Sunday, December 19, 2010

BAM! Africa is scary too!

You should have seen the lightning storm we had last night! Everyone ended up huddled in the middle of the floor as it pounded around us! I was watching out the window and saw the lightning travel down some wires outside the house jumping out to trees. Sounded like several M1000’s (fireworks)popping all around. It left my ears ringing! The EMP energy was great enough to make the fluorescent tubes glow even though the power was off. Our house tripped some breakers and I had to restart the fluorescent bulbs but not too much damage. I think the house next door suffer some fried wires…. I hope our house stays safe! But the view from the top of the hill where we live is great!

A week ago the adrenaline was pumping because of the animals in the road! After a day viewing the animals on Safari with our friend Jacquie, we felt happy for seeing, Hippos, Zebras, Antelope, Water Buck, Wart Hog, along with many birds and other animals. We were doubly blessed because most of the animals were escorting babies alongside. But, we still hadn't seen any elephants and the boys wanted to see an elephant in the wild! So, as dusk was falling all around we headed towards the exit. Driving the last half kilometer our path was suddenly blocked by the elephant! And it wasn't happy in fact if flapped its ears at us trumpeted and ran at us. So, we backed up quickly and waited for the opportunity to zoom by. Finally Jacquie floored it and we passed the grumpy pachyderm. 2 corners later we found another, bigger, grumpier, elephant in the road but this time we waited and watched it scoop the dirt onto its back until we could pass it and make it safely to the exit. The boys agreed that elephants are big and a little scary. We are glad that God has kept us safe in Big Africa!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monkey Sitting

We are glad the sickness is behind us! This weekend we had a nice distraction when we got to Monkey Sit. The Hayton family was gone for the weekend and needed someone to watch the new addition to their family. All the boys enjoyed time with the little character. We had to put him down for nap (see pic of Ryan) and make sure he ate when he was hungry. He is about 2 months old, found as an orphan. He will be trained to stay around the house and come in for feeding and the night. Very fun to get to know these animals that are so human like.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Main Attraction

I’ve been delinquent with writing the past few weeks. We’ve had one intestinal bug after another and recuperation pretty much takes up all our energy! I think we are all stable right now though – so very glad!

On the 9th we walked down to the hospital to meet Randy so we could visit the Malamulo Primary School. I wanted to see the environment and get an idea of how schools operate here. As soon as we were spotted trekking down the dirt road, swarms of kids came pouring out of their brick and cement classrooms, lining up to wave and shout at us. The best part was that many of them know Nathan and Ryan, so we could hear the children shouting to them as we walked by. What a racket! We were the main attraction for the day and as we entered the grounds and asked for the office, we profusely apologized to the teachers for disrupting. Everyone says sorry here a lot – ‘sorry sorry’. We met the teachers and the principal and chit-chatted a little. Then we made our way out. The teachers tried to get the children to return to their classrooms but I don’t think anyone listened until we were out of sight.

So, school here is very different for sure. There is a very high student to teacher ratio and no apparent supervision other than while in the classroom - seems rather chaotic. The classrooms are very plain classrooms, a few desks, though not one for each child. Worn blackboards only, no posters or color anywhere, no school supplies, Crayons, Kleenex, hand disinfectant or glue sticks to be seen. Some children carry a small knapsack with a writing tablet book and a pencil; others do not even have that.

We returned to our home, grateful for our abundance of math worksheets and toys. I am still trying to find solutions for a productive day with the boys – the morning hours loom large as we try to fill them with school, play, cleaning. This week we are going to visit the nursery school just down the street. Children of some of the staff are cared for here half-days. The boys are going to share their picture books and read to the little ones as part of their own education. One day at a time.

Hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Visit to Ngabu

Ngabu blog
Last week I was asked to visit a Clinic in the Shire River valley. The drive to Ngabu (pronounced GaBu, the N is most always silent) was almost 2 hours and we descended about 2000 ft down into the Valley. As you can imagine it was very warm and even hot. I’m letting these pictures speak for themselves.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November 5 - Market Day

Malamulo Hospital offices are open Sunday through Thursday, so generally, Randy has Fridays off. I am so glad to have him home. He gave Nathan and Ryan their spelling tests, then went outside to play with them while I walked to Makwasa market to buy our vegetables for the week. Not every village market has the same vegetables. Voombwe market (and I am not sure how that is supposed to be spelled) has beautiful carrots, cucumbers, avocados and lettuce greens. Makwasa market has tomatoes, some greens for cooking, onions, cabbage and mangos. Every village has bananas! Mango season is just starting. Randy bought a grocery bag full of ripe mangos for 150 Kwacha, equivalent to less than $1.00. I cut up some to freeze (and thaw periodically when the power goes out) to put on the hot oatmeal we have for breakfast some days. The boys scarf them down for dinner – very juicy, sticky and stringy, but worth it for the divine flavor. The market has many vendors and I try to buy a few things from several of them to spread the ‘wealth’.

