Driving Lessons

Years ago when we were on furlough in the States, Abigail showed her first signs of being a backseat driver. She and I were headed to visit my grandmother, taking small backroads in rural Washington state. All of a sudden she yelled, “Mom! You passed that sign!!!!”

“Which sign?!?” I asked.

“The one that says DO NOT PASS! You passed it!”

While most American kids would have just ignored a road sign that they’d seen for their entire lives, for Abigail it was new and quite distressing! And so she got her first “American driving lesson” that day.

She got another such lesson yesterday. We were driving down what is arguably one of the nicest, widest roads in Lilongwe, if not in all of Malawi. “Mom?” she asked, “How is it possible that more than one car can go the same way we are going and that there are 2 lines of cars going the other direction too?”

I smiled, knowing that probably 95% of all her car travels have been on two and one lane roads, paved and unpaved, but very rarely marked. “Well, there are special lines on the road that tell us what we can do. The big bunch of lines in the middle of the road separates us from the cars going the other direction, and the white dotted lines here separate us from the other cars going the same direction. The idea is that more cars can be on the road, going both directions.”

“Wow, whoever thought of that was really smart! That’s a great idea!”

O child of Africa who is fascinated by 4 lanes, you’re going to love furlough road trips in America!

It’s Not Over

Yesterday morning I just about called it. Rainy season had to be over. It never rains this intensely in March; the last one had to have been the last one.

Oh, but that was not the case. I headed to the grocery store with Naomi about 3:30pm and found myself driving straight toward this:

Unphased, I held to my earlier conviction until we were in the store and I heard the rain start to hit the tin roof. It was a gentle sound at first, and made me wish they would play “I miss the rains down in Africa” on the speaker system. I only had 2 minutes for such thoughts before it began to rain harder. And then another 2 minutes later it was raining so hard that the noise in the large, tin-roofed grocery store was deafening. Naomi had to shout in my ear to be heard.

The torrential rain lasted for more than an hour! It was so bad that they closed the big metal/security sliding doors of the store. In the picture below, the exit is about where you see the sign for #4 checkout stand. The big metal doors were closed for more than 45 minutes while shoppers who had finished filled the exit area, just waiting for a chance to get out!

Once we had found everything we needed, we roamed the store restlessly. At one point the power went off for 3-4 minutes. 😳 Naomi was getting tired and a little frightened by the whole experience. But eventually I saw that people were starting to leave and the metal doors were partway open.

I began to check out, at a cash register far from the exit. All of a sudden a man with an armload of groceries bolted from the furthest cash register and ran toward the exit. By the time he reached the exit, he was walking normally and the ladies at that furthest cash register were yelling and waving their arms. But there was nothing they could do. The man had stolen the groceries and the rain had drown all their cries to stop the thief. Even two lanes away from them, I couldn’t hear their cries of “thief!” But I had seen it and like those ladies the realization of what had happened came too late.

Naomi and I made our way quickly to the car in the heavy rain, and by the time I had loaded the groceries in the back I was soaked. The heat and humidity steamed up the car, and it was a while before I could see through the fogged up windows! As we headed through town, evidence of the storm was all around us. Traffic was terribly slow, signs were ripped and destroyed, branches lay on the road, and water rushed through the culverts.

Everyone was picking up the pieces and getting back to normal life.

As I neared our house, there were fewer and fewer signs of the storm. Matt’s report when we got home: just a few sprinkles but lots of thunder.

And so, I’m not going to call it today. Or tomorrow. Maybe my weather forecasting confidence will have returned by next week. But for the moment, I can honestly say that I have no idea when the rainy season will end this year! We’ll just enjoy the lush green tropics for as long as we can!

Around the Kitchen

A good portion of my day is spent in the kitchen. Here are some of the things happening around the kitchen these days…

Don’t be jealous, but wow isn’t that beautiful?!? Our avocado tree produced some fantastic fruit this year. We had bucket-loads of guacamole!

Yep, still hauling water! But thankfully only from one side of the kitchen to the other. Some friends of mine have had their city water off for weeks at a time and must haul their water from the local well. It makes me thankful for our water tower!

Pork meatballs with sweet and sour sauce in lettuce wraps… yum! I’ve been cooking my way through a fantastic “better than take-out” Chinese e-cookbook, and we are loving it!

