Mar 082014
 

As I (Belinda) drive into Zomba, I’m busy working out what I need to buy and what shops I will need to visit. I’m also negotiating all the potholes, and avoiding all the people, bicycles, children, etc. walking/riding on the side of the road. Sometimes I pass monkeys, and that always makes me smile – it reminds me how different life is here.

My first stop is Metro, one of 2 supermarkets in the town. When I say supermarket, don’t imagine your local Tesco or Asda. Instead, think of your local corner shop, with about a quarter – or less – of the choice of products. I manage to park outside, and am immediately approached by various fruit venders, and sellers of mops, brushes, wooden spoons, etc. I take a look at what is on offer, but I don’t buy anything.

Inside Metro I head to the back, down the narrow aisles, negotiating the sacks of ufa (maize flour for cooking nsima, the staple food). The shelves are high, and are well stocked with basic choices.  I approach the bakery. The word “bakery” can bring to mind bread, rolls, cakes, etc. This bakery only sells bread, though other bakeries in town sell rolls and other kinds of bread as well. But the bread here is delicious and often still hot from the oven. Today is a good day – there is bread sitting on the counter. Sometimes there is none left, or none has been baked yet that day, maybe because there is no power. I pick up a plastic bag and choose a loaf (they are all the same – fresh white loaves).

As I walk to the cash desk I look to see if there is anything I haven’t seen before available on the shelves. I think this must be a throwback to the UK! Everything looks much the same as the last time I was here. I pass the crisps and the biscuits. Here there is a vast choice of enticing sounding treats, though I must admit that sometimes what I would really like is a nice packet of ginger nuts! I walk past and manage to avoid temptation.

I greet the cashier and pay for the bread – it costs the equivalent of about 40p. As I leave the store, I am usually petitioned by beggars, and any venders who missed me on the way in. I climb back in the car, and carefully reverse onto the road. People frequently walk behind the car as I’m backing. I’m never sure if they are unaware of the danger, or are just supremely confident that they have the right of way! Whatever the reason, I am very careful.

As I wait at the traffic light, I am already deciding where to go next. This is the only traffic light in Zomba, and I have heard many people say that there were no traffic queues before it was installed. I know that when the power is out, which happens quite often, the traffic flows much more freely through the junction. I turn left down the main street and head to my next location…

Dec 142013
 

As we wrote last time we recently travelled to Korea for 3 weeks. I wanted to write a bit more just to fill you in on how 3 missionaries in Africa ended up in South Korea and Hong Kong! To cut a long story short, John was invited to attend the World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Busan in South Korea, and I, Belinda was also invited to attend as his carer. The invitation covered our flights and our food.  And because we couldn’t really leave Samuel behind, we took him too!

We had an amazing time! For anyone who knows John, he doesn’t require a lot of assistance. My role as carer was primarily on the flights, and help with getting into taxis or up steps/steep ramps etc.

So while John was working, Samuel and I were able to do some sightseeing. The subway system in Busan is excellent – cheap, reliable and simple to use. We also went on a couple of buses – a bit more difficult as the drivers spoke no English, and we spoke no Korean! We saw beautiful Buddhist temples, walked around peaceful parks, and played on the beach.

And after Busan, we spent 4 days in Hong Kong. This was a holiday, as we have friends living there. We had a fantastic time, seeing the sights and shopping!! After over a year in Malawi, it was great to go into shops with lots of food and western goods. We felt like kids in sweet shop! And we came back to Malawi with one more suitcase than we left with! (Admittedly most of that space was taken up with Korean food for a friend in Zomba.)

There were many times during the 3 weeks, when we stopped to think, that we couldn’t really believe that we were in South Korea/Hong Kong. God blessed us in so many ways while we were there. A trip to Asia was the last thing we expected during our time in Malawi, and we are so thankful for the opportunity. As they say here (in Malawi): “Mulungu ndi wabwino” (God is good), “Nthawi zonse” (All the time)!

Buddhist Temple            

Nov 182013
 

We have just returned from 3 weeks in South Korea and Hong Kong. We will try to write more about what we did in a later blog, but for now John writes…

I was recently invited to attend the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea as an adviser with the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN). The assembly was a gathering of about 6000 people from different denominations and from different parts of the world.

I first attended a WCC assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe some 14 years ago, and it has been amazing to see how much disabled people have been included in the WCC’s agenda. The ‘issue’ of disability has been greatly improved over these years, although there is still a long way to go.

My reflections on attending are firstly that I was very privileged to be there and also that I was greatly encouraged and blessed by being part of an amazing group of people from different parts of the world. Each one trying to encourage, cajole or simply nag their respective churches to be more open to the God given gifts which have been given to disabled people – for the benefit of God’s Church.

I would also want to thank God for what he has done through the EDAN participants within the Assembly. One highlight was seeing one of the EDAN participants leading the morning worship – not on a disability issue, but just leading as part of the daily life of the Assembly.