I planned my market purchases so that I bought tomatoes, peanuts, mangos and greens, then the heavy cabbage on the way back out of town. It all fit in my Malawian basket, which was pretty heavy when I was done. I also purchased a few food items to send home with our helpers for their families tonight. Elisa (Randy’s sister) met me heading out of the market, so I returned back with her and Jackie (the new pediatric nurse practitioner here for 5 months) to go to the Tea House for a coke and some fried bread.

The Tea House is a small shack – outside there is a man sewing on a foot-treadle machine, dogs, children, banana peels. Inside there are odds and ends used hardware for sale, nails, and old tools. In one corner is a cooler filled with Coke, and Orange Fanta, glass bottles. There is a bottle opener on a string, hanging from the rafter, the tops falling on the floor. We sat down to drink and listen to Malawian talk-radio. The dirt and grime don’t bother me as much now. I guess I am getting used to being dirty. When the wind picks up in the market, red dust is everywhere. Red really is a color to describe Africa.

Nathan, Ryan and Trevor have discovered how to swing from a palm frond hanging down off a tree in our yard. There are no parks here – no swings, slides or climbing structures. Necessity is the mother of invention in many areas of life here!

All the power outages this week caused our water system to also fail, so we didn’t have any water for a day or so. Thankfully I filled a few buckets before the flow ceased. When the power came back on, our hot water still was not flowing. So Randy climbed up in the attic and ended up using his hands to clean out a bucket of slimy sludge from the tank that fills with a trickle of cold water. When we turn the heater on, the water flows through a heating unit. We’ve discovered that we cannot let the hot water tank levels get too low or they clog. I think I’ll write a manual of all the quirks of this house for the next residents!

God is good. His faithfulness is new every morning. This experience is very stretching, and I pray that we will remain pliable!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Daily life, first weeks

We had a good trip here – the boys did great through all the flights. Total travel was about 30 hours. Our house is comfortable, though we are still getting settled in and killing a few cockroaches and many small sugar ants. The power was off on our first night and everyone was exhausted, the boys crying and upset, as was I! Our neighbors greeted us with freshly baked bread, bananas, roasted peanuts and cinnamon rolls, so we were also well fed. The first few nights were challenging to get a new sleep pattern going, but we are all getting up at about 5:30AM now with the sun, and going to bed at about 7 or 8 pm. Work starts at 7:00. We are 9 hours ahead of Oregon.

It is good now to be getting into a routine with the boys and school and cooking now that my pantry is full of beans and flour. We had our first big market day on Friday – loaded up on greens, raw peanuts, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and beans. The boys bought mangos with their Kwacha, about 10 cents each. They are small, stringy, but delicious! If I purchase most food from the market, we can eat for a fairly reasonable price. However, anything purchased in the city is very expensive – more than in Oregon. So, I will figure it out eventually. I am baking bread a few times a week, boiling eggs for sandwiches so in case of a power outage we will have something to eat! The power was off all day yesterday, and the water also ran out. Some of these challenges are frustrating, but we are learning how to cope.

We are very grateful for our gardener and our househelper, Anga and Michael. Daily tasks take longer and are more tedious here, so having the extra hands is a life-saver. It is strange to have help, but we are also assisting these fine men by providing employment so they can support their families at home. Anga has a wife and child, and Michael is waiting to hear how he did with his examinations in hopes to attend university to become a doctor.

Today we had nsima for the first time, ground maize flour. It is very thick and has no flavor to speak of, but you eat it with ‘relish’, a dish of cooked greens and tomatoes. It is filling, and cheap, so we will be eating a lot of it! Michael and Anga cook it over a charcoal stove we just bought for them.

