My Favorite Pharmacy

I seem to visit the pharmacy frequently. Maybe it’s that I have little kids and it’s just part of having kids, or maybe it’s because I live in Africa. Whatever the reason, I’ve had ample opportunity to pick my favorite pharmacy in Lilongwe: Pharmacare Pharmacy.

Pharmacy 4

There are several differences between pharmacies in the USA and pharmacies in Malawi. Yes, they both have medicine, but the line between prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines is… merely a suggestion here. And the types of medicines available are a bit different. I feel like there are a lot of pain-reliever type medicines in America. We don’t have a lot of variety in pain relievers, but we do have a plethora of anti-fungal creams available here, as seen above.

Pharmacy 2

We have medicines for colds and allergies too; I’ve just had to become an expert on ingredients and dosages! Our medicines come from Belgium, England, India, South Africa, Kenya… reading the fine print becomes very important! Medicines from countries with fewer regulations tend to be more intense or concentrated (read that as “Wow, that cleared my stuffy nose! I hope I still have sinuses left in there!!!). On the other hand, medicines from “first world countries” tend to be more expensive. Caution and advanced decision making skills are required!

Pharmacy 5

We also have some local herbal powders and seeds for those taking the more natural approach.

Pharmacy 3

And, well, this is Africa after all. We do need to maintain those “long drops.”

Pharmacy 1

One more to leave you with. Yes, you can buy umbilical cord clamps. I didn’t have to buy one for Naomi’s birth, but most clinics will expect the parents to bring EVERYTHING needed for a birth, from the baby bath to a cord clamp.

Christmas is Coming!

Abi is in charge of the countdown and she knows CHRISTMAS IS COMING SOON! This is a fun time of year for our family and our church, and we eagerly look forward to the Christmas season.

Tree Decorating 6

We had some friends over for dinner last night and they helped us decorate the tree, so our house is looking much more festive now!

Christmas Party Prep 1

And the invitations are out for the 6th annual Church Christmas Parties at our home! We’re excited to welcome the whole church into our home to celebrate the birth of our Savior. The time of worship and fellowship and laughter together is a highlight of our year!

Now for some baking and Christmas present wrapping…

Overcoming Arachnophobia

Chop Chop long shotMe and spiders are like Indiana Jones and snakes. They’ve always creeped me out a bit.

Rachel and I first met a “Chop-Chop” in 2008, while we were gathering info about moving to Malawi. We were in someone else’s home when a big, hairy, crab-like spider darted between the furniture with startling speed. Rachel thought I was very brave to hunt it down and smash it with my flip-flop. Truth is, I just didn’t want it to find me later that night. We’ve never seen one in our house before…until now.

He was very still. I cautiously dropped a container over him. Sure enough, he was dead. Apparently the insecticide we use for mosquitos works on Chop-Chops too. But I still wasn’t really excited about our unwelcome guest.

So I decided the best way to overcome my fear was to photograph him. I love studying and observing God’s creation, perhaps they wouldn’t be so creepy if I learned a bit about them. So here are some facts I learned, with some photos to accompany them.

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  • They’re called camel spiders, wind scorpions, or sun spiders because they love dry, hot places. But they’re actually neither spiders or scorpions. They’re Solifugae.
  • Their legs are jointed differently than spiders, which is why they look double-jointed when they run. Why do they have ten legs? The front ones are actually feelers used for finding prey.
  • Speaking of prey, they eat beetles and termites… plus rodents, lizards, and even snakes! (Which is worse: snakes, or snake-eating spiders?)

