Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yup, he's a butt man.

So I haven't given a Milo update in a while, I guess. My little guy has been growing up so fast. He's communicating so much more now, and says a lot of words in both Spanish and English. He's very definite in his wants, and pretty adamant about getting them across to us, but he still doesn't say a whole lot, so it can be frustrating for all of us.

He's a pro at pointing out body parts, though, in two languages:

"Milo, where are your eyes?"


"Where is your head?"


"Donde estan las orejas?"

Physically, he's also developing fast. He can jump, is great at puzzles, can go up and down the stairs unassisted, and has a pretty awesome throwing arm already. If only Lilongwe had a t-ball league. Also, he can climb out of his crib in about 3 seconds flat now, so every morning, I go into his room to find this sight:


Yes, he's quite good at opening drawers, too.

Like most toddlers, he's into imitation, but it's more often than not the housekeeper and his nanny that Milo likes to copy. One of his favorite activities is playing "laundry". Like the pile of clothes above, he'll stack and unstack his clothes over and over again. It can keep him occupied for ages. He also likes to "hang" the laundry on his own pretend clothesline, the mosquito net frame:


For some reason, he's deeply fascinated with those purple undies. Today we found him wearing them:


Reassuringly, though, he is showing plenty of alpha male traits, too. I recently ordered a swimsuit, and it came with a catalog. Without fail, Milo always opens this catalogue to a close-up shot of a woman's rear end in a thong bikini bottom. Then he says over and over, "Mama - booby! Booby!"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Best intentions

I really planned to write a blog post this weekend. Honestly. For one, my sister has been hounding me about it, and I don't want to face her without having written something at least. And besides, there really has been a lot going on here. We've traveled, Malawi got knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations, the Haiti earthquake brought back all kinds of memories of emergency relief work in Darfur, I got sick, and I made some serious progress on my New Year's resolutions. All those things were blog posts waiting to happen.

And then this weekend came along. This fun weekend, where the power went out for 2 whole days. Which made me have to cancel the very fun ladies night I had planned at my house tonight with my girlfriends. :-( It only just came back on, so my guilty conscience forced me here to my blog to explain my absence. Our groceries are still in a neighbor's fridge.

The worst thing about a long power outage for me is the midnight paranoia. Crime is relatively uncommon in Malawi, but home break-ins are known to happen, and they usually happen at night, while you are home, sleeping peacefully in your bed. A good break-in would involve someone just prying open a window and fishing the closest things of value out. A bad break-in involves panga knives. Those are the ones that keep me up at night.

So last night, I wake in a panic around 1 AM, realizing that a pitch dark neighborhood is a fertile breeding ground for break-ins. Every creak, rustle and clank for the rest of the night had me peering out the window, scanning the grounds with my flashlight. I finally dozed off on the couch with a book and the flashlight pointed at a window to let any would-be burglar know I was there. Fortunately nothing happened, and by 9 tonight the work crews had finally fixed whatever problem had shut us down in the first place, but MAN, am I tired. And it is past my bedtime, so all those other blog posts will just have to wait for the next rare spontaneous instance that I have a few minutes to spare.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Malawi woyee!! Flames woyee!!

Big, BIG news from Malawi, today, which will probably never make it to your corner of the world.

But the Malawi Flames, the lowest ranked team in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, beat Algeria three to one in their opening game. WOO-HOO! Seriously, people, this is BIG here. The Africa Cup of Nations is like the regional World Cup for African football (soccer) teams. From around 3 o'clock this afternoon, the city has been filled with cheers, honking horns, and and people waving at strangers, just sharing in the happiness. Jorge drove around to all the minibus depots for a while, blaring the horn, just because he could get away with it.

We went for a walk after work, and many of the men we saw were still carrying their little battery-operated radios around with them, listening to the commentary and highlights. Then on the drive home, we passed several revelers who had taken big, leafy branches from the trees and covered their bodies with them, an impromptu traditional costume.

We are very proud of our guys! Go Flames!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nkhotakota dance par-tay!

Well, here I am in Nkhotakota, at the Sungu Motel. It meets my benchmark for hotel standards – there is a towel, soap, a mosquito net, and a fan that works. In fact, this place is rather four-star by Malawian standards – there’s a TV and what looks like a cable box, although they don't actually work, and I've been provided with sandals for the shower. However, I am not sure that wearing sandals that have been worn by countless other guests is really any better than standing on a shower floor.

Something in here smells like urine, though, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t me.

So our big event was tonight. I naively arrived on time, then waited an hour and half before everyone else showed up and we were ready to start. (Still, I just know that the one day I decide to show up late, everyone else will get there on time. So every time, I wait.)

I made my speech, and I think it went pretty well. It was mostly coherent, and I tried to not talk so fast. I always figure with public speaking, if you talk loud, clear, and slow, you’re halfway there.

Anyway, for once the speeches weren’t the main event here. Unbeknownst to me, this was not your typical NGO-government formal-schmormal talking heads evening. No, this was a shin-dig. A hootenanny, if you will. Open bar, DJ, and people drunk before the party even started – it almost felt like I was in New Orleans again.

