Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When the Spirit Moves, Buy Those Shoes

I think I mentioned I pretty much wore out the cute little ballerina skips I bought for this journey in Malawi. I was thinking I'd be in the city for the most part. And, for the most part, I was. But when I wasn't actually in the city, I was walking pretty dusty and rocky roads. The shoes were quite lovely and very thin soled. Alas. They looked quite stylish with my long cotton skirts.

Something told me, though, that those thin soles were not going to make it much further, so I went shoe hunting during my 5 hour layover in Johannesburg. I ended up with something not nearly as chic, but certainly a lot more serviceable. They ended up being Crocs! They look like suede Mary Janes. That strap across the instep was an excellent idea. Being Crocs, there was no way I would get a "perfect" fit, but they did the trick, except for those moments when my foot twisted out of them because they are just a tad large.

I still don't like looking at them.

The first day in Ghana we went to the market in Accra. It was a lot like the market in Lilongwe -- only a LOT bigger. Around the perimeter of the market the shops and pathways are a normal size, but as you get into the market, the pathways narrow and the shops get smaller and closer together. Emmanuel had some errands to run, so I got to see the market up close and personal.

Everywhere we went the folks were gracious and kind. A couple of times Emmanuel left me at a shop while he went in search of whatever it was he was in search of. The people went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. Akkwaba! means "welcome" in Twi. I was very much akkwaba everywhere I went.

At one point Emmanuel was purchasing women's underwear to bring to his girlfriend, Charlotte's, mother in Cape Coast. Charlotte's mom has a store and she would resell the merchandise. The underwear booth we went to wasn't much bigger than a postage stamp. We went behind the counter and I sat on the only chair while Emmanuel negotiated his transaction.

Clearly modern marketing concepts haven't escaped the folks in Accra. Although the shop sold both men's and women's undergarments, they "got it" that women do most of the buying. There I sat surrounded by shelves and shelves of underwear boxes sporting rows of six-pack-abs men modeling their product.

I got to see a lot of those shoes while I was waiting.

As we walked deeper into the market the pathways narrowed. I'd say they were no more than three feet wide with hordes of people going both ways. I'd often have to step into a shop as someone with a more-than-3 ft. wide bundle on their head passed me by. Negotiating market streets was a challenge, to say the least.

Emmanuel had quite a few things to purchase, and his bundles were getting to be burdensome. As we were leaving the market, he engaged the services of a porter -- a young woman with a very large pan on her head. We piled all the bundles into the pan and for, quite literally, the equivalent of a few cents, she followed us to the car, carrying the bundles. I can think of times when I would like to have such a service!

That being said, a lot of the porters are very young and look to me like they should have been in school. It is a very hard life -- all day long carrying other people's good for pennies.

I wish I had taken a picture.

(This last market picture comes from http://search.creativecommons.org/ Uploaded on August 28, 2007 by Sara&Joachim) I tried uploading it using the blogspot facility so proper attribution would be made, but it didn't work.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome to Accra!

Arrived in Ghana without much of a hitch on July 9th.

The internet connection in Ghana was wonky, to say the least. It would start out at 54 Mbs and the connection fluctuated between 8 and 25 Mbs thereafter. I think the little men carrying the letters across the wire were on sietsa most of the time.

Our flight arrived a little early and I whizzed through customs. I walked outside and it took my breath away. Not that I could see anything -- it was almost 10 p.m. It was almost 80 degrees and huuuuuuummmmmmmiddddddd. After sleeping in socks in Lilongwe, this was definitely a change. I knew it would be hotter in Accra. I just missed the part about it being the rainy season.

Arriving early definitely has its disadvantages. When I arrived in South Africa my ride wasn't there. When I arrived in Accra my ride wasn't there. In another story you'll find out when I arrived early in Rome my ride wasn't there either. The only time it is a bonus to arrive early is when you have your own car at the airport or you're grabbing a taxi.

After a few phone calls Emmanuel arrived. My hero! We loaded into the car and set off for the Evita Hotel in Kaneshi. After I got situated we agreed we would set out the next day at 10:30 a.m.

The first thing you I noticed driving around Accra is the roads. Around the airport everything seems normal, but it is not long before you feel like you're on a roller coaster. Here we were in the capital city, and most of it has dirt roads! Dirt Roads + Rainy Season = potential disaster. The potholes are not to be believed. The best driving strategy can only be described as bobbing and weaving. At any given time you find yourself on any side of the road trying to avoid potential sink holes!

