Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gule Wamkulu and Minibus Riots

July 6th is Malawi’s Independence Day so we’ve been able to see some celebrations! On our first drive up to Mzuzu we saw two guys walking barefoot in the bush (I have shoes that can’t handle the bush so I can’t imagine how tough their feet must be) with skull masks, red feather loincloth type things, red feather anklets, and were carrying spears. One member in the car commented that they weren’t humans but animals. That struck me as odd but I didn’t think much about it. On Thursday on our way back home we stopped in Mchinji at the Chapamba’s clinic. While we were leaving, Patricia pointed out a guy (he looked young, maybe around 14) who was wearing a maize bag tied around his head, a large black cloth tied around his face so all we could see were his eyes, no shirt, and had black stripes and dots painted all over him. The rest of him was real ashy. She asked what we’d call him in the States and having no clue what was going on we just assumed crazy. That got his attention (much to my freaked out dismay) and he came over. Patricia gave him some money but didn’t hand it to him. She walked up and set it on the ground a few feet from him then once she backed up he bowed and picked it up. Because he was really ashy, had his face completely covered, and people were scared to go near him I thought that maybe he was leprous or maybe just crazy? But Patricia said that he was an animal and that’s why she couldn’t touch him. Well, I was totally confused and a bit taken back by my friend’s actions so she laughed and explained. Around holidays people will celebrate by dressing up as the Chewa tribe’s Gule Wamkulu dancers and dancing. After she gave him the money he started dancing then another one came over and they danced for a while (the video is on my Facebook page) then got more money and left. So it’s kind of like people dressing up as Native Americans and Pilgrims for Thanksgiving, just two weeks in advance.
            The real Gule Wamkulu dancers are really interesting. The main tribe in the middle of Malawi is the Chewa tribe and the people who we saw on the way to Mzuzu were part of the tribe. When people are dressing up like the dancers around holidays it’s just for fun, but the real dancers do it seriously and wear masks and kick up dirt to hide themselves from evil spirits. If that wasn’t freaky enough for the American me, they’ve also been known to grab people and take them for a while.
            Thursday was an interesting day. A loved member in our congregation is suffering from cancer and the treatments here in Lilongwe aren’t helping to destroy the cancer but rather to make him comfortable. We got him an appointment in a clinic in Zambia so he could get a referral to go to a different Zambian hospital and start getting treatment to destroy the cancer (I still don’t understand the whole process). We drove to the Zambian border where we were told we shouldn’t go through the border but on this dirt road to the left because that was the only way to get to the clinic. We started off and found ourselves on the harshest road we’ve ever been in. Our trusty Bongo hit more than a few rocks and knocked some parts loose. It’s not looking like it's in too good of shape right now! But we eventually got to the clinic, found out we were in Zambia, and everything went rather smoothly from there on out.

            Things have been a bit tense around here. The minibus drivers like to cram their buses as full as possible, which is of course illegal. Recently the cops have been cracking down on overcrowded vehicles and drunk driving. Because of that, the mini bus drivers are not too happy and have been having not so peaceful demonstrations. At least three police stations in Blantyre have been burnt down and minibus drivers have been blocking the roads and charging motorists 500mk (about .80 cents) to pass their barricades. We heard news of demonstrations yesterday and today but they were called off. Thankfully Lilongwe has been peaceful!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Post Office and Visits

