Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lilongwe, Malawi

We arrived in Malawi Friday afternoon. Steve spent Thursday night on an overnight bus in Zambia and actually slept about 5 hours. From there he went straight to the airport where he found out his ticket had not been paid so he had to run to a bank to get cash to pay it. My flights were good and I was very happy to see the new set-up at the Jo’berg airport for international transfers. It’s a lot nicer than it was. They must be getting ready for World Cup in 2010.

It is quite hot here and Lilongwe is not used to this. There is no air con anywhere that we’ve been and not even many fans. Screens are also rare. We go ahead and open the windows of our little guesthouse during the day but at night when it’s coolest we cannot open the windows because the mosquitoes come in. If it weren’t for malaria, I think I’d just let ‘em in so we could be cooler. It has started raining some and today is not quite as hot.

We enjoyed watching a beauty just like this one in the yard today.

We are staying in a family’s guesthouse. They also have many extended family members coming and going as well as a friend who is staying there. They have a household cleaner, a cook and a gardener/guard. There is a nice garden, lots of fruit trees (the papayas are really sweet), chickens, a rooster that wakes us up and rabbits, dogs and a cat that bites.

The guesthouse is nice with a kitchenette/living room, a bedroom and a bathroom. Saturday we went to buy groceries and were amazed at the prices. Cost of living has really gone up here. Corn, the staple food, tripled in price over a couple of months. Prices are even higher than Maputo because so much is imported from S Africa and the cost of fuel is factored in. We can't bring ourselves to pay $7-8 for a 3 lb. bag of apples even though we love them. After living at an apple orchard and eating many per day, that price is just too much. We will eat our main meals at the WR office at noon and do a lighter meal in the evening.

T was giving me some cultural lessons the other day. In the village it is difficult to get higher education and many of the girls get married young. Usually all the teen girls stay in one house and the young men come calling. They sit on either side and look at each other and even though they may not know each other, the men will pick out a girl and declare that they want to marry her. She can say she is interested or not. If she is, she will give a list of relative’s names to the man and he will begin to contact them. The process for the dowry begins but there are several times when the girl can say yay or nay. T had a lot of pressure from the village aunties and others to marry early, and she turned down several suitors because she wanted to study. She was one of the few who got into university and that is where she met her husband.

When a child is born he/she stays with the mother until he/she is weaned. At that point the first baby goes to the paternal grandmother’s house, at least at night. Following children all to go the maternal grandmother’s house. So, we’ll be waiting for our grandbabies to come live with us! Just kidding… The mother’s sisters have a lot of authority/responsibility over what happens in the child’s life. In other words, the child is not just reared by mom and dad—the whole extended family gets in on the action. It definitely goes along with the cultural sense of community vs. individualism that we have in the West. One of our friends is Cameroonian but she and her husband live in Moz. Her mother wants her to have another child so that she can rear him/her in Cameroon! So this is an African tradition, not just Malawian.

Steve found a spot for some experimental work with amaranth, salba and quinoa at the Nazarene seminary where our friends Jon and Margaret are. We will meet with the other key players today to talk about AfricaWorks Malawi and the way forward.

Yesterday after church at Capital City Baptist (a large church with a good mixture of Malawians and ex-pats) we drove around to learn more about the city. We ended up at a Chinese restaurant and found that the Malawian waitress didn’t speak English too well. We did get our meal ordered after some amusement at the Chinese translations on the menu. Thank God for pictures. Did you know that boiled wheat is noodles? When the food came we were amazed at the spiciness of it. The cooks must be from Szechuan province. One never knows what a day will bring!

Monday, November 17, 2008

U.S. Elections from Afar

Since all of the election fever has mostly died down in the US, perhaps you would like to hear about some of the US election news from an African perspective.

1. Starting as early as 1.5 years ago when some of the campaigning got started, people could not believe they were starting soooooo early.
2. Then the amazement and wonder of Hillary, wife of beloved Bill, (we never figured out why Bill is so loved, except maybe he is admired as a good politician who talks a good game and makes everyone feel good).
3. Then the amazing possibility that someone so “close” to Africa could even be in the running and people getting excited that an African might be come the president of the US, the most powerful president in the world.
4. Then all the collective speculation that Hillary might be vice president or maybe Condoleezza Rice on the Republican side.
5. When Palin was chosen, people were even more amazed.
6. When interest heightened, specific questions were being asked of Americans and when it was noted that husband and wife might even vote for different candidates and parties, heads began to shake in wonder. It would never be heard of here. And to think that people might switch parties based on who they like. Parties here are often connected to tribal relations and voting for candidates of a different party would only be slightly considered under extreme duress (like Zimbabwe).

AP Photo
7. When Obama won, Americans were celebrating, Africans were dancing. Dance is the highest cultural form of expression of joy. Kenya called for a day of national celebration. When asked why, someone said, “because we all want to be Americans.”
8. When McCain graciously conceded the election on election night, Africans stood in wonder because the losers in Africa never concede defeat, they keep on fighting and claim fraud by the winning party. Losers even incite riots and get arrested for doing it.
9. When asked why the intense interest in this election, someone else said, we have our African country presidents, but the American president is the president of the world.
10. After the recent election in Zambia, we saw the new president sworn in the next day. They marvel at the process for transition of power in the U.S.
11. During comments on the riot in Zambia after the elections, the radio commentator said, "why can’t the opposition be like the Americans and concede the election so the country can go on with the process of governing?"
12. When asked if we would vote, (and told we weren’t going to this year) some thought we ought to get on a plane to go back and vote.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


We just had an Ancient Paths seminar this past Saturday and Sunday. The folks organizing it were quite discouraged because at least 20 people had said they would come but in reality only about 10 came and their attendance was sporadic. But God encouraged us that we are planting seeds and God will bring a harvest, even if it is only in a few people.

Zanda was in our small group. He hadn't even known about the seminar but he is a maintenance guy at the place where we met and someone invited him to stay, so he did. He wrote the following and gave permission to share it: "Today God cleansed and purified my soul. He has made me a new creation and he has separated me from the memories that I had that tormented my life. [Memories of atrocities committed during the civil war.] I am a new creation with the will to serve Him but I need continuous protection and support. God does miracles when we believe. Let's seek God on earth and worship Him because He is the only God and he has power."

Please pray for Zanda as he admitted that he is an alcoholic and uses drugs. He grew up in the church but has not been there for a long time. God spoke many things to him and removed his fear, replacing it with peace. Thank you, Lord for the work you are doing in Zanda!