Of course, it doesn't really seem to matter which side of the road you're on in Accra. There don't seem to be any traffic rules once you get outside the paved areas. There are no lights -- or if there are, they don't usually work. There are no street signs, except for one or two stop signs everyone ignores. The only rule seems to be: only the boldest advance. These folks would put any NY taxi driver to shame. I think the method is to make no eye contact, pretend the other guy isn't on the road and keep going. The theory is the other guy will stop and you can move forward.

Another thing you notice immediately are the number of overtly religious references stenciled on the backs of mini-buses, taxis and business establishments. For example: would you have your nails done in a place called "In the Lord's Time Nail doctor"? I wonder what it means to make an appointment in that place. We passed a clothing store called, "Christ in All, the Hope of Glory Fashions." Would you eat in an establishment called, "Put Your Trust in God Chop Bar"? How about having your hair cut at "Hands for Christ Barbering"? Could be an exceptional haircut! When we were at Shoprite Supermarket, they played Christian praise music. It is quite a change from the American scene.

Putting the roads and references together, Emmanuel told me a joke about a cab driver who had "See What the Lord Has Done for Me" stenciled on the back of his taxi. One day he was driving around Accra and he attempted to drive through a pothole filled with water, thinking it was just a puddle. The pothole turned out to be a sink hole and his taxi went nose down into the abyss. The only thing anyone could see was the back window.

Welcome to Accra!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Half Way to Ghana on July 9th

Thanks to Sandy, I had a sense of what might come up at the airport in Lilongwe. All-in-all things went pretty well. Before boarding the bus to the plane we were required to identify our bags so they could be put on the plane. When the guy came to tell me to identify my bag I couldn't understand a word he said, but he was motioning toward the door and I figured it out.

As we were preparing to board the plane, the woman who checked me in in the first place told me my carry-on was too big and could not be taken on the plane. She was not happy with me. I was not happy with her.

Given the number of people boarding (there were 6 of us) I couldn't figure out what the problem was -- and I was beginning to think we were going to be on the prop plane I was staring at with much trepidation. I didn't see the 737 a way down the tarmac. The woman kept insisting the flight was very full and there was no room for my bag. I thought, she was out of her mind.

Turns out the flight originated somewhere else. It was full everywhere -- except in business class. Here's another international "language": Put your suitcase in the first available bin, regardless of where you are sitting.

The woman tagged the bag -- wanting to tag it all the way to Accra. I insisted I would claim it in South Africa -- which, of course,, meant I would have to do that exit-customs-check in-security thing when we arrived in South Africa. They don't do the "curbside" thing like they do in the US where, if they take your bag because there's no room, you pick it up plane-side when you arrive at your destination. Grrrr.

When I boarded the plane I spoke to the stewardess (do we call them that any more?) and I am sure was looking pretty darned miserable, I am sure. I didn't get my "New York on," though. I was very nice and said I couldn't understand because I knew it would fit in the bin.

Then I went to sit in my seat and someone was in it. "So sorry." I sat next to her.
The next thing I knew the stewardess came up with my bag in her hand. turns out there were only 5 people in Business Class -- 16 seats. She put the suitcase in front of the window seat behind me and said I could go back and sit with the bag.
I was majorly relieved and astounded. I could not imagine that happening on a US airline -- a fairly heavy bag just out there on the floor. I took my bag attachment loop, put it in the handle and attached it to the buckled seat belt and pulled it very tight. I figured if anything happened the only person to get hit would be me.

When we arrived in SA the pilot pulled up to the gate -- but not all the way. Everyone was getting out of their seats. I figured they knew something I didn't, so I got up too. The next thing you know the plane starts moving to get into position. Nobody said anything. I can just hear the US folks screaming "the plane will not move until everyone is sitting down."

Then the chief stewardess advised people that they might want to sit because we had to move to a new gate. I'd say 10% of the people sat back down. The plane repositioned with most of the people standing and the overhead bins wide open.
I'm telling you. Flying in the air is the easy part of getting around.

When I arrived in South Africa I did a survey of the airport shops. Sandy is right. They are VERY interesting. I spent quite a bit of time in "out of Africa." I ended up buying a pair of Crocs at another shop. They're kind of cute in that ugly Crocs sort of way. They're Mary Janes that have a sueded look. They have a bit more padding than the cute little black skips I was wearing in Malawi. I got to thinking that if I end up in the villages, those shoes wouldn't make it through the week. As comfortable as they are, there is not a lot of padding between the soles of my feet and the uneven terrain. Don't ask me what I was thinking when I wore them to Lilongwe. I think I thought I was going to be spending my time in the city. Silly me!

