Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Conversation with a Senior Education Student

I have just come inside from speaking with Joseph. Joseph is 40 years old (has an 11 year old son) and is a Senior at ABC. He is an Education major. When he graduates in May, he will be able to teach in a secondary school or at a teacher's college.

I was having a cup of coffee and a brownie with Joseph. He is one of the student-guards that the campus employs at night as a security guard. Joseph was studying for his Child Evangelism and Philosophy of Education exams. I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee and a brownie and he said yes. So I brought two brownies and two cups of coffee out with me--one cup had cream and sugar.

When Joseph was in primary school, he had to run 8 km.--4.97miles--each way to school! He said it took him about 45-50 minutes each way. He ran through some woods and the bush to make it to his village school. When he was growing up, primary education was not free, your family had to pay school fees. He said that his father told him he would have to work hard if he was going to make it.

He sure has the work hard part down! Joseph was a primary teacher for 10 years before starting at ABC. The average teacher to student ratio in a public primary or secondary school in Malawi is 1:120!!! That is amazing to me. He said that the situation was not always this way.

In 1994, when Malawi became a democracy, the government made primary education free for all Malawians. It was not, and is still not, compulsory but it was to be free. (Secondary is not free and still charges fees.) Before the change, there were apprx. 600,000 primary students in the country. After the change in the laws, there were 2.7 million! Joseph said that there were children under trees and anywhere else that they could be put. I can only imagine.

I greatly enjoyed drinking coffee and talking with Joseph. American education and Malawian education share some of the same noble goals and aims, but also some of the same difficulties and shortcomings. It sounded very familiar to hear him describe how often curricula and methods/models for education are changed before there is any chance to see if one set of ideas was better than another. Also the problem of big promises that are not given the adequate resources--financial and otherwise--needed to come close to fulfilling those promises.

I think someone like Joseph is going to be around for awhile and will hopefully have the opportunity to impact many students and schools throughout his teaching career. He is getting a good education at ABC! I trust the Lord will use him and many like him throughout this country.

My hat goes off to students like Joseph.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dzaleka Refugee Camp Dowa Diststrict, Malawi

Some Ethiopian refugees
Malawi is called "The Warm Heart of Africa." This title is well earned! Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, not just in Africa, but it is very peaceful, safe and hospitable. The people are kind and helpful. However, there is another reason that they deserve to be known as "The Warm Heart of Africa."  Malawi has given generous help to her beleaguered fellow Africans from war torn parts of central and eastern Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia.

Scharlie and Sam waiting for the music to start.

In 1989 1.2 million Mozambican refugees were taken in during a period of severe crisis. That means 1 out of 10 people in Malawi were refugees! Not only did the Malawian government and people allow them to come into the country until such time as they could peacefully return to Mozambique, but within a few years, they were all resettled! This is an amazing feat. Then as now, the refugee aid was being administered by the UNHCR--United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
             The Emmanuel Full Gospel Choir

On 20 November, the Carlisles [including Gwen and Sam] and about 50 African Bible College students, ABC professors, ABC Christian Academy and Clinic staff drove 1.5 hours to the Dzaleka Refugee camp. This trip was organized by one of the college students. We were able to drive two students in our car and had a nice time getting to know them on the way there and back. Normally when I think of a refugee camp, I think of lots of tents, temporary shelters, feeding lines, and people waiting to go back home. The Dzaleka Refugee Camp is more like a permanent village. The people are not going anywhere anytime soon. Many have been there 10 years or more. Some do not remember their age when they left their homes, but have since married and started their own families while at the camp.

                            Soccer Skills!!

