28 August 2009

Shopping Part Two

Malawi has no cities to speak of, so all our supplies come from small towns along the road. The days of big Shoprites and Kwikspars are long over, Lusaka was the last place we managed to score luxuries such as sour cream and blue cheese. The villages along this road are busy, lively and real focal points. Lining the roads are lots of shops, but it's the sandy areas on front of the them that it all happens. Women spread their produce on small mats surrounded by wooden frameworks from which hand bundles of purple, blue and black plastic bags. I never imagined that I would be able to get so much fresh fruit along the roadside, from bananas to tomatoes, aubergines, avocados, onions, corn leeks, cabbages, pineapple apples, pears, potatoes and peanuts. Somehow I expected it to be hard to get fresh food, as I imagined the shops to only stock dry goods and non-perishables. On the one hand: a market in Mulanje, where women spread out their fresh produce from the handkerchief sized fields, red onions in bushels, little piles of red tomatoes, fresh and cooked corn in the husks, sacks of peanuts, big heaps of cabbages, leaves scattering everywhere, brown mounds of potatoes, symmetrical assemblies of avocados, pineapples and aubergines. As we pull over, all eyes turn to us. We get out to look at a lady selling tomatoes in small heaps from a mat, and when her English insufficient a local man steps in. Evas, scruffy but clean, helps us out by sending off small children to get any veggies we desire. All around us are gaggles of kids, nosy but shy, and everyone wants to get the chance to sell us something. I was afraid to offend by turning down all these offers of food, but the women who are rejected smile and move on to another customer. This is our first time at a local market, shopping out there rather than in the supermarket. We have deliberately held back in Lilongwe as the food along the road looks so good and fresh. We move on, looking for fresh corn for dinner, but accidentally end up with boiled, which actually makes it easier to prepare later. Maize is still a staple here, although there is so much exotic fruit and veg around that our diet is quite varied. Next we move on to roast peanuts, which are sold by girls and boys in small bags from bowls carried on their heads. After a fair amount of bargaining for all sorts of foods this is the first time we feel we are being charged foreigner's prices. A little girl tells us that the bag of peanuts costs 10 Kwecha, but her big brother chips in to tell us it's 20. Despite the big brother pressure she sells to us for 10 and tells him off for cheating. On the other hand, a People's Superette (local chain) in Selima, where we dropped in with a long list of needs after having camped for a few days and run out of most dairy and some other items:


  1. Hi Fiver and Stuart

    We are really enjoying your blogs from Africa. It sounds a bit different from Vancouver Island.We have deer, quail, eagles, bears and cougars. Come and see us sometime.

    Roger and Ann

  2. We really have no idea what empty shelves look like!