They didn't have the black in my size so I ended up getting the "chocolate" pair. It's a taupy kind of chocolate. I just won't look at my feet.

So, who knew . . .

Tea doesn’t come off the vines in mesh bags with little strings? Did I know there were acres and acres of beautiful green leaves on bushes almost shoulder high that yield the leaves in those little bags? Did I have any idea how the leaves are gathered (by hand) by people with baskets on their backs? They go through the rows of tea, pick the leaves and throw them over their shoulders into these rather huge baskets. The leaves are then brought to a facility where they are dried. Then they are crushed. Then they are sifted. Seems there are other similes for God’s refining fire.

Eventually they make their way into those little mesh bags with strings that we know and love. I never was much of a tea drinker until I met my good friend, Kathryn Jackson. She taught me tea was served best in a thin cup – a lesson she learned from her mother, Mrs. Grady. Since Ms. Kathryn is 90, I figure her mother musta known something we don’t in the 21st century.

On Saturday, July 4th, the MacFarlan clan and I headed down to Blantyre for the celebration of the 45th anniversary of Malawi independence. For Maitland it was somewhat of a command performance, although I am sure he was honored to be invited and part of the celebration. Sandy, Moses, Miriam and I were privileged to go along for the ride – although we didn’t attend the actual celebration.

While Maitland was in the stadium waiting for the President (who came on time), Sandy, the children and I went on an excursion to the border of Mozambique. I would have loved to have put my toe on the edge, but we didn’t know what the visa requirements were. The Malawi folks were ready to let us through, but not knowing the requirements, we didn’t know if the Mozambique folks would let us back into Malawi, so we didn’t go. I’ve got a picture of Mozambique from the Malawi side. That counts for something.

Our journey took us through the most incredible scenery. In particular, we went through two market places that reminded me of the pictures we used to see of Soweto back before South African liberation. Rows of wooden shanties packed together lining dirt streets. I do not have pictures. Perhaps I am just chicken, but it seemed to me to be disrespectful to be out there taking pictures of normal people living normal lives without their permission, and I just wasn’t sure how to negotiate that. I will attempt a word picture, but it will be woefully inadequate.
On both sides of the road were wooden “lean-tos” that were store fronts. They looked rather like Fisher Price children’s play store fronts – only they were larger, made of wood and not nearly as sturdy. They seemed to lean into one another from side to side. If the one on the end collapsed, it looked like they would all go down like a stack of dominoes.

All kinds of goods were being sold: food (tomatoes, potatoes, cassava, cabbage, bananas, pineapples—you name it); blankets (made in Mozambique), enamel ware (remember those old enamel dish sets? That’s the kind of stuff being sold.), all kinds of tin items, fabric for dresses and chitenji. My eyes could barely take in the variety of items offered at these markets. On each side there were cross streets leading up to the main road, each of which had similar establishments.
There were people everywhere – and they all knew pedestrians had the right-of-way. If we drove through these market areas at 5 mph we were making good time. Hats off to Aaron, our driver, who made it though without running over any toes or destroying any bicycles (or the people on them!)! Aaron is a very good, very serious driver who is able to negotiate Malawi’s roads with great aplomb. All of the highways, it seems, are two lane, so there’s a fair amount of passing slow trucks and even slower bicycles laden with amazingly heavy loads. I think in one of my posts I mentioned the bikes being stacked with 50lb sacks of maize flour or other grain. That was a mistake. The bags are 50 KILOS! Twice the weight I imagined – and sometimes there are two and three bags stacked on the back of the bike.

And, of course, wherever you drive and whenever you pass, you have to be aware of people walking – women, young and old, with heavy buckets of water or bundles of goods on their heads; men carrying heavy loads and/or passengers on their bikes – often a woman with a baby on her back (and sometimes another child in her lap!). You have to be aware of the children walking to or from school – horsing around as young children will when set free! You have to be aware of the goats – are they going to cross the road or not? And, of course, there are the never ending potholes – some of which I am sure are sink-holes. Needless to say, there is a big push to get home before dark because none of the streets are illuminated – adding a good deal of mystery and adventure to the sojourn.

