As I get ready for work I am reminded to be grateful that I am doing so in Canada and not Malawi. Like most of you my morning routine is pretty consistent. I get up when the alarm jolts me awake. For most of the year this happens while the sky is still dark. I stumble to the kitchen and start my coffee. I make my bed, shower and eat breakfast. All in all simple and easy. If my hot water happens to be off I become very angry and am forced to find alternate methods of washing. If this is the case you can bet that all of my friends will hear about it, after all it is an event that happens rarely.
Getting ready for work in Malawi is not as stress free. While I lived there I did set an alarm but I don’t think many do. I think they just wake up when the household, the roosters and the neighbours begin to stir. I always set my alarm for 5:45 which was far earlier than I’d ever wake up here. I was forced to to do this because the electricity often go switched off at 6:00 and I needed to start my breakfast and shower before the hot water heater and the kettle became useless. For people like Azikiwe there is no such thing as a hot water heater. His adult daughter wakes up before he does and starts the charcoal burner. She boils a large pot of water and takes it to the “bathroom” where he will mix it with cold water from the tap. He will bathe while bending over a large basin of warm water.
The bathroom in Malawi is generally a room for the shower. It is a shower stall with a real door. The tilet and sink are in a separate room. In some cases the toilet is in a room by itself while the sin is in the hallway.
After bathing a female Malawian must begin to prepare the family breakfast. Breakfast options are pretty limited. There are eggs, bread, porridge or sweet potatoes. Most often these foods are prepared on a charcoal burner. This means that food prepararation takes a long time and that baking, roasting or grilling is not an option. During my time in Malawi I mostly ate oatmeal but my friends generally eat just bread with margarine and some tea. Given that the morning meal is taken before 8 and lunch isn’t usually until 2 this is not a good way to gather energy for the day ahead.
Getting to work is generally the same in Lilongwe as it is in Toronto. If one is fortunate enough to have a car they fight the traffic headed into the city centre. The infrastructure there is terrible. A 5km distance could take 45 minutes to drive during the morning rush. For those without a car they cram onto crowded mini-buses and head to work.
Azikiwe likes to remind me that I have a soft life. I suppose he is right and I do need to appreciate this fact. When I get to work I can be assured that I won’t have slopped in mud, my face and feet won’t be caked with road dirt and I will most likely have had a good breakfast and a hot shower. Really, what do I have to complain about?