As I (Belinda) drive into Zomba, I’m busy working out what I need to buy and what shops I will need to visit. I’m also negotiating all the potholes, and avoiding all the people, bicycles, children, etc. walking/riding on the side of the road. Sometimes I pass monkeys, and that always makes me smile – it reminds me how different life is here.
My first stop is Metro, one of 2 supermarkets in the town. When I say supermarket, don’t imagine your local Tesco or Asda. Instead, think of your local corner shop, with about a quarter – or less – of the choice of products. I manage to park outside, and am immediately approached by various fruit venders, and sellers of mops, brushes, wooden spoons, etc. I take a look at what is on offer, but I don’t buy anything.
Inside Metro I head to the back, down the narrow aisles, negotiating the sacks of ufa (maize flour for cooking nsima, the staple food). The shelves are high, and are well stocked with basic choices. I approach the bakery. The word “bakery” can bring to mind bread, rolls, cakes, etc. This bakery only sells bread, though other bakeries in town sell rolls and other kinds of bread as well. But the bread here is delicious and often still hot from the oven. Today is a good day – there is bread sitting on the counter. Sometimes there is none left, or none has been baked yet that day, maybe because there is no power. I pick up a plastic bag and choose a loaf (they are all the same – fresh white loaves).
As I walk to the cash desk I look to see if there is anything I haven’t seen before available on the shelves. I think this must be a throwback to the UK! Everything looks much the same as the last time I was here. I pass the crisps and the biscuits. Here there is a vast choice of enticing sounding treats, though I must admit that sometimes what I would really like is a nice packet of ginger nuts! I walk past and manage to avoid temptation.
I greet the cashier and pay for the bread – it costs the equivalent of about 40p. As I leave the store, I am usually petitioned by beggars, and any venders who missed me on the way in. I climb back in the car, and carefully reverse onto the road. People frequently walk behind the car as I’m backing. I’m never sure if they are unaware of the danger, or are just supremely confident that they have the right of way! Whatever the reason, I am very careful.
As I wait at the traffic light, I am already deciding where to go next. This is the only traffic light in Zomba, and I have heard many people say that there were no traffic queues before it was installed. I know that when the power is out, which happens quite often, the traffic flows much more freely through the junction. I turn left down the main street and head to my next location…