Monday, January 11, 2010


I got to explore Lilongwe yesterday a bit.  I hadn't started really travelling overseas until the last couple of years, but i notice that i really enjoy walking around a city and getting lost.  It seems like a strange thing to say, but you really can get a sense of a city's "soul" or spirit after walking around a bit. It would be a lie to say that lilongwe is a beautiful city.  The architecture is very bland, and the city that i got to explore is resembles a long line of mini-malls.  Such as :

But the character of Lilongwe isn't found in the permanent buildings, but much more in the marketplaces that dominate the city.  There is one huge marketplace, that used to be broken up into lots of smaller ones, but the government got tired of complaints of street harassment and forced everyone into a large marketplace area.

i couldn't quite a good picture of the entire market, but to give you a sense, there are bridges such as this one:.  The marketplace is huge, and i think it is the size that sort of got to me.  One area was dominated by produce, another area by clothes, and so on.  The problem was that most of what people were selling was indistinguishable from each other.  This made hawking wares one of the most prominent features of the market.  It didn't help to be one of the few foriegners at the market since it meant that i was constantly being yelled at.  Now most of the people at the market would just yell out things as simple as, "come here and look", "Hey boss, you want these tomatoes, i give you a good price".  OF course, not everyone was trying to sell something at the market, or if they were, they might have marked me as not a potential customer, since i got quite a few, "You china?", "Ching chong ching" thrown my way.  I find it ironic, that traveling 1/2 way across the world, and i felt like i was back in elementary school .

Here is a recording of the marketplace.

I do want to point out something i found really neat, at the marketplace they had one area where people played pool outside...

The other prominent feature of Lilongwe that i found was the mini buses.  It shouldn't be a surprise to most that cars are a luxury that ordinary malawans don't have access to.  And while i saw a ton of bicycles on the rural area roads, the roads in Lilongwe had far fewer bicycles.  (still prominent, but nothing like China in the 80s.).  Instead the city is dominated by private buses, and they were univerally these volkswagen white "mini-busses."  They were everywhere and they charge a small fee. There are no "bus stops", but there are prominent stops that you can find 2-3 mini buses waiting to pick up enough passengers to go to a destination.

There were however, bus depots, or areas where these buses gather to take people outside of lilongwe.  And in many ways these bus areas were even more loud and raucous than the marketplace. People came up constantly to ask if you wanted a cab to go somewhere.Here is a recording done at the depot.

I am not sure there is anything to this, but i find it interesting that in nearly every single city, there are people who like to play games outside. Whether it be chess or something like this African game, which has many names, but here in Malawi it is just called Bao.

Here are some vendors playing,

And here, these men have made their board out of dirt..

I bought a board, and am trying to learn the game as much as i can before i return to the states!

1 comment:

  1. Did you get a chance to visit the city center and the new parliament building? If you did could you pls post some pictures.