Multipurpose Living Room

Welcome to our living room! We have LOTS of people through our living room, and our living room flexes beautifully to accommodate all kinds of purposes. It’s a HUGE room – our whole apartment on Newhall Ave in Santa Clarita would fit in here! – and we’ve had 17, 65, and 120 people events staged in and from this room. But right now it is a multipurpose room. A living room and library…

and the church office, which takes about 1/6 of the room for now, until we get some buildings built on our property… may 12-18 months more?

It’s also a music room, for those playing real and pretend pianos!

And it’s also our regular school room…

And our dining room. Though not usually with the covered piano right up next to the table. That’s there because…

Our living room is also currently a construction zone with the addition of a new socket.

And finally, the living room is also currently our temporary kitchen.

We are – today – starting to repaint our house for the first time since we moved in 8+ years ago. There somehow seems to be a significant number of streaks and handprints at the 2-3 foot level. 😉 And we’ve done a number of repairs over the years. It’s time for a fresh coat!

So the kitchen is pretty empty.

And my full-disclosure picture of what the rest of the “temporary kitchen” looks like. 😁 Not as picture perfect as the still life above, but it’s real life around here as we put this big room to good use!

It’s Summertime!

The jacarandas have given us a carpet of purple, the temperature outside (88F) is hotter than inside (78F), the air is full of dusty, dry wind, and the sun doesn’t set til the end of dinner. Here comes summer!

Blue Headed Tree Agamas

There are some really great lizards here in Malawi, including the fascinating blue headed tree agamas.

They put on their colorful displays from the end of September through the beginning of the rainy season – about early December.

They haven’t shown up around our house yet, but we saw our first when we were out last week.

Pretty soon they’ll be everywhere: walls, trees, falling out of trees! And then during the rains they’ll go back to being brown and grey for 8-9 months.

This guy was pretty proud of his colors and let us thoroughly enjoy his display. The girls got pretty close before he scampered up the tree!

Bones and Clinics

I haven’t said a lot on the blog about the medical system here, mostly because we haven’t been there recently. God has blessed us with good health, so generally we haven’t spent much time at the Dr’s office, but Abigail dropped a gas canister on her big toe and gave us a chance to document a visit to the clinic.

The offending gas canister was of the 9kg variety and thankfully not the 19kg variety. Abigail and I had been out to the gas company Thursday afternoon to get both a 9kg and a 19kg gas bottle refilled. The 9kg bottle is for our grill (South African: braai), and the 19kg bottle is for our stove/oven. Matt took the 19kg bottle out of the truck and rolled it to its spot, and Abigail decided to be helpful and take the 9kg bottle out of the truck. It fell straight in her big toe. If you know these bottles, you know that the bottoms are not round, rather there is a rim around the outside of the canister. So the full weight of 9kgs of gas and whatever the weight of the bottle itself was… all landed right on her big toe. Ouch.

She was brave. I’m sure it hurt a lot! Thankfully she was wearing sturdy sneakers at the time, and that probably saved her a lot of grief! I sent a message to a couple doctor friends, including our primary physician here in Malawi, Barrett Jones, and the consensus was that we didn’t need to do anything with it that night (5:45 pm and most clinics are closed), but could go in to see Barrett in the morning and get an X-ray.

So in the morning we headed to Partners in Hope clinic, one of the best stocked and staffed hospitals/clinics/pharmacies in town.

It’s an impressive building for Malawi!

Like Drs’ offices around the world, you spend a bit of time in the waiting room. These girls are good at waiting though…

so they asked for a couple soldiers (who live in my purse) and had an imaginary war. But they were on the same side… and I don’t know who the bad guys were. That didn’t seem to be an important part of the war.

It wasn’t long before we were called back to see Dr Jones. The girls know him as “Judson’s dad,” so he’s considered a friendly.

The moment of truth: broken or not?