The purpose of our trip was just to take time to listen to people’s stories and find out more about them and try to encourage them. The College's super talented Mingoli Singers were going to be putting on a concert followed by a time of preaching. So as we talked to the people, we also wanted to invite them to the concert and preaching time. We set out in groups of 6-8 total--the college students were mixed with the ABC staff folks. We had our four plus four students in our group. Many of the people at the camp would learn Chichewa, but maybe not English. The first language of most of the refugees would be some form of Swahili. The people would speak to the translator in Swahili, and translate into Chichewa for the college students, and then they would translate into English for us. Then the process would be reversed if we had a question to ask or wanted to contribute to the conversation. We were able to speak with two women. The first had been young when she left the Democratic Republic of Congo and had been married at the camp and had two children. The other woman that we met had started out in Burundi and fled to the DRC. While she was in the DRC she was seriously abused by a group of soldiers and contracted AIDS as well as other chronic health problems from their treatment. She then had to flee from there and came to Malawi. It had been over ten years since she left Burundi. She told us that had accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. I asked her what portion of the Bible or what story from the Bible that comforted here most. She mentioned the story about the woman with the bloody issue. She said that she had experienced many times that the Lord had helped  her when the doctors were not able to.

     Jonathan Robson preaching (ABC professor)

There were other hard things about the camp.  The main preacher was corrupt. Because the college student who organized the trip did not bribe him, he rented the building where the band was supposed to play and hid the few nicer tents. This guy dressed to the nines, while lots of the people were in rags. That was really discouraging. Talking to the students who rode with us on the return trip, we learned what their food allowances included. It was something like: 15kg of flour per family per month (regardless of the size of the family) and 1 cup of sugar for the same. There was more that I can’t remember, but there are also problems with distribution, i.e. corruption. They are in the middle of nowhere, not close enough to get transport for jobs. There are so few jobs anyway, a refugee would never be given one over a Malawian. There are only three ways out: 1. The first is for your homeland to be peaceful enough to go back to. But even then, you have to have the resources to get there. You have to be on good terms with the current government. You have to have somewhere to go, and your land may have been confiscated and your family displaced or killed. 2. Your host country allows you to assimilate. This only happens, usually if they have the means (which Malawi does not) or if you have a specialized skill (nurse, doctor, etc.) 3. Another country can sponsor them. This too, is unlikely, as there are about 10,000 people in the camp and the leadership at the camp determines who gets picked for those small groups. You can imagine what it would take to convince them you are “eligible.”  So, most of these people are stuck, indefinitely. There is a lot of hopelessness, and yet, there are those spreading the hope of the Gospel all the time. We would like to go back. The student is trying to form a relationship between the college and the camp, so that there are opportunities for ministry there.
Gwen and Sam did well too. They walked around with us and played with some of the kids ( to whom they could not speak).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Malawi by the Numbers

Here are just a selection of somewhat random facts:
(For reference 1000 Malawi kwatcha (MK) is roughly equivalent to $6.oo). Badly inflated currency is a little inconvenient to use.