Chop Chop profile

  • Their long hairs help them feel vibrations so they can move quickly. (Mine also has tiny wings on the back legs, which I’ll assume serve the same purpose. If you learn they actually use these for flying – I really, really don’t want to know.)
  • They can run 10 MPH (that’s ½ as fast as me!) They like the dark, and they often seem to be chasing a person when they actually just want to get in their shadow. (Or up their pant leg…)
  • They have very sophisticated eyes and can recognise forms, giving them an advantage in both hunting and avoiding enemies. (Like a guy with a flip-flop…)

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  • Their long movable jaws have scissor-like teeth that resemble crab claws. They use them to chew through hair, feathers, and small bird bones! They are called haarskeerders (hair-cutters) in Afrikaans.
  • Their bite can be painful, but is not dangerous to humans. They have no venom. (Which means the British family who fled their house because they thought a camel spider killed their dog was probably in no real danger.)
  • Soldiers on desert assignments have historically staged fights: camel spider vs. camel spider, or camel spider vs. scorpion. (No record of camel spider vs. snake, which would definitely have been worth seeing.)

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Did all that research make them less creepy? I’m not so sure. But after letting him sit on my desk a few days until I was sure he wasn’t moving, I felt ready to take this shot:

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And now if you need me, I’ll be spraying some insecticide in the attic.

A Visit to the Tailor

Welcome to the tailor’s shop…

Tailor 6

I like to sew, but I’ve discovered that here in Malawi hiring a tailor is relatively (very) inexpensive. I didn’t bring back lots of clothes after furlough this time because I like the idea of having more of our clothes tailor made. We can 1) make whatever style/color we want, 2) it can be made to fit us (Abi is a size 2/3 around and a size 4/5 tall), and 3) it’s actually a lot cheaper.

Tailor 3

This unassuming little shop is always busy. In 29 years, this man has taught himself everything from pattern drafting to finishing touches.

Tailor 2

Most days the tailor has an assistant helping him, but on my last trip he was working solo on this large stack of projects. Isn’t that a bright and beautiful pile of fabric! My dress is on the chair in the lower right corner.

Tailor 1

I’d gone to pick up dresses for myself and the girls, so I stood in the corner behind a shower curtain to try mine on. All three dresses needed slight alterations, but considering that I’d walked in the week before with pile of fabric and a picture of what I wanted the dresses to look like (no pattern), the alterations were very minor! This guy is pretty good.

Tailor 5

And though it may look a bit rustic, he has all the equipment he needs to get the job done well. He even stitched back together our tow rope made of thick, wide webbing. When I asked if he could do that he said “Yes, I have done that before.” Wow. Oh yah, this is Africa. If if can be sewn, he’s probably done it before.

Tailor 4

Finished products ready for pick up. I like looking through what he’s made to get some ideas of what to ask him to make next for us. =)

The Hanging Bridge

Evidently, this is the most interesting photo I’ve ever taken:

Kandewe Hanging Bridge

To date, I have posted 241 Malawi photos to Flickr. The photo above just received the highest “interestingness” ranking of all of them. Since other people seem to enjoy it so much, I’ve decided to share this photo here too, along with more about this very interesting bridge in a remote part of Northern Malawi.

Zuwulufu Suspension Bridge

Before the Kandewe Hanging Bridge was built, people risked their lives to cross this river by canoe. An enterprising man from the village devised this bridge. Since then, everyone from businessmen to schoolchildren will cross on this bridge. Crossing it made my heart race, but it’s definitely better than braving the rapids in a dugout canoe!

The bridge was first built in 1904, so obviously none of the original materials remain. One story says that a hippo tried to cross this bridge once, and broke through!

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the Nyika Plateau in the background.

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the magnificent Nyika Plateau in the background.

High water on the South Rukuru River. Man running across bridge

LEFT: High water on the South Rukuru River. As you can see on Google Maps, there are some rocks visible in this part of the river during the dry season.

RIGHT: This guy was amused by my fascination with the bridge. “Did you know I can run across?” And so he could! He only put his hand down once.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. During this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. As you see, during this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

Be careful where you step. My foot, and the holes, for scale.

Be careful where you step. There were a lot of holes as big as my foot!

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. You can see one slack cable on the bottom right. It seemed to me that they weren't doing much anymore.

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. It seemed to me that they weren’t doing much anymore.

