Malawi Trip – May 2013

22nd May 2013 | Posted in Nigel's Blog

A Bus trip in Africa

I have to get from Mongotche to Lilongwe and have a full day.  It’s about 200 miles on good roads.  So the only bus to go straight leaves at 5am and I am staying 45 mins away so a very early morning.

The bus sets off at 4.50pm and costs less than £5.  Great start and due in at 10am!  People get on the bus with all sorts of stuff.  50kg bags of maize, chickens, boxes galore.  There are 3 people collecting fares and a driver.  They hand write each ticket with great care and walk around with wads of cash in their hands. The automatic doors don’t work so are manhandled open and shut at each stop.  Some talk to me, mothers get out a boob to feed a baby, the man kicks his chicken who is squaking with tied legs as it tries to stand.  Soon gives up and lies flat again – will it live the day I wonder?

Nobody sits at the back of the bus – do they know something I don’t?  there are 5 seats across so all quite narrow and not suited to large people.  Ryanair would love it as the leg space even makes a dwarf like me have to sit on an angle.

Trying not to drink much though eventually bursting have to get out and hope they stick to their agreement not to drive off!  The road block and everyone off the bus – 2 very large police waddle on board, search for about a minute and then we carry on the journey – apparently they were looking for drugs (though not hard!).

White girl gets on bus – looks like a development worker but doesn’t talk or come near and soon gets off. Feel I know her – bizaare.  Then Belgian student type on world tour gets on.  Loving his earthly wanderings.

We reach the destination, well almost, 5 minutes before the bus station, we need fuel so all off the bus again.  Arrive at 1.00  – 8 hours.  Apparently the bus itself was “slow”  but having got up so early, the day is yet young!

Insights that were not programme specific- May 2013

An example of how Spiritual issues are real here.  2 ladies went in to a field and died for no apparent reason.  When they investigated they found that a man confessed to witchcraft and that he wanted to own the field and the woman would not sell so he had killed a child and planted the 2 hands and 2 feet in the corners of the field and put a curse on the field.  When the owner stepped on it she died and this even made the national press.

The mission house needed completing but the bricklayer refused to work on it because of a spiritual fear.  Keith had to get someone else to do it.

Apparently there is not a word for maintenance in most African languages. In our culture we see it as important to keep repairing.  In this one, painting once is sufficient.  It also means they will keep putting a new thatch roof on each year or 2 as its better to have a new one than maintain one.  For thatch needs >45 degrees otherwise the water sits and rots the roofs.  Looking at most houses they are less so need regular replacement.  More importantly here is to be prepared for winter/the rains, so the focus is on what is needed for survival.

In Australia, the builders have to repair everything by law for 7 years post build.  If they repair then the 7 years starts again so they over engineer.  This becomes self policing.  Keith’s high priority is that what is built requires the minimum of maintenance.  They looked at lots of schools and homes before planning and recognised the key is to have a great roof and great floor, the rest is fixable by local people.

What we control we struggle to let go.  What we don’t control is easier!  We had a bible study that considered thanking God for what he was going to provide.  In this environment it took 9 months for roof sheeting to arrive as so many obstacles in the way.  Do we use god when we need him or consistent and not dependent on the situation.

On the floor Keith uses 3 stone, 2 sand 1 cement – this is a very high cement cost but he believes very important.  He uses a powerfloat to make the floor smooth.  This pushes the stone down at the almost set stage.  If a child breaks a window pane, the family will pay so soon limit the damage.  He will have a store of spare panes in the head teachers control so can be fixed straight away.  Uses quality plumbing supplies.

Getting the new head teacher is key as what you start with sets a precedent for what follows.  They have an excellent Christian candidate they are in discussion with.  The government will pay he teachers salary.  The government only review asked for teacher toilets, rather than assume they would use their homes 50m away.  The school would not work unless good housing was provided for teachers.  Teachers have to volunteer for 2 years before they are allowed to train as teachers in Malawi.

The aim is to start with grade 1 and work up.  However, if you train the children alone they may lose respect for the parents, a core element of society.  Therefore looking at how they address the older children and parents who have not had education.  It is important to see how you empower all who want it.

He pays Howard 34,000 per month (£60).  It has cost about $15,000 per classroom in materials.  Getting it there cost a lot more!  Used Tanilith to cover the wood for the rafters.  The roof is covered in Cromidex.  Posts were used to tie down the roof due to the high winds.  The classrooms are 10m x 8m  – pretty big. They have 4 men breaking rock to the size of their big toe for aggregate. The school is being supplied in bricks by the villagers as the owners of the school.  The trouble is that they have no idea when they will be delivered.  Certainly not before the harvest is in.

Someone bought some land and the seller said do you want the trees.  He said he was not worried.  The next year, the seller returned to see if he wanted to buy the trees that were on the land he had sold!  The ownership of the tree stays with the person who planted it!

There is a law in  Malawi that once the crop is planted it cant be lifted early so where a major road was being built and maize had been planted, they had to wait till the maize was harvested before they could finish the road, even if the person had already sold the land!  Paramount need to make survival happen.  The tobacco harvest causes the currency to swing up to 10% in a week as suddenly there are exports for sale.

The school was severely delayed in 2011 with the government’s inability to have enough foreign exchange and the country ran out of fuel.  For several months things just ground to a halt.  There are not many cars but all were in queues and people were tracking a delivery of fuel anywhere.  There was almost a riot when a government conference nearby had a load delivered and then as government had priority they all drove to the front of the queue to fill up – and it was their fault!

Mission Direct has been the catalyst for the school, without us, it would not have happened unless the Lord did it another way.

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