Perhaps the most unique aspect of Malawi life is the life of the village. The nation remains, in many respects, as it has been for hundreds of years and nothing in its vision reflects this view of the past quite as pronounced as the villages. They are everywhere. Some number only five or ten homes, and the residents are a single family unit. Other villages number into the hundreds of homes and hold not only a single family unit and its extended family, but a number of other families who have chosen this area in which to live.
The mud hut, thatched roof villages with their bamboo grain bins, cattle and goats milling around the front door, and children playing happily with other village children are common sites throughout the countryside. One look at a village and the visitor will conclude he or she is looking backward in time by maybe 500 or 1000 years. Nothing seems to have changed. There is seldom electricity, running water, telephone service, or very much in the way of any other type of public service.
The village family tills a small plot of vegetables and maize corn for their own use. They have almost no possessions, and a view inside the hut may reflect only one or two chairs and a single table. The family quarters contain bamboo mats for sleeping, a few ragged blankets to ward off cold nights, and only one or two changes of clothing. The kitchen contains only a single pot and one or two pans for cooking. Nsima (a cornmeal type mix) is the main portion of food taken at every meal, and when times are good a few greens, a few potatoes, and a tomato or two may be added to the diet.
It is impossible to know and feel the heartbeat of Malawi until you have spent time in the villages getting to know the heart and soul of the people of this isolated, ancient region of the world.