«Koselig» is a Norwegian adjective describing the feeling of warmth and friendliness arising from sharing simple pleasures and being close to each other. In Malawi they don’t have a word for it, but they don’t need it. If they were to describe the situations they found themselves in everyday, they would have to yell «koselig» non stop. They would be out for hours, standing in the street, screaming at the top of their lungs without exception. They would have neither the time nor the voice left to communicate with other words, their entire language would collapse. Passing people on the street is «koselig». Buying fresh tomatoes from the amazing old woman next to our house is «koselig». Today we were crammed into a rusty old minibus without seat belts, and «koselig» is the only word i could think of to describe it. Of course next to hilarious, sweaty, and crammed…
I crouched down trying to enter the sliding door of the rusty white Toyota Hiace. As i started squinting through the rows of people trying to find half a seat, i could count 20 people already sitting crammed together in the minibus. No, this wasn’t a clown car in a local circus act, it was just the public transit from our house to the market. The bus was already filled to the brim, but i could spot a tight opening a couple of rows back. Me, Bjørnar, Ole, and Karoline, managed to climb in and get seated in various places across the bus. Bjørnar managed to find a seat towards the front, i climbed towards the middle of the bus, and both Ole and Karoline crammed their butts down on a row behind me. I sat down next to a Malawian woman with a welcoming smile. I greeted her and smiled as politely as I could. She looked to be about 40 and was dressed in an amazingly colorful Malawian dress. We sat «next to each other» according to Malawian comfort zones, but i felt like i sat on top of her according to Norwegian. The man in front of me was clueless as to why his seat wouldn’t extend further back. He tried to prove his place in the bus with sheer force, and my long norwegian limbs were pushed and crushed in directions beyond my wildest imagination. I looked over to Bjørnar sitting two rows ahead of me, and was glad to see he shared a similar expression of pain, confusion, and laughter. These seats clearly weren’t designed for norwegian men soaring almost 1,9 meters over the ground.
As the man in front of me opened the window, my eyes were filled with a thick layer of dust. I tried to slip my arm up towards my face to brush it off but at that moment a cramp decided to make a violent appearance in my right thigh. The fact that the woman next to me now was in the middle of breastfeeding her child didn’t exactly help on my lack of wiggle-room. As i tried my best not to shove my elbow into her breasts, i couldn’t help to feel we were moving a bit fast, both according to the speed limit and to norwegian methods of dating.
When my cramp finally stopped we were already close to the outskirts of Chilinde, the ghetto in Lilongwe where we live. Our shock and confusion over this weird situation was also starting to fade, so we decided to practice some local language as the bus took us out of Chilinde and headed for town. As we started to talk Chichewa with the people next to us, every face in the bus gradually started to light up. Pretty soon the whole bus was filled with joy and laughter over our hilarious but sincere and modest attempts of taking part in their culture and language.
The means of transport in itself was quite bumpy and painful, but we were amazed of the amount of happiness 20 regular Malawians could bring us on such a short trip. It was certainly a contrast to buying a ticket on an app, finding a row of seats for yourself, and stare out the window continuously for half an hour, just to avoid any eye contact. The people inside of the minibus were beyond «koselig». The whole experience certainly trumphed a bit of temporary physical discomfort. Malawi is a third of Norway’s size with triple the population, but when you get adjusted to living here it doesn’t really feel crammed at all. This whole country is just an even more concentrated and joyful piece of «koselig».