Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Somebody call America's Next Top Model

I've got their next big winner right here:

Sorry for the hit and run, there are actual many weird and not-so-wonderful things afoot here in Malawi, but until next Monday, I will have both by feet firmly planted in proposal-writing land, not blogger world.

And also, what's up with the spam lately? I get all excited that I have comments, and it ends up being people trying to sell me weight-loss pills. Grrr. So I have to come on and pander for comments with photos of my amazing little boy (who will be 2 in THREE WEEKS!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Weird things you'd never think about

So, it might come as a surprise to you that the world wide web is not, in fact, the same worldwide.

In fact, when you live in a place like Malawi, it can be quite different. While you are probably seeing ads for drugs claiming they will finally quell your Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the ads on my computer screen are frequently in Arabic.

But here is something I see almost every day when I log in:

I mean, come on - I have been through the US immigration process, I've seen it up close. You mean there are suckers here in Africa that think getting a green card is like winning some sort of Powerball game? I have no idea what happens if you are silly enough to try to "win," I have no intention of ever clicking on one of those virus bombs myself.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just popping on to say hello before I leave for dinner tonight. This has been another typically full week at the house. On Monday we went to a terrific Hash walk through the Lilongwe Wildlife Sanctuary. Milo was enraptured by the huge hyena pacing back and forth behind the fence, taunting it by yelling "doggie! doggie!" The hyena did not seem amused. We also got a close-up view of Bella, the stunted and half-blind lion, rescued from an Armenian circus.

Yesterday my wonderful husband took me on a death march around our neighborhood for an hour and a half. That's what I get for enlisting him in trying to help me get out and moving. Then it was off to choir practice.

Tonight it's off to dinner for a friend's birthday, tomorrow we are hosting a going-away party for our dear friend Lillian, Friday we have tickets for a St. Patrick's Day concert of traditional Irish music, then Saturday we are planning to head off for a lake weekend. Whew!

But by far the most exciting thing about this week is that one of our favorite people, Cassandra, arrives tomorrow for a 10-day visit! HOORAY! I can't wait for the girl talk to start...

Milo is getting so verbal lately. When Jorge picked me up from work Milo just yelled "Hello mama!" Like a real person! He also tried to pee in his potty today, that was pretty exciting. He missed of course. Then 30 minutes crawled into my lap so he could pee all over my legs. Sigh.

Well, that's the news from Lilongwe.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stuck in the mud

First of all, you may have noticed a few changes around here. After many years, I finally decided to give this blog a little overhaul. One, I was just tired of the old layout, and two, we are thinking about the possibility of moving on from Malawi some day - not any time soon, but still, the idea is out there - so it felt like I ought to transition to a style and name that would work somewhere else, not just here. Anyway, I hope you like the new look.

Last week I went up to one of my favorite places, Nkhotakota, again. I have written before about how crazy things always happen when I drive up there, and this trip was no exception.

The usual road, which runs along Lake Malawi, got washed out by heavy rains the day before we were to leave for Nkhotakota, so we had to take an alternative route, up north on the main highway, then cutting across the country through the Nkhotakota Game Reserve, a national park.

I've never been through the game reserve before, and it was a beautiful drive. Unfortunately, we didn't get to enjoy it much, though, because we were all hanging on for dear life as the car slipped and slid through the mud. We got to a very nasty patch about halfway into the park, where three trucks were blockign the road, bogged down in the muck. Unwisely, we decided to try to go around the side of the stranded trucks...and got stuck in the mud ourselves.

Here are the menfolk (mostly occupants from other abandoned trucks) discussing what to do:

And then we ladies decided to take matters into our own hands:

Finally, just before dark, a construction vehicle showed up and pulled us out! Hooray!

Seriously, there's never a dull moment around here!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And now for something totally banal

Well, things haven't gotten any easier over here in Lilongwe, as you can probably tell from my conspicuous absence. I worked both Saturday and Sunday this week, and even though tomorrow is a public holiday - Martyr's Day (Or 'Marty's Day' as the HR announcement at work erroneously called it, brightening my day immensely. I feel like I should watch 'Back to the Future' tomorrow to celebrate) - you guessed it, I will be working again. Tonight was running, followed by choir. Tomorrow I'll cook breakfast for some friends, go to work, then there's a barbecue. Thursday is ladies night. Friday, I sleep.

But instead of whining again, I thought I would write about something totally mundane, but which seems to have been on a lot of people's minds lately - the weather. Yes, I have become that dull - when there is nothing else to say, one can always talk about the weather.

But seriously, though - the weather is a really big deal in a country like Malawi, where about 90% of the population relies on tiny little rain-fed farms for their food and income. Every year as December looms, the speculation on what sort of year it will be begins. People read much into the occasional sprinkles that occur in November (the "little rains"), trying to figure out whether the rains will fail. When the first real storm hits, everyone gets excited, no matter how old they are, how many rainy seasons they have seen.

This year has been a strange one for the weather, and everyone is a little worried about what that will mean come harvest-time. Until about 2 weeks ago, it hardly rained at all. Now it seems to do nothing but. The problem with this is that many people planted their maize back in December, only to have their crops die during the long dry spell. Those who can afford it replant. Those who can't will depend on the generosity of aid next year when their food stocks run out.

So far, it looks like we have avoided a full-scale crop failure. Still, I worry that there will be many homes with not enough food when the hungry season comes around next year. I hope that we have learned enough from the last two food crises in Malawi (8 years ago and 4 years ago) to be ready to help them.