Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Cycling and recycling

Library Entrance Mat, glass bottles
A few weeks back, I had not even thought about Christmas. There were no signs in the shops, no decorations. Thinking about it; perhaps I hadn’t been to the shops.
Last week, me and the girls decided to have a movie night and watched ‘The Holiday’, very cheesy, great Christmassy chick flick. This sparked off the Christmas vibe.  I suddenly clicked that it was going to be December in one week’s time. In the office my boss decided to bring her Christmas carols album out. What was the next step in my culture: presents, of course! I was very fortunate to have such a wide selection of different original Christmas presents in Malawi. People were very creative in an African, colourful, recycling inventive way. If I had money my house would be filled with the arts and crafts market from Area 3, Lilongwe. This was my first stop, then area 2, then of course Chinsapo. I cannot describe the presents as that would spoil Christmas but they are on their way! A few friends of friends came over from London and were heading back to the UK in December. This was my chance to be very organised and buy all Christmas goodies and a belated birthday present for my middle sister. 

Malawi keyring crafts

Besides presents everyone had started talking about their Christmas plans, this was our first official 2 weeks off in the whole year. It was only then I realised how minimalistic my plans were, and that I hadn’t really organised anything. Recently a friend Nick (a teacher from the International Bishopp Mackenzie school) had mentioned his love for cycling and explained he had a spare bike.  I went on a 50km bike ride with him one morning to check we were relatively similar in speed then agreed a bike ride would be brilliant for Christmas. It had been a long time since my last long distance bike ride. This was from London to Devon with my fun loving sisters to see my Gran. I had remembered how our different characters had shone through and how enjoyable the journey was. Another bike ride on the way made me very excited. I would cycle to Salima and follow the Lakeshore road up to Nkhata Bay.  The bikes were speedy and we chose to stay at friends’ houses or backpackers so our weight would be minimal. It would be a fun trip 100km a day, perhaps more, but ending at Nkhata Bay for New Year’s Eve. I had 2 great weeks their last year, teaching music to kids, swimming, walking and meeting some lovely people.

Nkhata bay

It would be great to spend my time there, I had not found any time to go back. I just remembered the 12 hour bus journey last year and decided cycling would be much better.
Cycling and recycling seemed to be the top activities in my week, besides working: supervising and drawing up the new office designs.

Recycling was definitely installed into the Malawian culture but in different ways. I have a challenge to change people’s perspective of what they think is rubbish. Yes I know you cannot change a culture in 2 days (this was a phrase my dad repeated regularly)! So how do I bring wheelie bins of paper to the village and get people to realise tearing the paper and soaking it for a day can make briquettes that are slow burners, free and don’t take chopping down a tree to make a fire for cooking food. It seems very simple and logical but unless people see the result and understand the briquettes work as a substitute for wood people won’t use them. Since a young age everyone would always collect firewood and use this to cook. Tearing, soaking and pressing the paper is time constraining. Without intuition and wanting to do the task it is very hard to get people to start. The daily routine has many other chores which do not include making briquettes. I started making briquettes with the school opposite and told the teacher to continue taking a class twice a week, making briquettes.

Making briquettes

Having designed and spent much of my time in town in the last few weeks I noted the teacher had stopped coming.
Perhaps the long process was off putting? Without people wanting to do it themselves there will be difficulties. I must start from the beginning: I believe it is probably most important to raise awareness first, a recycling workshop. We now have a system set up with many materials being brought to Sam’s Village (the landirani trust sustainable training village) from town. I made a chain with the Bishopp Mackenzie International School opposite the office. They now bring paper, milk bags (for seedling holders) and glass bottles. These things are delivered to the office, which then go to the village. Many materials are naturally being reused and recycled with other ideas that I had not thought about. This was a great learning process for everyone including myself. Hopefully my recycling enthusiasm will work in a positive way, but I think it will take time.
There has been some process in the office. As the paper was sitting outside in a wheelie bin the guards started asking how to make briquettes. We started making some in the weekends, when I had a bit more time to play with. Overtone has now been taking paper home to build more briquettes at home with his family, kids and the wife and they have enjoyed the free paper charcoal.
A lovely weekend back in the village
After working in the office on a computer all week I knew I needed to go back to the village to see how everyone was: to enjoy the peace & quiet and start making things with this collection of recycled materials. So I remade and set plastic bottles on this wind turbine,