Our friends Chris and Ashley brought us wild raspberries after their recent trip to the Zomba plateau – the only place in Malawi that grows them! Naomi in particular loves the raspberries from Zomba (especially the yellow ones that are in season around her birthday!).

We made quick work of the raspberries and enjoyed every bite!

I loved hanging noodles as a kid. We can buy pasta here, but we can’t get egg noodles, so when we made chicken noodle soup the other night, the girls helped me make and hang noodles. And they loved it! 💕

And since mom hangs out in the kitchen, so do mom’s little friends. All kinds of new skills are learned here, including this current favorite. She’s actually pretty good. She just needs a little more height!

How to MacGyver a Pedal

As we waited our turn to practice before the service yesterday, I saw something under the keyboard that caught my attention. It took a few seconds for my mind to grasp what I was seeing:

Yep, that’s a sustain pedal made from an old stapler! The chapel we rent for church services has a BYOP policy: Bring Your Own Pedal. However, since the last time I played, someone has come up with this back-up plan! I have to admit I was a little afraid of getting shocked by it, so I used the more traditional pedal. But really, this is genius! As Moses, the worship leader, said with a shrug: “TIA!” Yes, This Is Africa. And I love it!

Sundays

We love Sundays around this house! They are non-stop from 8:30am to 7:30pm, but they are filled with our favorite things!

Here’s what a Sunday can hold for us…

We usually leave the house between 8:30 and 8:45, getting to church in time to clean a classroom. Rachel is currently teaching the 4-5 year old Sunday school class, and enjoys a full house of 8-10 imaginative and fun kids!

Matt is on rotation helping teach the adult class on Evangelism, and this week and next he is teaching on the difference between the prosperity gospel and the true gospel of Scripture.

Main service is next, a time to enjoy worshipping the Lord and hearing the teaching of God’s Word with our friends.

We have a few minutes after church to chat with people, then we rush home for Care Group, which begins at our house at 12 noon!

We eat lunch with our Care Group (I feel them peanut butter sandwiches and they keep coming back!), and we really love this group! We have somehow become the “young singles group,” and more often than not we have to draw up a few extra chairs to our 10-seater table!

During lunch we catch each other up on what God is doing in our lives. Afterwards we explore the practical applications of the morning’s sermon and take time to pray for one another. This group cares for one another well and loves to laugh! We are so thankful to the Lord for them, and have been so encouraged seeing them grow in Christlikeness!

After Care Group, either Matt or I or both of us have have meetings for discipleship or counseling. It’s fun to end the afternoon with both of us saying: “God is at work here!”

By this point it’s getting to the late afternoon and we have a Skype appointment each Sunday with Matt’s parents. It’s a fun catch-up time, usually involving some sort of show-and-tell by the girls.

Either before or after dinner, it’s family fun night! It’s our one night of the week to do something special as a family, whether that’s play dominoes, ride bikes, watch a movie, go out to eat, or throw a blanket on the lawn and star-gaze!

By the end of Sundays, we are all tired-happy. These days seem to embody what we love: worship of the Lord and instruction in the Word, ministry and relationships within the church, and sweet family time. We love Sundays!

End of the Season

We are in what may be the last series of rainy days for this season. It was not nearly as much rain as everyone had hoped for this year, but at least the maize is up in most parts of the country.

The intensity of these late storms has surprised us a bit. Usually it’s the earlier rains that put on a big show, but on Tuesday it poured!

Take a closer look at those white streaks….

Yep, we got hail!

We’ve seen hail a couple times in all the years we’ve lived here in Malawi, but it’s definitely rare. The girls hadn’t seen it before, so it was fun to share that first with them. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, we do live in the tropics… hail in the tropics – who knew?!

Ready, Set Bone

Considering the events of yesterday, we had a surprisingly good night. Matt was up to give Abi Tylenol about 11:30pm, and I was up to do the same at 3:30am. Then the girls slept until 7:01 – a Floreen girl record for sleeping in late!

Right after breakfast the girls and I jumped in the car and headed back to the orthopedic doctor. They had told us to come back in the morning, so we got there about 8:30. No doctor. He wouldn’t be in until 2pm. So ended our first clinic visit of the day.

Back in the car, we drove all the way across town to Partners in Hope. Dr Barrett Jones (fondly known in our house as “Judson’s Dad”) had been consulting with us since the accident the afternoon before. We knew he wanted to see the X-ray anyway, and we like the X-ray tech there, so we walked into our second clinic of the day about 9am.

