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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 10 months ago

Hi Everyone,


It has been a while since we have written and we have been struggling a bit to keep up with emails. A busy summer (really winter but it is summer break to me) and here we are, school started four weeks ago and we are regrouping for new balance of work and play.


Children here are all doing well. Maria is in standard 5, (grade 4). She continues riding weekly, trying to get in two lessons a week but may get tricky as we are back in school now and lots of after school activities are looking really interesting to her. Her riding instructor, Sue, is a fabulous. Sue is a European gal born and raised in Africa. She is really nice, also a client of mine and Maria is her favorite student. Maria waited all summer (all year really) for Harry Potter 7 to be released and finally arrived moments after her 9th Birthday. She read it over the weekend and is now rereading.


Nicholas is happy to be back in school, Standard 1 (K). He thought the 8 weeks school break was too long. He is still puppy-like in his joy for play and 'rough housing' as we use to call it. He and Maria have gotten hooked on Webkinz and this seems to be their favorite after school activity.


Caroline continues to blossom and is amusing as well. She is singing Itsy Bitsy Spider, eieio, Old MacDonald and Happy to you (that would be the birthday song) as she goes about her play and is really into make believe now. She has a toy MP3 player from her Auntie Beth, Uncle Tom and family and goes around with this attached to her ear, singing all the songs an swingin her little booty. She loves her babies and likes to nurse them and to have one tied to her back when walking about. She still asks Mike to put her on her back when she is tired and sometimes she obliges, despite her 30+pounds. Caroline has a wonderful sense of humor and can always get a giggle out of us. She is mostly agreeable but still uses her loud scream in case we are not so agreeable. She adores her big brother and his puppy ways, but will also grab a toy of his, show it to him, yell HAHA and then run. She always loses these battles but loves the chase.


Mike has been doing about 6 or so massages a week and trying mostly to work in the mornings and a little on weekends. Several weeks back she managed to get herself and a client, Sue, locked into her massage room, requiring them both to escape out of the window. Not such a relaxing way to end a massage but fortunately they both got a giggle out of it. The long version is that we have a cat, Winky, who can open doors (the pull down handle type) and Winky sometimes does this when she is working. This wouldn't be so bad except Winky likes to leap at Mike's legs and paw at hair hanging over the face plate and other such fun and games that do not promote peace and relaxation. Thus, the decision to lock the door. This was the first time she actually did this and wouldn't you just know, she couldn't unlock it when it was time to go. She called someone over to give them the key to try from the outside but no luck. So she took out the glass louvres, cut the screen and they hoisted themselves up and out. A fix-it guy from the Embassy came the next day and still couldn't get the lock to give way but did replace the entire lock. These are those skeleton key style locks, nothing very involved and this was actually a fairly new one. Just bad luck.


Brian has been way busy with work and has a training this past two weeks. IST - In-Service-Training is for Volunteers who have been at their sites for 4 months and are ready for some additional skills training. So the first week along with a language booster, they worked on IGAs (Income Generating Activities). Things like making soap, jam, peanut butter and growing mushrooms and fruit trees. They are also working on making briquettes made from rice hulls and peanut shells (mixed with a bit of water and cassava flour and mashed together and left to dry) to use for cooking fuel instead of charcoal or wood which is getting to be a rather scare resource.


Brian found a peanut sheller (thanks to Chris' internet sleuthing) that can be made very cheaply and has been working on these with his volunteers. Some have made the sheller with groups in their villages and are really doing quite well. About 90% of all ground nuts/peanuts are shelled by hand here and so having an tool that can do this and is low tech is really great and relieves rural women form having to do it all by hand. In one hour a sheller can do what it takes a family to do in two days. Ground nuts are a great source of protein and are eaten whole, pounded into flour to mixed with greens (very yummy!) and can be made into peanut butter and pressed for peanut oil; so there's lots of value-added opportunities to use for home as well as generating income. And the shells can be made into briquettes!


Brian has been passing word around to other Peace Corps posts about the sheller and other APCD's are now trying to get hold of them.


When Chris and Liz were here he bought an oil seed press so he's trying to close the loop on the peanuts - using all the nut and byproduct. He picks up the press this coming week in Blantyre.


Soap is one of those things our great grandmothers probably made 100 years ago to save money, and the fact that so many people (women) want to make it here attests to the level of poverty in Malawi, and loss and/or lack of skills. A bar of soap costs 20 Kwacha to buy, about 14 cents US, and is used for bathing, dishes and washing clothes. But it can be made for about 5 kwacha or 4 cents US. So groups want training to make the soap. Easy, but takes some up front expenses, caution, and knowledge how to make, as lye is rather dangerous to work with. Not only can groups or individuals save money using the soap for home use but they can sell it locally and make money. Some of these groups do home support for those suffering from AIDs, such as cooking, washing clothes and dishes and these families don't have money for soap. So soap is a good thing to have to give a way too.


Unfortunately, Brian threw his back out a couple of weeks ago and has been in severe pain. He helped a gal, a PC doctor, with her suitcase at the office and twisted, and that was that. He worked through the entire training but was limping and in pain, and then got some muscle relaxants and was doing a bit better but still he hurts. He goes to Bantyre this coming Monday for a CT scan and Dr appt.


So there you have it. A small slice of life from Malawi.


Love and Peace, Mike and Brian

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