Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Houses in Blantyre - Carole's Post

Although Blantyre is a large city (population 1.75 million), it doesn't have the feel of a large city. There is a downtown center, but many of the neighborhoods have their own markets and shops, making it feel more like a collection of small villages.  The Zingwangwa Branch encompasses several neighborhoods such as Soche, Chilobwe, Chinyonga, Kapeni, Welemu, and of course, Zingwangwa.  These are the areas we know best.

We have been in a few more modern homes but most of the people we visit live in smaller houses that they or their family have constructed.  Some are in the middle of construction right now.  Some are renting homes.  Most, but not all, have electricity.  If they have it, there is usually a refrigerator in the main room.  The kitchen is just a small room to store things and to cook on a small fire.  Of course, the important part when visiting is how warm and inviting  the home is on the inside and we will write more about that later.  For now, let's look at the outside of the houses.

First, it is rare that we can actually drive up to the home. We almost always have to have someone show us to the house we are looking for.
Brother Banda showed us to three houses of members in the branch.

 When we drive, we usually park the car and walk the last part.
 This is a nice wide road but we still walked.

Another walk that was not too difficult though it would be impossible to drive.  See the houses in various stages of being built.

We were on our way to help build the Chikapa's house and you had to jump across a ditch to get there.

Before a house is built, the land has to be leveled.  If the property is on a hill, they have to excavate into the hill.  This is all done by hand.

Then they have to make the bricks.  You can see holes dug on the property where they dug to get the clay. There are two types of bricks.
 The ones on the left are unbaked bricks.  The ones on the right are "burned" (fired).  We are told that the unbaked bricks will last about 15 years.  The "burned" ones will last twice as long.

In order to "burn" the bricks, the homeowner stacks them up in the shape of a kiln.  They leave tunnels through the bricks so the heat will be distributed more evenly..  Then they build a hot fire  and allow the bricks to "burn" for two days.

One of the first things to do when building a house is to situate the outside toilet.  At the Chipaka's house, several missionaries tried to lift a concrete slab and place in on a septic hole.  It did not budge an inch!  It would take many more men.

The future outside toilets.

When building the house, there are two types of mortar:  cement and mud.
Burned bricks with cement mortar.

Clay bricks with mud.

Here is a large home on a larger street.  It is made out of burned bricks but attached to it is a small house made of clay bricks with mud.  The clothes are for sale.

Sometimes a house is stuccoed or cemented over the bricks.  
Then it can be painted over or
left bare.

The previous house also show the type of roof for most houses - corrugated metal.  We have heard that it can be very noisy when it rains hard in January and February.  It can also be very hot.
Many times they place straw or reeds over the tin roof to keep the house cooler.

Just like anywhere, there are all styles of houses.

Some homes have dirt floors but many have cement floors, which can be added later after the home in built.

Almost every house has a small garden.  Always there is a patch for maize.

Right now everyone is concerned because the rains are later than usual.  Many people have planted assuming the rains would come by mid-November, but it hasn't happened.

A final touch to finish one's property is to put up a  fence, usually made of straw.

The views can be spectacular if you are high on a hill.  But the problem for almost everyone is where is the water located.  It's preferable to go up the hill to get it - at a spring, a well, or a pipe.  Obviously it is much easier to carry a full bucket of water down than up!  We see women and children all day long balancing large containers of water on their heads. 

What is the most fun and rewarding is to visit the families who live inside the houses.  We are getting where we can ask the neighbors where someone lives because these are close neighborhoods where everyone knows one another.  We call out "Muli bwangi"(how are you?) to people we meet or "bo" (hi) to the children and everyone is smiling and friendly, ready to shake our hands.   The above photos make the neighborhoods look empty but they are alive with people everywhere.  It's always an adventure wherever we go!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Exceptional Sisters of Blantyre - Carole's Post

One of the real joys of missionary work is working alongside the young elders and sisters in our city. Our assignments are different; the younger missionaries have the calling to seek and find those who are receptive to the gospel and we have the calling to support and train members and leaders in the branches.  Obviously there is some overlap and we enjoy getting together with them any time it makes sense.  That means district meetings on Tuesday and the branch missionary committee meeting on Saturday.  We are especially fortunate to have a companionship of sisters who live just steps away in our apartment complex.

