Friday, September 27, 2013

We had a wonderful time the week of Sept 17-23. Elder and Sister Lyles, Humanitarian Missionaries for the LDS Church had asked if we could help with logistics during the week they were here with a US team. They were conducting training seminars for the Helping Babies Breathe Project. We drove up to Ntcheu to meet them as they were driving down from Lilongwe, thus saving them having to drive all the way to Blantyre and stay over for several days. That was a fun ride, we only got lost once, and almost made it home without getting lost, although we did miss a couple of turnoffs and had to turn around. There are almost no road signs in Malawi, no highway markers, no standard village naming signs, no speed limit signs except in the villages, and no shoulders on most of the roads. We would just ask the soldiers at the checkpoints if we were still on the right road, and where to turn next. They have plenty of those, so you shouldn't be able to get more than 25 kilometers before there is someone to ask. They were very helpful and polite, standing there with their AK-47's. The team took us out to dinner at the 21 Grill, a regionally famous eatery adjacent to the Protea Ryalls Hotel. It's possibly the finest place in town to eat, but dinner cost us all of 9,000MK or about $25US for both of us. The group bribed the band, and when they brought out Sis. Reynolds' dessert (a banana split with a candle in it) they all sang Happy Birthday To You. It was awesome, totally caught her unaware. :-)
After the seminars, we furnished transport back to Liwonde, but elected to stay overnight at Hippo Lodge and go with some of the Mission Couples on a two-hour boat safari on the Shire (say she-ray) River through Liwonde National Park. Most of the pictures are of that trip. Being in the boat, we could really get close to the animals, so we took about 200 pictures or so. Then we drove back to Blantyre while the team continued on to Lilongwe and their flight home.
Two of our Elders have completed their missions, so they went home this week 9/26. Elders Muhlauyo and Machiridza are great young men, and each will be a strong leader in his homeland. This is Africa's time, and being a part of this explosive growth and change is amazing. It is so good to be able to support these young people as they serve. We are truly blessed. Not only that, but we live in a beautiful place--the flowering trees are lovely, not to mention that they smell good and the birds awaken us with lovely song, albeit a little early.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

We are pretty well settled in Blantyre by now. We have a nice flat, with two bedrooms and two baths so that we can have other couples stay with us when they are in the area. The Sister Missionaries were staying here, but we got a new flat for them so we have the house to ourselves most of the time. The Sisters were glad to move, since their new flat is very close to the branch chapel where they are assigned in Ndirande, and that is right at the edge of their area. They were taking the public transportation every day to reach their area, about 4 km from the house, so too far to walk. The buses are the combies, basically nine passenger Toyota's, with 18 people riding in them. All the missionaries use them, but we have never been brave enough to try it.

The weekend of Aug 23, 24 Elder Reynolds went camping with the YM of the Blantyre District, their first ever YM camp. It was quite an adventure. We drove for about 3 hours to reach the mountain, and then another 3km up the forest road in Mulanje National Park. There is a turnaround where we dropped off all the boys and gear for another 30 minute hike up the mountain. I drove back down to the ranger station to leave the truck and the bus we had rented. Then two of the young men and I started back up the mountain on foot to join the others. Silly me, I listened to them when they said they knew a short cut. The African version is based on just a shorter distance, not necessarily the easiest way. Instead of walking back up the road, we took a 40% grade trail over the top of two ridges--the old man was huffing like a hippopotamus by the time we got to camp 90 minutes later. Talk about scouting challenge--the last 100 meters is a scramble, and if I hadn't been able to hear the boys ahead laughing in the campsite, I might not have made it! I was awakened by the laughing of the hyenas about 0300, and several minutes later could hear the sound of munching right next to my head. Several of the boys got up and chased them away, after which they secured our food supply for the night. I wasn't sure how big the hyenas were, so I didn't get a picture, however I did photograph the tracks next to our tent the next morning. The following weekend of Aug 30, 31, both Sister Reynolds and I got to go with the YW of the Blantyre District for their camp. It was another adventure, this time because of the roads and the days we were driving. The main road between Blantyre and Nkopola is under construction, so it consists of many detours--took us 5 hours to cover 200km. Also because it goes through many small villages, and the weekend is their market days, it was an obstacle course of pedestrians, bicyclists, and combies about every 5km or so. There was no hike in, however, since the Nkopola Lodge is right on Lake Malawi. Not only that, but the priesthood advisers were put up in "chalets" (pronounced like pallets) with warm showers, bathrooms, air-conditioning, and electric service. Not quite the same as the week before. We had a marvelous camp, Sister Reynolds taught a first-aid class, and we were entertained by the monkeys and baboons which frequent the camp (stealing any left out food--worse than mice). This campsite was gorgeous, palm trees, sandy beach, grass covered camping area, covered cooking facility, very nice, indeed. It cost us 2000MK per girl, but that's less than $6US.