It has been one year since we arrived in Malawi. I have killed approximately 3,755 insects. This includes the Great Moth Massacre of 2017, when overrun with small light brown moths whose exuberant spawning blanketed all outside walls of my home drove me to terribly irrational behavior. I grabbed one of my black slip-on Skechers and ran outside smacking moths right and left, determined to end the lives of at least 1000. I did it, but my temporary insanity rubbed the skin of purlicue (the fascinating word for the web-like area between your index finger and thumb) raw of my right hand. There was also the Terrible Termite Invasion of 2017. While sitting at the dining room table, a few winged termites lazily swooped around the room. I wondered how they had come inside and wandered into the kitchen to search for the wonderfully named bug spray, Doom, only to find hundreds swarming around the ceiling light. My reaction may have involved some cursing, mild screaming, and some jester-like leaping about. There were also bees in my bedroom and wasps in the yard, and evidence of large spiders lurking about (about an inch and a half diameter — two found dead in my home but one killed with a bloodcurdling screech as it ran across the room straight for me in Majete). And of course mosquitos–after all we take antimalarials daily.
I am on my third stove due to some of the frequent power outages, or rather the subsequent surge after the power came back on. In all my previous years in so many employer-provided homes around the world, I had not lost a stove. But here I lost two; they literally went up in smoke. Then in the midst of the dry season I awoke to find my house flooded. A pipe on my water distiller, needed as we of course cannot drink the water, disconnected and water flowed full speed for hours through the night, covering the kitchen floor, making its way through the dining room, down the hall, and seeping into the hall bathroom and each of our bedrooms. And today I find myself once again at the Kwik Fit mechanics next to the Embassy for my second punctured tire from nails in the road.
It’s all just part of living in Malawi, or just part of a certain level of living in the modern world. Sure I may have experienced more insects and electrical issues here than in other places I have lived, but these basically mirror the lives of friends in the US – bust water pipes, malfunctioning appliances, pest control issues, and flats. Malawi is our home.
And we have really settled in. From our glorious garden to the joy of having fresh eggs provided daily by Carmen, Can, Leash, and Lou, our sweet egg-laying chickens (they love being pet!), our home is an unexpected oasis such that I have never experienced before. This jet-setting world traveler is quite happy to spend my weekends idly circumventing the yard, sitting on our konde (screened in porch) listening to bird song and feeling the breeze, or better yet napping in my hammock. On Sundays we hold “chicken run” days, in which we let our birds have free range of the yard for 10-20 minutes. And we have acquired yet another family member! After lunch with friends at the delicious Chinese restaurant at the Golden Peacock Hotel, our daughters excused themselves early to explore and returned with news of something you just have to see! Behind the kitchen doors they had found a cage crammed with rabbits…and that is how Judy the Bunny came to live with us (released to us—and our friends who rescued one too—for 4,000 Malawian Kwacha or about $5.50). A handy friend is building her hutch, while Judy currently enjoys the konde and the bounty of our garden.
We are settling in in other ways. I have rekindled my passion for reading. Well, I never lost my interest in reading, I simply didn’t have the time or energy to do so. Yet over the past six months I have happily devoured at least 30 books. While that may not seem much to some readers please consider my occupation, my parental status, my prolific writing (!), and other hobbies like traveling and dabbling in small-time farming and chicken and rabbit rearing, and then my ability to read is nothing short of a miracle and should probably get me some kind of spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Am I right?
C (and I) made it through her first year at Bishop Mackenzie International School. Although she had attended preschool in Shanghai, this was full day school including riding the bus. Well, full day for what BMIS calls “lower primary” is only 5 1/2 hours, but with bus times she is gone 6 1/2 hours. For this night owl raising a night owl, it was the early morning hours that posed our greatest challenge. C’s bus picks her up at 6:30 AM!! To make sure we don’t miss the bus I wake up at the crack of dawn, or even before (!), then the nanny arrives at 5:30 to wake C the beast and get her ready for school. On weekends we revel in sleeping in until 7. But as hard as it is for C to drag herself out of bed in the mornings, she loves her school and so do I. And now my sweet, funny, smart six year old just started first grade.
And work. Wow. What a year. I arrived having never before done this particular position and being the only one. Learning on the job is a State Department specialty and it has been a steep, STEEP learning curve. But Malawi, well, what a place to parachute in and figure it all out. Not only is Malawian politics and political culture fascinating (I’ll just leave this here: Bloodsuckers. Google it. Never a dull day in Malawi), but it is also very accessible. I have met a former President and Vice President, the First Lady, the Second Lady, Members of Parliament, political opposition leaders, up and coming leaders, prominent academics, walked right into various government ministries (and not been subsequently thrown out).
C and I were able to travel some around Malawi, the region, and further afield. From Zomba and the lake at Senga Bay and Cape Maclear to Majete National Park. I took C on her first safari when we visited South Luangwa park in western Zambia. Holidays in Paris and Cape Town rounded out our year. I fear this post is beginning to sound a little bit too much like one of those end of year updates people send out in their Christmas cards…
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people probably could not find it on a map, many have never heard of it. But it has been my home for the past year. This first year in Malawi has been an overall a quite happy, though admittedly difficult at times, adventure. C loves it here. She tells me often. I am a fan as well. The big news is we have extended for a third year in Malawi; we like it that much. We look forward to what our second year here has in store for us.