Thanksgiving in Lilongwe

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After almost two full weeks spent mostly on the lake, we decided to move on and head east to the great capital of Malawi.  Lilongwe is located in the southern part Malawi and is the bustling capital of this tiny country.  Other than an animal sanctuary, large grocery stores (with luxuries such as cheese, pesto sauce, and a variety of vegetables), and restaurants of varying cuisines, there wasn’t much to do and see in the city.  This seemed in line with all the other capital cities we had visited in Africa.  Lots of businesses, spread out, and lack real charm or character in comparison to the villages.  The main difference here was that the large amounts of NGOs seemed to match the number of businesses.  There also aren’t any high-rises.  Otherwise it was just another capital in Africa.

Mabuya1 - Lilongwe

We arrived and found a nice place to stay at Mabuya Camp, where the four of us (for now) devised a plan to share a two bed A-frame for the reasonable price of $25.  James in one bed, us in another, and Chris took one for the team and slept on the floor on his mattress pad.

The world of Malawi ex-pat lodge workers and travelers is a small one.  It wasn’t more than twenty minutes after arriving before we ran into Cameron, one of the owners of Mushroom Farm in Livingstonia.  This particular camp site here in Lilongwe also happened to be owned by the same people who owned Aqua Africa, the spot Ben and Chris got their scuba certification in Nkhata Bay, and the cook/bar assistant Andrew from Aqua was there as well. We were beginning to feel like a part of the larger family now.


Sparkel On - Lilongwe
As a mini nomadic family of five we left some Sparkle and Love at Mabuya Camp.

Our group of five had now gone back down to four – but this only lasted one night.  Izzy had returned north to Mzuzu while we had taken the bus south to Lilongwe.  She had gone to pick up a debit card that had been sent to a local partner bank only to find out it was never sent.  The bank claimed they were not allowed to send it to a PO box which we all found quite hilarious since that was the only type of real mailing address that existed in this part of the world.  With this news and nothing keeping her in Mzuzu anymore, Izzy took the first express bus leaving town to rejoin us the following day.  We assume the rush to rejoin our group was because she missed our lively conversations and good looks.  But she would have to verify that.

While our time in Lilongwe itself wasn’t that exciting, it happened to be where we were for the great American holiday of Thanksgiving.  Being in a larger town with access to a supermarket (Shoprite to be exact) gave us the opportunity to cook a ‘proper’ Thanksgiving meal.  And by proper we just mean a large meal made with quality love and ingredients,  as turkeys weren’t really an option unfortunately.  Chris, being the head chef, had decided on a menu of pesto pasta with chicken, garlic bread, and cucumber salad.  After taking advantage of the accessibility of an internet cafe and trying to play catch-up with emails, blogging, and other online business for almost two hours, we headed as a pack to gather our goods for our big dinner.

At this point you are probably wondering – “when will something go wrong or not to plan?” –if you haven’t already caught on this is the continued pattern in almost all posts we have had in Africa.  And we had been silly to not consider this question ourselves.  It was at this exact time, during the thirty minutes we were shopping in the store, that a large and powerful lightning storm decided to roll in and pretty much have everyone on Shoprite on house arrest for almost an hour while the sky dumped ginormous amounts of water,  causing the power  to go out.  This being a city and a large supermarket there were backup generators, however we soon put two and two together to realize that this may not be true for Mabuya Camp.  While a huge self-cooked meal sounded amazing, we really didn’t want to arrive back at camp and find that all the food we had just bought couldn’t be cooked or stored properly, thus going bad.  And with that our big Thanksgiving dinner meal plans changed.  Collectively, we un-squirreled our stash of food and placed it back in the various corners of the store it came from.  We kept some of the non-perishables, items to make sandwiches for our long bus drive to Zambia the following day, and a few treats like cheese and chocolate.

Not wanting to give up a mini-celebration of a holiday where food is the focal point, we made a new plan.  Indian food.  That evening, after showers, naps, exchanging money and any other last minute business that had to be taken care of we headed to Bombay Palace Restaurant, a local Indian spot.  The restaurant had been recommended by some other travelers and the thought of Indian cuisine was something that made all of our stomachs smile.  While it was a bit more upscale than we had expected it ended up being a very nice and filling Thanksgiving meal.  And it was probably better we didn’t stuff our faces since we all had to be on a bus together the next morning for over eight hours.

Ethnic Thanksgiving Day sharing an Indian dinner in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Ethnic Thanksgiving Day sharing an Indian dinner in Lilongwe, Malawi.

And with that our Thanksgiving came and went.  To us it was just another day of the many in which we are thankful for the blessings in our life such as friends, food, and electricity.  It would be our last day in Malawi.  We came into the country not knowing much of what to expect, having only heard it was the “warm heart of Africa.”  In a span of three weeks we discovered this to be true as we felt the warmth this small yet fascinating country had to offer.