August 25, 2004
Life Is Different
I would have to say that living in Malawi would be a challenge for most Americans. The Merrys are no exception. We have found that life here is quite different from our life in Pennsylvania in some ways, yet in some ways it is very similar.
First, it takes a lot longer to get some things done here than it does in the States. For instance, we have been waiting for a month to have a phone line installed in our home for our internet connection. In the US, companies are falling all over customers to get their business and service is immediate.
In Bethel Park, we drive a block to the nearest ATM and it takes about two minutes to get cash out. Here it takes an entire morning. We drive to town, park, go into the bank, get in line for one of the two tellers and wait for the business people in front of you to deposit their entire weekly receipts (we are talking hundreds of thousands of Kwatcha) It can take hours.
The other day the girls and I spent about an hour in a fabric store. When we finally made our decision and went to pay for the goods, the store owner looked at me and said, “We are closing. It is noon. Come back at 2:00 p.m. and you can buy these.”I couldn’t believe it! (I found out subsequently that they were Muslims and were closing for prayer.)
Everything here is measured in centimeters, kilograms and
Besides that, they drive on the wrong side of the road. I have been getting up the nerve to try driving, but haven’t attempted it yet.
I also think that most Americans would have trouble getting used to all the power and water outages. The other night our dinner was delayed for two hours until the power came back on. Heather got used to taking cold showers when we were up at Domasi.
There is no such thing as fast food here either. The Malawians have little roadside “tuck shops”where they cook chips (French fries) and fried dough, but there are no burger joints.
All foods have to be made from scratch. There is no “easy mac”or frozen pizza. Pillsbury cake mixes are available for $6 each and a box of cereal can set you back $9. So, I made spaghetti sauce from scratch the other day, instead of opening a jar of Prego or Ragu. The other night for a treat, I made hot chocolate. My husband and kids were amazed as I heated up milk and added sugar and cocoa power. They had only had “Swiss Miss”before that. We even popped popcorn on the stove the other night –I have not seen a microwave anywhere. Most of us are used to a lot of convenience foods, but they simply are not an option here.
We have been having fun improvising and using the foodstuffs that are in abundance. We now eat papaya as a fruit or cooked as a vegetable. Tomato sandwiches are a favorite for lunch. The limes and oranges are not smooth and pretty as they are in the States, but they taste delicious. The bananas are small, but sweet. Our skim milk comes in a box, and the minced (ground) beef works well in chili and hamburgers. The sausages don’t taste the same as they do in the USA, but we are enjoying them as well.
So, while some things take a bit longer to get used to than others, we are discovering that life in Malawi is truly an adventure and we are discovering new things each day.