We’ve had a nice and productive week! After multiple building committee meetings, traveling, and errands we’re a bit tired but feel pretty productive.
            On Monday after we got back from Blantyre we ran a ton of errands. Monday is starting to become our grocery-shopping day, which I love. It does take most of the day, however, because we make around six stops. Since moving here and seeing all the stores, we’re getting used to which places have the best prices and the best products. Now we go to Food Lovers for meat and potatoes, Shoprite for eggs and coffee, Sana for dried beans, Chipiku for biltong, Game if we need stuff for the house, and anywhere and everywhere for produce. All the roads, except for the few main roads, have little shops set up where people sell (usually) tomatoes, super tiny dried fish, some type of greens, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and short fat cucumbers.
            We had two little neighbor boys, Mohammed who’s 7 and Sean who’s 5. When we came back in June though Mohammed had moved and now Sean is super bored so he spends most of his after school time at our house. Recently he’s become my cooking buddy. We’ve made tortillas, pico de gallo, and cookies so far.
            On Tuesday we went out to eat and Brennan ended up getting food poisoning so we stayed home on Wednesday when Lewis and Lena went down to Mangochi to check out the campsite for summer camp.
            Friday was a nice busy day to lead into the Sabbath. Brennan went to a building committee meeting and I worked in the office on stuff for camp. Then we ran some errand, as usual. Part of our errands included going to the post office. I love talking to the guys who sell stamps outside of the post office—always so nice and helpful, but I’m not a fan of going in. We’re supposed to have a PO box but for some reason no mail was being sent to it so now we go into the post office to get our main. When you walk in you see a bench, three chairs, and four service counters. The two counters farthest from the door have no signs. The third counter has a sign that says, “Counter 14 Acceptance and Delivery of Parcels.” The last counter has a sign that says, “Counter 13 Parcels Acceptance Customs Declaration.” … So we just stand in the shortest line then ask for mail from out PO box. It’s been quite interesting to figure out.
            We had a nice Sabbath! Brennan and the Kachali sister did special music again and then after services we had lots of food and some good fellowship time.
            Sunday we went and visited people! Chimwewe, who works in the LifeNets shop lead us up to the first home (she used to be their neighbor) then after staying there for a while we went and visited her mom. While there we got to meet plenty of neighbors and had lots of laughs. On our way out, their friend made us zingaygay (total guess on the spelling) which are delicious curry battered fried potatoes. So yummy! While visiting the first family we learned more about the strike the teachers are on. Since we’ve been here it seems like the teachers are on strike almost as much as they aren’t. This is because the government isn’t paying them. It’s really frustrating for the teachers, students, and parents; especially in secondary schools where students pay school fees then don’t get taught.
            Today, Monday, was a long day. We arrive at the LifeNets office at around 8:30 for a building committee meeting which was to start at 9:00. Or 11:20. But I got to use that time to finalize the camper and staff application forms for summer camp. The meeting went well (yay!) and the building should be finished by the middle of July (yay again!). Then we did our normal weekly shopping with eight stops and ended with delicious Sana Food Court food.
            It’s been a great week overall! 
We've been having some internet troubles so I'm not able to upload a lot of pictures. I'll try to later.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We're Back!

            We’re back! We landed in Lilongwe on June 1st and hopped right back into things. This past week has actually been super busy—good way to get over jet lag though.
            On Friday we went to the office where I could pick up the new cash register and we got to catch up with Julie and Chimwewe. After the office we spent most of the day running errands and trying to somewhat fill up our cupboards. However, having no food in the house did give us a good excuse to go to our favorite restaurant—Old DC!
            Our week didn’t get any less busy over the weekend. Saturday was the Sabbath then we observed Pentecost on Sunday. After services on Sunday we had a nice Q and A Bible study and lots of fellowship time. Overall, it was a great and uplifting weekend!
            I feel like I need to explain the Lifenets office and shop a bit. Lifenets is a non profit organization that built a shop and internet café to supply jobs and be a service to the community. Half of the building is an internet café that offeres computer services, photocopying, and a few other office services like lamination and binding. The other half is a mini shop that sells some essentials like body soap, laundry soap, exercise books, and some drinks and food. The Kubiks, who run Lifenets, recently bought a brand new cash register for the shop half to use since the old cash register broke. On Tuesday I finally got it set up and ready to use. Now we have a proper register that even prints receipt—soon we’re going to look like a Shoprite!
            This past Friday we drove down to Blantyre to spend the Sabbath there. We stopped half way between Lilongwe and Blantyre to visit an older couple in the church. Talking with them is always so interesting. They were alive during Malawi’s first president and remember a very different Malawi than the one they live in today. Dr Chilapora studied to become a doctor and the president at that time, wanting to better Malawi, started sending educated people overseas to study more. He lived in France for a couple years and his wife was sent to England to better study nursing. It’s interesting learning about how much Malawi has changed in the past 80 years. The Chilaporas were born in the 20’s and 30’s, over 30 years before Nyasaland gained its independence from England and became the Republic of Malawi. I love getting to visit the Chilaporas—they’re such a loving and wise couple.
            Blantyre was really nice! We were spoiled with our usual Blantyre Mugg and Bean coffee J. Services were great and we had a lot of socialization, snacks, and then a meeting about the soon coming summer camp!
            Sunday morning we drove back to Lilongwe and stopped in Dedza to visit some friends and catch up.

            We had a great week and are back into the swing of things! I've been bad about taking pictures so I'll try to upload some more later.