try to sell you their crops. I’m trusting they have only the highest regard for food safety.
I spent some time bartering with people just to get the hang of it. I thought I got a pretty good deal when I was able to purchase an entire grocery bag of potatoes for less than $1 USD. I found out later that that particular batch happened to be rotten. An honest mistake I’m sure.
After taking care of our grocery shopping, we then went to visit the clothing department by passing over the “Toll Troll Bridge.” Some industrious Africans built bridges across the river at convenient points, and they charge a small fee to anyone who wants to cross. The architectural integrity was questionable at best, but the drop probably wouldn’t kill anyone, anyways.
Everything definitely takes longer in Africa, it’s just something I’ll have to get used to. So after spending several hours in town, we ventured out the same way we came in…on the minibus. We tipped our bag boys, took our produce home, and later that day we were treated to ice cream in the nice part of town. Below is a picture with a lot of the mazungos (white people) I’ll be spending my time with over the next year. You can find my head sticking out in the back-left.