Its been a while since I have posted here, mainly because not much has really happened….not much exciting or soul-destroying anyway. Which is a good thing.
Elson and I are happily walking the marriage path, once again, no major ups or downs there.
Which is a good thing.
We have moved to a new house out in the village of Bvumbwe. It is a guest house attached to a lovely cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden, wildlife and virtual silence.
That is a great thing.
Living in the mouldy flat in the middle of Limbe nearly sucked the life out of me. Here in Bvumbwe I feel like my soul has been restored to its former glory and I can get through the day without collapsing in a homesick heap.
Elson trots off to his home village of Nam’goma, near Monkey Bay, every couple of weeks. We have set up a small clothing shop there, so he keeps an eye on it and on his family.
We have adopted one of his dogs from the village – Timve – he keeps me company when Elson’s away. He has claimed the living room couch as his throne and he holds court there daily. Daily, as in 24/7. I have to forcibly remove His Majesty from the couch when I leave for work.
Funny thing – I feed him nsima and canned dog food (sometimes cat food – he loves fish). The chickens have taken to eating his leftovers. Hmmm…chickens eating meat. There is one chook called Ginger. She has eaten so much meat, that when there is none, she acts like a drug addict looking for a fix. She has taken (and obviously encouraged the other chooks) to peck at and eat the polystyrene foam under my new washing machine. It has become a craze! Its disturbing to watch.
Speaking of washing machines, I bought a new twin tub. I grew up my whole life with a twin tub in the laundry and its rubbed off on me. Its a beauty. No more hand washing my smalls for Elson. What a guy. Seriously- what a guy.
I ask him to do something and he does it. I needed a chest of drawers, so he goes into the village and speaks to the local carpenter. I need a wooden box made and fitted for my motorbike, he finds a guy to make it and gets a bar welded on the back. Then he finds a guy to make a lockable lid for it. Then he paints the whole thing and fits it to my bike. This guy is on a roll. My bench top oven blows a gasket – he gets it fixed the next day in the village AND he cleans off one year’s baked on grease and grime before it leaves the house. This guy rocks! Then I get home and the house is sparkling and dinner is cooked. If anyone wonders why I’m staying in this god forsaken country, its because of Elson.
Anyhoo…. life goes on.

Welcome home!

So, here I am back in Blantyre, Malawi. Elson and I have greatly benefited from being apart for 6 weeks – we have never truly appreciated each other as we do now. It is so wonderful to know in your heart that you are loved, and loved wholly. And to know that I truly love my husband. It is a real gift.
I came home to a green Malawi. The rains have been good here in Blantyre and the crops and the vegetation (what is left of it) is greening up. It gives the place a good vibe and makes you feel like there is life all around – as opposed to the end of the dry season when everything has been cut down and used for firewood or building, and the landscape is brown and barren. It’s quite depressing.
The weather isn’t as hot as I remember in Monkey Bay – thank God, I say. In Blantyre we are up on a plateau so the conditions aren’t as humid or oppressive. There was a gorgeous wind blowing yesterday, so walking through Limbe wasn’t as hardcore as it was in Oct/Nov.
The flat I live in is pretty basic. The walls around the bathroom are rotting with mould and look disgusting. There is some white foamy shit growing around the skirting boards. That wasn’t there when I left in November…. The ceiling in the bathroom is hanging lower than before. I guess the main problem is that there is no way for the steam and water to escape from the bathroom, and there are no windows in the apartment that open outside – only into the corridor of the building complex. That sucks as I have no direct sunlight into the rooms. At times I feel like I’m imprisoned in a cell block. If you open the windows you invite all the noise in the block and if you keep them closed, you are walled in. You just cant win.
I have always been sensitive to noise. I guess being a musician, you come to appreciate sound in a refined manner. As a kid, I would have no choice but to listen to mum’s selection of music, which thankfully was exquisite. I got my deep love and appreciation for sacred choral music from mum, and Edward Woodward as well as Roger Whittiker. Opera came from my dad. La Traviata was my all-time favourite, and I would spend many a solitary Saturday afternoon dying of consumption in the lounge room, singing Violetta by heart and dreaming that my Alfredo would one day steal my heart and soul. The other great influence on my musical tastes was my elder sister. She was into Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper, so I was often lulled to sleep by School’s Out, Echoes and Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I remember losing it one time after hearing Dogs at the age of seven – all I could think of was those poor dogs barking as they drowned. It still haunts me. I think that is why I have such a broken heart for dogs in general. Its deeper and more emotional than I can relate in words. My heart still lurches when I listen to that track.
I was also subject to some Beatles – I used to put on our one record and play the drumkit to it. I Wanna Hold Your Hand and the most beautiful song of all, If I Fell. Oh the chord changes and the harmonies!! I was into the aural beauty of music from a very young age. My teenage years occurred during the electronically experimental and melodious 80’s. I was never really into bands comprised of guitar, bass and drums. I preferred electronica and orchestras that explored emotional depth through soundscapes. I still find it really hard to listen to any music that doesn’t come attached with an emotional memory. It is just noise to me. I guess for me, music is a multi-sensory experience, not just something to get my toe tapping. Having said that, I really love some Rammstein and Dio now and then – once or twice every six months or so……
So, when I woke up on my first morning back in Blantyre, to the “nails-down-a-blackboard” rendition of some screeching Asian voice accompanied by tenor saxophone in what I can only describe as a “suicide-inducing” song, ON REPEAT, I sat myself down, made a cup of tea and welcomed myself back to Malawi. I tried to drown out the horror with track one of War of the Worlds, but it didn’t gel with the screeching from next door. On about the tenth repeat of “the call to razors”, I politely asked my neighbour to turn the volume down and play another song. A potential session of anxiety-induced rocking back and forth had been averted.
For now.

