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.