Plastic bottle wind turbine

... hand scrubbed my bed sheets, read my book and relaxed in a quiet place. It was bliss, so peaceful. When I had had enough down time I would walk and immediately be met and greeted by all of the people in the village. Half were my construction team, others kids and people that knew me but I hadn’t acknowledged their faces and names.

Lady in the village

Many people spoke of getting information so I explained the library was now open. Other ladies complained about the long days farming and getting little money in return and I explained about the Landirani workshop. There would be facilities for carpentry, tailoring and other activities.

Workshop roof structure

This would be open for many people in the village to share, learn and create all types of devices to sell at the local market or Lilongwe. I do wonder about the depriving economy in the village, even the markets. I remember staying in the village as a volunteer and the money I had always went on different items of food. As I headed to the local market every Friday afternoon I would walk 30 minutes just to buy mandazi’s (fresh donuts) and that was all, then we’d walk home. It will be interesting to see if there is a small market for people who are keen to buy sustainable devices like solar ovens and energy efficient kettles. Perhaps if the material was recycled from town, people could sell them cheaply.?

I came up with my own design projects, and mixed these with the skills of the locals so everyone could benefit. I created a website:

I am lucky to have an international bank card (unlike many people here), so the economy is vast. All payment proceeds to the correct people who manufactured the product... so if anyone is not organised now is your chance to buy handmade products from Malawi.
Back in town
I started designing energy efficient kettles having noted the design of a kelly kettle back in the UK. The chimney flows in the middle of the water container so the heat spreads around a large surface area heating up the water quicker and therefore using less firewood.
I went to the making metal market in Chinsapo with some drawings and measurements. These guys collect old metal and bash them into shape and weld them into other items which they then sell. It is one of my favourite places to watch and learn the skills of these practically minded people. They fine tuned an energy efficient container for me!

Malawi kelly kettle

Organising thoughts and designs in town will be very beneficial for some workshop ideas next year.

Thoughts, designs, nearly Christmas: life is all very exciting.

Sundown in the village

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Humans vs nature: here we work with nature

As the clock past the hour of 4 I quickly escaped the Sam’s Village work site.  I cycled to a friend’s house, started on the main road but my intuition and curiosity made me take the smaller footpaths to the left. I was unsure, continued and got slightly lost and this was definitely my idea of fun! I finally stopped as I needed some reassurance; was I on the correct path? After the Malawi standard greeting, a lady farming told me to continue straight ahead. ‘Straighti, straighti’. With her exaggerated hand signaling and the Chichewa word which clearly originated from English but putting an ‘i’ on the end: I was confident, happy and cycled further. I soon came to recognise the borehole and wash basin next to the plantation of banana trees. Luckily the fruit thrives off the washing soap powder as it is a natural pesticide and the circle of life goes round. There were a group of kids playing next to the house, and no adults around. I knocked and the oldest kid of the group explained Martin, my work mate, was over in the fields.  The oldest one led me over to him and the other children all huddled and followed me in a group behind. 


