Saturday, 16 July 2011
We’ve spent the past two days soaking up as much of Tom’s village life as possible. This has meant meeting people – lots of people. The immediate village consists of his local chief and his family, as well as several other families under this chief’s ‘rule’. We met all of them. We also met families in adjacent areas, which can be considered part of the same greater village, but are quite a distance away on foot. Meeting people is a very formal affair here in rural Malawi, and it is considered respectful to seat one’s self before introductions. By now, Constance and I are veritable experts in Chichewa – at least in saying ‘Muli Bwanji’!
Last night for dinner we wanted to do something special, so we arranged for Tom’s chief to purchase a chicken from one of the neighbors (even though there are chickens all over the village… I’m told these are for eggs, although we haven’t seen any since we’ve been here). Constance had the privilege of slaughtering the chicken, which was done by stepping on the wings and cutting the head off – pretty gruesome, but probably one of the better ways a chicken can go… Just yesterday we were startled by a commotion in the early afternoon; a group of chickens in front of Tom’s hut suddenly caused an uproar, and when we looked, a falcon was taking off again after having swooped down to grab a young chick. Luckily for the chick, and for the egg lovers of the village for that matter, the falcon returned to the sky empty-taloned.
On our way to the village from Kusungu, we noticed something particularly strange. There were lots of young boys with what looked like charred mice wedged between small slivers of bamboo, patrolling the roadsides and waving their wares at the bus windows as we stopped to let people off. It seemed they were trying to sell them, and while I couldn’t imagine for what purpose, Tom confirmed my worst fear – they were for eating! We didn’t buy any, but for some reason, I became more and more curious what the tiny mice might taste like. So today we asked Ambrosi, the chief’s 9 year old son, if he might be able to score us a mouse or two. In the afternoon, Ambrosi and a friend found a mouse burrow, and we set off with the two boys and the friend’s older brother to try and dig them up. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful, and we found an impressive network of subterannean tunnels, but no mice. Hopefully when we head on to our next stop in Malawi there are still mice to try - I wonder if they’ll taste as disgusting as they look.