Sign up if you'd like to receive email updates of new posts!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Eve

I feel extremely honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to travel out to Bright Vision on Christmas Eve.  The Hirotos, who are missionaries here at ABC, have been helping with this organization since 2006.  Located about an hour outside of Lilongwe, this ministry aims at providing daycare year round as well as a feeding program six months out of the year for orphans who live nearby. There are as many as 200 children who benefit from this organization.  On Christmas Eve, the Hiroto’s home church sponsored a meal for everyone.  There were goats purchased as well as rice.  I was told that for many in attendance, this was their first time to eat rice since last Christmas Eve.  

We arrived around 10:30 AM and were greeted by many excited children as well as women who were singing, clapping, and dancing.  I was amazed at the warm welcome and the way everyone there seemed to flock around the car to shake our hand and welcome us.  It was overwhelming in the best way possible.  We were then called into the main office where we sat with those who volunteer with Bright Vision.  Each person was introduced and then they each gave a speech saying how happy they were to have us there and how much it meant to them.  The man who started this organization shared how it has grown and developed over the years, as well as some of the visions for the future.  I was amazed to see a room with sewing machines and to hear there’s a tailoring vocational training program in place for older orphans.  After this, we each had a chance to introduce ourselves and give a “speech” if we so wished.  I found it hard to keep my emotions under control as I sat in a room with teachers who are teaching orphans and volunteering their time.  As a fellow educator and someone who has a passion for seeing children learn and grow, I thanked these wonderful people for their service and their heart and the amazing way they are providing an education to those who by no other means would have this opportunity. 

We then went back outside where everyone was sitting on the grass.  It was extremely hot and there were dark clouds rolling in, so we were expecting that the rains would possibly come.  There were two rows of chairs up front.  The back row was for the chiefs and the elders.  The front row was where us, as the guests sat.  Two choirs were there to perform songs.  One was a children’s choir and there was also a women’s choir.  They sang songs in Chichewa and then there was a message given in Chichewa by one of the college students at ABC who had come with us.  The rains then interrupted the schedule.  Everyone got up and ran under cover.  The women kept on cooking and fortunately, the rain didn’t last for long.  

Once the food was ready, children all sat on the ground and waited to be called up by age to wash their hands and take a bowl with nsima.  This is a staple here in Malawi and is much like rice or pasta would be in other regions.  It is made with maize flour and water.  It is “paddled” not stirred, and more flour can be added until the right texture and consistency is achieved.  It is then used with ones hand to scoop up relishes, or side dishes that are served with the nsima.  It is relatively cheap and is served with many meals.  Once the children had a bowl, they would stand in another line to receive the rice and relishes to accompany the nsima.  I watched as the kids waited in lines and sat patiently.  I also watched as they found a spot on the ground to eat.  I was amazed at how the older kids looked out for those that were younger.  Many helped to feed the younger kids.  While everyone was eating, we were called back into the office where we were served our meal.  This was the first time I’ve eaten goat that had been alive a few hours before.  I was so hungry due to the heat and the walking around and everything tasted very good. 

 After eating, we went for a hike.  It is an absolutely beautiful area and one can see so far out when up in elevation.  I loved the shades of green (they have received more rain than we have in Lilongwe, so everything is greener), the fields with maize crops, and the mountains.  It was absolutely beautiful. 

We then came down and spent some more time with those remaining before heading home.  As we said our goodbyes and got in our car to leave, I was struck that this was Christmas for those in attendance.  They enjoyed a special meal together and the company of others.  They honored us as guests and welcomed us, genuinely showing their appreciation and love.  The women worked so hard to cook, serve, and clean up the meal.  There were no gifts, there was no singing of Christmas carols, just time together and a meal for everyone there.  I loved meeting these people and seeing the great work that is being done by those who have a passion to provide an education for the orphans.  I hope to return some day to see those I have met, but for now, they had contributed to one of the most meaningful Christmas Eves I have ever and will ever experience.

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

This phrase is one that surprises me when I think of it.  “Tis the Season” everything around me tells me different.  All the holiday traditions I’ve grown up experiencing are nowhere to be found.  There’s been no forecast of snow, no Christmas parties and lights, no outing with the family to pick the perfect tree.  In fact, in a lot of ways, it hasn’t felt at all like Christmas is just two days away.  I know I won’t be attending a midnight service or drinking eggnog and listening to my father read scripture while we all snuggle up on the couch in our new Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. 

