Thursday, December 31, 2009

Satemwa and travelling Malawi

With the rain pouring down in sheets, I am sitting comfortably under a covered deck sipping some delicious red tea.   I am currently staying at the Chawani Bungalow at the Satemwa tea estates, and the beauty here is hard to describe.  Satemwa is a fair trade tea estate that welcomes visitors to stay at the old colonial houses that the British built here in the 1920s before they left Malawi after independence was declared in the 1960s.  The green tea bushes mixed with the white skies and red earth makes this place seem like a paradise.

I can't help but notice how the people inside the estate all seem happier, healthy and extremely warm.  As we drive through the estate to our lodgings, just about everyone waves and smile at us, whether they were picking tea, or just walking down the road.  Maria explains that the owners of the estates take care of their workers and often provide free health care.  The workers here also seem to live on the grounds, and as you can see, they are able to grow their own crops. (Sweet potatos).  The housing looks small and rudimentary, but compared to what i saw on the road, they seem to be much better off.
We left Lilongwe on Monday and drove to Blantrye, which is the largest city in Malawi.  There is only one main road, but it is reasonably well maintained, (Lake Shore Drive has been worse), but that isn't what struck me about the road. All along the road, were people.  I don't mean people in cars. but rather, nearly the entire drive there would always be people walking along the road, children in pairs, women carrying loads, groups of laborers.  And all along the roads were small huts, sometimes the huts would congregate enough to maybe call it a small village, but they were essentially huts.  The huts seemed like a bad stereotype of Africa, straw and red earth mud would be shaped into small rooms enough to hold maybe 2-3 people.

On our way out of Blantyre, as we drove down a road, we came to a much larger congregation of people, and this was the market.  I hope these pictures do it justice, but this market was huge. The produce being sold was fresh and extremely cheap.  It was pointed out to me, that the shaded parts of the market were reserved for the men, while the women were forced to out into the sun.   Despite the laziness of men being an international phenomenon, the market itself was special, we were the only non-Malawians there, and it made little difference.

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