Muli Bwangi from Malawi!
Muli Bwangi is the standard greeting, and means ‘how are you?’ Your answer, just in case anyone ever asks you, is ‘dili bwino, caen?” which means ‘I am good, and you?’
After traveling for about 36 hours (and stopping in London and Johannesburg) we arrived in Malawi Monday afternoon. Needless to say, Monday was mostly a rest day!
Tuesday morning (after a great night’s sleep due to pure exhaustion!) we met in the lobby of our hotel, the Capital Hotel, to be picked up by Ministry of Hope. Just a side note, the Capital Hotel is very nice with friendly staff and it reminds me somewhat of the hotel in Hotel Rwanda…it is sort of an interesting contrast to the surrounding area… Anyway, back to Ministry of Hope, which we were introduced to by its new director, Tony Bell. He and his wife moved here about a year ago from none other than New Jersey! When one of our group asked Tony what he missed about the US? You guessed it, Dunkin Donuts coffee!! (I knew I liked him.)
Ministry of Hope is an organization that is working in the communities/villages around Lilongwe (the capital, where we are staying) with the children and specifically orphans. On Tuesday we helped out in their crisis nursery, which is for babies who have been orphaned mostly because the mother has died during childbirth or of AIDS and the father is either also dead or cannot care for the infant. Some of the babies in the nursery do have families that will take the children back once they have been weaned, but many are without any family.
On Wednesday (today–we are 9 hours ahead of California) we spent the day working at one of the Ministry of Hope centers in the town of Mponela, about an hour’s drive (on good roads). Along the way we drove through many communities and saw a surprising number of coffin makers…apparently there is quite a market for coffins here. One of them was called “Energy Coffins”–seems like an interesting name. We also drove past the Blessings Bottlestore and the Slow But Sure Grocery.
Once we arrived at the center we began playing with the children. Let’s just say, the digital cameras and the video camera were a big hit! The children (and adults, for that matter) love to see their picture and request it after every picture is taken (good thing I have an extra battery!).
Other impressions…the vegetation is quite lush. I was surprised. I guess I thought (incorrectly) that all of Africa was dry and dusty. The people are friendly.
I made friends with the women cooks for the center (they make lunch each day for the children—it may be the only meal they receive each day) who taught me how to make ‘seema’ which is sort of like Cream of Wheat but made with a corn meal flour. They also call it porridge, which I guess is a residual from the British colonial influence. The ladies laughed at how I stirred the seema (it was in a huge pot on an open fire, and stirred with something that resembled a large wooden oar) and taught me how to say “I am stirring seema” (sorry, I can’t remember that one…).