Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You may have noticed that there have not been many photos lately. I apologize for that. The reason is that (as I may have mentioned before) I forgot to pack my computer cable when I left the U.S., so haven't been able to edit my photos.

Today I decided to bring in the memory card so I could at least post a few of the more recent photos. I know, of course, that there are certain of my readers - I'm not naming names but they're probably doting grandparents - who read my usual posts and think "Enough about you! We want to hear about Milo!"

So here's your Milo update:

Everyone here is surprised by what a laid-back little baby Milo is. He'll flirt with anyone, and rarely fusses. Don't worry, we know how lucky we are, and that it probably won't last. He's happy enough playing on his own for good stretches. He's pretty stable sitting up, but every once in a while still wobbles over. He also likes to knock over piles of blocks. And of course chewing things still provides hours of entertainment.

He likes to chatter away now. Mostly ba's and ma's. A few stuttering wuh-wuhs. And he does this odd little fish-out-of-water think where he opens and shuts his mouth in an exaggerated way, just for kicks. No teeth yet. No locomotion either. He tries to push his little butt up to crawl, but ends up just moving himself around in circles.

Today's his first doctor's appointment here in Malawi. We're hoping to find out what we need to do about malaria, as that's really my main concern. In preparation for the rainy season we'll be having the house fumigated soon, and the window screens repaired, and our bed-nets re-treated.

People always ask us if he sleeps through the night. We just laugh. In the last week we've made real progress though. He wakes twice a night, instead of every 3 hours. He still wakes up at 11PM and 4AM, but Jorge and I trade off on those, so I do manage to get about 6-7 hours in a row now. It's enough.

Also, Milo is an authentic little African baby now. My coworkers came over last week and gave me a chitenje to carry him around in. I love it. It's way more comfortable than a crappy Baby Bjorn, and only costs a couple dollars!

If you're wondering why Milo is all red-faced, it's because Jorge got bored and played Rambo with him during the day. The red is from a red marker. It's meant to be blood from Milo being pretend-shot in the face.

I'm losing hope of Milo being a sensitive, bookish child.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Whee, look at me! I'm a regular blogger again!

We're getting settled back into normal life here. Friends have come to visit over the last couple of evenings, tonight I have a birthday party to go to, and tomorrow a friend is throwing us a welcome-back cocktail party at her home. I no longer feel like a disheveled and friendless new mom.

Over the weekend we went out to the Lilongwe Sailing Club. There was no wind, and the hippo was out, so no one sailed. Instead we just barbecued and chatted with friends. Our friend Sonia shared with us a funny story, but first you need some background:

Malawians have a very difficult time differentiating the "L" and "R" sounds. They can't really hear the difference, and frequently interchange the letters in their writing. For example, the newspaper today described a man as being "raid to rest."
So over the summer, during all the political turmoil in Zimbabwe, Sonia got daily updates from the staff, all of whom were following the situation closely.

"The erections are being manipulated," they told her,

and, (my favorite),

"Mugabe is fiddling with the erections."


Monday, September 22, 2008

My morning commute

When we left Malawi in February, we sold our car (which we affectionately dubbed “the Wanker.” Had Mitsubishi done better market research, it would have learned that the car name “Pajero” means just that in Colombia.) We were sad to let it go, but didn’t think it was going to work as a baby-mobile.

Since we’re without wheels, I’ve been walking to work. It’s about 20 minutes there, and 25 minutes back (thanks to the long-@$$ hill we live at the top of.) I like the walk most in the morning. Everything has that unique African smell - a mixture of dust, sweat, smoke from burning crops, and the odd whiff of decaying garbage – and it brings back memories of long walks I’ve taken in many other African countries. It’s the dry season here and the air is so arid that it dries you out all the way up deep into your head. I feel like I’m getting a mummy brain.

My first few blocks are relatively quiet, then I join the throng of people walking along the main commercial street through town. I’m an object of curiosity most of the time, and people stare at me quite openly. Malawian women, many of whom are out walking in high heels, always check out my outfit. Sometimes men compliment me, sometimes they say derisive-sounding things in Chichewa. I give those ones cold glares.

The dust gets everywhere – into my toes, up my pant legs, coating my bag. I like walking across the bridge over the Lilongwe River. So full when we left, it’s now almost a trickle, and men and women huddle around the edges to wash laundry amidst the swirling trash. What I least enjoy about walking is crossing the streets – no one waits for pedestrians here. If it can damage, maim, or kill you, it has right-of-way. Every time I step out into traffic, despite checking both ways obsessively, I feel a shot of adrenaline, then relief once I’ve reached the other side.