Instant coffee costs about $7 per half pound or MK1200 per 200 grams (Africafe is the preferred instant brand. It is still instant, but noticeably better than Nescafe).
Regular coffee costs about $5.45/pound or MK1800 per kilogram. One of the small but pleasant surprises about being here is that the coffee is much better than previously reported to me. A number of different brands of coffee grown in Malawi can be purchased. I have become a fan of the Mzuzu Specialty Coffee. (The cheapest place to buy it is at the Cross-Roads BP station. It is about MK300 less than anywhere else.)
Coffee consumption-I have never kept track of my coffee consumption before, but thought it would be interesting. From 21/11/10-11/12/10(4:09 pm as I am writing) I have drunk 122 cups of either brewed or instant coffee! (51 one instant cups and 71 cups of brewed coffee). 5.8 cups/day the avg. The least drunk in one day was 3 and the most was 11 (2 times) followed by 10 and 9!
Cheddar cheese costs about $6/lb, mozzarella is about the same.
By contrast,  produce:
  -potatoes MK100 per "bundle" (about 10 sm.-med.) (if you're a regular customer and you buy more
     than one bundle, often they will throw in more out of a large pile)
  -lettuce MK 50 per small head
  -onions MK 50-100 per bundle (three large or about 6 small)
  -green peppers MK 50-100
  -green beans MK 50 per bundle (very fresh and good)
  -carrots MK 50-100 per bundle (depending on their size)
  -bananas MK 150-200 per bunch
  -enormous mushrooms (saw these for the first time this week) MK 500 for 3-4
  - strawberries MK250-350 per cardboard tray
  -fresh garlic MK 100 for a small bag
  -but apples are MK50-70 per apple (they're imported from South Africa)
Milk fresh milk(which is dispensed from a stainless steel drum or a (clean, we hope) garbage can depending on when you get there) is MK130/litre. UHT milk in the box with a long shelf life is 300/litre. (I will let you work on your conversion skills with this one.)
Bread (always fresh) MK115 per loaf
Ground beef or "mince" is about $8/lb.
Boneless skinless Chicken breasts are about $1.50/lb
Cornflakes costs about $3.3/lb or MK1200/kg.
Petrol/gas is $5.86/gal. or MK256/litre
Clear packing tape is $8 per roll!!!!
Fuel Economy The Carlisles are the proud owners of a 1997 Toyota Ipsum. This is a cross between a station wagon and a mini-van. 18.7mpg or 80kpl.
Front page news is when the Malawian Government is accused of steeling MK 6 million or about $36,000 from one of the political parties! There is not much going on here!
More front page news there is a shortage of subsidized fertitliser which is very important to the average Malawian. However, the Minister of Agriculture assures the people that according to his records 95% of all the subsidized fertiliser has been distributed. Therefore, it is impossible for there to be a shortage!
Commuting times on the way to work it takes me about 4 minutes and the return trip is 6 minutes (it's only up-hill one way)
Malawian currency's largest bank note is the MK500. This is rather inconvenient since a shopping trip usually requires taking MK30,000. (This translates into three little rubber-banded stacks of 20 bills each). You always feel like you're carrying too much money.
Conversion rates for USD to MK: At the ForEx with cash MK175-180 (depending on the amount) per $1; ATM/Bank transfer 150 per dollar; transfer from support account in states to academy to a check 165 per dollar.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Our Purpose Here and Daily Life at ABC

So, I've been wanting to let you know what we do here--both how we serve and what life is like.
I remember the first time as we were referred to as "missionaries." It seemed really strange. It still is, as what we do isn't what I think of missionaries doing. We have not yet had an opportunity to visit a village or go evangelizing like my sisters talk about from their time in Uganda. (Though we're going to a refugee camp later this month). That's not even what we're primarily here to do. I guess you might say that we serve in a support role. I'll explain.
Malawi was evangelized by Presbyterians long ago (the Dr. Livingstone you've heard of). So many Malawians will call themselves Christians. There are many, many "prayer houses" all over the country. But there are very, very few pastors. Most pastors here cover a number of these  small churches and may have thousands of parishioners. Of course they cannot preach in 20 places each Sunday, so when a pastor is not present anyone may "say a word." As you can imagine, with the level of education, particularly theological education, here, what is said may not be AT ALL Biblical. So you end up with lots of dangerous mixtures of old superstitions and religious beliefs. (Baptisms being thought of as magical, lots of health and wealth type gospel. There was even one church--or anti-church that was telling people and Jesus was just for white people and a new type of religion was needed for Africans). This was why African Bible College was begun, to train pastors and lay people in theology and communication, so that as they go out into their country they are leading others in the right direction, whether as pastors, teachers, leaders in their churches or in businesses, or government (and ABC graduates are everywhere here and being a positive leaven wherever they have influence--I know, I teach with one). So, then those who were teaching and running the college needed to have somewhere to send their children to school. Local schools were not a terrific option. Home schooling was going on, but  there were getting to be a lot of children and so a school was begun. At first it was only children of ABC missionaries, but soon there was a desire that it be serving Malawi as well. So, now each class is kept at 50% Malawian and 50% Non-Malawian. Now, this is where we come in. This is where in begins to make sense for us--Brian and Scharlie--to be here. Brian's been working in schools for over 10 years and has had a lot of different experiences that help him with this one. I like teaching and being a part of a school community. Education, and yes, Christian education is something that's been important to us for a long time. We're really encouraged about how self-consciously Christian this school is. It knows it is Christian and evangelical. There are (of course) nominal Christians mixed with true ones, and there are also a few atheists, Muslims, and Hindus sprinkled in. We respect that their beliefs are different, but students are not excused from Bible classes, or chapel, or Scripture memory. So, in that sense, we are evangelizing, just not in the same way.  I love being so free in the way I'm able to pray and speak about the Bible. Brian's Bible class had a pretty good discussion recently on the problem of suffering. I'm thankful He's their teacher. He made those older kids think. This brings me full circle, I guess--We don't always understand why we have difficult things to go through. We don't always know why God calls us to certain places at certain times or away from others at times, but we can know that He is good and that if we are in Him, he has our best in mind at all times. We are glad to be here. There are hard things (though, not really in the areas you might imagine or we expected). But, just pray for us. We will learn what we are supposed to from those things, I trust (sometimes).