It is muggy and sticky some days, other day just HOT! It rained the first few days we were here and the heavy rains are due to start soon. I am wondering how badly the roof will leak as I see many wet spots already on the ceiling. Oh well, cement floors are easy to wipe up. Laundry will not dry, though I have a covered porch to hang clothes on. I brought some of my own clothespins so I was sure to have the stuff stay on the line – the crooked, twisted piece of wire that dangles haphazardly around the tin roof on the porch! Randy says he is going to string it up straighter, but, things like that are difficult to get done. No tools, no replacement wire, no nails, no hammer. We might be able to find some of these supplies in Blantyre, but it will take a whole day of searching and will cost a lot.

We drove to Mt Mulanje on Saturday with the Lutz family, all stuffed into one vehicle: 4 adults, 5 children, lunch baskets, backpacks, water bottles, 2 carseats and a few bamboo walking sticks. On a clear day we can see the mountain from Malamulo, but usually it is hazy. It was beautiful on the mountain. The maize crops are already tall at this elevation due to the water supply from the river which is irrigating the fields. We enjoyed a nice hike, the air was still, the cicadas buzzing. Sounded and felt like a movie from the Austrailian outback, or a hot day near South Lake Tahoe. Just when the kids couldn’t hike another minute, we arrived at the falls cascading down the rocks. The pool is deep – varying reports on its depth, we couldn’t touch bottom anywhere. Below the main pool there is a natural water slide and smaller pools. Some when rock hopping down the river, the rest of us stayed and played near the slide. The water was cold enough that we were shivering and the kids had blue lips. So refreshing! Who thought we could actually get cold in Malawi! Three more vehicles bearing ex-patriats also arrived as part of our group spending the day at the falls. We all brought food and had a delicious picnic lunch, complete with the sugar ants and lizards finishing up the left-overs. On the hike back, a rainstorm suddenly whipped up and drenched us with gigantic drops of rain and hail. Thunder and lightening were right on top of us, and the boys were pretty worked up about it – by the time we got back to the car, we were completely soaked. Thankfully I had packed extra clothes for the boys. Alas, none for me, but I also stayed cooler longer! Another Malawi memory. We got home and our friends decided to make pizza for dinner We were too tired, so I made pancakes. The power went out half-way through their pizza making, but the oven was pre-heated, so they half-baked the crusts, then torched the toppings with a blow-torch. Yum. This is cooking in Malawi. I am learning not to start too many things cooking at once because if the power goes out I’ve lost it all. Better to just do one thing and hope it turns out.

On Sunday we invited the orthodontic surgeon to come for lunch. Her daughter, is 9 and spent the morning playing with the boys. Nathan enjoyed having someone near his age to play card games with. Blanca is from Mexico and has been here 3 years. She filled me on the black and green mombas she saw in her yard just down the road. She said I should have Anga make me some bamboo spears to keep on the porch and in the house in case I ever spot a snake in the yard. She also went around my windows and told me I should stick papers in the cracks to be sure to keep the mosquitoes out. She’s right, there are lots of cracks. She was also very reassuring that I shouldn’t live in fear, just live and take precautions to protect my children from malaria etc., but that this will feel like home soon.

The boys are making friends. Trevor’s new buddies live next door and a walk down the road – Kaiza is 3 and Benson is 3 – three little blonde children. Nathan and Ryan are the oldest of the American kids here – but they sat outside by the road the first day and waved to everyone and by the afternoon we had a swarm of little Malawian boys playing futball in our yard. I can see the yard through the dining room window so that is nice. I am thrilled that they are making friends.

This morning a few trucks full of singing women went driving by our house. Beautiful songs and harmonies, gave me gooseflesh. Randy said they came waltzing into the hospital with small bundles of soap and flour for the patients – the ladies are from a church nearby.

Randy is enjoying his work at the hospital. He is meeting people, attending meetings, learning the ropes. He just was appointed the manager of the forest of blue gum trees here at Malamulo. The hospital sells some of the timbers to projects for the surrounding areas, but the forest needs to be managed properly for replanting, etc. Many exciting things to do. I’ll let him post more of that info next time. I get to fill everyone in on daily life!

Enough news for now. Thank you for your emails, phone calls and support.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


The Browns have arrived in Africa! I keep saying that Malawi will never be the same after the Brown boys have been here :) For those that wish to contact us please call our new phone -- 011-265-991-527782 International rates will apply so I recommend Union Telecard we've found rates for 8 cents per minute to Malawi. Soon we will include pictures and more descriptions. Safe and sound and God has blessed our family thank you for all your support in launching us on this endeavor!