As I descended down through past the football pitch I found all of the adults dotted around the waterlogged fields. Everyone was planting seeds. They all greeted me, excited to see me and signaled explaining I must put my bike down.  Martin rushed over and gave me a tour. I was impressed with the categories of plants and the linear structures that channeled to the man-made shallow well. People had dug down to find the water table so they could lift and spread the water with a rope and bucket to irrigate the dry land. It was only a few weeks until the rainy season began. The wind had picked up and one rain had already fallen in Lilongwe at the end of October. The heat now rose to 33 degrees on some days; people needed rain for their crops and for thermal comfort as it made the atmosphere slightly cooler.
Things I’ve got used to:
small geckos/ lizards: running up the walls in my house
the sun: I chose to sit indoors for shading as it was so hot
the huge ants: they find any grain of sugar so you have to clean anything straight after using it to stop trails. This wind turbine had some sugar drink stuck on the bottle so the big ants claimed it to be their new climbing frame.

Filling buses:  I realized my more relaxed approach to filling buses when I was refused a space in one. As I pointed over where there was clearly enough space squeezed in nearer to the ceiling and suggested we could pack in, I was disheartened as the bus driver explained the police were ahead so they couldn’t put any extra people in. I automatically thought it was a bad day!
The attention: Lilongwe is what anyone living in London would call a village. The community vibe is incredible and when I walk down the road it is strange not to see anyone I know. Even going shopping in town, even at the Lake, Malawi is a very small country! Anyone I would see gave the standard greeting. Anyone I didn’t see would glance, shout or make conversation so by the time I would travel that same journey again I would know double the amount of people I knew last time.


One morning I awoke and sat down in the beautiful sparkling colonial house, in area 3, Lilongwe. I put the kettle on, and then turned the radio on. The BBC world service news had reported the UK had lost 430 million birds due to the modernism of farming and agriculture. This was a sad story.  I am sure many people would be shocked by this fact and I could explain the farming system here worked with nature. There was only natural fertilizer used, no chemicals, no machines; everything was done by human strength. Every single ridge was lifted with an axe hoe. Human vs nature is an everlong decided battle people choose not to comprehend but at least here people work with nature.

Another news bulletin that had spread through word of mouth from the UK was the changing climate in London. It was 23 degrees 1 day then 13 degrees the next. I’m not sure if the temperatures had changed due to Chinese whispers but these figures had shocked me. Perhaps some people acknowledge climate change but I’m sure people in the villages cannot comprehend the affect the climate change will have on the farming here. Do people realise development will cause climate changes if not managed properly?

The development will come from the economic, business people in town and the less fortunate 80% of the rural people relying on the rains will be affected. Although who am I to say, coming from a country that is developed with all of its positive factors. The environment has clearly been compromised for our selfish human needs. I hoped the facts I brought changed people’s thinking. Here I appreciate:
the birds that work with the cows: they sit on them, eat their fleas and help turnover the land for food
the building techniques: constructing houses using only local materials and human skills
If people knew what they did for the environment without realizing it and all energies were focused on developing Malawi in the correct sustainable way. Malawi would flourish as it has all the natural resources needed to grow. Solar, wind, and water: therefore the plants to grow food and materials to construct and above all the human happiness and strength.


The rammed earth and thatch roof workshop building is very nearly complete.Sam's Village will be a fully accredited Training Centre with TEVET, Malawi. Teaching environmental, sustainable methods for a better life.

My blog has not quite been keeping up to a regular pace recently. They say creative writing comes in waves and expecially the time to do it. I have also been galavanting.

Stunning views on the Dedza road to Cape Maclear

I went to Cape Maclear, a tourist hot spot on Lake Malawi where I have been doing some architecture drawings for a project that will be built when the rains end next year. Last weekend as I had spent all week doing drawings for the new office for Landirani I decided it would be great to head to the Sam's village in the weekend. You can't beat the peace and quiet, countryside and friendly people. I had a creative day and went walking.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Best of both worlds - Town and Village


I arrived in Lilongwe City Centre most weekends. I went for lunch around my watch guards house, his name was Overtone Banda. He is my brother from another mother! As a volunteer I had spent plenty of time entertaining myself and the watch guards at the Landirani office where I used to live so we had become good friends. I had met most of the family, the kids were flying everywhere in and out of this new house to greet me. The parents had managed to save up to get another house for themselves and the youngest son. The grandmother was also joining us for lunch as she had been in Kamuzu Central hospital to fix her knee. After food Overtone rushed around, it was the process of getting ready for work which left him with no socks. As I cycled back home with him I made sure I did a detour. Later on in the evening I dropped off some tomatoes and socks to the office. This was a thank you for lunch. It was amazing how a simple thought made me feel so good and I could tell Overtone was happy by his face.

