Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Malawian Village Life, Chilipa, Mangochi

They are so many words that can be used to describe village life in Malawi, but the best word to use is simplicity. I didn’t have a real feel of village life village life till this learning by living experience because my grandparents moved to towns and cities. But it was a valuable experience and an eye opener because only then do you see how happy people are even if they don’t have a lot of money or luxury things.

We set off early in the morning from the commercial city of Blantyre and headed towards Mangochi. Before we reached the town of mangochi we diverted into the mountains. It was a dusty winding trip that took us virtually into the middle of nowhere. Then eventually we arrived in a small community, Chilipa village.

When we arrived, we received a warm welcome from the family that was hosting us. The head of the household was a traditional healer so that was quite interesting, i will write about traditional medicines in due time. But the atmosphere was warm, and quite simple. No hooting of vehicles, whistling of trains, roaring of trucks and not to mention the daily commotion of trading areas. It was just rather quiet, with occasional laughter of children and distant stir of people in the nearby market.

We entered the rectangular compound which was enclosed by dry grass, at a gate which was placed at one corner. There was the main house on the immediate right. It had a small veranda and within it were few rooms and a small storage area.

And the kitchen was on the left. It had an open cooking area and was covered in dark soot. There were cups and plates that were placed in a rack right outside the kitchen entrance, as well as a pile of firewood.

On the opposite end was the bathroom, which was just a slab of concrete or a flat rock, and a pit latrine. Each was in a separate enclosed area. There were two of each, one for men, and the other for women.
There was a smaller hut in the centre of the compound, and this is where the grandmother lived. Next to the hut were clay pots which were covered and were used to store water.

And to the far right was a small rectangular house where we stayed and next to it was a maize granary. The house had two rooms. We brought in our supplies and beddings and we set up.

We left the compound and explored the community. We came across other huts and houses in the village.
We came across a huge baobab tree, some blossoming mango trees and livestock.

When we returned to the compound the sun was already setting and our feet were really dusty. We cleaned ourselves, had our supper which included nsima, rice, beans and fish. After we ate we turned in for the night.

At dawn the compound was already full of life, the children were getting ready for school, the head of the house was making cups whilst receiving occasional customers wanting to buy traditional medicine. His wife was drying seeds to prepare a traditional drink as the family’s contribution for a wedding. They also had ducks which were already wandering about the compound.

 It was quite chilly and we thought of taking a bath but decided to postpone that till late afternoon because it was extremely dusty and we were just going to get dust in minutes. We had our morning tea with sweet potato, then started to explore the compound. 

The head of the house hold told us to get ready because he wanted to show us around. We did, and soon we had set off. He showed us different places and various plants and their uses. We passed by the market and saw all the various things that were for sale.

He also showed us the village's clinic.

And we also passed by a maize mill where women go to have their maize ground into flour and where they can also buy already processed flour.

We came back, had lunch and met with some of our classmates. The day went by so fast we had dinner which included nsima, fish and cabbage and then we turned in.

The next day was different. Besides the lady of the house brewing the traditional drink, the children didn’t go to school and the head of the household wasn’t doing much work. When we got up he told us to get ready because we were going to the mountain to fetch fire wood. We hurried and took our breakfast which was tea and fritters.

 Everyone got ready, and the lady of the house put on hold what she was doing. It was a long journey, over an hour and a half just going there.

There were quite a number of things around that distracted us from the time we were walking. We came to a stream where we found women washing their clothes, children bathing and ducks wadding in the water.

We passed fields of cotton.

And we also passed fields of African bird’s eye chillies.

The landscape was mountainous and rocky. It was dry season so there was dry grass and trees.

Eventually we reached the base of the mountain and we started to hike up. When we reached the top we could see the areas surrounding the village.

The head of the house started to cut the trees with his sharp axe. His wife was gathering up the pieces and tying them up into a bundle to be carried. It wasn’t long until they had enough wood and were ready to set off.

When we arrived the sun was setting, we took a bath, had our supper and went to bed. You could hear children sing and dance around a wooden fire as stories and jokes where told. It’s part of their life, village life, community, happiness, peace, love, and simplicity.