November 2, 2004
It occurred to me that I have not told you very much about our home. So today I will give you a “virtual”tour. Our home is what is known as a “western”home in Malawi. That means that it is large, has indoor plumbing and a spacious kitchen with a cooker (stove). It also has an outbuilding that was constructed as housing for help. There is a kitchen, dining room, living room, two and a half bathrooms (one has a tub, the other a shower), and three spacious bedrooms.
The house sits right on the Chileka Road about two kilometers from downtown Blantyre. It is directly across the street from the Blantyre Synod Administration building where Dan works, so he has a very short walk to work, which is great!
Before we moved in the Synod refurbished the house, which had been rented out previously. They painted the entire interior white, put in a new ramp to the garage, repaired broken drainage pipes, bought a new cooker, bought two double and two single beds, a loveseat and two matching chairs, and provided a dining room table and 8 chairs. They also made sure that all the screens in the windows were hole free. Although we had to wait several days to move in, while they put up drapes and finished touch up painting of the chair rails, we were able to have a house that was in excellent condition.
We have added several things since moving in. We bought a lovely set of wicker furniture (two love seats, two chairs and a few small end tables) from a street vendor on Queen Victoria Boulevard in Blantyre (we had been told that it was the best place to purchase furniture). We had fun arguing with the seller about price, but finally agreed on one, and loaded it onto the back of our truck. I went to the foam factory and bought cushions and we choose some African looking fabric for covers.
The walls of our home are very large (we have 10 ft. ceilings) and very white. To break that up, I went to the plumbing store and bought ½ inch PVC pipe, which we cut and ran string through. We have hung these high on the walls and put long pieces of decorative African fabric over them. These add color and interest to the walls. We have also purchased several batiks from an HHI (Blantyre Synod Secondary School) student named Happiness, that now grace the walls as well. We have been given several presents such as glass and pottery vases, baskets and carved wooden bowls that we have placed on the long window cornices.
We have also purchased a few shelves (Malawian homes are notorious for not having much storage space) for our bedrooms. The one for the girls’room is small, but it only cost $3. The one for the kitchen, which is a series of four baskets stacked together, was only $2.
The girls have decorated their room with cards and letters that people have sent them, as well as pictures of their friends in the US. Brooke has a series of clippings from local newspapers on the wall beside her bed that she cut out about the Olympics. I have put the plethora of birthday cards that I received on our bedroom door. We have hung mosquito nets over each bed.
We purchased Malawian made plastic dishes and cups when we moved in, as well as a few kitchen bowls and utensils that we did not bring in our luggage. We have a pantry off the kitchen and we moved our refrigerator out of the dining room (where most Malawians keep theirs) and into the kitchen.
We have found that the home is great for entertaining. We can fit eight or even nine around the dining room table and if we have more than that, we eat buffet style in the living room.
Dan rummaged a table from his Synod office that we use for the computer, which is in the girls’room and for $8.00 the synod carpenter made us the sturdiest chair I have ever seen. Our latest purchase was two bamboo chairs from the Liwonde region ($2.00 each) for our front porch. It is about 12 x 4 feet and a great place to sit in the late afternoons and read.
One of the few things that we wish we could change about our home, is the fact that it is loaded with security measures. Each window has metal bars preventing anyone from coming in. All the doors have huge swinging metal gates that are double padlocked at night. The garage door has a strong wooden board barring it shut. A reed fence was put up around the house just before we moved in. A brick fence will replace that sometime in the future. The Synod hires two guards that patrol the yard each night from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and they installed security alarms that we or the guards can press in the event of an emergency. When it is pressed a truck full of SWAT looking guards from Securicor arrive within 30 seconds to see what the trouble is. These measures are necessary because of the high incidence of crime in Malawi. But because of them we feel very secure even though we live right on the main road.
Our yard is a delight for us. One side is ridged with towering blue gum, or eucalyptus trees. We also have a huge shade tree on the other side. The yard is probably a ½ acre or bigger. It was pretty barren when we moved in, but after only three months, Michael, our 70 year-old gardener, has transformed it. We have had him plant flowers along the driveway, climbing vines in the window boxes lining the front porch, herbs along the back wall and in pots.
About ¼ of the yard is now a big vegetable garden. The tomatoes are between six inches and a foot high, the beans are climbing skyward, cabbages are filling out nicely, and onions are popping up alongside the carrots. Squash, pumpkins and cucumbers are inching their way up the walls. We are even growing turnips, much to Dan’s chagrin, but Alfred and Michael’s families will love eating the leaves as “relish”with their Nsima. We can’t wait to taste our first homegrown tomato, which should be in about a month! By Christmas we will be harvesting all kinds of vegetables. We also have a papaya and a small mango tree in our yard, which supply us with delicious fruit periodically.
You can see why we now call our house in Blantyre “home.”