On a Sunday there were always vibrations of music echoing around Lilongwe. The Malawi tuneful beats made it to most areas. Whether it was weddings, gigs or private barbeques people knew how to enjoy themselves. More often than not it was a gig at the Lilongwe Golf Course, this loud music meant any neighbour in area 3 could have similar music events without complaint. This was Malawi, music, song and dance. Music vibrations sent the people to sleep and gospel choirs is what got the people up in the morning especially on a Sunday.
One morning on a jog the valleys echoed harmonies of different notes, the strength of the sounds set me at a faster pace. This was what I loved about Malawi. I was an early riser and this meant the sun was low yet it was already breathing strength from people’s inner souls.  The choir changed my jog route and instead of saluting the sun thanking someone for my fortunate life I did press ups. I changed direction at my memorable spot then ran back up around to the open area where the valley accentuated all notes from the church across from the old city center.  


I remembered a few weeks back, I had felt quite down. I had gone for a long jog. This always recollected my thoughts and processed something, a solution, something that was better than sulking or feeling on edge. My workers had complained about the strenuous work and the little pay they got for it. Sometimes it was not easy being a boss: I remember these wise words from my dad. I thought about my situation, being educated in my privileged life and having much more money because of it. Life was not fair, I now agreed, the real world had finally downgraded my idealist thoughts. While everyone complained about getting up at the crack of dawn to farm and being tired before they got to work I wondered what I could do to help. While running I realized I always had energy in the mornings. I remembered getting up in the dark before school to go and look after my horse. That was it. I would get up early and go and farm with the ladies from my construction team.

I spoke to the Landirani Trust watch guard, Goswin and he quietly repeated my name outside my window to make sure I was up before dawn. I forgot my stretches that morning.
It was quiet, almost silent apart from some hooves trotting from the main road then yelps and repetitive noises. There was a cloud of mist rising then flitterring away over what must have been the river. The valley struck me, it was a dimmer colour then I was used to, more magical.  The land was half layered and lined with the shadows accentuating the small alleys for crops.  These rows of soil would be hoed to the next line and therefore switched over and freshly turned for the next season of rains and seeds.
That morning I arrived at Maggie’s house, she was one of my construction workers whom I joked with about coming to farm. She greeted me, laughing and calling me sister which proved she was happy to see me: I was not sure whether they had expected me. Soon  a group of ladies had gathered and came over with greetings and smiles. After the initial conversations the ladies explained there was a funeral in a nearby village.

I know I say there's peace and tranquility of which there is most of the time but people are people. People drink... and in the villages there is this local moonshine substance which is very strong called kachasu. Apparently it can disseminate and poison people's insides. After many drinks people have this glazing twinkle overlapping their eyes. The strength turns some quiet and others crazy and rowdy. Some turn blind. I can't count the number of shouting arguements I've seen. These 2 guys were very drunk and had got in a fight where 1 died. 
The ladies explained they would go to the village to give their condolences before work. I wished them well and luckily got to spend my time walking amoung the quiet beautiful setting. The sun was just rising, the orange fire was whole and striped the land with more beauty. The sunsetting in the evening and rising in the morning created such dramatic landscapes compared to any other time of day. 


