Moves, Strikes, and Internet (9 of 52)

Monday, February 20, 2017
Chipoka, Central Region, Malawi
Sunday we joined the Chapamba's and Haiton Thungula to drive to Chipoka (near Salima). We have church buildings under construction, but we're not sure if they’ll be ready (or appropriate) for the Feast of Tabernacles, so we went to check out a conference center near Lake Malawi. The Feast has been held on the lake in the past, but further south; the Chipoka location makes it more central to both Mzuzu (in the north) and Blantyre (in the south); and much closer to Lilongwe in the western central area of the country. As always, driving through this country the landscape is breathtaking: soaring mountains, rolling fields of maize cut with swathes of red dirt roads. A beautiful blue sky dotted with steel gray clouds. The visit to Chipoka was our first glimpse of Lake Malawi; it didn’t disappoint; it was a beautiful vista. Despite how beautiful I thought it was, I was informed that the lake was ugly right now because the rivers are dumping so much debris into the lake because it is the rainy season. By October the water should be crystal clear and blue.

When we started our trek back home we stopped in Salima so the Chapambas could buy some fish. I encountered a first. The fish were hooked together through their gills with banana leaf strands; the strands were then tied together to make a loop. To transport said fish the loop was hooked over the windshield wipers on the front of the vehicle. About half way home the rains started so we had to pull over and move the fish to the side mirrors. It’s always an adventure. Once we got back to Lilongwe, we dropped Haiton off at his vehicle, and got to visit Cephas’s niece and her husband. Her husband owns a commercial compound. Within a shed of this compound the gentleman had built a helicopter from scrap metal. He is turning it into a billboard. It was quite impressive.

It was a long day, but enjoyable, and we got a lot of information to consider.

Tuesday evening Chiku (Memory) Chilopora joined us for dinner. It was our first chance to visit outside of church services, and it was enjoyable to get to know more about her and her family.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty typical days for us, with one "minor" annoyance… well two, actually. First, our wifi quit working on the Thursday (2/9) before this; it would light up and show that we had internet, but there was no access to the network. To make matters even more annoying my cell phone network was also acting wonky. We’ve spoken with our wifi provider several times; they’ve had a catastrophic error in their network and claim they’ve been working on it day and night, but we’re still network-less. I have a little internet "dongle" (thumb drive) through Lewis’s cell provider. It works pretty well, but the data available is pretty low, so we can’t make skype or other video calls for the time being. I missed talking to my family this weekend. When I spoke with my cell provider they informed me that they knew there was a problem with their network in our neighborhood (area 3) and that they were researching a solution; however, it wouldn't be permanently fixed for 6-8 months (the time to get a tower of some sort in the area); but if I wanted to pay extra for an internet bundle (more expensive than what we have now; and equally unreliable) that might tide me over until they could get the permanent fix completed. Suffice it to say I am switching cell phone providers.

Thursday was a big day for us! Michala and Brennan Hilgen have moved to Malawi to volunteer for close to a year. They arrived and moved into our second bedroom on Thursday. We’re excited to have them here to get to know this wonderful congregation along with us.

Before we headed to the airport we stopped to work for a few hours at the LifeNets shop. While there we heard some shouting from outside. I went out to check out what was happening, and saw hundreds of kids running back and forth and hollering. Apparently the government has decided to switch the management of education from the central government to the districts. The districts were to hire supervisors that would oversee the workings of the school districts, including paying the salaries of the teachers. This was supposed to take place in January, and it’s been an epic failure, as none of the teachers have been paid since December. Because of this the teachers have gone on strike until they get paid. These kids running around were demonstrating because of the strike. I’m not sure if it was in opposition to the teachers striking, or in support of their strike, but it was quite a ruckus to witness.

This once again drove home how blessed we are in the U.S. to have a guaranteed education from K-12. No matter the issues our schools have; we don’t have to fight or work so hard to just get a basic education.

On Saturday we drove to area 49 to pick up the Elia family and the Rashid family to take to services. The trek to services is an arduous task each week. They have to walk from their neighborhood to catch a bike (for several hundred kwatcha per person) that will take them to the minibuses (which cost several more hundred kwatcha per person), which will drive them to area 8; they will then walk from the minibuses to the church hall. Because of the expense involved the children only get to attend services on occasion and sometimes even the parents will only come one at a time. Our goal is to try and get everyone in the families to church at least once a month, so we plan to rotate the families we pick up each week.

At services the congregation had prepared a welcome song for the Hilgens and Lewis and me. It was very sweet.

After services, we drove the Rashid family home, along with the Miracle, Lancy, and Juliana Katachali’s parents who were visiting from Mzuzu. We were able to spend the evening getting to know them both and playing with little Asher and Triphonia.

It was an eventful week, and we look forward to the next week of getting to know the brethren and also our new roommates.

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Marge Ashley

Very interesting! Glad you have help. It is sad that people want to attend church, but find it hard to do so...At least they have great chauffeurs. I hope all your chocolate cakes turn out well!