Tag Archives: Malawi

Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #1

And this is a big one!

In many parts of Africa there is a form of transportation called a “bike taxi”.

The bike taxi strikes fear into my heart.

Take a battered bicycle and put a “seat” on the back of it over the rear tire, and you have a bike taxi.

Like this one?

I wish.  No.

Like these ones.  (These have really good seats on them, by the way).

I recently went on another adventure to the African continent.  The trip in a nutshell went like this:

Fly to Dubai, meet up with Abner, hang out in Dubai for a bit waiting for our next flights, and sleep in the airport.  Fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania…me via Qatar, Abner direct.  Meet up with Abner again.  Spend night in DAR.  Take boat to Zanzibar.  Spend time in Zanzibar.  Take boat back to DAR.  Spend night in DAR.  Take buses and minibuses from DAR to Malawi.  Spend time in Malawi.  Take buses/minibuses to Mozambique.  Spend time in Mozambique.  Fly from Mozambique to South Africa.  Say good-bye to Abner as he heads to Lisbon.  Fly home.

This post is about the middle part of the trip.  The part where we meet up with friends in Sani/Nkhota Kota, Malawi.  There’s a lot of stories to tell up to this point, but this is as good a place as any to start.

In Malawi, especially in the rural “bush” areas, women wear skirts.  So, I was in a skirt.  And we were backpacking, so I had a big pack on my back, and a smaller one on my front.  And I’m not a young thing anymore…pushing 50 in fact.  And we’d been on the road for over two days, so I was tired and sore.

As we neared the place where our bus would drop us off to meet our Malawian friends, I began to wonder how, in the dead of night (it was after 10 PM) we would get from the roadside drop off point to Sam’s house (about 10 km) into the bush.  Is it too remote for a regular bush taxi?  Would we walk?  Or, please God, no, would he have arranged for bike taxis?

As you have probably guessed, it was the latter.  I took one look at those taxis and pictured myself trying to jump up onto the back to ride it sidesaddle with all my gear, and in a skirt, and I nearly died.  That was SO not going to happen.  “Fortunately”, once the “taxi drivers” saw the color of my skin, the previously agreed to price all of the sudden became seriously inflated.  I took that as my opportunity to encourage their immediate dismissal, opting instead to do the long walk.

Sam was quite amused.  African women have literally no problem with this form of transportation.  Even the very old ones with a parcel on their heads and one grandbaby in their laps with another one their backs.  And they are graceful while doing it.  Of course, they’ve been doing it their whole life.  This would have been my first time.

I seriously hate being a “problem” like that.  I try very hard to do the best I can to just quietly do what needs to be done.  And normally, I am extremely “game” in most travel circumstances.

But not this time.  I just couldn’t do it.  So we walked.  So I made all of us walk.  😦  And I was glad we did.  It was so very dark and the dirt road was bumpy and full of washed out areas, rocks, and potholes.  Even if I’d have gotten up there, I’m pretty sure at some point I would have fallen off, and possibly injured myself.  This is what I tell myself to make myself feel better about not doing it.

Perhaps the next time I find myself faced with a bike taxi I won’t be in a skirt, I won’t be loaded down, it won’t be dark, and there would be a step stool.  I’d give it a whirl if so.

But not this time.

In this particular case, I did not make a good African woman.

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Tent Sweet Tent

I’d like to welcome you to my home!  This was it this past summer in Malawi.  Some nights I almost couldn’t wait to crawl inside it and curl up on my air mattress and soak in the night sounds.  In Zambia two years it ago, it was soooo cold at night that I dreaded “lights out”.  This year, despite being the neighbor to the east of Zambia, the Malawi nights were relatively warm.  Perhaps this was due to the proximity to Lake Malawi?

Home Sweet Malawi Home by you.

Despite its relatively small size, I was still able to often lose fairly important articles inside of it.  I lost my toothbrush once for almost a week.  You can’t just run down to the store to buy a new one, ya know?  I finally had the time to tear everything apart and find it, but by then the brush and interior of the case had mildewed.  Pretty gross.  So, what do you do?  You pop it into a pot of boiling hot water!  Good as new…almost.  (ew)

Even though I was very comfortable at night I often did not sleep much.  If I got five hours of sleep I felt pretty lucky (this from a 9 or 10 hour a night sleeper).  Since I didn’t have much time to myself during the days, I decided to embrace my sleeplessness and enjoy the nighttime “solitude” in my little home.  I would spend the hours thinking, remembering, planning, and praying.  It’s funny where one’s brain goes when one is lying awake on top of an air mattress and sleeping bag listening to the distant waves of a lake on the shore with the bright African moon illumunating brightly when one is in the uttermost part of the earth…I’d get flight of ideas and wonder…

…how well would I be sleeping if my cat was here with me…(and then I’d miss her)…

…will anyone puke tonight?…(and I’d pray not)…

…are the dogs in my “kitchen” again?…(and if they are, did I prepare well enough so they couldn’t rob me?)…

…are those REALLY waves I’m hearing?…

…if he has Aspberger’s…(or what?)…

…when the propane tank is going to run out, again…

…why the dusk malaria mosquitos are so small and the dawn dengue mosquitos SO HUGE…

