Thursday, December 12, 2013

Miscellaneous News

We can hardly believe how fast the end of our time here is approaching: in two weeks and two days we get on the plane.  He is still racing to finish up everything he'd hoped to get done before we leave, with the added stress of starting to find a buyer for the car.  I've really enjoyed teaching - it's been an interesting challenge to find ways to relate the ecological concepts on the syllabus to practical applications of interest to Malawian agronomy students.  I asked them if I could take a picture, and they all said "Yes!"

It still seems crazy to us, and especially Joel and Emma, that Christmas is almost upon us.  I've spent more time than they have in the grocery stores in Lilongwe, so I've been hearing Christmas music.  (And here I thought I'd escaped that this year!)  Something about hearing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" in Lilongwe, Malawi just seems a bit wrong.  Even more wrong: when you walk past the display of cheaply made plastic dolls in Shoprite, you could be forgiven for thinking you might actually be in Germany, or Sweden, or almost anywhere else in northern Europe.  If you persist you will eventually find ONE black baby doll in the midst of the whole blue-eyed, pink-cheeked throng, a token reminder that you are actually in sub-Saharan Africa where NO little girl receiving those dolls will have blue eyes.  Bad enough that somehow the idea of "for unto us a child is born" is somehow wrapped up in trappings from a completely different culture and climate, but to imply that that child had to be blue-eyed to be attractive is even worse.   Emma and I saw someone on the street wearing a Christmas chitenje whose picture of the Holy Family seemed to actually be of a trio of spaced-out Norwegians, but I restrained myself from whipping out my camera.  Emma, watching while I type this, says she wouldn't have called them spaced-out Norwegians.  But they sure weren't Chewa or Ngoni!  We don't think we've seen even one representation of a Christ with dark skin the entire time we've been here.
Looking for the one black baby in Shoprite's toy aisle is kind of like a big plastic game of I Spy.

Despite the disorientation caused by trying to process Christmas decorations and hot humid weather, Joel and Emma were all primed for their school Christmas concert this past Tuesday evening.  Both their choirs were going to perform and Joel was going to participate in some recorder duets and trios, but it was canceled when Malawi announced three days of mourning for Nelson Mandela.  The government stated that "During the mourning period any entertainment activities in public places, including football matches, dances and other jovial gatherings should be suspended."  It went on to say that "It is expected that the broadcasting houses will play sombre music during this period."  Our car radio only tunes in to the frequencies used in Japan which seem to be lower on the dial that what is used in Malawi so we can't attest to what the radio stations are playing, but we can assure you that there is nothing sombre about the music booming from the speakers at the bar!

I don't think I've posted this story yet - if I have, sorry.  Joel was eating a grilled cheese sandwich and wanted to put some ketchup on it.  (If this sounds odd to any of you, you'll have to blame it on his Nafziger heritage.)  Unfortunately, he was too hungry to be careful.  Also unfortunately, our ketchup package looks a lot like the chili garlic sauce package.  You can probably imagine the rest of the story better than I can describe it!

Thanks to a year of excellent physical therapy before I left State College, I can now run regularly again - nice, since the rest of my days aren't usually very active.  Sometimes I run on the track that goes around one of the soccer fields here, which has quite a nice view; sometimes I go down the road east of our house, past little maize fields and the college cattle pastures, toward a plain studded with inselbergs (isolated rocky mountains).  Eric usually picks a route on the many winding, intersecting paths through the Bunda College forest...must be nice to have a sense of direction!  Today he took me along to see some wildflowers he'd found.  On the way back we came past the track, and the little kids that live in the tiny houses nearby came swarming out shouting "Azungu! Azungu!" (White people!)  They wanted to run too, so I did an extra lap around the track with them to their great amusement.  I've had kids join me a couple other times as well for a couple of laps - kind of fun.

 A big thank you to Becky Kephart for scanning and emailing some pages from the Hymnal accompaniment book.  People at the church here really seem to like it when Joel accompanies Eric with his recorder, which gets called a "flute" here.  Hard to believe we'll only have one more Sunday there - we're skipping church this coming Sunday because it will be all in Chichewa.  The head pastor of the church, Rev. Dr. Archwelis Katani Mwali, was at Maliros' for dinner last Saturday when we were there, and we enjoyed the chance to talk a while.  He says the Bunda CCAP church is very unique: its membership includes professors with Ph.D.s and other professionals, working-class people, and peasant villagers, all at once.   Other churches here would include a much narrower slice of the socioeconomic  spectrum, either poor or rich but not both at once.  Here, the fact that a university is located in a rural area has created this mix.  He said it's difficult to get the different groups to mingle much, but the one place it really happens is in the choir.  There are people from all walks of life singing together, and oh, how they sing.  I wish I could photograph those harmonies and post them for you!  Eric's comment: "It's a metaphor of what the Kingdom of God should be like, this joining of all kinds of people into something beautiful."  We have heard rumors that there is a way to get a CD of the choir singing, but we're still chasing it down.  ("Beatrice is the one you need to see."  When we finally manage to find Beatrice: "Alex is the one you need to see."  And so it goes...)  


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