Getting around town: bicycles with seats on the back, minibuses, walking, jogging, tuk tuk, old car axels turned into a cart, babies strapped to the backs of mothers, cars and pickups, SUVs and semitrucks. Most people walk or run.
A few of our neighbors came with us to services last Sabbath
. I'm not completely sure what they thought. The little boy, Mohammad really enjoyed the chance to run and play with other children. He had difficulty sitting still during the sermon. His uncle, Chisomo seemed to get something from the message and enjoyed singing hymns afterwards with a few of us. He even helped with the English lessons that we've started giving after services. We ended up staying very late because a few of the deacons went to visit a sick friend and left children at the hall. We took the opportunity to get to know the kids a little more and to practice some hymns they didn't know so well.
When we finally left, after dropping a few folks off, we headed over to Area 47 to bring some food to Wiza Mkorongo who had been sick with malaria for more than a week. We stopped Walt Eliah off at a bus station so he could catch a minibus to his home. Then we dropped some chicken and chips off for Wiza. He's better now and back to work.
The next day we drove east to the town of Salima. Most people associate the Salima area with Lake Malawi since it is relatively close, but the town itself is not on the lake. From Lilongwe we drove over mountains and into valleys. Forests and fields of all shades of green flew past the windows of our vanette. I was finally getting used to the typical speed limits of the highways. While driving through more populated areas the limit is set at 50kph
. The long stretches of tarmac between the trading centers and villages have limits of somewhere between 70 and 100kph so I've been told. Actual speed limit signs are rare so it's best to follow the other drivers.
We were a bit turned around as we approached Salima. Lena and I had to be in the lookout for two police roadblocks. We saw three that day, but eventually figured that out. Our next landmark was a primary school. We saw a sign for what appeared to be an Islamic school off the main road. A somewhat narrow dirt road led us through a small village community where not many vehicles travel often. Small children came out to greet us. We got some strange looks from their parents. We managed to drive slowly along the bumpy dirt pathways and found that school. Except it was the wrong school completely. After rejoining the main highway, we were overjoyed to finally see Nester Phiri sitting on a bench near the side of the road waiting for us.
Nester guided us onto another dirt road that led to a quiet community along the train tracks across from green fields of maize and groundnuts
. Her house is modest, but delightful. A separate building was originally designed to be a small community clinic that never had the chance to take off. Nester is a nurse and had been for quite some time. She currently works in a small palliative care center on Salima which we visited after lunch. While we ate our meal of beef, fried chicken, avocado, and nsima, a few neighbors came to pump water from the well that was dug on Nester's property. Sundays are usually quiet, but on weekdays when the city water isn't flowing to peoples' homes, this well gets a lot of traffic.
Nester handed is a bag of fresh homegrown groundnuts as we headed out the door. We said our goodbyes and headed back down the road. We beat the rain home. The dark clouds on the horizon are always breathtaking. When we see them we are reminded that the rains are so essential to life here in Malawi.
On Monday, after our housekeeper, Joyce headed for her own home, I got a call from Afred Mitomoni
. He's a welder, and a deacon in the congregation. To ward off as many insects as possible, we hired him to create some custom window screens for a few of our windows. The job was done and he and a fellow welder installed the screens. My dad was a welder. He had certain pieces of equipment that kept him safe while he worked. He had a welding hood, gloves, long sleeves, pants, and leather boots. Sometimes he even wore safety glasses and earplugs when he used a grinder to smooth out rough welds. Things are quite different in Malawi. If a welder has a shop then it's a good day. Afred took his shoes off coming in and out of the house. He wore shorts and a polo and flip flops.
One of the highlights of this week was a visit from Gracious and Loney Mpilangwe. Gracious is the pastor in Blantyre, Malawi. Blantyre is a major city in the southern region of the country. On a good day it's about a 4 hour drive away. That all depends on weather, traffic, day of the week, road conditions (pot holes vs drum holes!)
. The Mpilangwes stayed with us for two nights. We ate meals together and talked a lot about living in Malawi. We also had a chance to sit and discuss future dates for our trips to visit the congregation in Blantyre, as well as youth camp, the Feast of Tabernacles, Women's Weekend, and all sorts of things. We introduced them to pasta (I think Loney already knew what it was but Gracious seemed delightfully surprised) and of course the great southern comfort food from the US, biscuits and gravy. When they first arrived, they loaded us down with all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which were grown right here in Malawi. We have so much fresh food now and only two mouths to feed on a regular basis. I wish everyone had such a problem. In the evenings we sat up talking and chasing mosquitoes around the house. On the second night we even played Dutch Blitz - Lena's favorite card game which was invented by the Amish. It was fun!
It's the first of the month and everyone is finished with their holiday vacations
. That means if people are moving into a new home, now would be a good time. Our compound went from 3 out of 8 houses filled to 6, and I think more will be coming soon. One household moved in on what turned out to be a very wet afternoon. One of their first truckloads arrived in the middle of a downpour. Lena had the brilliant idea that we should help them out before the majority of their sofas, armchairs and mattresses were completely ruined. We ran out in the rain and helped empty that truckload as quickly as we could. Then we helped push the moving truck up hill so the driver could push start it. We were completely soaked! Our guests were able to stay nice and dry inside which is good because they didn't have an extra pair of dry clothes handy. Plus there was plenty of help by the time we got there. It turns out two more truckloads showed up after the heavy rains were finished. I'm just glad that no more emergency help was needed - other than push starting the moving truck one time.
Yesterday we helped out the LifeNets shop by driving Pilirani and Isaac to the bulk food shop to get supplies for the month. Mostly this involves (as we learned once before) standing in line for a very long time to pay money, waiting for your supplies to be compiled and your name called out, and then quickly loading everything into the van. This leaves a lot of time to sit and watch how people work here in Malawi. There is always something going on, someone selling something, someone trying to make some money any way they can. Once the van was loaded, we headed back to the shop, unloaded everything, and headed home to prepare for the Sabbath. And today we will gather once again here in Lilongwe with our brethren to worship our God and learn more about His word. The sermon for today will be the third in the series of fundamental beliefs that we hold as a Church - Satan the Devil.