Yesterday the work was to finally begin…the weekend is over and now time to dig in and do what I have come to do. The morning started with a trip to the office where I needed to register for the safari for the June group. I asked some questions filled out the paperwork and reserved spots for 10 of us. Lets all hope we can fill the trip!! After this Isaac and I drove back to the woodcarvers market to pick up a few things I had made as tokens for friends in the states (very small gifts). Then off to the restaurant to pick up Andrew and head to visit the first potential project.
We had to trade the car for a larger one for the day because we were told the road was bad and we would need a 4×4, this car takes diesel which was also good because the fuel situation in Malawi right now has begun to get bad again. The lines or “q’s” as they call them here are long at every filling station. People are not traveling in the country because it isn’t known if you will be able to fill your car with petrol. The reason behind the fuel problem will take a long time to explain so I’ll save that story for once I’m home. The three of us headed about an hour outside of town to meet a woman named Ann Marie. She is south African, but has lived in Malawi for many years. She has an incredible passion for the children here and uses her teaching skills to make a wonderful impact. She is a woman who trains teachers how to teach. Some teachers are volunteers from the villages that get no pay, but want to teach so she is in charge of teaching them all they need to know.
The drive to her home out in the country was beautiful and that doesn’t even begin to explain it. The road was dirt and bumpy, the sky was as blue as I have ever seen it, the clouds white and puffy and the landscape just amazing. I was in heaven riding along in the back seat as we bumped along seeing very few other cars or people. When I say we drove to the middle of nowhere that doesn’t do the drive justice either. There are some experiences that just can’t have words put to them. We drove into Ann Marie’s drive way and in the middle of the vast Malawi landscape we entered what I will call a beautiful secret garden. Tons of trees bent over the driveway and house tucked away surrounded by lush plants, flowers and sitting right along a river. BEAUTIFUL!!!
We were greated out front of the house by Ann Marie and one of the local chiefs as well as a man who lives there at the house and helps her. We were guided around the back of the house to the porch that over looked the river and seated in chairs where we would “chat”. This is common here. Nothing is just done quickly and the thought that we would swing in and see a project just isn’t how things are done. First we sat and talked for a while about the area and about her job and then we were offered fresh mango juice with mint which she had made that morning. She ran in to get the tray of drinks while her helper came around with a pitcher of warm water and a small bucket so we could each clean our hands. Once clean we enjoyed our juice. After more chatting I thought we would get on the road and drive to the school we were to visit….not so fast 🙂
Ann Marie offered us coffee to which I declined then to hear her say “well you can’t eat the cake I have made if you don’t have coffee” haha of course she had made cake and of course we would have some. So then the serving of her beautiful poppy seed and lemon cake was done. It was in fact the best bit of cake I think I have ever eaten. She had made it the day prior in anticipation of my arrival. Needless to say we sat for a long while enjoying the breeze, the beauty that the day had to offer and our cake before we got back into the car and followed her out to the first school. She had explained we would see 2 projects, the first a nursery school which is already “established” the second a school that is not yet built but in the very early stages.
We drove deeper into the bush along a smaller road and arrived at a small brick building. As soon as our car pulled into the spot I could hear the children singing. People were out side waiting for us and the children had been told to welcome us with song. Nothing quite like being out here in the middle of nowhere and arriving at a small school only to hear the voices of little children singing in your arrival….makes your heart fill up. We entered the school and all the children were seated on a torn grass mat on the concrete floor. Behind them were many chairs lined up for us and we were directed to sit. The children were learning numbers 1, 2, and 3 and we got to watch as the teacher taught. Sitting there is when my heart began to beat fast and a bit of my heart began to break as it often does when you are smacked in the face with the reality of what these children face everyday. Each of so beautiful, so sick and so special. All in torn clothes, some barely covered at all. All dirty and coughing, but sitting so well and doing their lessons. There were speeches from chiefs in from the villages regarding how the school had been started and what their needs were. They were always saying how grateful they were that I had come to see them and had prayed that I was going to help them.
My heart continued to beat and break all at the same time. Before it was all over and after we had a prayer together to end our “meeting” I was told that they wanted to present me with a gift….me…a gift….they have nothing….but wanted to give me a gift…a large basket covered with a beautiful cloth was brought to me and had been filled with pumpkins. Your first instinct is to say that can’t except the gift because those pumpkins would have made a healthy lunch for all of those children, but in order to do what is right I thanked them and Isaac loaded the pumpkins into the car. The children followed us out and shook many hands and gave a few hugs. My mind had already begun to spin about what I can do right a way to make these children’s lives better. I have lists going in my head, I know what is possible and right away I pulled out my notebook and began to write my ideas down. I have tasks for my volunteers for June already and I will bring them to see this school. More details on what I have “cooked up” later 🙂 I need to hop off the computer now, but I’ll continue this story later today…this was only the beginning of our trip that day and there is more to tell…..