Yep. Hats off to and prayers for Aaron! (and for Sandy and Maitland who do their own driving when there is no official business going on.
There really was no way to take pictures of this incredible experience, but it is one I never will forget. It is a graphic mixture of abject poverty (by U.S. standards) and prosperity and entrepreneurship.

I have no idea if the spelling on this is correct. It is pronounced Chǐ-teń-jē. The cloth is two meters of 36” cloth a woman wraps around her waist to make a skirt. It is used as a kind of apron, e.g., when we went to the Ministry of Hope to spend time with the babies, we put on chitenji over our skirts for “protection.” That being said, observing the women walking along the road, I couldn’t tell if they had skirts on underneath, but Sandy assures me they do. I bought for a Chitenji the fabric that was designed for the 45th anniversary of Malawi independence. I have no idea when or where I would wear it, but it seemed like the historic thing to do. (I also acquired other fabric for a dress. Love those African prints!)

On the way home from Blantyre we stopped at Mua Mission. Mua is a Catholic mission started by a French priest at the end of the 19th century. Those who began the mission were beset with disease and distressed by inter-tribal warfare, and they left. They returned in the really early 20th century, established a mission and within 20 years established a seminary. The first African Bishop of Malawi was trained at Mua. Pretty cool.

We wanted the short tour. (The full tour takes 2-4 hours, depending on the amount of detail you receive.) We got there just before lunch time, which insured the snappy presentation. Our guide was quite engaging. He began his talk by pointing to a picture of Dr. David Livingston who is credited with bringing Christianity to Africa. Then he proceeded to say: “we don’t talk too much about him because we are Catholic.” I thought that sadly funny.

We were whisked through three “huts,” (they were shaped and decorated like grass huts, but were solidly constructed since the huts constitute the museum.) The museum huts revolved around a concrete Baobob tree. The first hut detailed the history of the Mission. The Mission was started by three priests who, when they arrived, pitched three tends around a Baobob tree. Hence, the configuration of the museum. I’ve got a few pictures from the first hut.

The second and third huts dealt with the life of the indigenous cultures of the area. The agreement the Mission made with the local chiefs was that no pictures could be taken in the last two rooms of the museum out of respect of the culture. I understand it, but what a loss! It was amazing to see.

Part of what the museum deals with is how the Roman Catholic Church was able to incorporate elements of cultural norms into its teaching and worship. I would have loved to have had more time wrestling with that. Of course, it is clear there are many aspects of the culture the roman Church rejected. I am sure there are good theological reasons for this, but on the face, the stuff was just plain scary! Yikes! To put it mildly! Someday I’ll get into it. I don’t know what kind of web site they have, and I don’t have internet access where I am staying now, but I’ll keep you posted.

I was sorry to leave Sandy and Malawi. There is still so much to see and absorb and it was so much fun to have Sandy, who has been in Malawi for about 1-1/2 years, as a guide and fellow traveler.

On Thursday I was off to Ghana, where I am right now. In Lilongwe it is winter and quite cold – colder than I imagined it would be. This is Ghana’s rainy season. I got off the plane at about 9:15 p.m. and felt like I had landed in Miami right after a thunder storm. It took my breath away. Temperature was in the mid 70s with humidity that made my keratin-treated hair begin to fuzz. Not quite the bozo fuzz, but it will be another week before I can claim my sleek and sophisticated look again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lunch with Friends

This morning we went to church at the church of St. Michael and All Angels in Blantyre. The church itself is a National Monument, built by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries in 1891. It is quite an impressive building. Did I think to bring my camera to church? NOT! Ugh. However, I someone else did and posted the picture on the web. (Phew) http://www.panoramio.com/photo/9619171

We went to the 8:30 English service which was a 'quickie' -- only two hours. They had all the visitors come up front for introductions. (And here we are reluctant to wear a red ribbon to coffee hour. . .)

I really liked what the Pastor did with the children's time. I don't particularly remember the content, but they children took their own offering, and then one of the older children (say 9 or 10) gave the prayer of dedication. I was very impressed.

I am always impressed with the ease with which my African brothers and sisters pray in front of the congregation. Now I see why. They are trained early. I'm always amused at how reluctant some of us are to pray aloud in front of other people. (That includes me.) There we sit, a room full of clergy no less and someone says, "who'll pray," and nobody responds. Eventually the prayer gets said, but there's a lot of foot gazing between the question and response.

