Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Dingaan Kafundu
Come to my site any day and at first glance it will seem like a deserted little community. You will see houses, little groceries, and shops, but hardly any people in sight. You might see a young shepherd protégé with his sheep passing in the street, a lady with her source of water firmly placed on her head, or a few distant deep voices of men sharing a laugh over a game of Bawo, but that’s about it. You will soon learn that most of the people here spend their time at their Munda and Dambo (out in their field). That is unless, of course, you decide to come on a Friday.
On a Friday, it’s like a whole different place. My small and quiet community suddenly turns into the hustle and bustle of a big city-esque community. You are woken up before the first cock’s crow, by the sounds of worn out truck engines coming to drop vendors and hopeful salesmen off, voices of women rushing to secure their ‘spot’ on the vegetable stalls, and little boys and girls choosing to skip school to spend the whole day in makeshift cinemas watching their favorite actors in loosely translated Chichewa versions of their favorite movies. It’s Friday market day.
Walking in the street to and from the market, your mind is immediately in awe at all the different colors, people, and items on display. What was a quiet deserted road is suddenly filled and packed to the brim. On your left you have clothes of all sizes and to your right are local hand-woven mats at the most affordable of prices. You walk further into the market and you have butchers taking center stage with pork, beef, and lamb at your mercy. Meat comes once a week, so it is no wonder it pulls the largest crowd. By 12:00pm, the butchers pack their knives up, because they’re sold out of meat.
As the sun sinks into the mountains and the first stars wink, it is of no surprise that it’s the alcohol’s turn to take the spotlight. Men and women alike cheer up in little circles waiting for their locally brewed wine while the younger lot will be found right by the speakers dancing around to their favorite jams. Everyone seems to be having such a great time. And rightly so.
It is a pretty remarkable sight. And as the last truckload of people and unsold goodies depart around 9:00pm, the peaceful calm and quiet makes its way back home to my deserted community. In the morning, it is as though nothing happened the day before, the market is back to a single stall of a few tomatoes and the people go about their business. But inside we are all waiting for Friday to come again.