Hedgehog!

Our friends the Hirotos have the cutest little hedgehog. Hedgehogs are wild here in Malawi, and usually pretty easy to find during the rainy season, as they get washed away from their homes in the ditches and culverts. I might have to go find one…

Rest

When we were new to Malawi, we weren’t sure if missionaries were supposed to go on vacation. We worked hard every day, trying to keep up with our perceptions of the great missions heroes of the last 200 years. We were not good at resting, and the months and years of working under these perceptions of what a missionary “should be like” began to take its toll. Slowly, over the years, we have started to learn more about rest and the role it should have in our lives. We should rest! We have come to realize that God likes rest so much that he dedicated one day of the week completely to it. In fact it was so important to him that he showed us how to do it by resting himself!

Unfortunately, as any pastor and their family will know, it’s really hard for anyone in ministry to follow the pattern of 6 work days followed by 1 day of rest. We are ON on Sundays, from 8:45am until 4pm. So do we pick another day of the week as our day off? We tried, but here in Malawi people stop by, the generator breaks, someone needs money, this urgent thing came up that can’t wait… suddenly the “day off” looks just about like all the other days. So new plan: if we need to rest, we go somewhere else. And that’s what we did last week.

We inadvertently picked a great place for resting. Kawandama Hills is about a 3 hour drive north of us, but it’s kind of the middle of no where. No power lines, no cell phone service. And really not much to do. We had expected it to be more adventurous, but once we got there we appreciated the simplicity. We were perfectly fine going on a few hikes…

flying a kite…

reading a good book with a cup of hot chocolate…

snuggling with Dad…

watching a movie…

watching the storms roll in…

and going for another hike.

After 3 nights at Kawandama Hills, we moved on for the last 2 nights in Nkhata Bay, a family favorite.

But we were loving the restful days, so we even toned down our expectations for this adventurous city, and enjoyed the view…

caught some tadpoles…

spent hours reading a great new-to-us book (Swallows and Amazons!)…

swam a little…

went for another hike…

ate some yummy banana pancakes on a rainy morning…

and really enjoyed family time!

It was a much-needed, and very much appreciated vacation. We are still learning what rest is and how to do it in a way that honors the Lord. We will keep learning in the years to come, but for this week, we came home feeling rested and ready to get back into the thick of things!

Must be Rainy Season!

We are looking forward to a great week of rain here in Lilongwe! Thunderstorms, cooler temperatures… aaaahhhh!

Oleander Hawk Moth

Not all our bugs are scary. Some are just beautiful! This morning as Matt and Aaron left to teach at CAPA, Aaron found this beautiful oleander hawk moth (Daphnis nerii).

Off Adventuring Again!

We have 2 visiting CAPA professors staying with us for 2 weeks, so we decided to pack up the family and the guests and go on a little adventure!

Despite our misadventure on a trip a couple weeks ago, we decided to go back to Kuti, but this time spend the night. Kuti’s prime time is “golden hour,” the hour just before the sunset or the hour just after the sunrise. And if you spend the night, you can be there for both. Kuti did not disappoint. We found a herd of nyala before we even got to the chalets!

Aaron and Myral stayed in one of these nice new chalets, and our family stayed in one of the 4-bed a-frame chalets. Simple, but sufficient.

Hotdogs and s’mores for dinner: great camping food, no matter what continent you’re on!

Then off for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, the girls were up early, so Matt took them out so I could sleep a little longer. Not happening though! It was 5am, but the sun was up, the zebra were braying, and I got up! I grabbed my towel and toiletry bag and headed for the bathrooms. I was a little sleepy-eyed, but glanced down the path as I stumbled to the bathrooms:

Hello nyala! So I, and my towel and toiletry bag, took off through the bush to check out a group of 6 young male nyala. They were beautiful. Myral later told me that he had seen a couple of them sparing shortly before I came out. Speaking of Myral, I found him, and Aaron, and my family all nearby the nyala, checking out a herd of zebra.

The variety of zebra commonly found in Malawi is the Burchell’s zebra, the southern variety of the plains zebra. They’re easy to recognize because of the grey stripes that jump into the pattern.

Having found some animals and my family, I decided I’d had enough of a side trip with my towel and toiletry bag, and headed back to camp to get ready for the day and make some breakfast on the concrete braai (barbecue).

There was a light sprinkling of rain in the morning – just enough to feel wonderful on the skin, but too much for the breakfast plate – so we ate in the thatched kitchen/dining area.

Then we packed up and headed out, in time to see a zebra parade.

Next stop: crocodile farm! We brought our own big mouth crocodiles. Sure are cute for crocodiles, aren’t they?!

The crocs are raised for their skin, which is apparently the best quality at 4 years old. So we saw lots of crocs 1-3 years old. This particular enclosure had 2,500 crocodiles, all 8 months old.

These crocs are 3 years old.

And yes, the workers get right in there with them!!! Not me! Not in a million years!

