Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi with a population of nearly 800 000. It is a constructed city, and as a result the city is scattered all over the place. For instance, there are two centrums: the City Center and Old Town. The City Center is where you`ll find all the embassies, banks, big hotels, and offices, whereas the shops, the big markets and malls are located within Old Town. The whole city is also divided into areas, each with a number. There is, however, no logic what so ever in the order of these numbers, and you can find that areas with numbers far apart, such as 17 and 34, are located next to each other.
The house we live is in a part of town called Chilinde (area 21), south-east of Old Town and south of City Centre. The area is named after the last chief from the time when this place were still a village. Even though we are living in the capital, it sure does not feel like it out here. Chilinde still has that village feel to it, and gives us the opportunity to connect with malawian culture and society. Chickens roam the streets and you will find vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the side of the road. It is impossible to walk the streets without saying hello to the people you walk by, and you can easily make a new friend or two on your way to the center. Chilinde is also a place of great diversity. Described by some people as the ghetto, you will find many rough houses in the area with no power or water and outdoor latrines. The rent here is quite cheap though, which makes it a very affordable place to live. Chilinde also has it`s share of modern houses, most of which has water, electricity, and western style bathroom facilities. Bigger houses tend to have a wall around the property, and keeps security guards during nighttime. Power cuts can occur frequently in the area. I really love staying here, and wouldn`t for a moment consider settling in a different part of town. Our house has good standard, and the community in which we live in is a great place to experience the real everyday Malawi.
– Our street –
We are so lucky that we are within walking distance from our home to Music Crossroads Center. It is only a 10-15 minutes’ walk (that is if you ignore all the people on the way). During daytime, if we want to go longer distances (e.g. to town), we usually get around using the minibuses. They can be crowded, so don`t expect any personal space, and you might also be sharing the bus with some chickens. The great thing about them is that they run all the time, they are cheap, and you can hop on and off where ever you want. Taking the minibus or even walking outside after dark isn`t recommended, and we tend use taxi whenever we want to move about after the sun has set.
– Inside the minibus –
Food and Supplies
In the beginning, my family often asked me if I liked the local food, and they were concerned about me not getting hold of what I needed. But, Lilongwe is a big city and you can get pretty much everything you`d want. Should you be looking for head and shoulders shampoo, curry paste, yoghurt, external hard drives, or even Twix you`ll have no problem finding it. The largest and best supermarkets are Shoprite, Games and Chipiku +, all of them located in Old Town. There are also many smaller shops scattered all over the city, and there are many to be found in Chilinde and the surrounding area. Here you can buy cooking oil, soya pieces, “bread”, toilet paper, and other useful / not that useful stuff. In addition to the many shops, we have the local markets, a good place to buy vegetables, beans, flour, rice, and meat. With all this within short distance, you don`t have to go all the way to town to get the basic food and supplies. Just like any other city, Lilongwe has a number of resturants you can visit if you get tired of cooking at home (italian, chinese indian, pizza places, fast food, local, etc.).
– Area 23 market – One of the smaller shops –
In Malawi, there are three weather seasons within a year; hot season (August-November), rainy season (December-March), and cold season (April-July). The hot season can be very hot, whereas the cold season isn`t that cold for a norwegian (around 15c°). As of now, we are in the rainy season, and the showers come regularly but not necessarily every day. Personally, I love the rainy season. It`s slightly colder outside, everything is green, and best of all is the fresh air that comes after the rains.
Music Crossroads Centre
Music Crossroads Centre is where we spend most of our time, and there`s a lot going on. As a volunteer at the centre you are free to get involved in whatever activity you find interesting. Among the many programmes running at the centre are: Young in Prison, Music Academy, Hear us Children, Music School, Model Choir, concerts and events as well as various bands. There is also a resturant here 😀 😀 The social life at the center is great, and you can easily spend a whole day just chatting with your friends and colleagues.
– Julia – King I – Music Crossroads Centre seen from the resturant –