I think I’ll continue walking, even after we get a car. I like being a part of the crowd, not looking out at it from within my air-conditioned bubble. And heaven knows I need the exercise.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sad news

On my first day back at work, I learned that a colleague that worked with me here in Malawi died in a car accident Tuesday night, in Sierra Leone.

You worry about all the scary diseases that are out here - malaria, HIV, tuberculosis - and the crime, and the insecurity, but all too often it's just something as mundane as another car that gets you. When I was in Ghana, we had to halt work three times in three months for fatal car accidents that took the lives of nurses that I worked with.

My heart goes out to his wife and their young daughter. Such a tragedy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And we're back!

Well, here I am, back in Malawi. This blog’s title is once again relevant. Let mishaps and mayhem ensue!

So, we survived the seemingly endless trip to Africa. Our journey started last Friday morning at 4 AM, when we awoke to head to the airport. From Seattle we flew to New York, and Milo was charming and sweet throughout the whole trip. We then transferred to our flight to South Africa. I had to go mama bear on a bunch of travelers who tried to move ahead of me in the security line when I stopped for a couple seconds to adjust the brake on the stroller. One couple made it past me, and the others behind them made a dash for it, even though we were already trying to move ahead again. I had to block the throng with Milo’s stroller and yell, “We’re in line here, people!” They didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed. Freaking Europeans.

The 17 hour flight to Johannesburg (yes, you read that right) was not so bad. Milo slept for most of the trip, and although we only were able to use the airplane bassinet for a couple hours because of turbulence, we managed to rest a bit.

On Sunday evening, we stayed overnight at a hotel in Johannesburg. As we were landing, congratulating ourselves on how smoothly everything had gone, I suddenly realized I had a much greater challenge to contend with: baby jet lag.

Why has no one warned me about the hell that is trying to get a baby to sleep 9 time zones away from his usual home? While Jorge and I were ready for a full night’s rest, Milo thought he was just taking a nap. He decided to play all night, and by 6 AM I was sobbing with exhaustion, having had little sleep for 3 nights in a row.

We’re all still a little off since then. Milo wakes up even more often than usual during the (last night he was a twitchy little ball of energy from about 1:00 to 4:00,) and he’s more tired and cranky than usual during the day. Things are slowly improving, though, and he’s at least napping regularly again. I haven’t managed to stay awake later than 7:30 since we got to Lilongwe.

Today I am back at work, but I don’t have much to do yet, because most of my colleagues are out of the office, so I don’t know what’s needed. There’s been a lot of positive change and progress since I left, so I am excited about getting back to work.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How can it be so much?

How is it that my belongings magically multiply right before I leave for a new destination? I alwaus start packing early. The bags get half-full. I think "hey, it's all going to fit just fine!"

And then, suddenly, just when it's getting late in the game, it's like little elves sneak in and fill up all my bags with things I didn't realize I need.

It's always stressful every time I switch continents, but the baby has made it so much more complicated. So far we have packed 4 bags almost to 50 pounds each. Then we get an extra bag of 20 pounds for Milo. And then, of course, there is our carry-on bag. Add to that Milo's diaper bag, and two "personal carry-on items" (a backpack and purse). Oh, and a stroller and carseat.

We are not sure it will all fit into the car on Saturday morning, and we're dreading picking it up on the other end, when we won't have helpful family members to help drag, push, or carry our various personal effects.

But, this time next week, I'll be back in the land of cheap avocadoes, cryptic bumper stickers, lazy chameleons, and miles and miles of corn!

Monday, September 1, 2008


In less than two weeks, Jorge and I will be flying back to Malawi. Over the last six months we have had many wonderful visits from friends and family, and several great trips out of town as well. By my reckoning, in Milo's first 5 months of life, we have spent less than two of those just relaxing at home without guests.

So, even though we love spending time with our guests, it has been a bit exhausting. My grandmother used to be fond of saying that houseguests are a bit like fish. After three days, they really start to stink.

But sometimes it's even worse. Sometimes they also punch holes in your bathroom wall.

Our friend Jonathan, who visited in July, generously offered to help my sister with a re-wiring project she had planned for her guest bathroom. Unfortunately, the project turned out to be a bit more complicated than planned. He punched one hole. Miriam left for the evening, reassured that it would be patched up before the night was over. Instead she came home to this:

Apparently he made the mistake of asking Miriam's boyfriend for help. He turns out to have a great enthusiasm for punching holes. When Tampa showed up with a crowbar and a sledgehammer, Jorge had the sense to put on the brakes. Poor Jonathan couldn't enjoy the rest of his vacation until it was fixed, though. He promised to fix the holes. First he patched them:

Then he smoothed the wall over (with help).

Finally, Miriam painted and added a new mirror. Here's the finished product:

So sometimes houseguests aren't so bad after all!