Another joy was also being able to communicate to some of the people who were outside the Assembly, protesting at the WCC’s liberal theological stance on certain issues. I was able to speak and encourage them that there were evangelical, bible-believing Christians inside, and that their prayers were valued and needed. They were wonderful, generous, caring and inclusive – so much so that they invited a friend and I to give a brief testimony / thought.

My overall feeling of having attended this Assembly, was that I have been blessed by meeting some amazing South Korean people, and that there were times when the Spirit of God seemed evident at the WCC.

Jan 292013
 

In previous blogs, we have told you about some of the practical things we experience here in Malawi and shared some photos of our home, cats and even some of the wild life! But we thought we would write and tell you something about what it feels like living here.

Living in another country can bring lots of new experiences and often when we travel to places we get a small glimpse of what it is like in that country – unless you spend all the time on the beach, eating English food on the Costa del Sol!  Moving to a new country, where the culture is so very different, puts a new outlook on life. Rather than just visiting and getting a glimpse, life becomes so much more in your face. The realities of the poverty, dirt and simplicity of life become part of your life, rather than just something you observe.

This is at times wonderful and at other times extremely frustrating. For us the realities of living with frequent loss of electricity, moves from “Oh, how nice to have candlelight for the evening” to “Aaahhh, I was just at an exciting point in my book!” We have also experienced the frustration of something that feels essential breaking because it is made of very poor quality. These things can become really big in our minds, especially when we are used to being able to simply go and buy a replacement, or get it repaired within a day or two (here it could be weeks – if at all!!)

So what is God teaching us in all this? One of the biggest things that God has revealed is our reliance on ‘things’, rather than on Him. Being here, we probably appreciate our material possessions more, but we are learning that we must hold onto them less. Surely this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33) I don’t think Jesus is telling us to give up everything, but we must learn to hold things lightly, so that we depend on Him, and not on our ‘stuff’.

We have also discovered that ‘being’ is much more important than ‘doing’. This is a relationship culture, and people are more interested relationships than tasks. (For example, even when doing business at the bank, it is important to greet properly first). So it feels like we have to make a big shift from our usual agendas, and allow time just to ‘be’ with others. Just like the way in which we must make sure we have time to just ‘be’ with God, our loving Father, who welcomes and enjoys our presence just for who we are.

‘Tionana’ ( ‘See you later’ in Chichewa)

Jan 222013
 

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I last posted a blog. So much for all my good intentions!! So I thought, better late than never…

Quick update first. I’m sure most, if not all of you, know that we are now in our own home and have been for about 3 months – maybe that is why I have neglected the blog? It is a lovely home – much bigger than we ever expected, and with a lot of land, including several mango trees. The newest editions to our home are 2 kittens which came from a nearby farm just before Christmas. We have called them Chaos and Mayhem, and they are living up to their names!

We had a good Christmas, although we did miss our family in the UK. It didn’t feel much like Christmas because of the heat. It is quite interesting to try to identify the things that make Christmas feel like Christmas. On Boxing Day we went to a barbeque up on Zomba plateau. Much like barbeques in the UK, it rained! Actually it started with hail (because the plateau is quite high), though it cleared later, and we had lots of fun, ate great food, and some played a muddy game of football.

My intention is to update the blog much more often. So hopefully I will add more soon. For now, we want to wish all our family, friends, and readers of this blog, a very happy and blessed New Year.

Oct 182012
 

So I thought I would write a bit more about daily life here, and particularly about daily life for Samuel. In other words, Sir Harry Johnston’s International School, known locally as Sir Harry’s.

The school day begins for Samuel at 7:30am, lining up in the school playground, just like he used to do in the UK. But this is where the similarity stops! The whole school (about 120 children) then does the “Wake up, Shake up”. This is a dance to music, which can be different every day. On Friday’s, when parents can stay for an assembly celebrating the kids’ achievements in school, Mums and Dads are encouraged (coerced) to join in!

Samuel is in Class 4, which is Years 3 and 4 (ages 7-9 for those of you without school children). There are 23 children in the class of many different nationalities, including Israeli, Slovakian, Greek/Portuguese, English and Malawian. All lessons are taught in English, and Samuel’s teacher, Miss Dickson, is from the UK. The curriculum taught is also based on the English system.

The official school day ends at 1pm, but on 4 out of the 5 days Samuel has an after school club, so he finishes at 2pm. This means that the afternoon is still free for playing with friends, playing with the dogs, or just playing on his own. We are still working on trying to convince Samuel of the benefits of a siesta!

I asked Samuel what things were different from his last school. The first thing he said is that it is warmer!! (It now tops 30 degrees on most days.) Another difference is the wildlife. Within the classroom leaf insects and lizards have often been seen, and once a praying mantis was spotted walking across the teacher’s desk! Outside in the grounds you frequently see monkeys, and a chameleon was also discovered.

