Monday, July 17, 2006


We are just returning from Malawi where we spent a week.  We enjoyed a couple of days in Lilongwe, the capital since 1975.  It is a very interesting city with large sections still undeveloped with large open tracts of land.  Then out of nowhere appears a huge, modern building.  Even the downtown section is small.  Government has just moved its headquarters to Lilongwe which will add to the population and structure of the city.  It seems that crime is very low and what we saw was very middle-class.  The woman I sat next to on the plane said she and her husband are moving to Malawi from S Africa mainly because of the crime issue.  Villagers have not moved into the city because they can make more on the farm than by making minimum wage (about $20/month) working in the city.


We were based in Salima most of the week, about an hour away on Lake Malawi.  We did not have much time at the lake as we traveled out to sites to see agriculture projects and then did a training.  The lake is the 9th largest in the world and is beautiful.  We can see mountains across it so it is not very wide.  All week we waited for some tilapia but none was to be had because the lake was a bit rough and the fish swim deeper and are harder to catch.  Finally the last day in Salima we got to eat some and it was quite tasty.


We condensed the training of trainers to three days.  The group of 21 seemed eager to learn.  Many didn’t know each other so the group was sometimes quiet but they loosened up by the end of the time.  Some were not very excited about using English as it is their 2nd or 3rd language.  Chichewa is the main language we hear.  One of the participants was a retired policeman who is a wise gentleman.  Every now and then he would share some gems that really hit home such as “Integrity is when you don’t do the don’ts and only do the dos.”  Another during the lesson on marketing was, “The first thing you sell to the customer is yourself.”  This was the best attended course we have had with 20 having perfect attendance and receiving a certificate at the end.


One of our observations here has been that people are much better educated and have had access to education that Mozambicans have not had.  We have seen more men involved in everyday life, helping to farm, generally being industrious.  Just having them present is different than Moz where so many men (especially in the south) are working in South Africa


Salima is full of bicycle taxis.  They have a cushioned seat over the back tire and haul people, packages, you name it.  Within the town they are the only public transportation and it is nice not to have the pollution and congestion of mini-busses.  They are very quiet and with only a few motorized vehicles on the road, they don’t really create a lot of congestion.  Watching them go by in small groups with turning pedals and flashing wheel spokes reminds one somewhat distantly of horse and buggy wheels. Locally they are called dumpers.  Not sure if that is because people occasionally get “dumped” off or it is for some other reason.  Steve rode one to the restaurant one day just for the experience.  It cost about 7 cents US.


Malawi also has many baobab trees.  These are rare in southern Mozambique.  They are a funny looking huge tree that looks like it is growing upside down because the branches look like the roots, especially without its leaves which is the case most of the year.  We tasted some of the fuzzy fruit.  It is a bit sour and won’t soon become a favorite, although the local people like them.


Now it is back to Maputo for one week to wrap up what details we can before heading to the U.S. for a two month home leave.  Hope we can see many of you there. 


God bless!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

people divided by a common language

The week of June 19, 2006 was a time of personal development training and planning for World Relief staff.  We met in Maputo and had three days of input from Jim Louwsma and Becky Thiessen based on “Strength-finders” profiles and program material written by Mark McKlosky of Bethel Seminary. 


We had a great but intense time and several good laughs along the way.  The most memorable was as Jim was describing a role that would be equivalent to that of the biblical apostle.  When he said apostle, only the Americans understood him.  All the Africans thought he said a parcel.  They don’t say the r and the short a is elongated.  What kind of a parcel was he meaning anyhow?  The other question was why would he suddenly start speaking like a South African when he didn’t otherwise? 


As they sorted it out, they decided he really meant a-post-al, with the emphasis on postal.  It was even more ironic that what they thought was a parcel should have been pronounced in such a way as to sound like something to do with postal for the America ear. 


Here’s an African proverb we heard recently that has a lot of truth to it:  “If you want to go faster go alone.  If you want to go far go together.”