So, on to what our days are like. They begin early. Brian is usually up before 5:00am. I am usually up at 5:00 (sometimes before if necessary). Gwen is up by 6:00. Brian leaves around 6:40 Tues-Thurs. as he's in charge of staff devotions. Priscilla, who keeps Samuel (and does laundry--bless her) comes between 6:45 and 7:00, at which time Gwen and I kiss and hug Samuel and head for school. After staff devotions, Brian stands out in front and greets parents and students. I head to my class and get ready for the day. Gwen goes to the playground or plays with things in the classroom with her classmates (Tayamika is her favorite school friend, so far). At 7:25 Kindergarten 2 (my class) begins with Calendar time and prayer. Then we have Phonics, Reading and Handwriting (most days). Then, about 9:30 there is snack and recess time. Brian teaches History from 9:15-10:05 every day and Bible from 10:30-11:20 three days a week. After recess, kindergarten comes in for Math, Social Studies (or Science) and Bible (all taught by Mrs. Jean Mpata). The plan was for me to leave about 11:00, but often I have things that need to be done--communication with parents, getting homework packs together with reading books, getting copies made, etc. So usually, I go home with Gwen when she's out at 12:00. Brian heads home at 12:30 (by the way, it might help to know that our house here is about a five minute walk from school) and most days, we have lunch together. Brian heads back to school for all sorts of things from 1:30 to 4:00 or so. I put the kids down for a nap from 1:30-2:30 or 3:00. Two days a week, Priscilla keeps them in the afternoon and I go to school and work or have meetings with the other kindergarten teachers. The other days, I do work at home during nap-time (unless I take one too). When Gwen gets up we take about 20 minutes to do homework and then she and Samuel usually go out to play with neighbor friends until about 5:00 or sometimes we go to the pool here. (Oh, yes, the seasons are reversed here because we're below the equator. So, while you're getting out your coats, I'm wishing I'd brought more tank tops:). Sometimes, I go out too and can visit with other neighbor women. I enjoy that a lot. Between 4:00 and 5:00 (usually) Brian gets home. We have dinner and hang out with the kids. Some nights (if time and water permit) the kids get a bath before bed. They ALWAYS NEED one. You would not believe how dirty they get here. Anyway, they go to bed around 7:00pm. After that, usually Brian and I do the clean-up in the kitchen, so the ants don't take over. Then we do school work. We aim to be in bed by 10:00. You can pray for that. It frequently doesn't happen. So, that's our typical day. Weekends are nicely different. In another post I'll outline what a shopping trip entails--that makes for a different day, for sure. Hope this helps you to know how to pray for us. Also, we're 7 (EST) or 8 (CST) hours ahead of you. So, when you get up in the morning, we're finishing lunch. When you're having lunch, we're putting the kids to bed. When you're coming home from work, pray that we've been in bed for a while. If you go to bed at 10:00pm, we're getting up. Take care all. We'll post some more pictures soon.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Things We Like About Malawi

