When we first arrived in Malawi on Friday, the first thing we noticed while looking out the van window was the lush green country that seemed very fertile. Then our attention shifted to the impoverished homes (huts) of the locals. Our focus was only interrupted by grinning pearly whites, laughter, and shouts of “azungu” (white people).
What we could not immediately see was these people were already starting to go hungry. The corn was not yet ready for harvest, and most of the large corn farms will soon be exported out of country so the government can make a profit. Soon will come the dry season, the green country will quickly turn dry and brown and without irrigation, no crops will grow.
This is why our team came to Malawi - to install an irrigation system at the Timotheos Centre in Nsanje so that the kids are fed year round, and the centre could also provide for the surrounding community.
Sunday night we asked our lovely hosts in Blantyre for breakfast at 6:30 so that we could get our week of work started. They hesitated as that was quite early, but we assured them all we needed was yogurt and a little bit of fruit to quickly eat and they agreed. We woke up nice and early this morning to a “simple” breakfast of omelettes, fries, yogurt, sausage and veggies.
We met up with Gerrit Ooman, the general manager and missionary of Timotheos in Malawi,
and started making the three hour, 800 meter descent to Nsanje.
On the way we wanted to stop at another Timotheos centre, Khumobasa, to look at an already running irrigation system. The bus couldn’t make it down the road so the guys jumped in with Gerrit in his truck the girls stayed behind with Peter (our awesome driver) and the bus.
Khumobasa has 26 different plots, running on a solar pump, each plot feeding one family for 4-5 months. There hadn’t been sun the last few days so there was no water in the reservoir at the centre - the only available water was stored in the pipes running from the centre down to the plots. The guys took turns carrying buckets of water on their heads back up to the centre.
This is a culture barrier - men are not allowed to do this in Malawi. There was one story they told us about a man whose wife was sick and he had to hire another woman to haul water because he was not allowed. (It was fine for the guys to carry water without offending anyone, because according to the locals we were just “dumb azungu”). After hauling the water, the locals wanted to use the water to wash the truck (even though it was going to be dirty 20 minutes later). This is another example of their focus on the “now”, instead of planning for future needs.
They drove back to the bus only to see 200 kids crowded around us four girls. We had gone for a walk down the road as we had seen some cute kids a ways back and wanted to say hi. We met
some women grabbing water at a well and met a few others at their huts. A couple curious kids came closer and we asked them if we could take their picture. Their laughter after we showed them their photo drew a crowd of nine who held our hand all the way back to the bud where we gave them suckers. Soon a group of twenty kids came. Then another. Then school was out. The next thing we know we are surrounded by 200 kids. When the guys came we were busy teaching them heads shoulders knees and toes, singing and laughing.
In Nsanje we went to eat at a local restaurant. The menu included goat, chicken and intestines, beans and sema - the utensils was our hands. The lady thanked us for our support and told us next time we eat we should go across the street to her friends restaurant.
We arrived at Timotheos to cheering kids - we played soccer with the kids before getting a tour of the irrigation plot from Colin, the head farmer.
We assessed the plot and decided that we were going to install drip irrigation not just over the vegetables , but also test a piece of irrigation on the banana plants. The first step, however, was to fix all the leaks.
Then we started playing with the kids again. The kids roared with laughter as we showed them their face through a distorted Snapchat filter. A few of us were burnt and showed the kids by pressing our arms. They were shocked as they watched our arms turn from white to red and the next thing we know each of our arms were being poked by several kids.
At 4:30 we left Timotheos and arrived at our new lodgings. We were expecting huts and outhouses but were surprised to find there were flushable toilets! And electricity!! Spotty, but it was there!! We ate dinner, reflected on the day and headed to bed.