These men are repairing the bridge with cord made from bark.

Sometimes, the old ways are best. These men are maintaining the bridge with cord made from bark.

It's not just for adventurers. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

It’s not just for Indiana Jones. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained (there’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere…)

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was much more unusual than crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder.

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was unusual, but crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder was totally normal.

The hardest part for this guy seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

I learned a few tricks from watching him. The hardest part seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the "lean over and grab the side" technique. This is what I used. :)

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the “lean over and grab the side” technique. This is what I used. :)

Children running and playing on the bridge. I didn't try this technique for crossing. :)

These kids enjoyed running and playing on the bridge. I didn’t try this technique for crossing. :)

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. These kids were fascinated to see my antics!

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. The kids were fascinated to see my antics!

Want to see more? Every week, I try to pick five Malawi photos from my archives and post them to Flickr. You can view 240 slightly less interesting photos here. :)

 

Respite

Today I do not mind being wrong at all! As we went to bed last night we heard thunder rumble in the distance and the desire for cool rain was more a wish than a hope. But we woke in the middle of the night to the beautiful sound of soft rain on our tin roof! It rained for several hours through the night, and all day today it was cool and at times drizzly. It is SO WONDERFUL!

So I was completely wrong in my post 2 days ago when I said it would be a month before the rains. But I’m very happily wrong!

And as promised, here’s our neighbor’s roof… green!

First rain

It’s Hot!

Smoothies, popsicles, and fans are really important in our house right now, because it’s hot!

Hot season

The cold season petered out the first week of October, and this week the heat hit full force, making up for its late arrival. It’s been 90-95 degrees (F) the last few days! With no air conditioning, we close up the house about 8am to keep the cooler air inside, which means it’s 82 degrees in the house at 3pm. That’s not bad – it’s actually enjoyable with a fan and a popsicle!

But we know what’s coming next… in about a month it will start to rain! One thing we watch is our neighbor’s roof. Weird? Maybe. But it’s the most obvious sign of the season. Here it is now:

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Nice and rusty looking. We’ll post another picture in a month of so once the rain washes it clean!

The Hamlines

We had the great opportunity to host Paul and Gail Hamline for a couple weeks this past month.  Paul had come to teach a biblical counseling course at Central African Preaching Academy (CAPA), and Gail came to serve in any way she could.

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This couple blessed us like few people can. They were missionaries in Tanzania for 16 years, and their love for the Lord and understanding of east African culture were a great example to us. Spending time with them made us better love Christ, His church, and Africa.

Our girls loved Paul and Gail too, as they played surrogate grandparents during their stay. Gail and Abigail had more in common than rhyming names: they blew bubbles and read and made up great stories together. Naomi would light up and start waving as soon as she saw Paul. We’re thankful that the Lord has given us a home we can share, and for those who come to strengthen the Lord’s work here in Malawi!

Staying in Touch

Missionaries aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices when they move to the missions field. Parents of missionaries make enormous sacrifices! Their kids and grandkids move very far away, often to difficult or dangerous places. They spend a fortune to send small care packages (that may not even make it), and save money for years to go see where their kids live and who they live with, and what they do and how they do it. And they just hope their grandkids will like them – or at the very least recognize them!

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Enter Skype, the best invention ever for grandparents of missionary kids! Abi can show off her new ballet skills, Naomi can show off her adorable wave and her daredevil climbing skills. Matt can demonstrate the new screens he installed in his office so that his parents understand what he’s talking about, and Rachel’s parents can show us their kitchen remodel in progress. We can share a bit of real life together, every Saturday morning with the Smiths and Sunday afternoon with the Floreens.

Both sets of parents love the Lord, and because of that joyfully let us be missionaries and go (taking their grandkids!) 10,000 miles away. We know that despite their willingness this is a sacrifice for them, so we cherish every chance we have to Skype with them. It sure beats waiting for the mailboat to arrive every six months!