Friday, 6 July 2012

Return to Malawi 2012

We realise we are very fortunate to be heading back to Malawi. When packing the suitcases of gifts we were very touched once again by the support from everyone. We were also sad because we wished we could cram more items into the bulging cases, especially since our party is just the two of us. With the weights of the cases checked we are ready to depart and hopefully all will arrive. Fortunately unlike last year they did. We arrived in Mzuzu on Wednesday evening on July 4 to a warm welcome from the priests of St Peter's Parish. It is great to be back and to meet up with old friends. The people are very glad that the old President is no longer with them and give a cautious welcome to the new female President, Joyce Banda. It is hard to imagine how tough things have been for the people with no petrol and a scarcity of basics. Harvests have not been as good since the people can not afford the fertilisers. They are all suffering from the recent drastic devaluation of their currency. On Thursday we changed money getting 441 Kwacha to the pound; compared to last year when it was 220. For us this is great since we are able to buy things at just under 50% less than last year. However, this has meant a substantial drop in living standards for the Malawians whose wages have remained the same. The fees for St Peter'secondary are set to rocket from 15000 Kwacha a term to 25000 Kwacha in September when the pupils return from the holidays. So far we have not seen any pupils in the secondary since the Form 4 pupils are doing their leavers' exam,while the rest have left. We have visited St. Peter's Primary School. Once again we received a very warm welcome and were introduced to the new overall Head Teacher, Mr Ghambi. There are some changes at the school. There are now 2,666 pupils registered at the primary. The Authority decided the children should be split effectively into 2 "schools" with a Head in charge of each. Both Heads are accountable to Mr Ghambi. Each "school" has its own staff and pupils from Standard 1 to Standard 8. Pupils will still attend school for half a day, however they will alternate the time of attendance; one week morning shift, the next week afternoon shift. We are impressed all of this is communicated to families by word of mouth from the children. Teachers are still getting used to the new system, particular since their hours of attendance change weekly. Everyone is hoping the new system will benefit the learners, although class sizes still remain high - the recommendation is for 60 pupils in class but in St. Peter's there are still classes of 70 and 80 pupils. They are still waiting for a few more teachers to be allocated. Everyone has been asking for Bernadetta, Celia and all the members of the previous group. We have been asked to pass on their best wishes and to remind them that Malawi is their second home.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Quick update!

Hi everyone Louise here, just a quick update. I've had a lovely morning playing out in the sun with the kids. Built the planes that i 'borrowed' from Paw's Spar and managed to begin packing...although having to leave clothes etc here for next time due to everything i've bought!! Farewell party tomorrow, and Lilongwe on Wednesday. Looking forward to home now but in some ways just don't feel ready =( Bernadette and Celia have been a little 'busy' tying up loose ends haha.

Will have a blog soon detailing our adventures of the last two weeks (sure you all can't wait)

Congratulations to Bernard and Sheena on their new grandson =)

And also congratulations to Thumbiko who has been been accepted to begin University this August.


Louise, Bernadette and Celia x

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Reporting from Mzuzu

Hi peeps. Back home safe and sound in Mzuzu and it feels great. I was worried we wouldn't be free to walk around town but it's absolutely fine. Still armed police on patrol and lots of damaged property but otherwise it's back to normal. As far as the situation across the country goes, this is only the beginning but I am convinced there will be no more trouble until we are back home. Nevertheless, I feel for my friends here who only want their government to listen to them and act fairly on their behalf. Is that too much to ask? I'll be home on Fri and as usual I'm not ready to leave. x

Bernadette, Louise & Celia

Friday, 22 July 2011

Greetings from Malawi/Bahamas

Thought I better check in again and reassure everyone. From all the blog/e-mail/texts/facebook comments everyone at home seems to be worried sick whilst we are living it up in the lap of luxury. Normally I would never darken the door of a place like this in Malawi as it is ridiculously over priced but as boltholes go it's extremely safe. We have a private beach with numerous staff answering our every whim.

Truth be told I'm itching to get back to Mzuzu to assess the damage and see all our friends. Fr. Albert Chilambo, a good friend, is coming to meet us for lunch today and he will be able to fill us in. Thumbiko phoned from Mzuzu last night saying everything was quiet. Hopefully the shops and businesses will open again today so that normal life can resume.

Time to go back to the beach and catch some rays!!