Naomi and I were only moderately ok with the concrete and chain-length fences between us and the crocs. But it was reassuring to know that in the 15+ years of their existence, this croc farm has never had anyone killed by a croc. Yes, the walls are very secure. It’s just really weird being that close to a crocodile, even with a secure wall!

Then the fun part! Crocodile teeth! We all bought some! 😜

The croc farm is along the lake shore, so we headed down the coast a little and went for a swim!

The only crocs in this part of the lake were the cute kind!

After a swim, we ordered lunch at the Livingstonia Hotel and enjoyed both the company and the beautiful setting. We’ve known Aaron for 12+ years, so it’s been so good to catch up with him!

If you can see the water from your table, you should order the fish! The local favorite is chambo, a variety of tilapia, and it’s really good!

One more stop in the way home: the wood market. It’s very touristy and rural Africa, but a great place for visitors to pick up a few souvenirs. Or to find a chief’s chair and sit back to watch people walk by.

My find of the day: new earrings. Can you guess what they are? (Hint: look up 6 pictures)

That’s all – we were all adventured out! Time to head for home and a nice warm shower!

Who’s going to come adventuring with us next? 😊

Tanzanian Blue Leg Centipede

The girls are already in bed tonight, and they just missed a little excitement! I saw something scurry down the hall way toward the door that goes to the back porch. It took me a second, and a double take!, before I realized it was a Tanzanian blue leg centipede.

I yelled for Matt, of course! He grabbed the large Rubbermaid container from the sink that we had just eaten leftover chicken pot pie out of and caught this guy!

If you want to see him in action, click here to watch our video on YouTube! Warning: he’s definitely bigger and freakier in the video!

Normal Life

After a couple days of adventures, we were glad to get back to “normal” life by the end of the week. Here are a few glimpses of the last couple days, in no particular order… just us, living normal life!

Abigail has been very interested in art, so we took a couple hours to go to Round and Square during our shopping trip on Thursday. She had some great ideas to go with her water paints, and then Miss Sue, who is the server and hostess at Round and Square, brought Abi a couple kids’ art books to inspire her. So fun!!!

Abi may be pursuing watercolors like her mom, but Naomi is trying a little photography, just like her dad! Not bad for a four year old!

Meanwhile, the last of the fields in town are being burned in preparation for planting. We’ve had 2 rains now, the last 2 weekends, and it looks like we will have more rain within the week. And yes, by “field,” I mean every available piece of land, including all verges and any land that someone else hasn’t already planted.

After a couple days of crazy, my sweet husband took us out to dinner. Not only that, he kept the whole family entertained the entire time! I love this guy! He started drawing a picture, and then we each in turn had 30 seconds to continue the picture and add to it.

We all loved it! It has so much of everyone’s personality in it, including “a baby sun and a daddy sun!” thanks to Naomi!

Our finished product:

Lastly: my tree. Each member of the family has their own tree in our yard. Mine is a flamboyant, and I love everything about it, especially this time of year as it has the most beautiful blooms!

Thanks for reading along and joining us in these normal but special moments of life!

Africa Wins

There are a couple English expressions used in Africa to describe those days when things are crazy or unexpected or confusing. TIA (standing for This Is Africa) is the general expression of “well, that’s just how it is here.” The second expression, Africa Wins, is more along the lines of “we tried everything we could and it still didn’t work.” Yesterday, Africa won.

Let’s back up a little bit. We have had a friend, Rachael Ingoldsby, staying with us the last few days. She has been here for a few months helping the Ayres family with homeschooling. The Ayres left for their furlough a couple days ago, and Rachael flies back today, so she stayed with us in the interim. At breakfast yesterday, she told us she still hadn’t seen a monkey in Africa, and she was looking for a little adventure on her last day in Africa. So we made a plan: Rachael, Abigail, Naomi, and I would go to Kuti Wildlife Reserve near Salima for the day, then come back to have dinner with Matt and Chris and Ashley Mullins. Adventure, high likelihood of seeing monkeys – perfect!

It takes about an hour and a half to drive to Kuti from our house. It’s a beautiful drive, full of rolling hills, thatched mud brick houses, goats, bicycles, and eventually fields of termite mounds and baobab trees.

We checked in at Kuti’s reception building, then headed to Landarani Camp for our picnic. This is where we have had our annual IBF church camp for the last 6 years, so it’s very familiar and fun for our family!

Then we were off driving through the wildlife reserve to find monkeys! Found them, and some baboons!

And a pair of beautiful sable!

It was about this time that our air conditioning stopped working in the car. Bummer. It had kind of felt like it was going out for a while, but it was definitely gone now. We didn’t think much about it, but this was the beginning of our problems. We carried on and found a fantastic herd of nyala: one scruffy, dark, curly-horned male with his females and young.

We didn’t see any zebra (and they’re usually the most common!), but we did see their tracks.

It’s the end of the dry season right now, so we walked across the mud flats to check out a waterhole.

We did a little hiking…

And a little trail running!