Inevitably, when you move somewhere new, you're faced with all the differences you do not like. We've shared some of those, but we'd also like to tell you what we enjoy. So, here, in the safety of our mosquito net (where the "mozzies," lizards, and chop-chops (scary spider with large pincers, but no poison) cannot get us) we will share, in brief, some of the things we really like about being here.
  • Parents that support teachers and administration
  • The people (Malawian and not that we work and interact with)
  • Pot-luck night (most Friday nights all the folks on campus get together for a meal. We all bring something. Usually there's a theme).
  • Cool mornings
  • Late afternoon dips in the pool (both kids are swimming under water:)
  • Our son has decided that he will use the bathroom before moving back to America (at age 7)
  • Being able to walk to work (esp. after that 40 minute commute last year)
  • Coming home for lunch (Gwen's out at 12:00. Brian's lunch hour is 12:30-1:30)
  • Chapel at school
  • Going to the market (even haggling)
  • Sobo (This is a liquid you mix with water to make a drink like Tang, but it's better than Tang in the same way chocolate syrup makes better chocolate milk than the powder stuff. Brian does not touch it).
  • Mzuzu Specialty coffee and Chombe "export quality" tea
  • Teaching students from all over the world, who like each other
  • Our church
  • Having people over for meals often
  • Beautiful trees in bloom right now
  • Children being able to play outside with friends without direct supervision
  • Dry heat (not humid)
  • The bread--always fresh and good
  • Living on this campus, we're pretty sure we wouldn't make it in a village
  • Colorful, beautiful Chitinge material (worn as over skirts by women here to keep the others clean, cover pants, sling babies on their backs, etc.) I (Scharlie) have two I wear when market shopping)
  • Getting gelato--Italian ice cream--when we go in town.
  • Our house
  • "Digestic" biscuits as G and S call them (round sweet crackers that Brian consumes by the 150 g package:)
There are surely many other nice things about living here, but this is a good start.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ABC Christian Academy Reading Day 01 October, 2010

Bilbo Baggins, Angelina Ballerina, and Fancy Nancy made a visit to Reading Day
I was very nervous about Reading Day. Reading Day is a five-hour school day during which there are lots of activities that have to do with reading and during which there are no other regular subjects taught. Also, everyone dresses as a book character. So, I was nervous, remembering how my 6th graders used to act any time they were out of dress code and knowing my team teacher would not be there that day.
We had Gwen's costume taken care of a while back. We had everything but the ears, which I made. I also made Brian's hobbit vest (which was only crooked after having been worn all day--my sewing's not that bad) out of a shirt we bought in the market. I was Fancy Nancy--lowest budget and time consumer of the three, worst outcome. You can't tell I'm wearing heels in the picture, but my feet have not yet recovered. 
 But, coming to the point, Reading Day was WONDERFUL! First we gathered our kids and talked about who they were dressed to be. Then we had a pre-school-6th grade parade around the campus while the older students watched. Almost all teachers participated in the dressing up. We ended up in the pavilion, where Brian emceed a time of story telling, a brief skit featuring some of us teachers, and the announcements of costume winners. (Samuel came for this part dressed in his Peter Pan outfit). After that we had our regular snack and recess time. We then went to our classes for other activities. I read Going on a Lion Hunt then had them draw themselves with the lion. The 3rd graders came to read to them, then two parents read. We finished the day with a lively pretend "Lion Hunt" outside and settled down finishing of The Lorax.
The older students had a regular day, but teachers were encouraged to go along with the reading theme. Brian read about Eustace being "un-dragoned" from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in his Bible class. One student was encouraged to go back and re-read the Chronicles of Narnia. 
And, it was not chaotic. It was fun. My students were so excited about their costumes, the extra snacks parents sent, the books we read, the skit the teachers did. I had already reminded myself of what the day was supposed to be, so it was hard not to be excited with them, especially since  they were so delighted with everything and only got a bit unruly once and were quickly set to rights. For next year we're going to plan costumes this summer, so we don't have to be up late the night before. (You know me). I've also been pretty gratified that Gwen's worn the mouse ears part of most days since then. I love that girl.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Observations and sayings of the Carlisles

(For the first two weeks)Where is Africa? When are we going to the the other Africa?
(The first Sunday we were here) "Can I take this stick to Scout?"
(Gwen or Samuel when one of them hears the muezzin--in Islam the one who calls the people
to prayer 5 times a day.) Are they worshipping idols again? We need to pray for them."
 (Periodically) "I miss my friend Thomas [Clinton]
 (Upon his first visit to the pool) "They have enough chemicals in this pool, it is blue."