Anyway . . . for lunch we went to the top of Zomba Mountain. The mountain rises 7,000 ft. We were pretty far up there.

We ate at the buffet at Sunbird Ku Chawe Inn. Fortunately the weather warmed up and we ate outside. I had my first taste of Chambo, the National fish. Ummm. It takes just like fish. The most amuzing part of the lunch were the monkeys. They were everywhere. If a couple abandoned their table for the buffet, anything left on the table was fair game. It was a hoot. The hotel actually has a guy with a sling shot on staff to chase them away. They're not phased in the least. Sling-shot guy turns his attention to another task and the monkeys are back at it. These monkeys just sit and wait to pounce. They're not shy at all!

On the way back from lunch we stopped at Williams Falls. Let's just say I was happier on the drive back since we were on the side closest to the mountain. The scenery was beautiful; the drops were STEEP! I'm not particulary afraid of heights, but his was a bit much -- particularly right after lunch.

Sandy on Mt. Zomba

Scenery from Mt. Zomba

Williams Falls

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears . . .

Well, not quite. But there is lots of other wildlife to see at Mvuu Camp and Wilderness Lodge. http://www.eyesonafrica.net/african-safari-malawi/mvuu.htm

On Wednesday, July 1st, Sandy, Moses, Miriam and I took off for the Mvuu camp to do a mini-safari. Little did I know it would be a nearly 5 hour drive -- some of which was on a winding, very pitted (and deeply gouged in some places), dirt road that went through several villages. Clearly some of the villages are benefiting from renewal projects. The village 'streets' were well compacted dirt and the homes were quite elegant, given some of the villages we have seen. The roofs were thatched, though. Not many tin roofs. That being said, you can tell there was a degree of prosperity operating here.

I've learned that a tin roof costs about $350 for a typical two-room home. Seems like a pittance, but it is well out of reach for many of the villagers whose annual income may be below US$200 a year. Even thatched roofs can be pricey for some. I can't tell you the number of homes we see that look completely built, but people can't move in because they have no roof. Bricks, it seems are fairly cheap, or they can be "home made," but the materials for a roof need to be purchased.

It took about 45 minutes travel about 15 Km (roughly 9 miles). Sandy did a remarkable job keeping the axle intact.

We arrived at Mvuu just in time for lunch. We got all settled with Moses and Miriam in their high chairs. As we waited, Sandy turned toward Miriam who was sitting next to her, and the next thing you know a vervet monkey hopped over the stone wall and grabbed one of the pieces of bread off Sandy's plate! The monkey looked up and Sandy, took a quick second thought and grabbed the second piece as well before scurrying over the wall.

Most of the buildings at Mvuu have stone walls with canvas, tent-type tops. The chalets (where we slept) have mesh windows. The dining hall is completely open all around -- an open invitation to monkeys and birds, it would seem.

After lunch we had time to relax before heading off on our land safari. Along with another family we piled into a jeep and began our sojourn. Our guide Julius was very knowledgeable, and he was the first of the guides to find the elephants that day. Oh my! What a sight.

It turns out elephants are pretty destructive creatures. The villagers and not particularly thrilled to have them roaming free. If they can't find a path to where they would like to go, they just make their own, trampling grown trees and anything else in their way. I didn't know elephants ate the bark off trees. I know it now. I have no idea how they do it, but they must have a way of grabbing it with their snout and stripping the tree bare. Wallpaper should come off that easily.

Elephants, it seems, are pretty civilized warriors. Two elephants were competing for the top of mound of shrubbery. One elephant took off and the other was left standing, King of the Hill. Our guide, Julius, told us that when elephants fight and one walks away, that is the end of the fight. Hippos, on the other hand are not so kind. According to Julius, when hippos get into a contest, they fight to the death. If one runs away, the other will pursue him (or her) until the deed is done. So much for the happy hippo theory. Hmmm. I wonder what Presbytery they belong to.

Mvuu means hippo in the local language, Chechwa. The camp is named Mvuu for good reason. We saw more mvuu than anything else but we did see many other animals: waterbucks, antelope, impalas. We saw a porcupine who was not the least bit amused by the attention. His (or her) quills stood right up when s/he realized we were in the neighborhood. We saw mongoose (mongeese?) and a great assortment of birds, most of which were lost on me. They have something like a gazillion species. It's a bird lovers' paradise.

