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!

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!

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!

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!

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

Goodbye Priscilla!

Today was a sad day for our family. Our good friend, Priscilla, worked her last day with our family and will next week move far to the north to go to University of Malawi in Mzuzu. Priscilla has been part of our family for more than 3 years. She watched the girls for 4+ years while I taught Bible study, and then about 3 years ago worked full time for us when Martha was on leave for Timothy’s birth. After working full time for us, we realized this lady was a keeper. So she started watching the girls Tuesday and Wednesday mornings so that I could teach and catch up on other things around the house, like finances, blogging, etc. She also worked the afternoons and did all the housekeeping “extras” for us, like dusting the whole house, changing bed linens, washing windows, etc. We have loved her company, her diligence, and her friendship for many years.

The girls adore Priscilla. She played make-believe with then, served tea parties, read books with them… She was that rare find of a nanny who loves your kids, plays with them, and teaches them with kindness. Look at those little grommets! They wanted a picture with Priscilla when we went on a 3 month furlough a couple years ago, so they wouldn’t forget her!

Priscilla will be missed in our home, but we know she is making an excellent choice. She is extremely intelligent, and will be pursuing her degree in accountancy. We know she will do excellent work in her studies, and we are excited for all the employment opportunities that will open for her with such a degree!

She will certainly be overqualified to be our nanny, but these girls are growing up now. With Naomi in Pre-K and Abigail in 2nd grade, school fills our days and we no longer need a nanny. But for the next 4 years every time we drive north through Mzuzu, we are going to go find our dear friend Priscilla! This friend is a keeper!