Malawi is Not That Far Away

I have to remind myself frequently that we still live in Africa. South Africa is so different from Malawi. Life is fast-paced, convenient, and full of a dizzying variety of options. Despite all that, every once in a while we are reminded of a simple and limited life in Malawi. Today I had two such reminders.

The power is going to be off this evening. This was a regular occurrence in Malawi, so we just shrug and life goes on without electricity. The power outages here are about 4.5 hours long, as opposed to anywhere from 2-25 hours long in Malawi. However, in Malawi, power outages were an expected part of life, so we had all kinds of back-up options to help us: solar power, an inverter, a generator… but here in South Africa we haven’t yet invested in a back-up option. As the frequency of power outages increases, we are talking more and more about what a good back-up would look like. We don’t mind the dark, and with outages of only 4-5 hours, the refrigerator is ok if we keep it closed the whole time. It’s the productivity that suffers. No power means limited computers, no printer, no internet, and – more concerning – no cell phone coverage or data. The cell towers don’t have adequate back-up, so when the power is off, all communications go down. In Malawi, even when the power went off, we still had phones and cellular data, so this is a new one for us. We have some ideas of how to solve for this, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, we are enjoy having more “technologically advanced” power outages. We have an app on our phones that tells us when the power will be off!

The green text tells us we don’t have load shedding (power outage) right now – which is why I can post this now – but just below that it tells me to expect the power to go off at 8pm. It’s nice to know!

The other reminder today of a simpler, more limited Africa was in the form of texting with a friend here in Joburg who has gone days without water, only to have it on a short time and then off again. We quickly learned in Malawi that as much as having the power off was inconvenient, having the water off is much, much worse. You need water to live. It’s also nice for taking showers, flushing toilets, and doing laundry. Thankfully, many families in the church have opened their homes to this friend and her family and have helped them through these days. What a blessing to share such a basic staple of life with those in need.

So with power outages and water outages, Malawi has been on my mind today. We miss it, but reminders like these today are sweet.

Please be praying for Malawi. They have had a rough few months since the last Presidential election in May 2019. And then Monday, this announcement:

I know many are relieved and hopeful at this outcome. The protests and riots are over. Please pray for Malawi in the coming days and weeks.

Butterfly Migration

We are not getting much official school accomplished today. We are a little distracted by the brown-veined white butterfly migration!

The butterflies are small, so I marked them on the pics, but it truly is a non-stop parade today! From what we have read, the butterflies start in Namibia in November and fly across South Africa through February, heading for Madagascar!

If you want to see more of this fascinating migration, there are some good videos online.

Homeschooling – Academics

For the girls and I, most days are filled with school. We have homeschooled from day 1, starting 6 years ago. Abigail is now in 4th grade…

And Naomi is loving Kindergarten.

We are following an American curriculum (primarily Sonlight, with Singapore math, and language arts from The Good and the Beautiful), and we also follow the American calendar. It’s not the curriculum that makes us odd here in South Africa: it’s the American school calendar. While we follow an August – May school year, South Africans begin their school year in January and end in November.

For now this works for us. We can work around furloughs and teams or family who come to stay with us, and we have a familiarity with this system and the school calendar. It has been a little complicated over the last couple months as the girls have been asked “What grade are you going into?” The girls graciously answer the question, and every time I am thankful that the girls are ok with being a little different as compared to everyone around them. They take the optimistic view and consider themselves to be 1/2 a year ahead of their peers! Hmmm, you can see the shepherding issue: a few conversations about humility and how different doesn’t always mean better, worse, ahead or behind. Sometimes it’s just different. With conversations like this to be had, school always goes beyond academics. That’s one of the things we love about homeschooling!

Settling Into Life – 6 Months in SA

It takes a bit of time to settle into life whenever you move to a new location. But with the start of this new year, it feels like we have settled. We have regular routines, we (usually) know what to expect, and we have a few favorites. I’m hoping to share some of those things with you in the coming weeks. Thanks for following along!

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Unexpected Pets

It was very hard to leave Simba and Samson, our two Great Danes, back in Malawi. Ever since then, we have been talking as a family about whether or not we will get another pet, and if so what kind? Bird? Fish?

And then one day I got a call from Matt while he was working at the church. The gardener at church had caught a mother and baby sparrow, and would we like to take them home and release them later? I confirmed that the baby could fly, and agreed to our first temporary pets. We only had them for about an hour, and then let them fly off. The baby was very docile, and a little confused when it ran into a glass door, so Abi held it for a little while.

Soon it was doing fine, and joined its mother in a nearby tree.

A few days later, Matt came home with another box, another temporary pet: a tiny, scared bunny, that was quickly named Charcoal and given a temporary home in a tall planter. Very temporary: in less than an hour Charcoal had escaped and hidden either under the low decking or under the wooden storage building in the yard. “Temporary” quickly became “we can’t catch her!”

And so: we now have a pet rabbit living in our back yard. We didn’t choose her, but I guess she chose us!

She eats leaves (like in this picture), but prefers red hibiscus flowers. She has been with us more than a week, and if we ever do catch her, I’m not sure if we would take her back to the church property or if we would keep her. I’m guessing she would stay! So much for temporary!

Week 1 in Our House

We are in!

There were a LOT of boxes!

And a lot of things to fix and rewire.

We took a few breaks along the way.

And we made some great progress – enough that we’ve been back to school for 3 days already!

Some parts of our house are looking better than others. These bookshelves look pretty impressive until you look closely and realize that the books are not sorted at all! That will come. Still lots of unboxing and sorting to do, but this place is starting to feel like home!

Container on the Move

Last we heard – Friday morning – our container was supposedly crossing the boarder into Zimbabwe (orange circle in the pic below). We are told to expect it at our new house sometime the middle of next week!

Container travel to Joburg

There’s still a lot of geography between our container and our home, but we are glad to hear it’s on the move!

Moving Next Week… Maybe?

We are set to receive the keys for our new home on Sunday, so we are working with our moving company to send our container down from Malawi to be able to move in Monday or Tuesday next week. We are finalizing things on this end, but we got this message from the moving company:

“We are preparing the Customs Export Entry now and want to load this week but opposition has called for strikes again this week threatening to close the airport and borders. So we have to see how it goes and will keep you informed as we go along.”

Malawi is a bit unsettled these days, and our hearts – and apparently our plans – are still very much tied to our former home! Please pray with us that our container can clear the boarder in the next couple days without incident!

moving boxes

This is what we are waiting for… lots of boxes!