Monday, December 15, 2014

Hooray, it has finally started raining.  The rainy season is supposed to begin about the first week in November, and here it is the second week in December.  The maize is not irrigated, it depends on rainfall, so nothing has been planted, and we are six weeks late in the season.  It started raining on the 9th, and has rained a couple of times since.  All the maize fields were planted by the 10th.  The cultivation is all by hand, with a broad-bladed hoe.  The blade is a heavy piece of flat iron cut to shape with a spike on the top. The handle is about three feet long, shaped from a heavy branch of a tree with a large knob about the size of a softball at the end.  They drill a hole in the knob, heat the iron blade until it is red hot and then drive it into the hole, where it lodges fast.

These are drawings from archeological digs, so you can see that the concept is not new.  Similar hoes are found all over sub-Saharan Africa.  This drawing shows just a branch of the tree, but the ones used here in Malawi are shaped from the piece of the trunk from where the branch is attached.  That joint is the strongest part of the tree and resists splitting from the constant pounding of the hoe into the ground.

The women do the majority of the cultivation and weeding, but the short handles on these hoes mean that they are constantly bending over as they work.  It is back-breaking work, but the length of the handle seems to be a cultural thing.  Long-handled hoes are seen as a sign of laziness.  It's crazy.

Along with the maize planting, the rain affects several other things, especially the frogs.  The ones outside our dining room window are deafening.  The frogs themselves are about the size of your thumb joint, but they are expert at finding a location which will amplify their chirping.  The loudest one has located himself at the base of one of the pillars in our perimeter wall.  He sits in the corner, on a broken brick, and it all acts like a megaphone.  He is so loud, that when I first went out to see what was making the noise, I couldn't get close enough to see him because it hurts to be anywhere near--really!  It must be well over 110 decibels, painful to listen to for more than a minute or two.

I will try to upload a short clip so that you can tell what it sounds like when they are all going together.  It's kind of like "the wave," in the stadium.  One frog starts somewhere in the distance, and is immediately followed by another and then another until they are all in chorus and finally dies down when they run out of energy.

I finally remembered to take a picture of our night guard with his University of Washington souvenir cap.  He was so excited to have his picture taken so that we could remember him.  I told him I'd post it for some of my Dawg Fans who would appreciate seeing it so far from home.  I have actually seen advertising t-shirts from Snohomish County businesses.  It is amazing to see things from home.  We see WSU Cougar shirts and sweatshirts every once in a while as well.

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