It’s not. But the bone is bruised, so no ballet class this week, but she should be back to normal in a few days. When Barrett was looking over the X-ray, I asked him a couple vaccination questions. (I know, some people don’t like vaccines, but we live where all those diseases live, so we get them.) He mentioned that they currently had the MMR vaccine – which is pretty rare and very sought after here! – so I jumped at the chance, much to the distress of my girls. Procedure here is that I had to go pay for the supplies, pick them up, and then take them to the nurses’ station. Thankfully all these stops are in the same building, so I filled out insurance paperwork in lieu of paying, and headed to the pharmacy to pick up the vaccines. They handed me a small black shopping bag which contained an ice pack and 2 vials.

The girls were not thrilled at the prospect of getting “a poke,” but Abigail liked my reasoning that it was better to get it right away rather than wait and worry for a couple weeks. She volunteered to go first and get it over with. Those of you with kids will know that there’s a point, around age 7, when a kid suddenly grows up, seemingly overnight. This was that day for Abigail. Logical reasoning and self-control won out over tears and panic. You can see that she’s still a little bit concerned, but she handled it like a champ!

Naomi, however, is still 3, and no amount of logical reasoning was going to convince her that this was even remotely a good idea. She held my finger so tightly while we watched brave Abigail that my finger turned purple.

Sweet girl! She made it through and got her vaccine, though parts of it resembled wrestling a crocodile. Someday she will grow up too, but for now she just wants her mom. And I’m totally ok with that.

Photo credit to Abigail for that great shot of what it means to be a mom!

That was our clinic adventure! As much as we appreciate this great clinic, and as much as we like “Judson’s dad,” we’re going to try to stay healthy and accident-free for a while now!

Bibliophiles

We are quite happily raising a family of bibliophiles. WE LOVE BOOKS! We love libraries, we love other people’s books, and we love bookstores. Libraries here in Malawi are rare and poorly stocked, but thankfully we now have a great used bookstore in Lilongwe!

The lady who runs it loves baobab trees, so it’s named Baobab Bookstore, and the decor follows the name.

I think my girls have barely noticed the trees. There are books, and that’s all they can think about.

The bargain table books are 500 kwacha (68 cents), and most others are 1,500-3,000 kwacha (between $2 and $4). The selection is a bit limited, naturally, but really not that bad. And we’ve discovered some British authors we might never have found – like Enid Blyton, one of Abigail’s current favorites.

Today’s choices: a cross stitch book that will be useful in sewing class in the next couple weeks, the yellow storybook for Naomi, and The Wizard of Oz and a book on sharks for Abigail.

All done, let’s go home. Hello, family? Hmmm, lost them back in the bookstore…

Mondays

You know what happens on Fridays around here… here’s what a Monday looks like!

I was up bright and early this Monday – out to exercise and start the day by 5am.

I’m really enjoying the early morning piano times. I don’t spend the hour that I would want to spend practicing, but I play through a few songs and am regaining strength and familiarity in my fingers. Practice makes perfect!

We are considering painting a section of chalkboard wall on our porch, so Matt hung a dry erase board there as a trial run. I’m really enjoying it! You’re not going to see my barely creative handiwork on Instagram or anything like that, but I hear my kids talking about it throughout the day. That totally makes it worth it!

Matt leads the family in devotions over breakfast every morning. We are going through Long Story Short right now, and really enjoying it! You can see where we are at in Genesis – the brothers are just about to find out who Joseph is, and we are all waiting on the edge of our seats!

Not a part of every Monday, we spent some time this Monday working out some freezer issues. The inverter is not quite big enough to handle both the freezer and the fridge, so we have them on timers right now. There’s a bit of tinkering required to balance keeping both appliances the correct temperature when they have to share the electricity. But I think we got that sorted. But then, of course, one of the plug fuses went out, getting super hot, melting part of the plug… which we only discovered because Naomi tripped on the cord and unplugged it. So Matt changed out the whole plug to resolve that issue. I love having a most resourceful and helpful handyman around!

School! It’s what we do around here! One of Abigail’s favorite things this year is a geography book that has a corresponding CD of geography songs! She can sing all about the continents and oceans, sing all 15 countries of the Middle East, and now she even knows a song all about Scandinavia.

With Scandinavian music coming from my computer and from Abigail, Naomi decided we needed a Scandinavian dance… with a lady bug costume skirt. I couldn’t agree more – it was exactly what we needed!