Bernadette, Celia & Louise x

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Safe & sound

Celia, Louise and Berandette reporting safe & sound from an African warzone!!! Things all went a bit pear shaped here in Malawi yesterday with rioting, looting, shooting and killing throughout the country. We are all safe and lying low at the lake for a few days before attempting to return to Mzuzu on Sat (where unfortunately Louise & Bernadette's passports are residing). Ten were killed in Mzuzu alone yesterday with several more shot. Pray for us and the bereaved families in Mzuzu. x

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Checking in and out

Monire mose,

Our team has now split with 6 going off to Zambia and 5 left in Mzuzu. The kids set off yesterday for a night in Lilongwe with Harris escorting them. I heard from them last night that they had arrived safely after an emotional farewell from their Malawian friends. It was eerily quiet in the house last night but the Malawi Gin helped us acclimatise to the unusual quietness. They were certainly a rowdy bunch!!

The 5 of us head off to Rhumpi today to spend 2 nights with good friend Fr. Chunda, coming back to Mzuzu on Saturday for the annual 5 hour Ordination Mass - the novelty is now wearing off!!


Bernadette and the Malawi Team

Bernard W - we give up, what is B day and what is the big 4 0 you're celebrating? Also thank you for poining out the feast day of St. Benedict, which is now an important feast for me. Robert Johnston owes me a cake!! Haven't you heard my news?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Friday 8th

Hi folks, it’s back to Mick D to bring you the latest and greatest from Mzuzu town here in Malawi.
So the day started like any other…alarms going off at half five to get up and get showered closely followed by the dreaded church bells accompanied by the howling of the dogs. You can kind of get the picture by now…half six mass, half shut knives and breakfast. After breakfast, we got ready to head down to the schools for our last day of teaching, however, as this was the last day, Caroline, Louise and I didn’t need to be at the school until half nine as the girls were having their end of year assembly and receiving their report cards. The group that was teaching at St Peters were told after an hour and a half that they were finished and could go home.

Earlier in the week, the teachers at St Peters had invited us to have lunch with them…this was something that we were dreading as, on the last visit, the children had prepared local traditional food for us including the rather bizarre combination of bananas boiled with meat and tomato. So as you can imagine, we were a little apprehensive about going. We arrived and were seated. The usual formalities followed, including a prayer from a Jehovah witness and a lengthy speech from the head mistress. The food was then brought out and to our delight; it was prepared by Irene and the people from Mary’s Meals and not a boiled banana in sight. After the food, the speeches resumed, including a presentation of gifts from Anne on behalf of St Mary’s which included two new laptops, one of which contained a dongle for internet access.

After lunch, we headed back to the house for a quick change to head into town. The first point of call again was the dodgy guy that changed our money. The man was very happy to see us considering the amount of business that we have provided for him over the past week and as a result Bernadette tried to get him to increase the exchange rate claiming that we were now ‘good friends’. So we all crammed into the little room that was the guys’ office and started to change our money. However, considering that it is anywhere between k250 and k280 to the pound the man soon ran out of Malawian notes. At this point he shouted one of the workers in the shop; spoke some Tumbuka at which the man disappeared, only to reappear a few minutes later carrying a very large plastic bag stuffed with Malawian K500 notes. Once all of the money had been sorted, we headed into the heart of town; some broke off to do their own thing however the majority decided to stay together. We made our way to PEP, a clothing store, to help find Monica some clothes to buy. Once Monica had been kitted out, including a few pairs of rather hideous ‘Bridget Jones’ style underwear, we went for some pizza. After which we met back up with Bernadette and Celia in a small internet cafĂ©, who were accompanied by some of the street dealers that we had gotten to know.

After ten minutes of internet and bargaining with the dealers for paintings, we headed home only to be told that we only had 40 mins to get ready to go for dinner. After a quick shower and change, it wasn’t long before, ‘Cabs are here’ rang out. After a rather bumpy ride, we arrived at the Key lounge where we were having dinner. We ordered our food and after over an hour of waiting we could finally eat. During this time, Monica was complaining that one of her ears was freezing and the other roasting. Bearing in mind that it was pitch black out side and the fact that we were inside, Bernadette said that she might have got a bit too much sun on that side of her face through the day, to which Monica turned around to see if where the sun was, providing much hilarity. But the food came and was devoured rather quickly, however, Bernadette failed to tell me that when you order fish in Malawi, you get the WHOLE fish…including everything inside it. I found this out the hard way as after eating half of it I turned it round only to have the fish staring straight back at me. Don’t think that Ann-Mary would fancy coming here for her holidays… After dinner we made our way through to the dance floor where we threw down our best shapes to the African music. After a few hours we decided to head home, not too late as Bernadette had to be up early the next morning to travel to Galamalla for a celebration (will be explained later). And then it was off to bed rather happy as we could have a lie in the next morning…

Best wishes from all in Mzuzu. xx