What is home?
“Home sweet home”; “Home: the place where your exhale feels best.”
Every quote I have ever read about home describes a feeling. It is the family and friends that fill the home with arguments, crying, hugging, laughter, dancing, singing that make the home and not the bricks and layers of cement. The memories created make a home.
I have two homes.
Blantyre, Southern Malawi: I love it here!I can not imagine living in any other city in Malawi maybe Mzuzu but definitely not Lilongwe! (I like Lilongwe for all its nice hang out spots and that is about it. Blantyre lacks in cute cafes where you could just go and have coffee with Michelle Obama as you read her book ‘Becoming’. Honestly if everything that is in Lilongwe found itself in Blantyre, my life would be complete.)
Blantyre is small. Typical of a small city or town, everybody knows everybody; everybody is fair game for topic of discussion. SMALL TOWNS! But I still love it here. Blantyre is surrounded by four beautiful mountains; it is small but green, the weather is mostly perfect (The summers can be brutal, not as brutal as Lilongwe – I do not like summer!) which is probably why I love it so much. It is like a piece of my other home. That is the one I want to tell you about.
It is in the description ‘That Malawian Girl from the Northern Mountains.’ I AM A MOUNTAIN GIRL!
They call her Livingstonia, I call her home!
Thanks to my grandfather turning 90 on 29th August, I get to tell you about my home. I had not been to Livingstonia in four years. My grandpa has come down to Blantyre to visit for the past four years.
Four years is a long time so for all of you whose homes are by the lake, ocean, forests or up in the mountains, I hope you intuitively understand me when I say ‘the mountains were calling out to me and I had to go home soon or I was going to lose my mind!’
For his 90th birthday the family decided to go up to him and celebrate his incredible life. Excited does not begin to describe how I felt!
04:30 am on August 29th we are up and getting ready to go.
05:45 am we have started off for Livingstonia.
Are you asking yourself, why so early in the morning?? It takes twelve hours to get to Livingstonia from Blantyre! Did you just groan? Breath out Oh My God? Are you tired for me and my family just reading that? (You would not be alone – it is a universal response. My sister-in-law reacted just like that, this was her maiden trip to Livingstonia). Do not despair for me, I love road trips and as a Livingstonia native living in the South you master the art of day long road trips.
Tip One: Be unconscious for most of the trip. I was definitely unconscious for at least six of those 12 hours from the moment the car pulled out of the gate, only waking up to use the bathroom and eat. I was very basic that day!
I am welcomed to the North by the rolling hills, the trees are not as green and lush as they should be. It is not the rainy season yet, it is that barbaric time of the year, SUMMER! Honestly! I am sure there is a pretty good reason why summer exists, I choose to not acknowledge it based on the sole reason that summer makes me feel all kinds of uncomfortable and it is also giving these trees a brown tinge and I mostly do not know how I feel about the brown tinge…. possible disdain!
There are two roads to get to Livingstonia Mission: Gorodi and Kaziwiziwi. For as long as I can remember, we have always used the Gorodi Road, it is definitely more scenic as you go up the mountain. You have the mountain on one side, cliff hangers barricaded by trees and the view of Lake Malawi on the other side. Breathtaking! It is not the best road, its a dirt road interspersed with rocks and the worst road to be on when it rains. It is the kind of road that needs a 4 Wheel Drive car. (I have stories/ EMOTIONAL SCARS from that road – tales of being stuck in the mud, as the car wheels spin on the same spot and we have to walk up the mountain, as it pours, to reduce the weight and maybe the car will move – EMOTIONAL SCARS)
Fun Fact: Up until recently it was the better of the two roads to travel on!
There is on going construction on Kaziwiziwi (2 years plus running now and showing little signs of progress – Malawi government at its absolute best!), so it has now become the better road and so we used that road. I should admit I missed using the Gorodi Road, for its views and the springs along the way but do not despair Kaziwiziwi has her perks too!
Nothing brings back life into one’s heart after the bustling life of the city like the sun setting over hills that do not seem to end… You know I conscious for the rest of this trip! How can you not! When there is joy in your heart as the mountains tell you welcome home our mountain girl!
As I took this picture we were 40 minutes from our final destination and I knew I would be out of the car soon enough but I was just itching to get out of the car. Breath in the mountain air, feel the dirt underneath my feet and be enveloped among the magnificence and grandeur of Livingstonia. To be reminded that among all this beauty, God saw it fit to throw me into the mix of this party called Life. 11 hours 30 minutes later, 300m from the house, I jumped out of the car to walk…. Just itching to get out!
Walking into the house, we find my grandfather watching the news. For a split second he does not recognize us and then he says “aaaaaah my girls, I did not recognize you! You know my memory of people and their names is starting to go now!!” Listen it is a wonder and a blessing it took seconds for him to recognize us, the man is 90 now!
He knew he was being thrown a party but he was not expecting us that day. On his actual birthday! Two days before the actual event, he was all smiles .
He is a rockstar! I would love to tell you all about him. His life story…. First black District Commissioner in the district of Ntcheu; his life as a politician (member of parliament), wrongful imprisonments during the life presidency of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda… It requires a book! Oh wait he has autobiographies – you can buy his books. Literally one of the last living legends in Malawi’s History.
Seeing we had arrived two day early, we had a whole day to do just about anything we wanted.
First we went to go see our girl…. Keep Resting Well our Beautiful Malango.
One borrowed car from Uncle Nyengo fondly known as the #OneTenDefender after the trip thanks to Nganiwe; 6 cousins; Designated sober driver and wine bottles we went exploring. I discovered places I did not even know where up there.
We started off at the Mushroom Farm! I would love to tell you this was a “Mushroom Farm” but this really was just a Mushroom Farm (mushrooms thrive in that part of Livingstonia), my apologies. However, if you are keen on recreational Malawi Gold, pretty sure you can find some up in Livingstonia. You did not hear that from me.
A very strong disclaimer! Clearly they already know their clientele.
We spent an hour at the farm. They make some mean Mojitos. It is so hard to create time, to meet with family in the city. Everyone is busy. The two hours we spent at the farm and Lukwe Eco Camp was but a small portion of the laughter and memories created on that trip that brought us closer together and created the feeling of Home.
You think the view was amazing from the Mushroom Farm…. please scroll down!
You can not really see it, but where the land ends, there the lake starts! Land, lake and sky meet! At night, out on the lake you can see the fishermen lights and the night sky is lit up with the stars and the moon and these two worlds meet at the horizon. You can take a picture of it, you could paint it but it would never be as good as experiencing it!
After my grandpa’s 90th birthday celebrations, we went to Manchewe Falls…. You can walk there from my grandpa’s house. Literally have a waterfall in our backyard!
We came for a party…. to celebrate the man, the myth, the legend!
We celebrated a man but I think we celebrated family. We laughed, we sang, we danced. We created memories. I walked away from that weekend grateful for family. Appreciating every single one of them. Remembering the importance of making time to tell each other I LOVE YOU!
We said I LOVE YOU in so many different ways that weekend…. a smile, a hug, kisses, did you eat? please go bath! Competitive game of cards…. There was love. We a created the feeling of home up in the mountains ….. it is no wonder my heart belongs up in the mountains!