Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tues, August 6: First Impressions

Emma: The sunsets and sunrises here are so much faster than further north. It feels like midnight when it's only seven o'clock. (Andrea: It gets dark quickly around 6 p.m., and light again around 6 a.m.) The mosquito nets on the beds are kind of hard to get used to, and rather complicated to get used to. We had 5 suitcases, guitar and trumpet cases, 2 duffel bags, and 4 backpacks to carry through the airport. At least the 6 biggest things were checked, but it was still a lot to carry. Our first long flight, from Atlanta to Amsterdam, was 8 ½ hours and went overnight. I could not sleep a wink, but that was partly because the large selection of movies you could watch on the video screen on the back of the seat in front of you. It included some of my favorite movies, “Tangled” and “Brave.” I fell asleep pretty early on the next flight and woke up in time to be served breakfast, which looked OK, but unfortunately I didn't stay awake long enough to start eating. Next time I woke up, my breakfast was gone and instead there was my lunch sitting in front of me. Joel said he wasn't hungry so I offered to take his tray so it wouldn't get thrown out, but then the flight attendent brought one for me, obviously not understanding that I wanted Joel's instead of mine, not in addition to it. However, I only got a couple bites of fruit before I was asleep yet again. When I woke up the trays were gone and we were landing in half an hour. As we mad-dashed through the airport in Nairobi I was still pretty hungry, and we needed boarding passes. There was no jetway to our next flight, and as we were walking out to the plane we spotted some bats snatching insects out of the air, which was my first glimpse of African wildlife. The next flight I was able to stay awake the whole time, and thankfully they served me supper which I ate gladly. It was quite good – well, the part that I ate: a roll and some butterscotch pudding with a dollop of whipped cream and a shaving of mango. I let Mom have my veggies and most of the rice.

It was nearly midnight by the time we arrived in Lilongwe Malawi, and I was really ready for bed. A friend of Dad's sent a driver to the airport with a van which held all of our luggage. It felt so weird to be on the left side of the street with the driver on the right side of the car, but I suppose we'll be used to it in five months. We didn't get a good chance to get a glimpse of the lovely bed and breakfast we stayed in until the next day, but boy did bed feel good.

The bed and breakfast grounds were about 50% garden, which would require a lot of maintenance, but it attracted vast amounts of birds. I saved some flowers to press, but I'm not sure how well it will work.

Sadly, we hadn't fully recovered from our jetlag before we had to leave the bed and breakfast and head for our tiny two-bedroom house, which we will all be crammed into for the next five months. Apparently we lose electricity for two hours three or four days a week. You never know when the two hours will be, plus there are also unscheduled power outages. 


Joel: Well, here I am in our tiny two bedroom house. Dad will be working at the Bunda College of Agriculture, where we are also living. It's about 30 miles away from Malawi's capitol city, Lilongwe.
Nice things about the house/campus:
    • Nice scenery.
    • A place to live.
    • Friendly people.
Not-so-nice things about the house/location:
    • House smells like glue from the new tiles.
Yesterday, when the power was off more often than not, I was told the water would have to be cold when it was time to shower. I HATE COLD SHOWERS!! Wouldn't you know it, there was a tank of hot water and Emma got a nice, warm shower. Thanks, Mom.
Now for the list of African wildlife seen by me so far: Bats at the airport in Nairobi, birds, some lizards, a little frog, and chickens, if they count.

Andrea: Sorry about the shower Joel. I thought we had a heat-on-demand system - turns out we have a tank of stored heated water like in the US, only smaller. If it makes you feel any better, I got a cold shower too. I'd forgotten how impossible it is to breathe normally during a frigid shower. (Joel: Ha ha ha! -That was me not having a shred of sympathy for you.)

One of Eric's professor friends here, Patson, came by the bed & breakfast to collect us on Monday morning. He took the kids to his house in Lilongwe to spend the day with his girls and guided Eric and I on a major shopping spree. At the first store, where we loaded up on bedding, towels, and a few other household things, Patson went off to find a clerk and spent a while talking with her in Chichewa. Then he came back and told us she'd ring us up with a special employee discount, after which we would give her a nice tip when she helped us take the things to the car. I wasn't sure of the legality of this maneuver, but once I realized how expensive manufactured goods are here some of my compunctions disappeared. Then it was off to a couple of Chinese-owned stores for cheap plastic kitchen items (lurid orange soup bowls, anyone?), and then to a very crowded grocery store owned by Pakistanis (an entire shelf of different curry powders!). (Joel: Huge lurid orange soup bowls. Think mixing bowl. Okay, maybe a little smaller...) We finished up at a more upscale grocery where Patson wanted to buy brown bread so we got some too. At one point along the way we stopped for lunch at an outdoor diner where we got plates of beans (like kidney beans) and cooked greens, along with huge bowls of nsima (cornmeal porridge, a staple here).

We moved into our house here on the Bunda College campus that evening. It was after dark and the power was off, so it was hard to do much sorting out or settling in. With only an electric stove I was resigned to a supper of bread and bananas when Moses Maliro, whom Eric had met before and whom we'd had over when he was visiting Penn State, invited us to his house for supper. They have an electric stove too but also a gas-powered burner, so Moses' wife Chemimwe cooked the whole meal one dish at a time (rice, ground beef cooked with tomatoes, cooked vegetables). Made for a late supper but good to be with such a nice family.

Tuesday the power was off most of the day, and eventually the running water disappeared too. But we rearranged the furniture a little to get the beds closer to the hooks in the walls where the mosquito nets are hung from, and started trying to solve the mysteries of this little house.
  • Why there is a chest freezer in the tiny living room, and since we won't be preserving a year's worth of jam what are we supposed to put in it?
  • Why is the mini-sized refrigerator a South African model whose plug won't fit the outlet?
  • What do we do about the glue that oozed up from between the floor tiles?
  • With a grand total of four tiny shelves in the whole house, will we end up living out of suitcases for five months? (Eric sincerely hopes not!)
  • Why is there a pile of shredded fiberglass insulation in the gunk underneath the burners of the stove?
  • What to do about the fact that the black sheets we bought for the single beds turn your hands black when you touch them? (Not a big choice of colors in that store.) No washing machine of course.
  • Why must every house we move into this month have a leaky sink?
Eventually we got tired of mysteries and went for a walk, up a hill overlooking Bunda College campus. Eric met with Moses about starting some experiments, and we were invited to the Maliro house for supper again since the power was still off.

1 comment:

  1. What is the weather like? So your fridge is just sitting there? Joel have you seen any spiders?