zondag 30 december 2018

7 quick takes of generosity.

When I was little, my mom would always read a story with Christmas. Most of the time it was an heartwarming story about kindness and generosity. I felt that it was time to share some stories too because we have encountered so much heart warming kindness and humbling generosity since we live in Malawi.

 1.  'Do you think Doris would like some food?' The kind night nurse sticks her head around the door. It has been a long night for her and my guess is that she is tired and ready to go home now that the day staff is starting to arrive. Her question surprises me. It's the first time in two days that somebody is asking it. They don't provide food here in the hospital; patients get medical attention, the family is responsible for everything else. I look at Doris, she seems less lethargic and healthier than she has looked in the past days.  She will probably want to eat but I don't have much food left. I cannot buy anything in the hospital and Hartmut is suffering from malaria too so I don't want to ask him to make too many tiresome trips to the market and the hospital. 'If you have some, I'm sure she would eat it.' The nurse comes back after half an hour with a tupperware filled with cornflakes, some hot milk, an old baking powder tin with sugar, a plate of chips and some scrumbled eggs. An unusual combination but it makes Doris excited to eat. (Although before she eats she tells me that she won't eat it all but keep some for Sophie because Sophie likes chips too.) Before the nurse leaves because her shift is over she comes to say good bye. We thank her for the food and I joke that the hospital kitchen surprised me. Just before she dissapears through the door she turns around and says: 'It did not come from the hospital kitchen, I went to my own house to get some food that Doris would like. I hope it makes her strong.'
 2. Fresh green beans, strong and juicy. Tomatoes in all shades of red and bigger than you have ever seen before. Avocados, broccoli, egg plant; the market in Mzuzu excites me so much that I would not mind moving there just so that I could go there every day to peruse the carefully layed out merchandise before deciding what to eat based on what is available and in best condition. We are going to take the taxi down to Usisya and then the small local boat back home so I don't want to buy much because I need to carry it all and it will only slow us down. Besides that; when we arrive we don't have a fridge to keep it cool and we need to eat everything before it starts rotting (and that happens overnight in this hot and humid weather) but I want to buy a few items that I normally don't get. Beetroot, courgette and avocado. The salesman looks at me. 'Nothing else?' 'Not today' I smile. Then he grabs a big hand full of green beans, enough for half a meal. 'It's a gifty' he says with a wide grin. They always do that, a few extra tomatoes, an onion or a green pepper. Whenever I go to the market I come home with something I like but did not ask for and it's always more than I paid for.
 3. 'Take him, he is a good driver and he doesn't charge to much.' Phone numbers of reliable and fair taxi drivers are worth gold and once a driver had made a good impression in the expat community he can be sure that he is never out of work as people keep on referring him to each other. Our friend who gave us Simon's number did not eversell him. He arrives sort of punctual (ten minutes late is Malawian puntuality), is friendly and drives well. He will drive us down to Usisya on the long, dusty and bumpy road from Mzuzu. We need to be in Usisya before two to make sure that we catch the weekly boat to our village. The boat doesn't have a time table but reliable sources tell us that it is never there before two and most weeks much later than that.  The journey is going fairly well when we all of a sudden hear a funny noise and Simon pulls over. Flat tire! Hartmut and Simon change the tire in lightning speed and we are driving again before we know it. We arrive 15 minutes before two at the place from where we hope to catch the boat. When we get out of the car, slowly because we have enough time, we are told that the boat has already come... And gone! Together me make a quick decision to chase the boat to where the road ends. Maybe we are still in time. Simon doesn't quite know where that place might me and we have been there but only on foot paths so with the help of the villagers we race through the paths that aren't actually made for cars until the car cannot go any further because the path becomes to narrow and too steep.  When we stop there we hear an engine and some people who are hanging out under a tree tell us that the boat has just left but if we run and scream we might catch it. Hartmut, some villagers and Simon run to the beach where the boat has just started it's journey. They scream and wave until they catch the boat driver's attention. Then Simon runs back to the car and helps me, together with some other people who are enjoying the action to get all our belongings on the boat. If any of you ever need the number of a commited and kind driver in Malawi, I will send you Simon's 😉
 4.  This boat driver is a great example too. We cannot really communicate because he speaks only a few words English but his kind smile and generosity is enough to make us really like him. When we are in the village as he comes past he will always wait for us to give us a free lift home (a lift that turns a 20 minute walk that the girls are a bit bored of by now into a fun boat ride) and whenever he can he gives the girls biscuits, sweets or fruit.
