I’ve been here for eight months and realized I haven’t given a tour of my house. Come with me as we do this MTV Cribs, Malawian style.
This is the layout of the ‘compound’ I live in. I live right on Malawi’s main road, the M1 (it runs the whole length of the country, north to south). The plot is about two hectares (approximately five acres). It is enclosed by a thorn/cactus fence to keep intruders out like goats and drunkards. My landlord’s house is about 50 metres away from mine.
In terms of size, my house is a Malawian mansion. At about 1,100 square feet, it is about three times the size of many of the houses found just outside my compound in the surrounding village.
As I show you pictures of the inside, use this layout as reference to gain a better perspective.
This is the front of my house. On the left is my veranda that I’ve put a lot of time and money into. It’s HOT in Nsanje (the southern-most district where I live). With no electricity to run a fan, I wanted to create a place where I could sit and read and still have reasonable air flow to keep me somewhat comfortable. The veranda allows me 360-degree airflow. It is my favorite part of the house. The screen door I designed and built myself. I get a lot of comments from visitors about it.
A lot (if not most) of the houses/buildings in Malawi are made out of brick. After, if money allows, concrete is applied as plaster then it can be painted. There are different styles of homes but most have the same set up: living area with bedrooms in main house and the kitchen, pit latrine and bathing areas separately detached. For roofing, either thatch or tin sheets are used.
This is just a peak into the veranda, highlighting the screen door.
I just bought a coffee table for this room but it isn’t pictured. I keep my hot rod (a.k.a. bike) in here. When it rains, I hang my hammock from the windows.
This is the main living room. I have my house set up as though it is all a very large master bedroom. The table on the right was built for me and is quite stunning. I spend a lot of time on the bamboo mat you see lying on the floor, either here, in my veranda or under the mangos.
This is another shot of the living area from the hallway. The iron sheets leaning up against the wall are for a project I’m working on. Stay tuned on an update on that. My guitar in the yellow case keeps me sane. The white lines in the walls are electrical conduits but there have only been promises that the village will get electricity and no action albeit electrical lines running across my front yard, parallel with the road.
This is a small clothes stores. I am ‘house poor’ — too much house, not enough ‘stuff’ to fill it with so it is mostly empty. This room I just have collared shirts hanging up and a duffle bag that I have things I use often but want out of the way.
This is my bed. It’s a queen size. I decided when I moved in that I wasn’t going to sleep on a small, uncomfortable bed so I spent a lot of money ensuring a good nights’ sleep. Mission accomplished. I don’t have my sheets on it because I washed them and haven’t slept in this bed for two months! I sleep outside in my hammock where it is much cooler at night. The tin sheets on the house turn the house into an oven! When it cools down again (rainy season) I’ll make my way back inside. Hanging above is a mosquito net that drops down and tucks under the foam mattress to keep the tiny vampires out.
This is the view down the hallway, standing next to my bed, facing the back door and baffa.
This is where I’ve been raising 22 chicks. I am working on getting them fat and soon I’m going to reintegrate them into the flock and allow them to free range again. Often I find myself just watching them. Chickens are funny, are quite smart and have lots of character.
I also keep my firewood in this room so it keeps dry. With the rainy season coming, it’s imperative I have seasoned wood ready.
This is my large clothes stores. I have to hang everything off the ground because of termites, ants and other critters.
This is my second favorite feature of my house. I designed it. This is the baffa or bathing area. Most baffas in Malawi are outside the house. I wanted mine to be inside so I could bathe in private at any time (I bathe three times a day, mostly to cool down). I designed it with a pipe to carry the water away from the house and put down concrete and a slanted floor so it all drains nice. Also, it keeps me from being attacked by mosquitoes while I bathe at night which is fantastic.
This is looking back down the hallway from the baffa towards the living area.
Doo doo doo lookin’ out my back door. That is my kitchen outside, my food stores through the door on the right.
This is the room closest to my back door and thus where I keep my food and dishes for easy access. I have hug the woven baskets to keep my things off the ground and thus the critters at bay. In the large pots I keep food stuffs like potatoes and oats (I just upgraded to a large pail). I always keep about five kilograms of rice on hand which I keep in the clear plastic pail.
Another shot of my food stores. All my dishes are on the dish rack outside, picture coming soon. . . This is also where I feed my cat, Mr. PeaceCorps who is seen eating small, minnow-like fish.
The large rock is my washing board and the large clay pot is where I put water to draw from when I’m doing laundry. I usually do my laundry once a week and first thing in the morning to get quick access to water at the borehole (which is only about 200 metres from my back gate) and also to beat the mid-day heat.
This structure is my kitchen where I make a fire using a simple clay cook stove and then cook deliciousness. I only use it when it is raining or very windy out. Otherwise, I cook in the shade under the mango trees nearby.
This is my dish rack. This side of the house faces the sun all day (west) and is very hot with no shade (maybe I’ll plant some trees here…). The trees in the background is the mango grove. The poles coming out of the ground are for a fence. The poles will grow into a tree (moringa) and keep that side of the house shaded better. Also, there is a patch of grass I want to manicure and make nice. Mo’ shade, mo’ betta.
This my pit latrine where I take care of business.
Inside my pit latrine is a hole that goes to China. . . or whatever country is on the direct opposite side of the world, I have no idea. . . I’ve heard of goats, sandals, whole rolls of tissue paper and even babies going down those holes. . . The stick attached to the round sheet of tin covers the hole to nowhere. Too keep unpleasant odors at bay, I dump my ash from fires and dry grass and leaves down the hole ever so often.
This is the back of the house. Note the back door, dish rack to its’ left and the mound of dirt on the left side where my plumbing for my baffa comes out.
This is the mango grove with my dog Westeros taking a sun nap (per usual). I spend a lot of time here sleeping, cooking, reading, playing cards, listening to music and plotting to take over the world.
And there you have it folks. My Malawian house. Home sweet home. The King’s castle. The azungu prison. The villain’s lair. The Palace of Nsanje. You’re welcome any time — I’ll keep the candle lit for ya.
Thanks for all the fish!