Since several of my recent posts have been of the whine-and-complain variety, I thought I should change my tune a bit today.  While I’m still not ready to write about the things I like about Malawi (though they do exist), a series of recent comments from my housemates has made me realize there are strange things about Malawi that don’t phase me at all.  Confused?  Let me explain.

Malawi, despite its high population density, remains a very rural country.  Driving in the capital seems more like driving in a series of small villages, and the tallest building is not very tall at all.  My housemates, both previous residents of European cities, occasionally find the landscape alien.  But I’ve done rural before.

“It’s so dark outside!” they exclaim, as they flip on the veranda lights to illuminate the garden.  True, it is dark here:  there are virtually no streetlights and those that exist are rarely lit.  The only lights here in suburbia are the ones homeowners pay for themselves, ostensibly to keep burglars out of the garden (or the nightguards awake).  While light from Lilongwe is visible from space, it merits only a few dot on the map – compare it to the United States.   Indeed, in terms of nighttime electrification, Africa does remain the dark continent.  But it doesn’t seem that much darker here than at home in Iowa.  There is more cloud cover at night, and therefore fewer stars and less light from the moon than I’ve experienced in the US – but I’ve done dark before.

On Christmas day, I was at the Nkhoma soccer field, waiting for the players to arrive, when what I heard a bit of a clatter coming down the main road.  What, to my wondering eyes should appear – no, not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but a herd of 150-or-so goats.  They were followed shortly thereafter by a herd of cattle.  Some of the Americans in the crowd looked a little startled, but I was nonplussed – I’ve had to wait for farm animals to clear the road before.

Christmas goat parade

In Malawi, there is corn grown everywhere.  Our housekeeper has a plot in our garden.  In villages, the corn grows right up to the houses.  Despite the fact that I live in the capital, I’m not far from the fields.  In fact, there are corn fields at the end of my street.  One of my housemates always comments how surprised he is to see corn in the city!  But I’ve had corn across the road and all around before.

At the end of the street, corn fields in the city

Don’t get me wrong, there is no lack of things in Malawi that seem foreign to me.  But it’s funny to find those things, so strange to other expats, that seem almost normal to me.  While the rural life is certainly different here than rural life in the United States, it retains shades of familiarity.  And now, by way of avoiding a more rambling conclusion:

Gratuitous puppy photo, since we havent had one for a while

Gratuitous puppy photo, since we haven't had one of THOSE for a while


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One Response to “Unphased”

  1. Nancy M Says:

    Happy new year, Amy. Enjoyed catching up with your blogs. Yes, thankfully the ice disappeared quickly one morning and we’ve at least been able to move around without fear of sliding all the way down the hill. The three of us spent an afternoon at the zoo in Omaha–fun and cold. I have a feeling we were the only three people the sea lions had seen all day wandering that far.

    Enjoyed your updates and insights. Glad to see The Dude is doing well.

    Take care.

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