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!