(While at the Market for the first time) "Why are all of the people here brown?"
(At lunch) Dad asks, "How was school today?" Gwen replies, "O, math and Bible were great!"
Dad, "what was great about math and Bible?" Gwen: "Bible was unique, pleasant and quiet."
"Today was stressful!" (At lunch some other day)
(At lunch yet another day) Dad asks, "How was school today?" "PE was the best thing of my 
life!!!!" says Gwen. "Wow," replies dad, "what was so good about PE today?" "We got to sit 
way high up--imagine Gwen stretching her arms as high above her head as she could--on the bleachers!!!" (Ah for the simple things in life!)   
"When are we going to start telling people about Jesus?"
"Can we go play with ...." (Fill in the blank with any of about 11 children age 6 or under that
literally live within 50 yards/metres of us.)
(On waking in the morning) "Momma I woke up two times in the night and I was blind." 
(There were two power outages during the night, so no light on in the hall)

(After we spent the equivalent of $12 on 5 "tupperware" containers and one of them was
cracked when we got home and another one cracked shortly after got home while we were
putting them away) Brian says, "maybe we should have gotten the more expensive ones?"     
Scharlie responds, "Sure, then we'd have more crummy tupperware." (The principle being,
the only thing that changes with increased cost is quantity---you just get more of the poor
quality stuff. Higher quality is not to be found. Not all "made in China" is created equal!)
(To her kindergarteners) "The first thing you should always do when I hand out your papers is 
write your name. Please write your name at the top. Yes, you can write it right now. Please 
 finish writing your name before you start. _________ finish writing your name please. 
 _______ please give _______ his pencil back so he can finish his name.  Do we all have our names on or papers? NOW, let's get started."

"Boy, I am tired." (Somethings never change!
(To Laura Chinchen) "You are going to need to repeat some of this again. I cannot listen that  fast." "That costs a lot here." (Said about most things)
"I was planning on paying cash for a vehicle." The man replies, "I can take a check." Brian 
  replies, I can write one, but if I write a check like that I will probably get deported!" (The
  asking price for a 2002 Chevy Blazer was a mere MK 4.3 million[Kwacha] or about $25,000
  USD. But he would be glad to give it to me for only MK 4 million.) Crazy Mzungus [white
  people who are of course all loaded and filthy rich!!!!]
  "Hi, my name is Brian [or Mr. depending on the person] Carlisle I am the new Headmaster.  Can you tell me your name again. (To most people he meets at the Academy.)

Spontaneous outburst of clapping and cheers across the campus of the Academy can only mean one thing, the power just came back on. (This is Africa after all :))

"In Malawi, they practice the democratization of corruption."  (You get stopped by the police) "Hey, I am thirsty." (HEAR: I need a bribe before I let you go.) Or you go by to see a government official and they say "I am hungry." (HEAR: I need a bribe for you to get done what you need done.)
"Hey, this is Africa after all." (This is said on any occasion when something happens that  you do not understand or that seems like it could have been easily avoided or for any number of other reasons."

All that said... Things are going really well for the Carlisles here in the Warm Heart of Africa. The people--Malawian, Missionary folks, expats--could not be more helpful or encouraging. Every place has its quirks. We hope these are half as enjoyable for you to read as they were for us to remember and put here!!
--Brian and Scharlie

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Before I Came to Africa I Did Not Think...

