Lilongwe has a lot in common with Telford, my UK home.
It has lots of roundabouts and it takes 20 minutes to get from anywhere to anywhere; traffic jams excluding. It has shopping centres instead of high streets. It was designed by the British and everything is rather spread out.
When ICT officially finished on Saturday morning, the VSO Logistics team (the ever present and happy Ignasio) had a mammoth task to arrange and load all 10 volunteers’ luggage and VSO issued household equipment (including fridges and mattresses) to their relevant transport. Or in my case, transport everything directly to my new house.
For the next 2 years, my fellow new volunteer house-mate and I will be living in Area 11, Lilongwe.
A nice surprise was discovering that we are 2 doors down from a pair of Filipino VSO volunteers. One of them has been here for over a year so has really good knowledge of how things work here. They are both super friendly and awesome cooks! My house-mate is also a keen cook. So I lucked in 🙂
As expected, the house itself is pretty basic and needed a good scrub clean! It reminds me of my ancestral home in mainland China. Most things are primitive (by Western standards) but functional. I honestly can’t complain because there are lots of other volunteers in much lower standard accommodation. Especially those in very rural areas.
Power and water cuts are common place here and not just for our area. This is the capital of Malawi! So it shows just how poor the country is and how underdeveloped / overwhelmed its infrastructure is. It’s going to take some getting used to! Many volunteers have stories of returning home from work, hungry, but unable to cook. It’s not like you can just pop out for a take-away or call for a delivery because public transport stops operating at around 6 and there are no handy pizza delivery services (that I’m aware of or can afford anyway).
Oh, everything… and I mean everything… here seems to be guarded by G4S! Including our house and other VSO provided housing. After the Olympics London 2012 debacle, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. In any case, we have our own night guard, which is normal here. He’s called Blessings and lives a stones throw from our house with his small family.