An email from Greta (7-14):
Writing from an actual internet cafe this time, our team is in Lilongwe (capital city of Malawi) for the weekend to plan for our big trip with the kids coming up. We're taking all of them to Lake Malawi, it's an annual camp they have, and they are SO excited about it, they keep asking us about "the trip to the lake." Hopefully we'll be able to show them a good time. :)
Rode here first in the Chiwengo Village's COTN director's car-- a 7-seat minivan which we managed to squeeze 11 of us into. Then into a minibus which also put us four to a seat. Economy class on the way home is going to feel so gosh darn roomy, I'm looking forward to it.
It's amazing the things I realize I still do take for granted, until those as well are taken away and we're on one more self-improving adventure. It's like Calvin's dad in that comic always told him, "You're building character!" Working on building more character. I'd told you all before that Chiwengo village is very "African"-- I've realized that that was a gross misinterpretation... Chiwengo, with it's electricity and running water that usually works, the brick houses with multiple rooms, the tree lined streets, the furniture, etc..... is quite posh, we're lucky to be in the place we're at. We have seen many mud/straw huts and poor, poor people; everyone is outside here because there's no place to really be inside. I joke about bucket baths and cockroach/ant infestations (cockroaches are hanging out with us too, they think we are so cool, they all want to hang out with us, every single cockroach in Chiwengo.) But honestly, I'm feeling pampered. Praise the Lord for mattresses and roofs and bathrooms and toilets and all those amazing things. Our new stove has two burners that don't work which prompted an, "Oh yeah, working stoves are GREAT," from all of us that had gotten used to cooking our dinners on all four.
We're definitely settling into our routine: we make breakfast and have devotions in the morning, help the aunties in the houses after that (make lunch or do chores), lunch, siesta, after siesta we either tutor the kids or do evangelism with the kids to the nearby villages (that's where we see a lot of the really sad situations, those are tough to take in.) Then it's tea time which I LOVE, I LOVE TEA TIME, then play with the kids play play play, then dinner, then evening devotions, and then bed. Erica and I have teamed up to teach the 5 and 6=year-olds in Standard One during tutoring. They don't understand us for the most part, but our "supervising teacher" is occasionally able to understand us enough to translate to the kids what we're saying while she nurses her baby. The baby gets nursed the whole time, this is one kid in Malawi who is well-nourished. The kids hop around and lean in their chairs and become FASCINATED with the pencil sharpener... so we do crazy things to keep their attention. I made them spell out the ABC's with their hips the other day, and only afterwards realized that might have been innapropriate. (It wasn't though.) Guitar is a constant source of amusement for them too, so that gets brought along. It's also a good time to read them stories in English and hear them try to pronounce the words, these kids are so freaking adorable. After anyone gets a right answer, we all yell: "Well done, well done! Sure! Keep! It! Up! YEAAAAHHH!!" We do that about 30 times per lesson, but when the kids say it, it comes out, "WELLO DONE, WELLO DONE, SHU-AH, KEEP EET UP, YEEAAHH!"' And no matter how many times we do it, they finish with clapping their hands and jumping, on their feet, so exuberant. Like they've just won the lottery. Every single time. This is what I think about when I'm down. IT's great to see these kids that are healthy and happy enough to develop attitudes, to misbehave, to manipulate us with their cuteness, to goof off. It's hard to teach them like that, but I so love watching them goof off. I wish I could tell you stories about so many different kids, but there's not time or space here.
We've been playing hosts and hostesses to a number of visitors from the states coming which gets tiresome when the visitors are rude, but is okay when they're nice. I think we're all looking forward to the solid time with the kids and the change of pace that the lake will provide.
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The rest of the team is doing well, still no major spats, praise the Lord. The initial obligation to be polite to one another is wearing off I think, but we're rolling with it and turning the sarcasm into jokes. It's nice to be getting to know one another this well, honestly. African scenery is looking familiar. The boys have invented a Banana Quest 2006 since we eat so many bananas... they make it their mission to go scout out bananas on their bikes every day and come home, triumphant. We're all getting really good at hand washing our clothes. Oh this is funny: yesterday, Ben tried to make cookies and they turned out HORRIBLE! :) Mixed up the tablesppon of baking soda with the teaspoon. A kid told him : "Uncle Ben, the girls in your house are good cooks, you should just make THEM cook for you." We're clearly not doing much to break down negative stereotypes about gender roles yet, but Erica and I HAVE been enjoying making banana bread. :) And actually, we are planning to meet with some of the older girls on Sunday to talk about ideas about sex, marriage.... along those lines. Girls here get married at 13... sometimes younger.. They don't finish school, get pregnant... get AIDS? So we'll be talking about what is maybe worth holding out for. Working on those stereotypes?
God Bless, miss you guys,