And then we cleaned up a bit and discovered that Kuti has skin whitening soap. 😳 Hmmm.

We made one last stop in Kuti to see the marsh at Sunset Deck. Not many frogs, but lots of waterfowl!

So far, so good! Air con is out, but we can roll down the windows. We are sweating and getting super dirty from the dust, but it feels more African that way. Feeling completely satisfied with all we saw at Kuti, we head for home with the wind in our hair – we are adventurers!

Not so fast. We made it about 10km (6 miles) before the engine light came on and the engine temp went right up to the red. Uh-oh! We pulled to the side of the road and turned the car off quickly! Over the next half hour, we checked the oil and confirmed the radiator fan worked and we had sufficient engine coolant. There was one little incident when we thought the engine coolant was no longer hot and tried to open the cap… we don’t recommend that. No burns, but boiling engine coolant went everywhere. Other than that, Rachael and I were cool as cucumbers.

Thankfully we were on a stretch of road that had cell service, so we had called Matt for his advice. Eventually he made a plan to come out to help us himself because our mechanic was busy. However, Matt was at Immigration when all this started, trying to sort out Rachael’s visa, so he didn’t get out of Lilongwe until about 5pm. We were glad to get updates from him, and saw his big red circle moving closer to our little pink circle on the map! Help was on the way!

The girls held up wonderfully. This wasn’t their first roadside wait – they are professional roadside waiters! But every time something like this happens I am so thankful for patient, creative girls!

We pulled over with an overheating engine at 3:15pm. As the sun started to set, I was thankful for the little village that surrounded us. I wouldn’t want to be stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere as just 4 girls. The village offered us visibility – not something we always want, but this time I was thankful for it!

Matt-the-rescuer arrive at 6pm! He brought more bottled water, crackers, and beef jerky, which we devoured. Rachael had bought tomatoes from a roadside stand, and we had already eaten the leftover ham and cookies from our picnic lunch!

With Matt’s arrival, we then had 2 cars on the side of the road with hazard lights on while we made a plan. The plan: slowly get our car to Katengeza village, 7km away, where our housekeeper Martha’s brother is the chief, and leave the car til the mechanic can go get it in the morning. Plan worked out great. Chief Brian is a new favorite of ours!

We all made it home in Matt’s rescue car about 8:15pm, 5 hours after we had broken down. Not bad! Happy to be home!

We were filthy dirty from our dusty hike, lack of air con, and just hanging out in a village for hours. But dirt washes off.

About this time we got the update on Matt’s trip to the Immigration office for Rachael’s visa. Apparently “visa” doesn’t actually mean visa here in Malawi. It means “permission to enter,” not “permission to stay.” So her “12 month visa” is actually just permission to enter the country at any point in those 12 months. Permission to stay longer than the 30 day stamp in her passport is a different matter, so we were looking at paperwork, passport photos, letters, payments, etc, etc in the morning for her just to be able to leave the country… on a 1:05pm flight.

And then, the power starts doing weird things. Really? Power is on, but only things on the inverter are working. Really?!? We only get a few hours of power at a time, then have to wait 24 hours before we get more. The power can’t be “off” when it’s really on!!!

This is the point at which I was done. Africa can win today. Our car in a village 60 miles away, visa paperwork, and electrical issues will all have to wait for tomorrow. I surrender! I’m going to bed!

But you know what? The Lord’s mercies are new every morning, and his faithfulness is great! The mechanic got our car back to Lilongwe and replaced the water pump this afternoon. Rachael’s visa/permit issues were sorted at the immigration office this morning and she made her flight just fine. And the electrician showed up at 6:30am this morning to discover a melted neutral link in our control panel. Today, of course, brought more and different adventures, but each day has enough trouble of its own. We will leave all those troubles with the Lord. Even if Africa Wins every once in a while, I know God’s plans for me never fail, and he is in no way surprised by those days. I can go to sleep confident in his faithfulness and looking forward to his mercies tomorrow morning. I’m going to need them, and they are there waiting for me!

Good night!

Bike Taxi of the Day

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stand-up bike taxi before today, but I was really impressed that this guy was texting on his phone while riding/standing on the bike! Although… considering the skill with which Malawians handle dugout canoes, I shouldn’t be surprised!

Lights Out

The long power outages began earlier this year than last year, and just this week they have rolled out the new load-shedding schedule. Long just got much longer. Here’s what the next few days look like for us (screen captures from the ESCOM website: includes time /day power will go off, time/day it will come back on, the duration of the outage, and which areas are affected, ours being area 47).

Monday-Tuesday:

Wednesday-Thursday:

Thursday-Friday:

Saturday-Sunday:

As I read it, the week looks like: 25 hours off, 15 hours on, 25 hours off, 7 hours on, repeat. I’m just hoping our new solar panels start pulling their weight! This will be their first big test.

For those of you in Lilongwe who need to figure out the schedule for your area, you can find ESCOM’s load shedding schedule for the central region HERE.