…how much more food can I buy with the money I have left “in the food account”… and will there be anything more than sugar, tomatos, yams, oil, and eggs to be bought next time?…

…how it is possible that it’s going to be three years already since Connie died…(and then I’d miss her, too)

I would pray for whatever and whoever showed up in my mind and eventually I would drift off to sleep.  Occasionally I would dream.  But every morning, when I unzipped my tent and crawled out, I was met with the most brilliant skies reflecting off the lake and I’d forget how tired I was and I’d wrap myself in the beauty and wildness of it all.  And I’d wonder what I ever did to deserve this amazing life God had given to me…


Photo Friday – “Wildlife”

I really DO love Photo Friday.  It’s the only thing I seem to be able to post on these days.  I’ve got dozens of drafts started about my summer experiences, but still am unable to get them the way I want them.  Some of them are simply Titles at this point. 

So, having just recently returned from Africa, I thought it fitting to share pics of some wildlife I saw while I was there.  These were taken “on safari” in the Liwonde National Park in Malawi.  Oddly, I don’t love very many pictures that I took this summer.  I do, however, love this one.  Not because it’s a great picture or anything – far from it.  No, I love it because there are four species captured in the one frame.  The hippo, heron, and impala are easily visible, but do you see the warthogs as well?

Four Species by you.

Did you know that members of different hippo pods have different “highways” that they each use?  I didn’t.  And hippos of one pod do not use the highways of hippos of different pods!  The things you learn when you are on safari! 

And here’s one of a warthog upclose.  Seems there was a warthog “highway” right in front of our chalet at the safari camp! 

The Warthog Trail by you.

The yellow at the bottom of the photo?  Normally I would have cropped that out.  It was my front porch.  I left in in as a reference to the proximity of the trail to our accommodations.  This highway was actually a hippo highway as well.  This was one reason we were all strongly warned to never leave our chalets alone, and to stay on the people pathways.  Those hippos were loud at night, too!  You couldn’t have PAID me to leave my chalet after dark, even if I wasn’t alone!  Even if I had one of the armed guard with me.  Hippos are some scary creatures!

More on our safari weekend in a later post…IF I can ever get the post to feel right!  🙂

Click on the links to visit the entries of the other participants!  Drop them a comment and let them know what you think.  There are new participants since I left for Africa.  A big hearty and belated welcome to them! 

Tall Chick’s

Iveystory’s

Melanie’s

CuriousC’s

Author’s

Here’s what’s coming up on Photo Friday in the weeks ahead…

Photo Friday Advance Diary:

22nd August: Julie’s choice – “Hat Day” (a picture of someone’s hat, that’s funny, pretty, or a self-portrait of us wearing our favorite or funny hat)

29th August: Mrs Nascar’s choice – Old cars (any interesting old cars from rusty scrapheap cars with a bird’s nest under the bonnet, to fabulous vintage or racing cars)

 …


Wagons Ho!!

Today (or maybe tomorrow, I’m not exactly sure!) my sister Whitney and her son Mitchell have packed up her truck and a U-Haul and will be heading out for Colorado to start their new life.

And my brother Phil has packed up his Suburban with his four kids and my sister Liz’ two kids and has hitched that U-Haul up and is heading out to take Whitney and Mitchell to Colorado. 

There’s a little part of me that feels bad that I miss so much of my family’s “happenings” because of my involvement with Teen Missions over the years.  Like I have missed nine of my mother’s birthdays, for example.  And I’ll miss having nearly all my family together in Colorado this summer while I’m gone.  BUT, sometime very late this evening my team will be leaving Boot Camp for Malawi, and what a blessing God has given me to be able to spend the summer with a group of teenagers who have given their summers up in order to minister to African children.  I’m glad that my family understands that I miss things not because I want to, but because the Lord has called me to do something else.

Whitney and her son are going to take over taking care of Mew Ling from my Dad when they get to Colorado.  I’m sure my Dad will be glad about that!  🙂 

Please pray for my team as we “pack-out”, and embark on our 8,200 mile journey from Orlando to Lilongwe (Malawi), and beyond.  Please pray that all of us, and all of our luggage, arrive safely.

You can’t even imagine how excited we all are to get to Malawi and get to work…

(Posted in absentia) 


Immun-aiyaiyai-zations

This year I needed to update my immunizations for my trip to Malawi and Ethiopia.  My Polio, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever are outdated and I’ve never had Hepatitis A.

Today I met with Becky at Passport Health to discuss just what my travel needs were going to be.

The final list?  Here you go!

  1. Hepatitis A injection
  2. Polio injection
  3. Yellow Fever injection
  4. Oral Typhoid series

Still need to get:

  1. Tetanus booster
  2. TB skin test (last one was over a year ago, will be able to procur this at work)

Declined:

  1. Influenza vaccine (I never get this)
  2. Meningococcal meningitis vaccine (I’ve been exposed so many times to this I must have some sort of immunity)
  3. MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).  I have now had this vaccine three times and while I have converted on my mumps and rubella, my titers continually come back negligible for measles, so I’m figuring no additional attempts will work either.

