Summertime Garden

It’s summertime! We heard rumors of 49C/120F temps in Mangochi this week, but we have only hit about 97F. That’s hot enough, without air conditioning, and half the time without power at all. But the garden is loving the sunshine! Here are some shots from around our garden…

Flamboyant tree:

Albizia tree:

Ginger:

Queen palm:

Rose of Sharon:

Garlic:

Jasmine:

Jacaranda tree:

Boganville:

Mangoes!

And avocados!

Rainbow Shield Bug

This afternoon we found one of our favorite bugs in our backyard!

The girls were about to lie down in the hammocks for rest time and this rainbow shield bug was just hanging out on a hammock. Yay for cool African bugs!

Electrified!

Apparently when you start reworking wiring for inverters and solar panels and such, things can get a little shocking… Since about noon yesterday our house has intermittently been “live.” At various points the metal roof, the bathroom faucets, running water, and the breaker boxes have all shocked people. Thankfully most of the shocks have been pretty mild, and neither of the girls have been shocked.

So early this morning, Matt drove to the other side of town to pick up our electrician, Adriano. At one point several years ago I jokingly suggested that we build Adriano a flat in our yard because it seemed like he lived here anyway. I’m revisiting that idea now…

By the time the girls and I left for swim lessons this morning at 7:45, they had figured out that there was a problem with the grounding wires. Power was leaking from the neutral to the ground line… which is why it connected to the plumbing and roof. Not that I understand all that, but the people who need to understand it do. 😊 Hopefully we’ll be less electrifying soon!

Kiboko

There are not a lot of places for kids to play on play equipment in Malawi. Now, before you get concerned that my kids don’t get to play, you should know that they play ALL THE TIME, with things like sticks, bugs, dirt, sand, etc, etc. They love it, and so do I. But play equipment is a treat. So for a special family outing yesterday, we went to the Kiboko Hotel restaurant for lunch, because they have some play equipment. And not just any play equipment!

Yes! They have a Land Rover playground! It’s this awesome?!? I am told that the rocking zebra likes to run away with little girls though, so one must be careful! 😉

In addition to the awesome play equipment, they have great smoothies…

And wonderful banana pancakes!

To top it all off, we — all of us — decided to eat our lunch in the Land Rover, just because we could.

All fueled up, we’re off on another adventure!

Settling the Dust

Every October there is a rain that is called the “chisime luksha” rain. It’s the out-of-the -blue storm that stops the dust and cools us off. I love this rain, and it happened to be today.

It was foggy this morning, which is a bit odd for this time of year, but a sure sign that the humidity has rolled in. Then it got hot fast. By 9:45am, our thermometer told us it was 31C (88F). By 1:30pm, the car thermometer said 37C (98F). Oye. Then just after 2pm, one of the windiest downpours I’ve ever seen hit Lilongwe.

The trees were whipped around, debris and leaves flew everywhere in the air! I wanted to open all the windows because the wind was COLD, but there was too much rain.

Matt went to work pretty quickly. The last of our solar stands had been painted in the morning, so needed to be moved out of the rain ASAP. And the cars had windows cracked. By the time he got back inside, he was drenched!

It rained off and on for about 3 hours, sometimes hard, but it generally calmed down to a nice moderate rain. As we enjoyed the natural air conditioning, I started cleaning up the puddles and wet furniture on our porch. I smiled to think that, Lord willing, a couple months from now I will be drying out furniture and squeegeeing our porch floor on an almost daily basis as we go into the real rainy season. Today was just a taste, and for us, a pleasant, cool taste.

For others it wasn’t so pleasant. We’ve heard reports of tree limbs falling on cars, of 6 injured at Maula Prison where iron sheets tore off the roof, and of lots of power lines down. Our power is still out, putting this blackout at 17 hours and counting… just kidding it came on as I typed that! And, off again. Oh dear. We all know the rains are good, and so important for Malawi, but they come with their own set of dangers and concerns.

For today though, we will enjoy the relief from the heat, the joy of water, and the hope of green and food. And the sunset… God painted a masterpiece tonight, even the little corner we could see from our yard!

Inside, Outside Today

Today Abigail and I are watching Season 1 of Shaun the Sheep with a sick little Naomi. She’s doing better now, but it was a rough morning.

Naomi isn’t letting me go very far, so rather than jumping on that list of housework I need to catch up on, I’m sitting here looking at the housework: the accumulation of dusty winds, saw dust from woodworking, and fine powdery dust from plaster work… on my living room side table. Looks like someone was having a little fun with it!

It’ll keep for another day. Today I’m going to hold my baby.

Outside is another matter. Fun things are happening out there! Richard and Matt have mounted a stand for our soon-to-be-installed solar water heater.