All checked in and reading Tintin comics while we wait!

Abi is apparently an X-ray pro now. She knew exactly what to do. Oye, I’m sure it’s not a good thing that she’s so good at doing X-rays, or that we have a favorite X-ray tech… but I’m thankful for competent medical staff here in Malawi!

Naomi came along for moral support. In the whole event of “Aslan” jumping off the ottoman that started all this, Naomi was playing Peter, brave and faithful. She continued in the brave and faithful role for today’s encore of clinic visits.

Yep, looks like there’s a problem in there…

The rest of the world is probably totally used to this, but we still think digital X-rays are fascinating! The buckle fracture is just below the mouse arrow, with evidence of the buckle on both sides.

Once diagnosis was confirmed, we just needed to wait for the orthopedic guy to recheck the X-rays at 2pm and decide if we needed a cast or not. As we already had plans to meet our dear friend Rene for lunch, we kept that appointment while we waited for 2pm! Such a sweet time with a great friend!

Just after 2pm found us at our third clinic visit for the day, back to see the orthopedic guy!

And this time we got to see him! Dr Manda said the break would heal quickly and likely not even leave any trace of having been broken. Since it was so straightforward, he recommended a brace as opposed to a cast. He also highly discouraged playing lions or any animals for the duration of the brace. Smiles all around!

The brace should be with us for the next 4 weeks, with no playing animals, running, jumping, or carrying heavy objects. Our hearts are all lighter from the relief of just knowing what had happened to the bone and of having the wrist and arm stabilized. We are so thankful to the Lord for his protection of Abigail and his sustaining grace over the last 24 hours! Thank you all for keeping us in your prayers!

After Hours Broken Bones

Late this afternoon, Abigail and Naomi were playing “Narnia.” Abigail was Aslan, and made a flying leap off the ottoman, to land on her hands on the hard tile floor. “It felt like my bone bent,” she said. Amidst much screaming.

Our doctor recommended the orthopedic doctor at the Seventh Day Adventist Clinic, so we headed there. We got there just before 5pm.

Abi was a champ. Her arm hurt about an inch above her wrist, and there was no big bump or obvious break, so I wasn’t too worried about displacement of the bone. We checked in at the clinic and waited.

Back in another part of town, Matt dropped Naomi off at the Kopps house, and told them Abi wouldn’t be joining them tonight. They were both supposed to hang out with the Kopp family tonight while Matt and I went on a date. We had called in an order for our favorite Indian food and we were going to take it home and watch a movie. Instead, he picked up our food and met Abigail and I at the clinic, where she got to join us for our dinner date!

A little after 6pm, I started asking questions. Where was the Dr? Could we just go ahead and get an X-ray while we waited? Not many answers were forthcoming. Someone tried to call the orthopedic doctor, but he didn’t answer. Finally, another doctor told us the orthopedic guy had gone home for the night about 45 minutes ago, and besides, their radiology department closed at 4:30pm.

Hmmm. That would have been nice to know when we arrived just before 5pm. The doctor told us that at this time of evening there was almost no place in town to get an X-ray that was not considered an emergency. He was very kind though, and gave us a reference to a diagnostic clinic in another part of town (Area 6) that could do the X-ray. We headed to the car, and had a frank discussion with Abigail. We knew even if we got the X-rays, no one would be able to treat her arm until the morning. In the end, we all agreed to go home, gently splint her arm, and try again in the morning.

So she’s in bed now, with her arm wrapped in an ace bandage and strapped gently to a foam cushion. Poor kid! Please pray for her tonight. Pray she can sleep well and that we’ll be able to get this taken care of quickly in the morning!

Termites and Rain Frogs

It’s finally raining! We’ve had days of grey and stormy skies, and finally last night it started to rain a nice, slow, sweet rain. 14 hours later, it’s still lightly raining. Ahhhh!

It has rained enough to bring out the second wave of termites – the little ones. So of course they must be caught:

Rain frog and termites - 2

The big termites are better for eating, so these we were just catching for fun. Until… we found something that did want to eat them!

Rain frog and termites - 3

Sorry it’s blurry, this little rain frog was really going places!

The girls watched him catch a few termites himself, then they decided to “help” him.

Rain frog and termites - 1

Here froggy! Have a termite!