Girls in School

Thanks to the generosity of Penhros College, Como and Soroptimist International South Perth, 20 young girls have been given the opportunity to remain in school for the next year. They are some of the most vulnerable children at Mbwadzulu Primary School who would not normally be able to afford the small amount needed to remain at school.

Girls in Malawi have a very high drop out rate due to many cultural reasons and really need your help to receive a decent education. $20 will keep one girl in school for the year.

Malawi is in a state of famine at the moment and there is widespread hunger. If you can spare the cost of one meal, you can help a girl for one year.

This photo shows some of the sponsored girls, with Fosco Madzedze (Head of the PTA – and also my adopted father here in Malawi).

New School Year in Malawi

The new school year has begun in Malawi. Your generous donations to help keep girls in school have helped four Grade 8 girls pass their exams. These girls have been awarded a place in a state-run secondary school, which is only awarded to those who achieve the top marks, along with a scholarship paying half their school fees. Well done ladies!

Of the 27 girls sponsored from Mbwadzulu Primary School, 16 passed their exams so will continue to be part of our sponsorship programme. Here they are receiving books and pens as a reward. We need your help to continue their education. If you would like to donate up to $25, we can keep these girls in school.

50 Shades of Hell (Part 2)

So this morning at 4am I put on my clothes (thank god for a little sanity) and marched down to the local bar. I insisted that the DJ turn down the music (“insisted” is a polite way of putting it) and he faffed around with his computer for a while, thinking I was a complete dumbass, so eventually I leaned over to the mixing desk and dropped the master volume. He stared at me as if I had just done a triple backflip with one leg. I swore a few times and left. As I exited the bar one of the drunk locals said “Hey Madam” and I replied with an almighty FO! to which he replied (in the local vernacular) “Dont sex here, go sex somewhere else, you’re shit”.
Elson, god bless his gorgeous heart, grabbed my hand and started to walk me back to our house when the music started again. I went to turn back to the bar but he did not let go of my hand and gently but firmly insisted we go home.
Back at the house Elson was worried about a backlash so we went to the police station and reported the bar. The law is that no bar can operate all night. Unfortunately, they probably bribed the local constabulary to turn a blind eye.
Moral of the story….If you are going to play loud music ALL NIGHT LONG, then make sure its good, or NOLA WILL GO NUTS.
I love Elson. He has my back.