Definitely don’t need for this trip:

  1. Japanese Encephalitis vaccine  🙂  TRUE! 

We also discussed malaria and dengue fever.  Since it is winter, the chances of getting these diseases are lower as the mosquitos are fewer and farther between, but, as history has proven to me, I can get malaria from that one mosquito.  The malaria carrying mosquito gets you at night, the dengue carrying mosquito gets you during the day.  When in Zambia I didn’t take malaria meds nor did I use insect repellent.  I will use repellent this year.  I’m still thinking about my options for meds.  The cheap option is doxycycline, but that often leads to an unpleasant other kind of infection.  The other “cheaper” options have given me night terrors and generally creepy feelings which make them very undesireable to take again.  The best option is MUY expensive.  Almost $9.00 a pill!  AND I’d need 60 pills.  I don’t even want to do the math on that.  We’ll just have to see!  For sure I buy some Arinate when I get to Africa.  I want that on hand whether or not I’m pre-treating.  That’s a miracle drug for malaria and I don’t want to be without it.

Then there’s avian (bird) flu and cholera.  Since I’m in control of food preparation and water sanitization, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to avoid getting either of these.  Just gotta remember to keep “my kids” away from any chickens and not serve any eggs that aren’t fully cooked!

Lastly, I picked up a prescription for Cipro.  I can take that for traveler’s diarrhea or an upper respiratory infection.

I got the three injections today.  Praying they don’t make me sick.  The last time I got the Yellow Fever one I was sick (gastro stuff and fever) for days and my arm was useless and excrutiatingly painful to the touch for over a week.  That was years ago.  Maybe this time it won’t be so bad.  I’ll wait to see if these round of shots makes me sick before I tackle the week-long regimen of oral Typhoid vaccination.  That one can cause pretty good gastro side effects and I don’t want to pile that on anything else I might be feeling!

AND we (Becky-also a nurse-and I) talked about my working there in the future!  Just to fill-in for her, nothing major.  She took my info and seemed very delighted at the possibility of having someone who could help out there in a pinch, or for vacations, etc.!

This is the first time I have used a traveler’s health clinic.  Very convenient, very easy.  Always before I have had to call around and find this place or that place who could accommodate my needs.  When I showed up at Passport Health, Becky had already prepared a full packet of very useful information and recommendations.  Live in Colorado?  Ever need to discuss travel needs and get shots and scripts?  Consider Passport Health.  I guess it’s another Unpaid Service Endorsement from me!  🙂  It’s a pay up front business, so I need to look into filing a claim with my insurance to see what they might pick up.  Never done that before.  New skill to learn!  🙂

I haven’t been really great at posting lately, but if you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know why!  (Because I’m curled up sick in my bed not far from a bathroom!)

Now, as I am expecting company in a few days, I’m off to clean my house, just in case I’m not feeling up to it later!

02/18/09, an update:

I should have updated this post long ago!  I had absolutely no side effects from any of my shots, not even any arm soreness.  I ended up choosing doxycycline for my malaria prophylaxis and was diligent about taking it as directed and diligent with my bug repellent.  Despite being chewed alive at dusk, I did not contract malaria (which was a great relief, having had it twice before).  I had only some minor gastro-intestinal side effects from the oral typhoid, but nothing hardly even to mention.  It could have even been coincidental.  The next time I travel to a place where meningitis is recommended, I will probably get that vaccine.  And, if it is available, I am considering getting the rabies series as well.  But as of this update, rabies is only available post-exposure as there is a shortage of it.

Bye for now!  And remember, traveling smart includes getting your vaccines!


Chitenges?

While in Zambia in the summer of 2006, we (the girls), in order to be socially appropriate and inoffensive in our manner of dress, wore “chitenges” (pronounced chi’-tengies) over our pants whenever we were not in our tents.

Chitenges are a large pieces of material that are used as skirts, dresses, blankets, baby carriers, and probably a myriad other things.  The patterns on these chitenges are regional and many of the prints are quite lovely…fabric art, really.  The pictures in this post are a few of the prints on the chitenges I purchased (about 3 USD each) while in Zambia.  These are not the chitenges I wore every day while I was there.  I had three of those, and they are sort of beat up, have burn holes from when I got too close to the cooking braziers, and aren’t quite as pretty as these!

They are sort of difficult to walk in though, and we often found the edges of the garment getting caught between, or tangled around, our legs.  I decided a good term for this phenomenon was to be “chitengled”.  This is a similar phenomenon to being “pajangled”, which is what I have learned it’s called when your pajamas get all twisted up around you while you are sleeping.  🙂

The women of many African nations utilize similar pieces of material in the same way.  They call them by different names.

I am anxious to find out what they are called in Malawi, for that is where I will be going next summer when I lead a team there with Teen Missions!

Yep!  I got my letter of invitation from TMI to lead the “Malawi Matron Unit” team!  I’m mailing back my letter of acceptance today.  What a privilege to be able to serve again next summer.  To be able to return to Africa to do so is beyond exciting. 

Malawi shares a border with Zamiba.  I wonder if it will feel like I’m going “home” again.


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