Only in Malawi

This weekend was a reminder of how idiosyncratic Malawi can be. I spent a while trying to think of how to link all these little stories together, but then I realized that maybe that’s the point. So, without further ado: a totaled car, an 80s prom, and more Nicholas Cage than a sane person could ever want.

The Car
My housemate’s car was in an accident this weekend. The good news: he wasn’t in it. The bad news: it’s totaled, and he’s unlikely to be compensated. To make a long and absurd story short, a few weeks ago, he took the car to a mechanic for some major engine work. After buying lots of expensive parts, the mechanic finished the job and took it to his friend for some adjustment to the fuel pump. The friend, however, turned out to be an unlicensed alcoholic with the penchant for joy-riding to the bar in clients’ cars, and on the return trip, managed to roll the car a couple times on a very straight stretch of highway. (This last bit is largely speculation, as the guy who was driving the car is nowhere to be found.) Of course, the mechanic was uninsured but assures my housemate that he can fix the car. Right, because cars with bent frames, crumpled roofs, and no windows are so easy to fix. No conclusion has been reached about what will happen now, but I can’t help thinking…only in Malawi.

The Prom
On the complete opposite end of the only-in-Malawi spectrum, I attended an 80s Prom Party this weekend. Lilongwe has a fairly large expat community but everyone seems to know each other. As a young, single person, I meet many of the same expats at social events. (Older and/or married people are more elusive.) The expat social scene tends to be separate from the Malawian one, but there was quite a mix of people at the 80s party – though not all in 80s attire!

To prepare for the event, a few friends and I hit up the used clothing market on Saturday afternoon. Fortunately for us, all of the 80s prom and bridesmaid dresses that begin with a trip from your closet to the Salvation Army end up in Malawi. We found suitable costumes in no time at all. I was quite pleased with my blue shoulder-padded number, though I did think it screamed “secretary” a little more than “prom.” Other party guests had similar market excursions; I saw more than a few dresses I had eyed at the market earlier in the day. Here’s a photo of me and my friend Anna, the prom queen, in our finery. Yes, we are wearing blue eyeshadow.

Check out my linebacker shoulder pads!

Check out my linebacker shoulder pads!



The Movies

Finally, I also discovered one of Malawi’s joys that I had previously been missing: the bootlegged DVD. DVDs are a popular item among street sellers here, and collections come with about 18 movies to the disk. While street sellers will generally get as much as they can out of muzungus like me, my friend found a place in Old Town that sells the DVDs wholesale, so we went to have a look. Oddly, collections tend to be grouped by actor; does anyone really love Nicholas Cage enough to watch all of his films? In addition to movie collections, popular American TV shows are also available, including Desperate Housewives, 24, and Gossip Girl – too bad I never got into any of those shows. The Chinese origin the packaging is obvious when you come across collections like “American College Sex Movies,” which is not porn, but includes Road Trip and at least several of the American Pies. (The Chinese subtitles are also a giveaway.) While the operability of the disks tends to be hit and miss, for $1.20 each, I can’t really complain. These are probably not an only-in-Malawi item, but they were nonetheless a welcome find. Since there are no movies theaters in the entire country, DVDs are about the best one can do for mindless entertainment!

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One Response to “Only in Malawi”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I love the dress! Sounds like so much fun!

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