Sunday, August 16, 2015

Malawian Seasons - Carole's Post

I am so confused.  It is August but it is just starting to get really warm.  We are not heading into a fall harvest season as I know it because the harvest is long past.  Living below the equator is confusing enough.  When we were visiting in Lilongwe last week and I was having trouble with the faucets, Sister Birrell reminded me that the cold side was hot and the hot side cold. "Remember", she said, "we are below the equator and everything is backwards!"

It is easy to lose track of which month we are in.   When I mention summer or winter to Malawians, they are not quite sure what is meant.  In Malawi, there are three seasons:

Cool season:    May to mid-August
In Blantyre, we have seen people bundled up in parkas and scarves.  But for us, it usually just means we need a sweater in the evenings and occasionally during the day.
Hot season:      mid-August to November
We arrived at the beginning of November 2014 and found the weather to be lovely (after all, we are coming from Seattle). It was hot but not too hot.  It was definitely dusty.

Rainy season:  November to April
Except for an occasional bad storm, it usually just rains a brief time during the day.  People take cover and then it's over and the day is warm and slightly humid.

What I really love is seeing the rhythms of life and there are two very distinct seasons for the important elements of life: food and shelter.  Right now we are in the brick making and building season.

In many of the neighborhoods where we spend our time, people are busy making bricks.  Big holes are left where they have been busy digging out the clay and soil.  After wetting the clay, they put it in molds, then push it out to dry in the sun.

We have noticed distinct differences in the bricks, but our uninformed eyes cannot always tell if the differences are in the soil, or the molds, or the care with which they are made. 

Bricks seems to be produced everywhere except in the very nicest neighborhoods.  Sometimes people make them not for themselves, but to sell to neighbors.  It is more cost effective to buy bricks close to your building site than it is to go find a better price elsewhere, because there is no way to transport them.

In fact, there are not too many places we walk that we do NOT see the manufacture of or piles of bricks.

I know I have written before about "burnt" (fired) and plain bricks.  There are frequently ovens (kilns) next to the brick piles.

When they get a fire going, they try to keep it going for about three days.

We went to visit one family in the Zingwangwa branch who was making bricks to rebuild a storm that had collapsed in the January storm. They were not "burning the bricks" because they did not have enough money to buy the wood for fuel.

There is an obvious difference between the fired and unfired bricks.
Brother Tella (holding Amulek) has a nice collection of bricks because he is adding on a room.
These bricks are for sale.

With the making of the bricks come the building and repairing of houses.  There are a few more months before the rains come so people are busy making their shelters secure before November.