Lilongwe is really beautiful but a little bizarre. It’s very green, lush, and spread out. It’s the capital city but has no movie theater… or… get this… 24-hour hospital. That means if you have an emergency in the middle of the night, you either wait until the morning to go to a doctor, or drive 4 hours to Blantyre..
It was a small sleepy town in the 60’s when it became the capital and the city planner laid it out in “areas.” Interestingly, area 1 is nowhere near area 2. Area 10 is nowhere near area 9 or area 11. The legend is that the planner expected the areas to eventually have neighborhood names, like stony brook or monkey island. Instead, it is a city of “areas” – like Paris’ arondisements, only not as romantic.
It seems that about eighty percent of the city’s roads are not named – which means that when you’re meeting someone somewhere, the directions go something like: go to the big tree beside Shoprite – turn left – go about four houses – then turn right at the fence with the loud guard dog – then pass the guy selling pineapples – etc.
Because it’s not easy to get around without a car and Sandy didn’t want me to come to his work meetings (?), I’m sitting on the veranda of our lovely guest house. I am half listening to the President commemorate Malawi’s National Anti-Corruption Day and watching the hotel guard unwillingly babysit one of the seven-year-old guests. This child, by the way, is banging a hammer against a rock – she’s been going at it for 57 minutes so far. I might have to break my computer over her head.
Yesterday, we tried to go to the little wildlife sanctuary in town. It is 300 kwatcha for Malawians and 900 kwatcha for tourists. I figure we’re somewhere in between, but they wanted to charge us 900 kwatcha since we couldn’t produce a Malawian passport. I guarantee you that 70% of Malawians can’t produce a Malawian passport. When we explained we live in Blantyre, they made fun of the way we pronounced the name of our neighborhood. So, we decided not to pay the tourist price, and left.
We head back home tomorrow and I’ll be glad to get back to Blantyre, but it’s been a nice visit and a successful one for Sandy.