Arriving in Lilongwe was fraught with difficulties for myself and comparatively easy for Andrea! We had planned to arrive at the same time but the Emirates plane exploding in Dubai delayed my journey by two days and led to my suitcase going missing for a week. Thus, my first experiences were shivering in the depths of a southern hemisphere winter without clothes, dog-tired, and desperately trying to catch up with everything. Andrea, on the other hand, had to cope with being by herself, in a new home, with no electricity, no transport, nothing to cook on, or more importantly, no way to make a coffee. However, very quickly, and with the help of some marvellous people, we started to settle in; I say started, because the process has been ongoing, and only now, at the end of the first term, can I confidently say we are beginning to think of this as home.
Which brings me to my first topic; our home. We were a little surprised to have been granted such an extensive estate, although the house is a pleasantly sized three-bedroomed bungalow, the garden is enormous. I haven’t measured it, but we must be sitting on an acre of land, and when we moved in, it was somewhat the worse for wear. Five months later and we have a large area turned over to vegetables, a garden off the veranda containing flowers and a small lawn, fourteen fruiting mango trees, a couple of papaya trees, a lime tree, and one large guava. Clearly the fruit plants were there before we were, but if anyone knows what to do with a couple of tonnes of nearly ripe mango, we would be very interested to hear your ideas. We’ve also planted a herb garden and a new flower bed has just been dug at the front of the house, into which we have planted roses, amongst some more local plants and ground cover.
You will notice that I’ve been avoiding the first person pronoun here. On such a large plot is has been necessary to employ four staff, a maid, which has been normal for us over the last sixteen years, a gardener/day guard and two night guards. That adds up to quite a wodge of cash but is really unavoidable; it must be said that we do like to help the local economy and we appear to be doing just that! The maid and the gardener, a married couple, live in the staff accommodation, which is a separate, two-bedroom building, with its own shower, toilet and cooking area, and we have done our best to make this more comfortable.
We have turned one of the bedrooms into an office, bought a huge, modern four-poster bed for ourselves, and spent several days putting our artwork and various items collected from our travels into the place to make it feel more at homely. Purchases such as a lawnmower and washing machine have also been essential. Andrea turned out to have something like twenty South American cushion covers, for some reason, so one of the jobs was to have them all stuffed, giving our abode something of the appearance of a Bogota favela. This is an ongoing process and we do have to be cautious as the housing contract only runs until the end of this year; we’ll be desperately keen to have it renewed, but nothing can be guaranteed.