Quiet moments like this made me think about my family.  My home could never be so striking, perhaps in Virginia Water Lake on the rare fine summers day! The mornings and evenings were very calm compared to the work in the daytime. I would often jog my steps so I could get more things done in one day! Once work was over I threw a bucket of water over my head and relaxed. The sunset and then the pitch black night was what made the peaceful village. The light cloud above Lilongwe town was very far, too far for any pollution. Our security lights were the only bright lights that made our earth houses look like mansions. The glow reflected off the bushes while the insects bleeped and wavered with the wind. I often sat out on our veranda and watched the stars.
The week in the village always went very quickly and suddenly it was Friday once again. The Landirani car took me back to town. To the internet for the wider world, to the shower! I always started with a good wash. As I walked back to the office with my laptop the primary school head teacher from Bishopp Mackenzie International School spotted me. She said hello and gave me a package of strawberries. I made it to the office without dropping one then and was greeted by Overtone who gave me a papaya. The neighbours had dropped some papayas off in the morning. It was the start of a great time of year, strawberries, papaya and mango season.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

What am I doing?

An architect friend who had travelled and studied sustainable building in India recently asked... "Nyomi, what have you been doing?"

This is a good question and in summary I am a sustainable architectural consultant. I came to learn about sustainable technologies and share my knowledge and design ideas from my degree.  After my BA Architecture degree at Liverpool University my Masters at Oxford Brookes University was specilaised in sustainable architecture: vernacular / traditional / social architecture with questions about cultures and mannerisms why people behave the way they do and how a space can change the actions of the person. I chose International regeneration and design and thoroughly enjoyed the environmental and technology module where I designed and built many devices (including a water filtration device) based on scientific research and clever design to make people automatically want to use the machine and therefore live more sustainably (recycling the water). I believe the fast ugly concrete block architecture in London made teenagers misbehave. Apart from the depressing spaces created another factor as to why would be, they had no integration or ownership of the designs. People would never damage and ruin properties if they had taken part in building or designing themselves. Community participation throughout a design will solve many problems we face in the council areas in the UK and my research of traditional architecture proves this. Throughout a build the local people should always benefit with skill sharing leading onto employment and money to sustain themselves.

I was a volunteer with Landirani for 7 months and learned off the locals as to how they built with rammed earth. There is a guy from Mzuzu (up north) called George who is the site manager of Landirani Trust. He is an expert in rammed earth. Watching his expertise and learning many controversial things from my theoretical education to the practical hands on building was fascinating. There are many rules I could never even think about when designing back in the UK. For instance people in the village would NEVER grow thatch for their rooves because their precious land is used for subsistence farming and to grow the cash crop tobacco.

These factors and the costly equipment like solar panels make sustainability very expensive which is similar to UK. The only down side is that here very few local people have the money and because of this their care for the environment is a second priority. We also have the problem of education. The village people (including people in the UK) find it hard to comprehend that if you spend more at one time the natural energy provided will be reimbursed and repeatedly provide energy as a free source. There is also maintenance which people find hard, mainly because of poor training and misunderstanding.
Formwork must be built and designed for a certain building especially if there are curving walls 
The door and window frames must be centralised in the wall so they are structurally viable

The timber and thatch is ridiculously expensive so the overall cost of a large 2 storey rammed earth build is actually very high.

After volunteering for almost a year luckily I was accepted to be the architect of Sam’s Village which is an environmental training village. We build wind turbines with plastic bottles, use tyres to raise our pit latrines, will be building a plastic bottle compost toilet, and will test and try several different types of sustainable building techniques. We are currently filling maize bags with moist earth which is known as the super adobe technique.
There are currently 5 rammed earth buildings including:
Storage room / washroom / guards house and kitchen as one house!
CBCC - childbase care centre,
Community library,
Visitors accommodation (currently my house which I share with Shelby my peacecorp buddy!)
Site manager’s house – George
There are 3 more currently being built at present:
Training accommodation: to sleep a minimum of 7 people
Restaurant and Bar
Workshop : for vocational activities so people learn / share skills and build things that can be sold in the local market (20 minutes cycle away)
Lets not forget the chicken and pigeon house, and the 5 acres of land that has been designed for permaculture