To Nkope of not to Nkope

Well, today I went to a completely new part of town..Nkope Village…to visit my Perth friends Ross and Raewyn who are the new Volunteer Co-ordinators for Naturally Africa. Elson gave me very good directions, so good in fact that I felt confident to navigate the dirt tracks by myself. Turns out he got “take the track BEFORE Nkope depot” mixed up with “take the track AFTER Nkope depot”. Hmmm. So here begins the tale…….
When I say track, I mean a soft, sandy, dirt track in the middle of nothing. A couple of girls were walking along it, so I asked them if this was the road to Nkope village and they said no. So of course, I kept going. The next guy had good english and said to take the road off to the right and then it would take me to Thompson House. Great. 1oom down the track, off to the right, was a narrow snake track that I decided was NOT a road, so I kept going straight. I ended up at a T junction in a village. I guessed this was the road, so I turned right. I kept on going and asked another guy for directions. He pointed in the direction I was headed. Great. I took off feeling more confident and slid my way through soft sand and bush. It was when I stopped to have a drink of water that I realised my bag, with my phone, purse and all my cards was no longer in the basket. WOAH. Either it has fallen out somewhere along the track (it was bumpy and I was having a ball off-road) or someone had grabbed it out of my basket when I stopped for directions. Surely not the latter…please!! Anyway, I turned around with dread in my heart and started back the way I came ( I had been riding the dirt path for at least 15 mins). In my gut I had that awful sinking feeling when you are overseas and you are faced with the prospect of no phone/money/cards. Its a bummer, to say the least. So I got to the T junction and spoke to one of the locals, telling him I had lost my bag. After some time I gave him my name,phone number and village, offering a reward if it was found and returned. As I was about to turn back and head home, one of the guys I stopped for directions came riding toward me waving my bag. He found it up near the turnoff and after looking at my ID card, rode on his bicycle all the way to Thompson House to return it. When I wasnt there, he back tracked and found me at the village. Wow. What an angel. I gave him some money as thanks, said a quick thank you to the universe, and went on my way.
I got to the next village and stopped again for directions. This time I got totally creeped out by the guy I spoke too. Maybe I was just being overly cautious after losing my bag, but he wanted to get on the bike with me and show me the way. No way Jose. I have made that an UNDER NO CONDITION rule over here. No one gets on my bike if I don’t know them. Too many people have their bikes stolen this way. Then he starts eyeing my bag. Hmmm. Time to get out of here. “Give me money” he says. I replied that I dont have any, but he says “You are white. You have money”. I said I have none on me and then excused myself and got the flock out of there. Not nice.
Any hoo… I eventually found Thompson House and had a lovely visit with my friends. They brought me 14 Liptons Vanilla Chai sachets and now I am a happy camper. When I got home I sat Elson down and explained the difference between BEFORE and AFTER.

50 Shades of Hell

So…. last night was the first night Elson and I slept in our new cottage in the township of Monkey Bay. We found a nice little place for rent ($60/month) with electricity, a loo and a great shower. There are windows in the main bedroom, but no glass….just flywire and bars, which keep the mosquitos and thieves out really well.
There is a bar about 150m down the dirt road. Music is playing loud around 6pm. Music is still playing loud around 9pm when we decide to go to sleep. The music still pounds on…..its a mix of hiphop, reggae and local rhumba. I’m thinking – OK, I understand people need to relax at the pub on a Friday night…I can handle this. Surely the music will stop at midnight.
At 5am, after a fitful and disturbed ‘sleep’, Elson wakes to find me walking in circles, muttering to myself and fantasizing about walking into the pub, in the nude, with a rocket propelled grenade launcher and blowing up everyone in the bar.
I’m sorry, but listening to Buffalo Soldier 5 times in a row, every 30 minutes is not my idea of A FUN NIGHT OUT, let alone a nice way for the ENTIRE TOWNSHIP INCLUDING CHILDREN to have a peaceful sleep. On top of listening to songs repeat over and over, between each repeat THERE WAS A LOUD SIREN…maybe this was to wake up the drunks in the bar so the mind-numbing repetition didn’t inhibit their will to purchase more beer – or indeed – to continue living.
It is now 10am and it still hasn’t stopped. I think we are going to find another rental.