However; as there’s been a lack of all that’s familiar with the holidays, there’s been an abundance of the underlying reason for the season.  As there has been no Christmas shopping and no business, I have been more aware of the joy that I see in those around me.  Many of those who I have come to call friends here at ABC have gone home to be with family.  They will spend Christmas cooking and enjoying each other’s company here in Malawi.  I received many heartfelt hugs and many blessings for Christmas.  This has reminded me of the little wooden block decorations that we have had up in our home for years now over the holidays.  There’s one that says “Joy” one that says “Peace” and one that says “Love.”  These three attributes of the holidays are certainly not lacking here in Malawi.  I have felt all three in abundance over the past few weeks.  I have been invited to go to Bright Vision tomorrow.  This is a community-based organization that strives to promote and improve the quality of life and welfare for orphans, the chronically ill, and the elderly.  It is located in a rural area outside of Lilongwe.    We will go tomorrow and spend Christmas Eve there.  I have also been invited to join two Malawian families on Christmas day.  I will leave campus at 6:30 AM to go to church and then to the home of one of the college students.  She has invited me to cook lunch with her family and spend the afternoon in their home.  I will then come back and spend the evening with another family.  I feel so honored to have been invited and I am looking forward to seeing some of the local traditions of Christmas.  Yes, I will not be with my family during Christmas, but I feel overwhelmed by the love I have been shown here.  I have been welcomed in as family in a culture that is not of my own. 

Christmas truly is upon us.  It is here in Malawi although it looks different than any Christmas I’ve experienced.  I am reminded of the Christmas story and of that night that Mary and Joseph looked for a place to stay.  There was no room in the Inn and instead, they stayed in a stable, a lowly, dirty place with the animals.  It wasn’t ideal and yet this story touches my heart every year at this time.  We find ourselves in circumstances and places that are out of our comfort zone.  They may not be ideal based on our own desires.  However; I firmly believe that in the midst of our circumstances, we are growing and learning lessons that are invaluable. I am so thankful to be here this Christmas.  I am learning so many lessons from the beautiful people around me and the circumstances in which I find myself.  Merry Christmas to you all and I pray you see many blessings this season and truly experience joy, peace, and love.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cockroaches, spiders, and more oh my!

This week has been a bit rough as the generator used by our campus is out of commission.  I’m not sure how long it will be before it is back on.  This means we are relying on Escom, the local power provider. When I return home from school in the afternoon, I’m without power and some evenings it comes back on around 5:30 while other evenings it’s been out until 8 or 9 pm.  I can easily light candles and eat some cereal, but what I really can’t stand is the critters.  For some reason, when it is dark, I start to get really creeped out by them and a bit paranoid.  There’s something about not being able to see well but being positive that there’s a fairly large black thing scurrying across your floor.  Also, we’ve had quite a few cockroaches lately.  I’ve killed on average 5 a day in my house over the past week. I strongly dislike chasing them and stomping on them, but I have an even greater dislike of knowing they are somewhere in my house and came to where I could see them and then got away.  I also keep a bottle of  “doom” next to my bed to spray if I see them on my floor.  Every night before I go to bed, I tuck my mosquito net in and search the floor one last time.  About a week ago, I did this and then went to sleep.  I was awoken at 2 AM when a cockroach crawled across my face, up my ear, and into my hair.  I didn’t fully wake up until it was in my hair, running around.  I started scratching my head, trying to find where it was so I could get it out.  I grabbed it and threw it.  I then jumped out of my net and turned on my light.  There it was, sitting inside my net.  I have no idea how it managed to get in, but I sprayed it and killed it.  I then decided that has to be up there with the worst ways to wake up! 
My encounters with creepy critters continued yesterday when the power was out and I was over at Carson’s house.  We were eating dinner by candlelight when she said she had seen a cockroach run underneath a suitcase that was leaning against the wall.  I stood up and told her I was ready.  I couldn’t see very well, but when she moved the suitcase, I stomped.  It ran up the wall and I kicked if off and then stomped again.  It was then that I realized it didn’t have the same feel to a cockroach.  We shone the light on the floor and we both screamed when we realized I had killed a chop chop spider.  I hadn’t seen one of these before, but had heard all about them.  What I had heard was that they are huge with pinchers and that they are very aggressive.  They will actually run at you in fight mode with their pinchers ready.  When I stomped on this one, it left a trail of guts behind.  When I say trail of guts, I am not exaggerating.  They actually shot quite some distance! I had to grab my camera after the kill.  I am so thankful that it was dark so that I couldn’t see what I was going up against.  Apparently they can actually hurt you.  If I had been able to see it, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near it! 

I came back to my house after dinner and ended up killing 3 more cockroaches by candlelight.  After seeing the spider, I was much less bothered by the cockroaches.  Maybe by the time I leave here, they will not longer give me chills and make my skin crawl!