We could be so cold at night that we had to sleep in our sleeping bags under the covers for three  nights!
Yes! We have been experiencing quite chilly nights here in the "Warm Heart of Africa." I think they are about gone and we have tried not to be too bothered by them. It has also been fun to see  my breath in the mornings the first week of school as I do the meet and greet with parents and students as they are arriving. Scharlie and the kids were sick for awhile and could not quite get over it because it was so cold here. There is no heat or a/c in the houses. So it was always colder inside than it was outside and for a few days there nobody could get warm.

Much about having electricity and running water.
ESCOM (The Malawian power company) has recently changed its motto from "Always on" to "We're trying to be always on." (It is something close to that. They just printed new stickers to place on all of their trucks and vehicles.) So, we are getting used to the daily power outtages which do not usually last that long. All of the campus is hooked up to back-up generators--except the Academy and more about this later. There is about a 5-10 minute lag between when the power goes out to when the generators kick on. (Sometimes they forget to keep enough diesel fuel on hand. This is going to be extremely interesting when there are fuel shortages later. I have been assured that there are always fuel shortages around December/January. The government fixes the price for fuel. Right now petrol is MK262.56 a litre or $ 5.67 a gallon. )

Water outtages are more common than power outtages. On Thursday morning I felt like Pa in Little House on the Prairie while I was getting ready for school. The power went out, but the generators kicked on but we did not have any city water so we were on the reserve tanks. (We are one of the highest houses on campus so although the reservoir is near us, we get the least pressure from it.) There was very little water coming out the taps. So, I took the water that I was heating up for tea and coffee and brought the kettle in to the bathroom and poured some of the hot water in to the sink (now wash basin) and added a little cold water to it and was able to take the stubble off for another day of school. Even as I write, the ants are on our dishes on the counter because there is no water (hot or cold) to do dishes with.

With all of that said, who would have thought that when you go to the "dark continent" you would usually have plenty of electricity and hot and cold running water. I am sitting here on my laptop using wireless internet. It is quite slow, but still far ahead of free dial-up days! We are able to Skype some and make computer to land line and mobile phone calls. The connection is usually not great, but still worth the effort. We have cell phones through TNM and I must be honest although texts are patchy, my phone here drops fewer calls than my last AT&T phone did!

That I would be intimidated about riding my bike into town!
The only thing that is more dangerous than driving in Malawi is riding a bike on the side of the road!! (John Reed, we need to talk about this a little bit.) Traffic fatalities are a leading cause of death and you do not want to go to the ER here!!!! Now for those of you who do not know or have forgotten, I used to BMX bike race and ride my mountain bike down the sides of a mountain in college, BUT the guys who have their bikes loaded down with chickens, coke bottle crates, sugar cane, their brother, etc. are way more gutsy than I ever was! (The bike is really used like a pick-up here. I have seen everything attached to the rack of a bike or loaded down on the bike and the owner just pushing it.) As local, though not a Malawian, put it Malawians are not aggressive drivers they are just bad drivers! The official US Embassy policy for its employees is that if you cannot make it home before dark get a room and come back the next day.

Much about the FDA.

I do think that the FDA is a good idea. I cannot imagine all of the snake oil and quackery that would go on without it in the US. In its absence here,  the packaging on some products is quite funny. Now, I have just had confirmed through scientific research one of my mostly deeply held prejudices. Namely that coffee is essential to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, we need to drink far more of it than we currently do. The Mzuzu Coffee Co. is insistent that it is even more important that coffee be consumed for its health benefits than for the pleasure it brings. (I am still waiting for the claims that peanut butter helps to reduce aging and your risk of heart disease.)

I would have tech support for my Mac.

Who would have thought the IT guy at ABC would have a Mac?! Lots of folks here have Macs. Nicholas, this is certainly different than Romania. With the speed of the Internet connection, I am very glad that I updated the OS and software in McConnells before leaving. 

