Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Houses in Blantyre - Carole's Post

Although Blantyre is a large city (population 1.75 million), it doesn't have the feel of a large city. There is a downtown center, but many of the neighborhoods have their own markets and shops, making it feel more like a collection of small villages.  The Zingwangwa Branch encompasses several neighborhoods such as Soche, Chilobwe, Chinyonga, Kapeni, Welemu, and of course, Zingwangwa.  These are the areas we know best.

We have been in a few more modern homes but most of the people we visit live in smaller houses that they or their family have constructed.  Some are in the middle of construction right now.  Some are renting homes.  Most, but not all, have electricity.  If they have it, there is usually a refrigerator in the main room.  The kitchen is just a small room to store things and to cook on a small fire.  Of course, the important part when visiting is how warm and inviting  the home is on the inside and we will write more about that later.  For now, let's look at the outside of the houses.

First, it is rare that we can actually drive up to the home. We almost always have to have someone show us to the house we are looking for.
Brother Banda showed us to three houses of members in the branch.

 When we drive, we usually park the car and walk the last part.
 This is a nice wide road but we still walked.

Another walk that was not too difficult though it would be impossible to drive.  See the houses in various stages of being built.

We were on our way to help build the Chikapa's house and you had to jump across a ditch to get there.

Before a house is built, the land has to be leveled.  If the property is on a hill, they have to excavate into the hill.  This is all done by hand.

Then they have to make the bricks.  You can see holes dug on the property where they dug to get the clay. There are two types of bricks.
 The ones on the left are unbaked bricks.  The ones on the right are "burned" (fired).  We are told that the unbaked bricks will last about 15 years.  The "burned" ones will last twice as long.

In order to "burn" the bricks, the homeowner stacks them up in the shape of a kiln.  They leave tunnels through the bricks so the heat will be distributed more evenly..  Then they build a hot fire  and allow the bricks to "burn" for two days.

One of the first things to do when building a house is to situate the outside toilet.  At the Chipaka's house, several missionaries tried to lift a concrete slab and place in on a septic hole.  It did not budge an inch!  It would take many more men.

The future outside toilets.

When building the house, there are two types of mortar:  cement and mud.
Burned bricks with cement mortar.

Clay bricks with mud.

Here is a large home on a larger street.  It is made out of burned bricks but attached to it is a small house made of clay bricks with mud.  The clothes are for sale.

Sometimes a house is stuccoed or cemented over the bricks.  
Then it can be painted over or
left bare.

The previous house also show the type of roof for most houses - corrugated metal.  We have heard that it can be very noisy when it rains hard in January and February.  It can also be very hot.
Many times they place straw or reeds over the tin roof to keep the house cooler.

Just like anywhere, there are all styles of houses.

Some homes have dirt floors but many have cement floors, which can be added later after the home in built.

Almost every house has a small garden.  Always there is a patch for maize.

Right now everyone is concerned because the rains are later than usual.  Many people have planted assuming the rains would come by mid-November, but it hasn't happened.

A final touch to finish one's property is to put up a  fence, usually made of straw.

The views can be spectacular if you are high on a hill.  But the problem for almost everyone is where is the water located.  It's preferable to go up the hill to get it - at a spring, a well, or a pipe.  Obviously it is much easier to carry a full bucket of water down than up!  We see women and children all day long balancing large containers of water on their heads. 

What is the most fun and rewarding is to visit the families who live inside the houses.  We are getting where we can ask the neighbors where someone lives because these are close neighborhoods where everyone knows one another.  We call out "Muli bwangi"(how are you?) to people we meet or "bo" (hi) to the children and everyone is smiling and friendly, ready to shake our hands.   The above photos make the neighborhoods look empty but they are alive with people everywhere.  It's always an adventure wherever we go!