And Ernest is building customized stands to hold our soon-to-be-installed solar panels! These panels will feed into our inverter, which can prioritize that the power we use first comes from solar, then from the electric company, and then from the back-up batteries, for all those hours our power is off (13.5 hours off yesterday!). The customized part is related to the pitch of our roof and maximizing sunshine reception with the best angle.

Fun, noisy things happening outside, and quiet, good things happening inside. That’s our world here at the Floreen home today!

And Suddenly It’s Summer

It is hot here in Malawi! The sun is so bright that you can’t even take good pictures outside.

So the fans are on – with the optional mister system that my brilliant husband invented!

And the candles are melting… like no kidding melting…

And all we want to drink are Italian sodas!

Ah, summertime! ❤️

Olympian Swimming

We have the unique privilege here in Malawi of swimming with our very own Olympian. Brave Lifa competed for Malawi in the Rio Olympics, and as a way to make a little money to get himself through college, he teaches some kids how to swim. Our kids!

Abigail started taking lessons this time last year, and she made quick work of learning all the swim strokes. She is now perfecting those strokes, gaining endurance, and soon will be learning tumble turns.

Naomi was too young to take lessons last year. Brave said kids don’t have enough muscle memory to really benefit from lessons until they’re 4 years old. Since Naomi turns 4 in just 3 weeks, she squeezed into the class this year. And today was her first day! Blow some bubbles, girl!

Abigail had just finished her lesson, so she volunteered to be Coach Brave’s assistant for the little kids’ class. He had her join in with the class and demonstrate form for some of the things they were learning, like the gliding position.

Naomi has always been fearless in the water, but today she actually got to do something with that bravery. Ah yes, pun intended!

We just love swim lessons! Brave, outside of being an Olympic swimmer, is a fantastic coach. The kids love him and trust him, and that motivates them to work hard. We are so thankful for this coach and this opportunity to see our girls excel at swimming. And it’s fun to boot!

Kids and Markets

I love raising kids in Africa. Life is laid back and out in the open. People laugh and talk to one another. There is color, nature, beauty, and adventure. It’s truly a great place to raise fun, imaginative, resourceful kids. There are a few things here, though, that I’ve had to think more carefully about than I would if I were raising my kids in the States. One of those things is the market. Abigail has been to the market before, but not for quite a while, and that only because she was in tow with the grandparents or with Mom and Dad running errands. It can be hard to take kids to the market: you have to bargain for everything, watch where you’re going, watch for pickpockets, and keep a close eye on the kids. I don’t have that many eyes! But Abigail is growing up, so today, for the first time as a big kid of 7, she came to help me shop at the Old Bus Depot Market.

Our goal was fabric in the chitinje market. We were looking for new curtains for the project room, a valance for the kitchen, shower curtains, and some fabric to make bags for the girls’ ballet things.

We got busy and found all kinds of things! Some of them we needed, and some… for fun! Most of the fabric here is $1/yard (MWK1500 for 2 meters), so sometimes I pick up fabrics I like but have no purpose in mind for them. Some will go back to the States with visiting professors, some will become skirts for me and the girls. It all works out. Don’t talk to my husband about this. He has very different ideas about fabric hoarding/loving. 😬😁 He’s probably right, so for the sake of my sewing shelves and the love of my husband, I only go to the chitinje market 2-3 times a year. Abigail, I would guess, takes after me when it comes to loving fabric. Me with a bent toward the style of the early 80s. I guess I was 7 years old in the early 80s, so we are right on track.

It was a successful trip to the market. Fabric-wise, we found something for every project we had in mind, and only 2 pieces of “ooo, that will be great for something!” Abigail chatted with the ladies, befriended a one-legged chicken under the tables, and had a great time experiencing more of Africa. It was fun to adventure with her, and we are looking forward to lots more adventures together!

Construction Zone

The paint-the-house project necessitated a few home repairs before we started with the paint. But when you need a whole truckful of sand and lyme for the concrete and plaster projects, well, you know you live in a mud brick house. Stronger mud! That’s what we need!

Some of the repairs are related to water seeping up where the original builders “forgot” to put down that layer of plastic that keeps water from seeping in. Note to self: if you ever build a house, that plastic sheet is mandatory!!! Other repairs are little things like moving this light switch, which for years has lived behind the open hall door. I’ll probably keep moving the door to turn on the light switch for months, but having it in a more logical place makes me feel like we have righted a wrong!

In this picture, you can see 2 new holes in my kitchen ceiling. My wonderful husband is having down-lights installed that will focus on the work areas, and putting the new lights on the inverter. No more chopping vegetables by candlelight!

And the painting continues… bathrooms today. Two coats in each of 3 bathrooms for today.

But look at those clean, shiny, newly-painted kitchen walls and cupboards!

Once the dust settles (literally) today, I’ll move back into that beautiful kitchen!