 Sister Rasband (from Alpine, Utah) and Sister Komiha (from Zimbabwe)

I heard that the elders liked to play soccer until Sister Komiha played with them.  They were in shock over her footwork but then, they didn't know she was asked to join the national soccer team in Zimbabwe! She chose a mission instead and now her footwork is walking the streets of Blantyre. She has also learned to speak Chechewa on her mission.
Sister Rasband works tirelessly and has helped me with computer issues so I think she is the greatest!

There are two other companionships and they live together on the other side of town.
 Sister Proctor (from Alpine and a high school classmate of Sister Rasband) and Sister Bulha (from Mozambique)
Sister Griffus (from Minnesota) and Sister Mntungwa (from South Africa)
Sister Griffus has a rollicking sense of humor and says the Africans are always confused when she tells them where she if from!

The sisters work very hard!  After our service project last Friday when we worked several hours in the heat and dust moving bricks, George and I came home and took a shower and a break.  We dropped Sisters Rasband and Komiha off at the church where they washed up, changed into the clothes stuffed in their backpacks, and went on their way with scheduled meetings, reaching out to anyone on the street.

 I went with them one day and they taught three discussions in one morning. Two of their investigators were not there for the scheduled meetings, but in both cases, they found someone else to teach in their home within a short time!  Such sweet and cheerful spirits!

Last Monday was P(preparation) Day.  Normally the sisters spend their time shopping for the week, writing emails home and doing laundry.  The laundry part - that means washing everything by hand and hanging things out to dry on racks!  However, this Monday we had permission to take the sisters for an outing to the Majete Game Reserve, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours away.  We met at 7 am in front of our apartment.
They were nice enough to order a t-shirt for me so I could feel like I belong!  In case you are wondering what it says..."I got 99 problems but salvation ain't one" and on the back "Alma 9:28".

On the way there, we stopped at an overlook which had beautiful views of the valley below.

I think the sisters were really excited to see a different side of Malawi!

 Sister Reynolds had made delicious sandwiches for lunch so we stopped at a great spot where we had a view of the Shire River.

This are some of the animals we could see..

This guy was a favorite - whatever he is, he is very spiritual..
 He must have heard the discussion on prayer!

All in all, it was a great day and more than anything, it allowed the sisters to enjoy one another's company and get recharged.  They were back by mid-afternoon and ready to go!  After all, they are the exceptional sisters of Blantyre!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tale of the Lizard--George's Post

This morning (Friday, November 21st) Carole and I joined the four other missionaries in our district (all of us attend the Zingwangwa Branch) for a service project at the home of the Chikapas. The Chikapas are building a traditional home-made brick home high on the flanks of Mount Soche, one of the taller peaks that dominate the Blantyre landscape. Here are two photos of the group beginning the climb up the slopes to get to the Chikaps' building site. The climb was steep and winding. Their site is among the last (meaning highest) sites on the mountain. Our primary task was moving bricks from piles around the site closer to the partially-constructed home. This we accomplished by working as a human assembly line. Most of the time I was first in line, pulling bricks off piles, and starting them on their way to the home. I was cautious when reaching down in the pile--not wanting to have any unpleasant surprises. I have already heard too many stories about black mambas. Here is one of the piles we moved. There were no unpleasant surprises until close to the project's end. Grabbing one of the last bricks, I found a lizard clinging to the underside. Not wanting to spook Carole, who was next to me in the assembly line, I tried to scrape it off by sliding that brick against another. The lizard losts its tail in the process. The tail, separate from the body, wiggled convulsively on the ground for 20 seconds. The last we saw of the tail-less lizard was its running under my pant leg. For a moment we thought it possible the lizard had slipped up my pant leg. But after padding down my pants, I thought this was unlikely. Here is a shot of Mount Soche. When I pulled off my pants at home for a quick shower, I spotted a tail-less lizard scurrying over the top of the bed. So the dear fellow had hitched a ride home with me from the Chikapas. He is somewhere in the house now. Perhaps he will help thin the apartment of mosquitos.

Collage of African Children--George's Post

Little children are everywhere. Infants are strapped to their mothers' backs with broad cotton wraps called "chitenge." They are carried by older children. They play by themselves or in clusters. They are found along streets, on front steps and in front yards. They roam, often without much oversight, among their homes. They are part of the community. My grandchildren, I know, would love to see them, so I pulled together this initial collage of children's photos. Most of the photos are of young children, found in home settings. Some are church members, but many are not. African children are smaller, and it is often hard to guess their ages. They always find us strange. Frequently, they call out "mzungu" (white person) or "azungu" (white people) as we pass-- we have been told the phrases are not considered derogatory.