School stops at 9:30 on Mondays so we can set up for playgroup. We host a weekly 7 and under playgroup at our house for the homeschooling families, which doubles as PE and social time.

Highlight of the week! Friends coming over!

We have a few snacks and drinks set up…

But mostly there are just packs of kids running around our yard. This is Nadia’s animal collection. There was a bunny, a kangaroo, a crab, a street dog… yes, these kids are growing up in Africa, as evidenced by the fact that an animal collection includes a “street dog.”

While the kids play, the moms get a chance to chat and drink coffee. Win-win!

But the time playgroup ends at noon, I’m looking for something quick for lunch. It’s usually scrambled eggs!

A laundry switch-around happens after lunch. We are experiencing longer and longer power cuts these days, so I have to do laundry when the power is on! Doesn’t matter if it’s a busy morning, or if I have 5 families of kids here – the laundry must go on!

Then Naomi and I are off the ballet. She wasn’t so sure about this class the first day, but she puts her whole heart into it now. It’s so precious!

The class is for 4-5 year olds (Naomi is almost 4, so they let her in), and the major skills they are working on are: paying attention, walking on tip-toe, leaping with straight legs, and skipping. Oh the skipping! I love it! Naomi is so determined! She’s about half way there… as in one foot knows how to skip but the other hasn’t figured it out yet!

Back home for a counseling/discipleship meeting. Naomi goes down for a nap, Abigail reads in the playroom, and I have a window to meet with some of the ladies in the church. I really enjoy these times. I can’t tell you about them of course, so you get this cute little picture of my basket garden!

Rest time is over and it’s snack time! Yes, I’m giving my daughter Fruit Loops while I eat a cucumber.

Back to school. We didn’t finish it all before 9:30, so we did the last hour outside in the shade.

Naomi does the playing part of school for us. 😊 And this face is in response to “You get to go the Kopp’s house for dinner tonight!”

With the kids delivered to the Kopps’ house, I got to go to dinner with this guy! Our date night trade off with the Kopps is a fantastic thing! I love talking with this guy, and I love getting to be his wife. I think of how great he is throughout the day as I see him having days just as busy as mine, usually busier, but every second Monday I get a dedicated opportunity to enjoy his company. I am one lucky girl!

Season(ing)s

It’s spring here in Malawi, and things are starting to grow! It’s also harvest time too. I know, I’m confused too. I grew up in Kansas where harvest time and most growing things were ripe mid-late summer or in the fall. I thought that when I moved to the Southern Hemisphere that I could just flip the calendar to know the seasonal foods schedule. Not so. I’ve had to relearn seasonal foods. I’m not an expert, but I’m starting to figure it out. The step after figuring it out is taking advantage of fruits and vegetables when they are available. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

Lemon juice and zest from Shannon’s lemons will become lemon bread this afternoon.

Leftover lemon/lime rinds…

became lemon vinegar for cleaning.

Great celery is a rarity here, so when I find it I buy it. We’ll eat some this week, but I’m stocking up in the freezer for soups and such throughout the year.

Our friends the Misomalis have a farm north of town, and they grow enormous zucchinis! I’m making most of what I get into zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) with a spiralizer, but I’m also freezing some and making zucchini breads and muffins – to eat and freeze. Looks like it’s about time to make some more…

The Misomalis also have great cucumbers, so we’re enjoying them in salads but also pickling some.

The MacPhersons sell eggs year round, so they’re not seasonal so to speak, but they are really great eggs. Especially soft boiled – yum!

And those tomatoes are from the Lloyd’s little garden, which is languishing in their furlough-absence, but producing wonderful “baby tomatoes” that the girls enjoy picking after ballet class!

That’s enough stockpiling for this week. Next week I’m in search of rhubarb to add to our freezer stock, and I might look into freezing broccoli too because it’s so good right now. Anyone know: do I need to blanch it first?

DAPP

When I first moved to Malawi, I brought all the clothes our family would need for the whole of our first term, which we expected to be two years. A few years later, I started making more of my skirts, the girls’ dresses, and even a couple of Matt’s shirts. After all, we do have some great, colorful fabrics here! But a couple years ago, I discovered DAPP. And I haven’t looked back.

