Tag Archives: Village

Denis has a Farm in Africa

Late last week, a neighbor invited us to join the Society of Malawi on an excursion to a tobacco farm near Zomba. Eager to take every opportunity to see the country and meet people, I quickly agreed. Saturday morning, Sandy had to deal with the car (more about that coming soon) so it was just me. We packed up a lunch and headed off in our neighbors’ 30-year-old land rover.

We stopped at a roadside market as we drove north out of Blantyre. Unlike my last trip out of the city, this landscape was more mountainous. Large hills or small mountains rose out of rocky green fields. After awhile, we turned off of the tarmac and onto a mud road. While not as rough as the last mud path I was on, it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing. We bounced along the way, passing small herds of goats, sheep, and random chickens. We passed small villages and fields of neatly planted crops.

Eventually we made it through the gates and pulled up at Denis’ house. Denis, I learned, is a white Malawian who offered to host the Society on a trip around his farm and Bar-B-Q afterwards. He is a good looking man, probably in his late 50’s, with a unique accent that sounds like a combination of South African and Zimbabwean. He welcomed us warmly but seemed slightly overwhelmed when he heard 50 people would be showing up.

After we were all gathered, slathered with sun screen, and ready with our hardy footwear, we headed off to learn all about this working tobacco farm. The farm had been in Denis’ family for generations and now his son is taking over. He is very proud of employing over 200 Malawians, and producing crops that contribute to Malawi’s exports.

Our first stop was at his new Macadamia grove. It turns out that Malawi is fourth in the world in Macadamia nut production (behind Australia, Hawaii, and South Africa). Planting, growing, harvesting, roasting, and packaging the nuts can be a difficult process, but at the end of the day, Malawian macadamia nuts are some of the best and most sought after in the world.

The long train of visitors wound along the path to the tobacco fields. It reminded me of a middle school field trip – it was a little cliquey as everyone stayed with people they knew. Everyone had their cameras out, snapping away and asking questions. I half expected us to be directed to the nearest food court where we each had $8 to spend. Or for teenagers who were “sort of going out” to lag behind and stealthily hold hands.

Denis was extremely knowledgeable and made tobacco growing sound pretty exciting. Having grown up in Winston Salem, North Carolina, I have an interest in the cash crop and found it all really interesting.
As we were heading back to the house, the heavens opened up and we got caught in a major thunder storm. It put a damper on our plans to have the bar-b-q, but watching a dramatic thunderstorm from the porch of an African farm was amazing.

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Celebrity for a Day

 

As we continued on our trip, we drove deeper and deeper into the countryside.  We wound along the same dirt path which only got worse – larger rocks, narrower passes, and deeper ruts.  We picked up several ladies who were walking along with various things balanced on their heads and gave them a ride to the next village.  The whole time, Chrissie and her mother chatted in Chichewa, Chrissie periodically interpreting for me.  We passed through more tea fields and drove along the rolling hills.  Finally, we turned a sharp bend and behind a long line of blue gum trees was a small collection of cardboard, tin, and thatched shacks.  Chrissie explained that this is her mother’s supermarket.  If she needs eggs, cloth, a cell phone cover, anything, she can come to one of these small one-person lean-tos and stock up. 

We continued on into fields of maize growing taller than the car.  Chrissie and her mother waved and shouted greetings to almost everyone we passed, many of them being relatives. 

Chrissie in her big hardy truck would have drawn attention on her own, but she had an mzungu (singluar of azungu) with her.  Deep in this country village, it had probably been some time since they had seen a white person.  Several people stared at me as we passed, mouth gaping slightly open.  Some smiled and waved enthusiastically.  And some gave chase – I turned around at one point and there were five small children running along behind our truck. 

We passed several neighbors’ homes which were modest and rustic.  Finally, we reached Chrissie’s mother’s home – a lovely brick structure designed for comfort and hospitality.  After a brief tour, we had a delicious lunch.

The group of children who had been following the truck quicly grew in number and they were hanging out at the edge of the property.  Every time I looked up at them, they smiled and waved.  I went and talked to them (or mimed at them, as my Chichewa is limited to “banana” and “beer” and their English didn’t extend past “hello, how are you?”).  I also took a few pictures of them which they loved seeing.  After going inside for awhile,  I looked back outside and the group had grown even more.  They were all standing in the same spot, watching me and waiting for a wave or a smile. I looked up again, about twenty minutes later, and the group had crept up closer and were sitting on the steps.  Every time I looked up, they laughed and waved.

So, I am guessing from my brief fifteen minutes of fame in the village, that this must be what it’s like to be a celebrity.  If my celebrity status really takes off and spreads to say, two or three villages, maybe Sandy and I will soon be  “Kandy” or even “Sate.”

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