Samuel also thinks that this school is much sportier. He is currently learning hockey, and will soon be playing netball and volleyball. There is also a swimming pool at the school (!) and every child has swimming timetabled twice a week. Samuel is also involved in after school clubs playing football and hockey and another for cross country running (followed by a dip in the pool!) With all this sport, Samuel is getting a very healthy tan (we thought it was dirt, but then found it didn’t wash off in the shower!) and developing the beginnings of a six-pack!!

Just to update you all on our progress into our new house – it still hasn’t happened yet! The house is empty, but there are quite a few things that have to be done before we can move in, such as putting in a shower and an accessible toilet, replacing the dangerous hot water heater, replacing some of the rotten kitchen, and cleaning and painting. Hopefully we should be in the house in another week or so…. We are learning patience!

      And on another note, we celebrated Samuel’s 9th birthday last Friday. We ate a birthday meal of chicken curry (Samuel’s favourite meal here), and then had chocolate birthday cake with strawberry ice cream!! And we were able to share the meal with Paul and Helen (well, we are still living with them!), and with Andy & Judy Atkins, friends we have made who arrived from Canada in Malawi on the same day as us. Samuel really enjoyed the day, and we are planning a birthday party for his friends after the half term holiday.

Sep 292012
 

We’ve been in Malawi for a month now, and I wanted to write a few updates about what our daily life is like. At the moment we are still living with Paul and Helen Jones. However, we have found a house (an answer to prayer, Praise God) which we have been told will become vacant on October 1st. So for now, daily life is still as guests.

Our usual weekday begins at 6 a.m. – a time we didn’t even know existed in the UK! First question of the morning – is the electricity on or off? If the power is off, water has to be boiled on the gas stove for that essential morning cup of tea. (If the power’s on we can use the electric kettle.) Toast can also be cooked on a gas ring, or we can have cereal (we now have fresh cow’s milk delivered twice a week). Sometimes we can watch the monkeys on the trees or the back wall while we eat our breakfast.

We leave for the drive to school at 7am. How to describe the roads?! The road outside the house is a dirt road – steep and bumpy. After about 100m we turn onto a tarmac road. At this junction, the road narrows and crosses a culvert – I am just now beginning to get over my fear of tipping the car into the ditch!

The rest of the drive to school is along tarmac roads, but like nothing I have experienced before. There are no pavements, so we share the road with numerous people, cyclists, dogs, chickens, goats, children, minibuses and lorries. Concentration must be maintained at all times. We also pass under stunning purple trees (Jacaranda’s) and past bright pink flowering bushes. 7km, or about 10-15 minutes, later we arrive at Sir Harry Johnston International School where Samuel’s school day begins…

To Be Continued!

I just wanted to add that all of our freight boxes arrived yesterday, with no customs duty to pay on them. We continue to thank God for His provision, protection and blessings!

Sep 162012
 

Well, I put this picture on Facebook, showing Samuel on his first day of his new school.

And one of Samuel’s cousins was more interested in the dog!!

So we thought we would introduce 2 of Samuel’s best friends – Molly and Boet (pronounced Boot).

Molly is HUGE!  She is often described as a horse! But she is really, really sweet and friendly. She also likes to sleep with her paw over her ear, like in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boet is also HUGE and apparently more than twice as heavy as Samuel. He loves chewing sticks (logs!), so every time we go out we have to look for sticks (logs!) for him. He is lots of fun to play with – playing chase around the house (Boet always wins!), and playing water fights with the hose. (Samuel always wins!)

Boet likes to sleep on his back, like in the photo.

So these are 2 of Samuel’s friends, but he is also making lots of new friends at school.

 

 

Sep 042012
 

We’ve arrived! Our African adventure has begun for real. There is so much to take in – the sights, the sounds, the smells. It’s so different from England, it’s hard to know how to describe it… but we’ll try.

Until we find a house to live in, we are staying with Paul and Helen Jones, originally from Canada and America respectively. They are the Emmanuel International reps in Malawi and have lived here for 25 years. They are making us feel very welcome – answering our endless questions, and introducing us to the culture and people here.

Yesterday we visited Samuel’s school (more about that another time), stopped at the market to get some fruit (again, more another time), and took a detour off the tarmacked road to find sugar cane (at Samuel’s insistence). Sugar cane is grown in Malawi, and can be bought as long sticks. We wondered if, since it was a plant, it could be one of our 5-a-day (?), but apparently it is in the grass family. You peel off the hard outer layer, and then chew the stalk. Not surprisingly, it tastes of sugar! You then spit out the chewed stalk when there’s no taste remaining. This is one of Samuel’s favourite things – which can’t be experienced in England.

We are settling well, and will continue to keep you posted. And we will keep trying to give you a flavour of life in Malawi.