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!

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!