DAPP is basically a large clothes-and-shoes Goodwill that gets entirely new stock every 2 weeks. It’s organized by style and by color, within the divisions of baby clothes, kids’ clothes, men’s, women’s, shoes, belts and ties, and household fabrics. Like any used clothing store, you have to do a bit of hunting, but I only slip in for 20-30 minutes every couple of weeks, and this time I easily found 2 nice pairs of slacks for me, board shorts for both girls, sandals for me, and Hello Kitty sneakers for Naomi. Last time I found 2 skirts for me, 4 tops for me, 2 pairs of jeans for Abigail, and a pair of Hello Kitty pajama pants for Naomi. Yes, Naomi is a bit obsessed with Hello Kitty, but she has never been disappointed at DAPP!

DAPP is completely restocked every 2 weeks. Over the course of the 2 weeks, they incrementally lower their prices so that by the end they are practically giving the leftovers away. It’s something like 100 kwacha for a bags of clothes the last day. Very picked over clothes, but really only about 14 cents. I like to go Thursday of the first week. Still great selection, and a really good price:

Conversions: 2,000 kwacha = $2.72, 4,000 kwacha = $5.44. And those are maximum prices. I paid less than 2,000 for most of the items I bought today.

DAPP is actually a non-profit aid organization. The clothes are all donated in Europe, shipped to Malawi, sold in retail stores throughout the country, and the proceeds go to fund aid work in Malawi. Smart and helpful!

So when you think of us missionaries over here, so far from favorite clothing stores, we’re really doing just fine. We like adventure, so it makes sense that we like this type of shopping! And by the way, in this picture Naomi is wearing a neon green Hello Kitty skirt – that she found at DAPP. 😁 She’s one happy customer!

UCLA Team

For the last week and a half we have had 6 of the 15 member team from Grace Community Church staying at our house. They’re all part of the Grace on Campus Bible study at UCLA, and this is the 4th time that group has sent a team to Malawi. They come every year now for the first module of CAPA (Central African Preaching Academy) to help with student registration and to interview the students.

Tuesday night was our turn to have the whole group over for dinner, so we hauled everything outside and had a great time enjoying the cool evening with this team!

Rachael brought over some sugar cane, so Matt taught everyone how to “eat” it.

Eat isn’t really the word, because you chew up the pulp to suck out the juices, then spit the pulp out. Just imagine liquid sugar… which is exactly what it is!

The texture is about like chewing on toothpicks, but that doesn’t stop anyone!

Though it does take a while to get the knack of things!

Dinner was a hit, and I won the game. Anyone else play “the game”? It’s when you estimate food for a group, and you hit it perfectly. We had 20 people for dinner, at 2 tables, and we had 4 1/2 pieces of chicken left over – 2 at one table, 2.5 at the other. You don’t win the game if there’s no food left: you didn’t make enough. And you don’t win if you have lots leftover. You don’t even win it you have 1 piece leftover: that’s the “Christian piece” that no one wants to take because it’s the last piece. 😊 So 2 or 2 1/2 pieces of chicken per table is perfect. Everyone had enough and we didn’t run out! Yes, I’m a kitchen nerd.

It was fun to sit around and chat with this group, to hear what they’ve been learning and experiencing. Having interviewed some of the same students for multiple years, they are seeing growth in the lives of the CAPA students! They were also able to go to some of the students’ churches this weekend, and have been thinking through their experiences and pondering the ways in which they have seen God working – here in Malawi and in their own lives. You can check out the group’s blog here: http://malawi2017stm.wordpress.com.

As the sun set and dinner ended, the twinkle lights began to show in the trees. It’s hard to believe that there were no trees in the yard when we moved here! It’s such a nice space now!

No outdoor meal is complete without a bonfire, so we brought out the marshmallows and had some s’mores. We even had mice shaped marshmallows for the more Malawian s’mores experience!

We are thankful for the work this team is doing. They have conducted and transcribed 100+ interviews with the CAPA students this year. As the team finishes up the interviews and posts them online, you can get to know the students and hear their testimonies at: http://capa.prayformalawi.com/students