We have been having a good time here. We are quite tired and overwhelmed with lots of different things and I do not think that this will change for a while. I do wish it would let up some though. (I teach 400 minutes a week--8 preps a week. This week we begin staff devotions and I am leading the Tuesday morning one on I Peter and I will speak in chapel three times!!!! Then there is the headmaster side of things and the family side.)

We have met many nice folks. The people that live across from us have been particularly helpful. The Dehnerts both teach at the college and Connie is a Covenant grad from the early 80's. Kelly spoke to us during the new missionary orientation time about how to handle some of the cultural issues that we are presented with by being here. (Things like how to deal with beggars on the streets, but also your house help--gardeners, babysitters, cleaners, cooks etc.--more on this later, much later). One of the handouts he used was gleaned from a publication of the Chalmers Center. Another couple that we have enjoyed getting to know are the Whites. Jeff teaches at the college and academy and his wife is a nurse at the clinic. We rode out to the Khumbali Village with them last night and they let us borrow their car this morning to do our grocery shopping. Another family, the Robsons, lives just down from us and they have a 2 yr. old girl and 4 yr. old boy, Georgia and JJ. Samuel and Gwen have had a good time with them as well.

I think I will sign off for now. I am going to get some picture on our blog so that you can try to get a little bit more of feel for the place.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Shire?

For those of you who are not familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, (hopefully only a few:) the Shire was a region where the Hobbits, among other folk, lived and let live. They did not worry too much about what went on outside, beyond how it affected them daily. This is, in some ways, how we have been and I do not plan here to find fault. Community is a good thing and there is a particular small community in South Carolina, USA of which we are very fond. In the last couple of years it has been hard to look beyond our own family, or at most our own church. So it is very new and different to find ourselves, not only looking outward, far beyond our realm of experience, but actually living far beyond what we know. I think of Bilbo Baggins leaving Hobbiton in the Shire, missing his comfortable hobbit hole and all he was familiar with. I think of Frodo and Sam off on their journey, knowing what they were doing was right, and enjoying some parts of it (I'm thinking we'll enjoy our time FAR more), but sometimes pausing to reflect on how much they love where they came from. Now I know this analogy breaks down very quickly, so don't push it any further.  I won't:) That being said,  there is still another reason for the name. Not too far from here (I'm not sure how far) there is a river called the Shire (pronounced Shih-ray). We thought that was fitting.

Anyway, look out here for info on what we're up to. We plan to post to this once a week. We hope you enjoy hearing about our time here in Malawi. So far, we can say, we are very glad to be here. It is very different, even on the campus where we live. Everyone here says that by comparison, we're living in a little America. In some ways that is very true. We have electricity (most of the time), hot water (most of the time), and wireless internet (most of the time). It's hard to beat that in one of the poorest countries in the world. So far I'm still so amazed at what we do have that it's hard to be really bothered by daily outages of some sort. They last at most an hour, it seems and you do your best. 
The school, similarly, is incredibly blessed with resources, large classrooms, and pretty amazing teachers. Please pray for both of us, we are rather overwhelmed on the school front. We want to be truly useful here, to the Kingdom and to this school specifically.
We are also blessed with neighbors who are very willing to help us learn the ropes. Christy, across the way lent me her cook book with lots more recipes from scratch. Carson, two doors down, took me to the market and demonstrated how to haggle. She's only been here a month, so I'm encouraged. The Chinchens and others are trying to help us navigate in a new culture. Brian's doing GREAT driving on the left side of the road and the right side of the car. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I probably will. I'm more worried about the other drivers than those details.
Anyway, one of the hardest things is how expensive groceries, etc. are. I simply cannot tell you how much I miss Aldi. Some things aren't bad (especially in the market), but my ironing board (not half as steady as the one I used at home) cost $28. I'm SO glad I brought some inexpensive tupperware type stuff, b/c a very small one  here costs like $6. Everything here is imported (mostly from China) and it is a landlocked country without a developed country bordering it, so everything is more expensive because it costs so much to get it here. That being said, none of us is going hungry. We just have to figure things out. Love to you all and thanks for enabling us to be here. Please keep up your prayers!