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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

Malawi Christmas 2006


Sitting on the veranda in the early morning glow, Malawi coffee in hand, mangoes on the plate, I look out on the walled garden with tropical flowers and majestic trees in the distance. Brighton is setting up the Elephant print cushions on the rattan furniture under the sun umbrella. It promises to be another warm one. All is serene and so romantic. Feeling like Meryl Streep, I half expect Robert Redford to come sauntering up the walk offering to take me away on safari. I can even hear the victrola and dancing music. Life has these surreal “Out of Africa” moments here. Especially when looking at the brown smiling faces; the hushed early morning walking procession into town, men in clean shirts, barefoot women brightly clad with babies on their backs, straw baskets of produce on heads. They sing a lilting poignant song of what they have, “tomatoes, greens”. It’s a quiet symphony.


But the romantic bubble gets burst when Nicholas runs to the drive and proudly shows his new and bizarre plastic Santa sent him from the States. Wind him up and he plays the sax and sings, “Have a jolly, jolly Christmas”. The guard and gardeners roar with laughter; Caroline screams in delight; and Nicholas loves being the center of good cheer and getting everyone to laugh and sing, Have a jolly, jolly Xmas.


“It’s the eve of Christmas Eve”, Maria keeps reminding us. Christmas CDs seem unreal. It’s sunny and warm and Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, the weather outside is frightful are way off. But children still believe and that makes Xmas real. But mostly it’s Mike that has the real spirit of Xmas. She sends us to the market to buy provisions for 7 Xmas packages. The order seems so basic to me, but she says these are luxuries that people will not spend their money on. Brian and I get for each: rice, 1 kg of sugar, large package of shortbread cookies, good cooking oil, and maize flour. She and Brian package these with her chocolate chip cookies and candy for housekeeper, Ellen; Peter and Richard, the guards; Rafael and Brighton, the gardeners, and Hastings the cook. Mike and Maria know the ages and sex of all their children and have wrapped little presents for all to go in the boxes along with exercise books, pencils and crayons. Each also gets a Christmas card and a bonus, at least equal to a month’s pay.


Hastings, the cook, told me yesterday when I glibly asked if he “was ready for Xmas”: “This will be the best Xmas of my life. I am so grateful to Madam Connors for this kitchen position. My family was hungry and we had almost no food for a year while my wife and I were looking for work after coming from the village to live. I’ve graduated from secondary school, but still no work. Then Madame Connors hired me to cook and now we have food and everything we need. We don’t need or want luxuries like a TV, just food and a place to live. After moving from the village we live in a little house just like everyone else. At the end of the month you pay rent; if you don’t have it, they let you stay another month. If you don’t have it after 2 months they chase you out. You are chased out with all your belongings to live in the street. It was almost our time to go and I found Mrs. Connors; she saved my family”, he says as he folds his hands in prayer position and raises them heavenward. Now, he tells me his wife has just got a job as a housekeeper. “Who minds the children?” I say, and he replies they have a young girl, Tendai, from the old village to mind the 6 and 5 year olds and 6 month old baby. Hastings says, “It is good for her to have a home and food and good for us to have her help with the children and house”. Maria gave special belongings to this young girl as her present and Mike gave exercise books and pencils. (Mike’s next goal is to get this young girl back into school, as education is everything in Africa, and young girls are often taken out to mind the younger children and take care of other chores in this extremely poor country.) “Everyone in town thinks we’re rich”, Hastings laughs. “We have everything in the world we need or want”, he says, “We will have a very happy Christmas!”


This morning after our early morning walk Richard says, “Madam, Enelis is at the gate.” Mike was so excited that her favorite vegetable vendor was here. “Come on, Peggy, you have to meet this beautiful young girl and her baby Florence!” It is obvious there is a special bond between these two women. After greetings, the produce of the day was displayed, prices given, and selections made. Bright red tomatoes, okra, greens and ripe mangoes - keepers all. Mike gives Kwacha and when Eneles goes for change, Mike says “it is Xmas”. Big smiles all around. Caroline gives love pats to the six month old. Enelis has such an open, gentle demeanor and smiles broadly when Mike gives her the Xmas bag of provisions and little wrapped presents for the children. (Enelis’ two year old Christopher is home with grandmother.) A date is made for next Tuesday’s produce. Enelis is happy and we are, too.

Merry Christmas! From Malawi


By Peggy Connors (with help from Maria, age 8)


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