It was a busy rainy season designing and a fun dry season overseeing the construction team and designs being built. Landirani have just bought a new plot of land in Lilongwe so I will be facilitating design workshops with all of the Landirani staff so we design the new building together. As there is often office politics and strange hierarchies and disagreements over miscommunication I think it will be a refreshing fun task for everyone to get involved with.
I believe a building should be autonomous so the first thing we did after buying the land was go and see a specialist permaculture friend about how we can design the landscape so it works to its full potential. I implemented Zones 1-3 (based on the permaculture theory) around the buildings of an unknown design and I designed a sustainable water system using the natural gravity of the land. There is a gentle slope on site that we are working with. There definitely needs to be a pump system for all year round irrigation in the dry season.
I have just assembled a simple activities sheet for the Monday morning meeting which includes an explanation of an open plan office with a justification of why we have chosen this design. Then there are spaces which will need priorities ranking scores, then a questionnaire and finally an introduction of designing with words, sketches and photos. Both in the office and in the field I am setting up 2 design boards so people can contribute whatever ideas they like.
This is how people feel satisfied and collective, throughout the design. Let’s see if my idealistic theories can work with our team.
All in all I can’t complain my working life is more exciting than my social life which isn’t so bad either!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lost - Life - Love

 Lost in Translation
So I was really happy, I learnt a new phrase last week that seemed to work:
‘Ti yenera mikisana moi yenera’
‘Let’s communicate properly’
It’s only when I got back to the office I repeated the phrase and was told it didn’t make sense
‘Ti yenera kulankulana moi yenera’
‘Let’s speak properly’

I’m not convinced and now quite confused, what have I been saying? This happens a lot in one day. I am learning that any design rules or important information needs to be conveyed with a Malawian translator so everyone can understand what I am saying instead of thinking they can understand! The African ‘yes’ was something I learnt 5 years ago when travelling through. It was obvious people just agreed and pretended they knew what you were saying then would continue giving wrong information.

It has been a very positive week on the construction site. Everyone building the training accommodation on site have been encouraging each other to be more enthusiastic and work harder. People do it in a fun friendly way, perhaps taking the mick so the other person steps up the mark while laughing to make sure everyone knows the point is not an indent into their soul. I was here to understand my team and all of the different characters so I could work with everyone in a different way. I was always friendly and would often say a few important things to the main guys who would then enjoy being the guys to make sure everyone knew the tasks for the day. I'm still not sure whether this works best because I am a lady on a construction site. I'm not sure how this would work in the UK, would I just be direct? As I took the friendly approach, when I had to discipline and get strict people were taken aback and listened. Some didn't and these people are the ones I am now focusing on to gain a better relationship with, to try and understand them better. I believe there should be a good atmosphere on site so people enjoy work.

Life is too short…
Unfortunately there were 2 funerals in the village last week. 1 boy was playing football on Sunday and was kicked in the intestines and didn’t make it to hospital in time. Another lady died who had slept with someone at the local bar. People said she had died of an STD. This talk didn’t seem accurate and is probably mixed with people’s opinions as I’m not sure if you can catch an STD and die in the 1 weekend. Perhaps it was miscommunication again. I do know people are very afraid of getting checked and wouldn’t necessarily trust the hospital staff that the information stayed confidential so many people prefer not to know. It is not culturally acceptable especially in the villages that have strong traditional values.
The local hospital has been closed due to staff stealing and selling the drugs provided by the government. There are some people who had been given responsibility and therefore power that ruin it for everyone else. This is a recurring theme in many jobs which is terrible for the affected people at the bottom of the hierarchies. It’s been an important learning curve but I am slowly working out who I can trust in my circles.