The next day we had a short boat safari where we saw more -- y0u guessed it -- hippos. Hippos are nocturnal animals (who knew?), so there were whole families sleeping in the water, none to happy for the disturbance, I am sure.

Oh! The bonus is we saw crocodile! Apparently they don't come out when the weather is cool, but we managed to spot a few (good ole' Julius!). I'd upload the picture, but even I'm having a hard time picking them out from between the reeds.

All-in-all it was a great trip and I'm really glad Sandy was willing to make the trek. It is not easy doing these long drives on the roads here -- with two year old twins in tow! Sandy is an amazingly strong woman.

And it is officially confirmed. I am a city girl. I love being in God's great wide creation -- for short periods of time. In the immortal words of my dear friend, Stephany Crosby, "I don't do camping very well any more," and you could hardly consider what we did "camping."

That being said, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Anyone up for lions and tigers :-)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Catching Up In Malawi

This is posted in reverse chronological order. If you're like me -- one of those compulsive types who likes to have things in (decently and in) order, skip down to June 28th and read up! :-)

Tuesday, June 30

Some Thoughts on Orphanages

Today I visited a second orphanage. The first week I was here I visited the Ministry of Hope – the Orphanage where Katie and Sandy found Miriam and Moses. This orphanage is smallish. They have mostly babies – but some of the children are approaching the 24 month mark. All of the children crave attention and it is so hard not to be able to give them what they need.

We tend to think of orphans as children who have no parents. Here in Malawi – as in many other countries of the world – it is possible to have one parent and be considered an orphan. Many of the children's mothers died in, or soon after, childbirth and the fathers were unable to care for them. The children are brought to the Ministry of hope – often very ill, often malnourished – where they are cared for until they are strong enough to return to their village.

The Ministry of Hope is clean, but crowded. The women work tirelessly to keep the children clean and fed and to give them the love and attention they can. Volunteers come in irregularly to hold the babies and play with the older children.

Sandy told a story of how one day one of Madonna’s representatives came into the Ministry. She proceeded to criticize everything about the place and everyone in it. She had one of the women take the pajamas off a couple of the children and a professional photographer took pictures. Apparently these pictures are being used to for Madonna’s Malawian projects – but none of the money goes to the Ministry of Hope.


Today I went with Sandy’s friend, Catherine, to St. Teresa’s Orphanage. This establishment had mostly babies and toddlers; but, they had older children as well -- about 80 children total. The oldest there was a young woman of 16. The older children help with the younger and it is heartwarming to witness the love and devotion they have for their younger “siblings.”

As is the case at the Ministry of Hope, many of the children are brought in because their mothers have died. Many are very ill and malnourished. The Sisters at the orphanage and the women feed and care for and love them back to health. When they are strong enough (usually around 4 years old), they are returned to their villages. From time-to-time, though, the villages do not want them – particularly in the case of multiple births.

As soon as we arrived Catherine gave a quick tour and we went to the infants’ room where I was introduced to two surviving girl triplets. Catherine said their mother died in childbirth who were born, apparently, very prematurely. The grandmother stayed with the infants and did what she could, but she just couldn’t cope. One of the girls died. When the two remaining girls were brought to the ministry of hope, the smaller of the two almost didn’t make it. They are now six-months old and “flourishing” as well as might be expected; but, even with that, they weigh less than my granddaughter, Brooke, weighed when she was born.

It is difficult to explain how your heart can simultaneously break and expand to maximum fullness at the same time. It breaks for the suffering these children have experienced and the knowledge that their lives most likely will never be easy. At the same time, I cannot help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for those who rescued these little ones, and those who tend to their needs and love and care for them. I am grateful that while their lives may be difficult by our Western standards, their futures are infinitely brighter than they were just a short time ago.

Catherine and I were at Mother Teresa’s for a little over an hour. In that time we held the babies and spent some time with the older children. It was gut wrenching to have fifteen little ones reaching and grabbing, begging to be held. Catherine sat on the floor and they climbed all over her. I think if I went back a few times I could get to that place. It was all I could do to “high-five” as many as I could, pick up few and pat and hug those closest to me. As we left I was sure one or two would remain stuck to my legs all the way back to the States.

Catherine, I believe, is a force of nature in her own right. She has started a couple of feeding programs and is helping a few folks build their houses – using the habitat, sweat equity, model. When she first came to Malawi she wasn’t sure how much she wanted to be involved. Catherine didn’t want to start something and then find herself posted elsewhere, unable to continue what she started. But, then she thought if she spent the time doing something instead of thinking about it, she would at least get something done. Catherine said we think too much about stuff instead of doing it.

