Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi, and is located in the central region. Lilongwe is also the name of the district, which is divided into different areas that are each assigned a number, like Area 25 and Area 23. The city of Lilongwe has government buildings, shopping areas, restaurants, a hospital, hotels and of course the PC Office. It also has lots of outdoor markets and shops.
One of the best things about being in the city for a PCV is the food. Particularly pizza. This was my first meal when I arrived in Lilongwe last December. It was from Sana, and it tasted as good as it looks. Which was very good.
The outdoor vegetable market in Lilongwe is amazing. They have everything! Except I don't cook when I am in the city because I am usually staying at a hostel with no kitchen facilities. Oh well. It is still nice to look at.
As PCVs we can't afford new clothes from the shops, so we buy used clothes from the markets (although there is a used clothing chain called DAPP that we frequent also). The Lilongwe clothes market is HUGE! To get there you have to cross a rickety wooden bridge and pay a small fee. Here is a photo I took of the bridge last December. Back then it cost K20 to cross the bridge. However, the bridges collapsed during the storms we had in January, so they had to rebuild. Now it costs K30, and is hopefully much more stable. I walked across it in February and it seemed pretty solid. There were a few wobbly parts though.
Used clothes shopping is more like pile diving. Piles are usually divided by gender and article of clothing. I was looking for skirts for teaching the last time I was there, but I didn't have any luck that day. I did find a few cute shirts and blouses though.
You can buy shoes there too, though so far I have only bought cheap, new ones.
Lilongwe also has a wonderful chitenje market. To get there you have to walk past the clothing market and then wander through a maze of vendors, often jumping over mud puddles and walking through dirty alleys. Good times. But it is worth it. When you get there you see a narrow aisle with a huge selection of chitenjes and the best prices I have seen so far-- K1300 each. The first time I went I bought one to make into a skirt, and one for a PC bandanna swap my group was doing at our IST. (I ended up with some really cool patterns after the swap).
Guess what-- there is ice cream in Malawi! Which is great because it is so hot here. And also because ice cream is delicious. You can find soft serve at a few restaurants, but sometimes you come across something special. Like this place, which has milkshakes! I can't remember the name of the place, and I only went there once in December, but I definitely want to go back. Here is a photo of me having my first milkshake in Malawi. (I had been up since 5:30am and spent hours on a bus earlier that day, so I was exhausted, which you can see in the photo.) All the more reason to enjoy a delicious treat with my PCV friends.
The accomondations in Lilongwe are really nice. It costs more than the place we stay at in Blantyre, but the rooms have their own bathroom and they have air conditioning. Some even have refrigerators. I feel like royalty when I stay there.
So going to Lilongwe is a nice treat after being in the village for a while. It's a chance to eat some familiar foods, speak English, hang out with the other PCVs, do some work at the PC Office and just enjoy a hot shower, a clean bed and a toilet. Lilongwe is pretty far away from my site, so I'll probably only go there a few times a year for trainings. But I will definitely enjoy being there when I go.