As soon as the speeches were over, it was announced by the MC that I should take the floor with the District Environmental Health Officer, along with three other assigned couples made up of the bigwigs of the night, for the first dance. Now, I might seem like a pretty outgoing person, but dancing in front of a room full of people – ummm, not really my thing. But I did it, because this is my job.

And actually, I had a really great time. The other Malawians eventually took the floor, and the men, once they’ve had a few drinks, dance with such joyous abandon that you can’t help but get sucked in. The women are a bit more reserved, but even they get in on the action. So there I was, getting jiggy with the top brass of Nkhotakota district. A few guys even asked for my number (I politely declined). Seriously, it was like I was in New Orleans again, only with lots of termites flying around and me wearing a suit. Good times, man, good times.

Oh, and eventually I will get the pictures of me and my "first dance" off or our Communications Officer and post them here. But I have seem them already, and I can assure you, I look like a tool. I think a long career of looking awkward at official functions awaits me.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wacky NKK

Today I am off to Nkhotakota for the night. One of our projects is phasing out there, and the District Health Office is holding an event to mark them taking it over. I have even been asked to make a speech. Aren’t I fancy? It’s gratifying to see the project get taken on by the government, though. They have been pretty much running things for the last year anyway, but this will make it official.

Anyway, I enjoy going up to Nkhotakota – I always see the strangest things on these trips. For example:

Once, I saw a full grown man, sitting in the middle of the yard in front of his house, strapped to a dining room chair. He was just enjoying watching the cars go by. I’m guessing that he was mentally unstable, and his family probably needed to get some things done around the house, so they just tied him up and left him while they worked in their garden, or went to the market or whatever.

On that same trip, I rode for a while behind a tiny little hatchback car that was filled with ELEVEN large men (4 in the trunk, 4 in the back seat, and three up front). They were on their way to the mosque, and all were wearing their caps and jalabeeyahs for the service. It looked a bit like a clown car in a crazy Muslim circus.

On another trip, we ran over a monitor lizard by accident. I felt really badly about that. Those things are big and pretty amazing. Then on the way home a big crow flew smack into our windshield. I have nicknamed that driver the Grim Reaper now.

Jorge and I once bought a 4-foot long catfish just outside of Nkhotakota on a trip to the lake. We saw the man holding it up by the side of the road, and couldn’t believe our eyes, so we had to stop. The monster was still alive too. We tied it to the side mirror, then had to double it up and tie the tail to the mirror too, so that it wouldn’t drag on the ground as we drove home. That fish fed us for months.

I’m wondering what exciting new Malawi sights this trip is going to bring me!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I could give you the litany of excuses as to why I have not been posting much lately, but let's be honest here, my friend Pam has a full-time job and two-year-old triplets, and she blogs every day. What can I say that's going to top that?

But Malawi-wise, I don't have much to say. We've got petrol again, which is a good thing, but I still get annoyed every time Jorge lets the tank go below half-full. I am still working on analyzing
and writing up the results of that last survey, and I am acting as the No. 2 boss in my office for about a month, so work has been terribly busy.

Also, the political situation here seems to be getting even more bizarre and nonsensical lately, but I think perhaps I won't blog about that, as it would not be pleasant to have my work permit withdrawn.

Instead, I'll take the lazy blogger's way out and post pictures of my ridiculously cute progeny. With pithy comments thrown in for free:

This is the cheap little plastic tree I got from the grocery store. It made me indescribably happy, and is still up in our living room. And ALL the presents are for Milo. Santa didn't come for me or Jorge this year.
Milo trying out his new train set.
It took the kid a while to figure out that the boxes had TOYS in them. But once he did, there was no stopping him.

In his cool new igloo tent!

And since I also failed to blog for New Year's, you get the combo post.

We made it to TWO parties on New Year's Eve this year, not bad! Last year we spent it eating cheese and drinking wine in a hotel room while Milo screamed. So this was an improvement.

With our friend Malene, who threw a fabulous bash, complete with a whole roasted pig.

Then we went to our friends Jessica and Diego's, for a delicious Italian buffet. And plenty of champagne!

The next day we drove to the lake with our friends Mina and Carrie.

Here's Milo with his adorable tousled beach hair look.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

O . M . G .

OMG OMG OMG....! THIS just crawled across my hand:

And why do those things always come after me when I am sitting on the toilet? It's the second time I've been ambushed that way. This time, the monster was under the toilet paper. I went to grab a bit, and it raced out, right across my hand, and sat there on top of the toilet roll.

My reaction? What do you think? I screamed like a madwoman for a few seconds, then got my wits about me and ran out with my pants down!

And then of course I called for my husband and went for the camera. Meanwhile it retreated to the corner:

I shut Jorge in the bathroom with a can of Doom. He'd come out every 30 seconds or so saying "OK, it's dead now". Then he'd go back to dispose of it and call out "Oh, never mind. I lost it." So Milo and I stayed locked in the office, a towel shoved into the crack in the door, until the thing was good and flushed.

I'm such a wuss. I am still shaking.