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!