I think she’s right.

Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words. St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, June 29

To Market, to Market to Buy – from among an amazing array of foods and goods.

Today we went to the Lilongwe Market – right down the block from the Lilongwe Mini-Bus Depot (a whole ‘nother story!). We picked up Sandy’s friend, Elsa, for our guide. Sandy had never been in this part of the market before. I don’t think Elsa had been there too often herself, but she was ready to lead us on the adventure.

When we entered the market we were greeted by women selling the most appealing variety of peas and dried beans. The colors alone made me want to buy some. There were several narrow alleys to choose from, so we charged (as well as you could down a four-foot wide corridor crowded with people) down the alley straight in front of us. After winding down a few more corridors we came upon the fresh vegetables. I don’t think I’d want to shop for veggies in a supermarket ever again. The market vegetables make the supermarket veggies look anemic. The carrots were big and plump. The green beans were a vibrant shade of green, the lettuce leaves were Texan sized, etc. The Lilongwe Market seemed to me to have a wider variety of produce, as well. It would take me some time, though, to work up the courage to go to the market alone.

Elsa took us to see the fish. There was a whole section where piles of fish on tables were being sold. You could buy a whole fish, but you’d have to clean it yourself. Since fish I’m accustomed to dealing with swim in fillets, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with what I saw. I’m also not sure how long that fish was out in the hot sun.

On our way to the fish we took a turn down an alley not many women traverse. It was “automotive row.” I have never seen a car engine out of the car – in rusty, unidentifiable pieces. I saw my fill of them on that trek! The automotive "department" was comprised of a series of shorter aisles with loads of men coming and going. The sellers were quite amused to see the three of us scurrying through on our way to the fish.

Just before we left we peeked behind one of the main alleys at the entrance and, lo and behold! There was a long row of women selling textiles. We took a quick peek – beautiful fabrics in vibrant colors. Unfortunately, we had to scurry home and didn’t have time for a full investigation. We’ll do that first next time.

Sunday, June 28
I Saw A Third of the Country!

It has been a while since I’ve written. So sorry. The days go fast.

On Sunday we had an excursion to Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi takes up about 1/3 of the country. Visiting the Lake seemed like something one ought to do since it’s hard to be completely out of it's neighborhood. So, we stopped by. The place we went was a little over 90 minutes away from where Sandy and Maitland live in Lilongwe.

Lake Malawi is beautiful. It was a perfect day to be at the lake – even if a bit nippy for swimming. There were a number of people in the surf, so it couldn’t have been that bad. The sun was warm and I guess that was enough.

As beautiful as the day was, it wasn’t quite clear enough to get a good sighting of Mozambique. I could barely make the land out, but there it was. So, now I can say I’ve seen three African countries. I spent the night in South Africa; I’ve visited Malawi and I got a glimpse of Mozambique. Okay. So South Africa and Mozambique don’t really count – but I can put them on my resume anyway!

On the way home we stopped at a tourist market along the Salima Road. There were a number of stalls selling carved goods of all kinds from napkin rings to elephants. Some were selling woven items made out of (I think) bamboo, like place mats and floor mats, bags to carry groceries and toys! Maitland and Sandy bought Moses a woven helicopter. It has a little bamboo ball for a front wheel and when Moses scoots it on the floor the rotor goes around and around. It’s quite sophisticated. Miriam got a jeep, complete with an engine under the bonnet and a trunk strapped to the top. I think, though, that it is not nearly as fascinating as Moses’ whirling rotators. Alas!

The scenery here is amazing. As many of you know, my appreciation for God’s creation has crept up on me late in life. I still relate best to whatever greenery spouts between concrete slabs. The scenery here is quite amazing. Rolling hills dotted with villages, and everywhere we drive, people are walking, walking walking. Many of the women are carrying obviously incredibly heavy loads on their heads. The women here have incredibly remarkable posture, and I’ve finally figured out why. You can’t balance a five gallon bucket of water on your head and slouch at the same time.

The men are frequently balancing huge piles of wood or multiple sacks of grain (easily 50 lb sacks!) or long, long stalks of sugar cane on their bikes. As they walk, they lean into the load to keep it upright and moving. I am utterly amazed and the strength and stamina of these folks. I am such a wimp.

A slouchy wimp, at that!