Love the weekend

After my closed bubble in the village I enjoy the freedom of town for the weekend. As I tried to have a detox for one weekend in Lilongwe I realized how many activities involved drinking! My Friday night consisted of baking and watching a movie with my house mates. Usually I would be very excited about a night out and go straight to the bar at Mabuya Backpackers Lodge. Groups would flock together and all plan the cars for a usual night out which was Living Room, then Harry’s Bar, Discorium and then Chezimtimba!  I would always be slightly more spontaneous and go when I was content to leave Mabuya and there always seemed to be a car in line (unless I came with a certain group). This chose my group and therefore the night out. That was as much excitement on a Friday night unless there were house parties, or perhaps Jazz at Lilongwe Sunbird Hotel which was full of rich seedy men offering to buy drinks for any lady with two legs at the bar. There is a wide variation of bars and some nights I would have the thrill of heading somewhere completely different. Strangely people always stayed in the same groups and went to these same bars. A reason for this may be because most people live locally in area 3 and have no vehicle. Mabuya is the closest bar with a lively atmosphere just down the road. Some sober reflection time had highlighted my curious self-need to look further and beyond Mabuya…
Lilongwe is separated into numbered areas. They are not quite organised in order so when I first arrived in Lilongwe I was very confused. As I continued borrowing bikes, walking and when I was lucky the NGO car I learnt about the different places. I found out many people were incapable of drawings maps which interested me. This must have been left out in the education system.
Area 3 has a street of closed gates, plant frontages, trees and several small shops dotted on the back roads.

Street chips are sold on one end of Barron Avenue and vegetables are sold on the final corner before the street turns onto the main road to town. There is a security patrol car that drives around with weapons and large helmets like G4S scary looking people, ready to attack. People talk about not walking around after dark and the many robberies but I have been lucky as to not see any of it. I have always believed negative stories spread rather than the natural human instinct. Having cycled Cairo to Cape Town with no problems (apart from 1 teenage gang in Egypt that could easily happen in London or anywhere else) I am very suspicious about how much of the talk are rumours but unfortunately being a white lady I never risk it. Ok, maybe a few times I have cycled very late in the dark evening but I would be going fast and run them over if people got in my path (this was only in my thoughts of course).
I always walk to town to the markets and random people often stop and offer a lift. I always take the lift and have some interesting conversations about the struggle of the Malawi economy and how everyone needs to help everyone else out. I love human nature, I really do.
There is a close community. I love walking and speak to most people or neighbours I recognise. Many people have walked the hill with me for 20 minutes from town back to Area 3. They are intrigued that I am really trying to learn and practice Chichewa. Not many people in town bother with the language but as I am based in the village I feel the importance of communication! I am also curious about their life; all the locals would walk another 45 minutes further than area 3 and live in Chinsapo 1 or 2. These are the townships that are cheaper but hectic. I love heading over with local mates to drink local brew, Chibuku and continue practicing Chichewa. Chinsapo is lively, crazy, full of markets, music, local bars, and a village scattered within a small space. Each building including schools and churches close onto one another. Boreholes are also scattered for water but there is no sewage or rubbish system. All in all the place is full of energetic and welcoming people which is great fun compared to the closed quiet security ridden area 3.
A usual weekend would include walking into town, stopping off at the local bar and chatting to lots of locals from the markets.

It’s quite disturbing how many people drink in the day,  but at least it’s a Saturday, I wondered how many people continued in the week days? Many local people sit and chat which is a great thing to learn to do compared to my busy life in the UK.
When I manage to borrow a bike I do a lap of the outskirts making sure I appreciate all of the tarmac roads! I would often sit with the Landirani watchguards and learn Chichewa. Now I have moved house I sometimes cycle to meet their families in Chinsapo or the other township Kawale. If I needed a break from everything my expat crowd always have barbeques or do fun activities like walking up Nkoma Mountain (on Blantyre road). I am very lucky to have so many different groups of friends, we are all on the same adventure together, because of this there is a great community and everyone really looks after each other.
My girly friends have all moved in close proximity so I look forward to doing more creative days and chilled activities like baking while I don’t want to drink!