 5. There are no jetties and to get on the boat you always need to wade through a bit of water. In the rush Hartmut kicked of his flip flops and left on the beach. I wrote on social media that they were probably exploring the roads of Usisya on the feet of a lucky local who found them but I clearly underestimated the kindness of Malawi. It so happened that our taxi had stopped in front of a shop in Usisya that belongs to the brother of one of our neighbours. I had recognised the place but he wasn't there and in our rush to not miss the taxi we had no time to greet him anyway. We have no idea who picked up the shoes but somehow they made their way to the shop owner who gave them to his brother when he came to visit.  Three weeks after our adventurous journey our neighbour and friend knocked on our door; in his hands he had the flip flops, neatly tied together with a piece of string.
 5. For our trip through East Africa (that unfortunately got reduced to a trip to Tanzania) we needed yellow fever vaccinations for the girls. Many African countries do not let you in without a certificate and we did not want to risk it. Because so many countries require it I thought that it would be fairly easy to organise one but after a long search through all the possible places in Mzuzu I was proven wrong. A friend with many connections (you need that here) gave us the number of a nurse who had organised one for a friend of his. I called him and asked if he could do the same for us. 'No problem' he said. But actually, there was a small problem, he lives in Lilongwe, a 6 hour busride from Mzuzu and we did not really want to travel all the way to Lilongwe for a vaccination. 'No problem' he said again.  He got on a night bus, travelled to the place where we were staying, gave the girls their injections (they did not find him kind nor generous 😉) and presented us with a handmade bag filled with handmade jewelry with out names hand carved in beads and wooden Africa shaped hangers. And he felt really really bad to ask us if we could maybe contribute towards the travel costs for the trip he made just for us.
 6. It's Christmas day but there is very little that indicates that in the village. No decorations, no big special meals and no stress about presents or clothes. When I ask people how they celebrate Christmas most people tell me that it is not very different from most other days, apart from the fact that there will be rice and meat for lunch instead of the usual nsima. We are preparing our Christmas meal when 4 girls from the village show up at the lodge. They are all around 12 years old and come every now and then to play with the girls. The oldest comes to me and points at the two bags of popcorn they carried with them. "Christmas present for Sophie and Doris." She beams. They give them to the girls and when Sophie and Doris start sharing the popcorn they refuse to take much. These girls did most probably not get a gift for Christmas themselves but they come to us to share a gift with Sophie and Doris. What a great place to live.
 7. I am a bit of a scatterbrain as it is but whenever we are in Mzuzu, going from one place to the next while ticking things of our to-do lists it's even harder for me to keep things together. In Mzuzu we usually travel by 'shared taxi'. A car (usually a sedan) waits at a certain place until it fills up (we never have to wait long) with people that all need to go to the same destination (mostly the city centre) and leaves as soon as it is full. It is cheap, fast and works like a charm. One of the days (one of those with an ambitious plan and already too little time) we were dropped opposite the small market where our tailor has her shop. She had made some skirts for the girls and me and I was excited to see them. Cars drive fast on the busy road and the driver gestured that we should be quick to get out. In the rush, I forgot my expensive sun hat in the car but I only realised this when the car was out of sight. What a great way to start the day. Some guys who were standing on the side of the road saw my annoyance and asked if they could help. We explained what had happened. 'Don't worry, he will come back to bring the hat.' they said. They seemed convinced but I did not really believe them. Would he even know it was ours and take time to bring it back? And if he would, when would he come back? We did not really have time to wait at that corner for a driver who may or may not come. We decided that Hartmut should wait for what may happen while I took the girls to the tailor. Her excellent work (skirts for the girls and me and chitenge hand bags for the girls and my nieces) perked me up a little but not as much as seeing Hartmut outside the shop, with a smile on his face and my hat in his hands. The driver had realised that I forgot my hat, turned around and brought it back to there where he had dropped us. Just like the men there, he too was clearly convinced that we would still be there to take it because in this place genuine generosity and trust in the kindness of others has not died yet. What a place to live and learn.

zaterdag 22 december 2018

4,5 years with Sophie

Liefste Soof,
Je bent in de weer met papier, potloden, een schaar en een pritstift. Je knipt slierten, driehoeken en rondjes kleurt, plakt en knipt nog een beetje bij. Terwijl je vanuit niets iets maakt neurie je een liedje en mijn hart barst van trots. Je creativiteit kent weinig grenzen en je kan jezelf urenlang verliezen in een knutselwerkje. Waar net nog een wit a4tje was is nu een auto, een prinses, een vlinder of een kledingstuk voor Doris of de pop. Jij bent zelf vaak iets minder trots op je eigen kunsten want je legt de lat voor jezelf erg hoog. Waar ik trots ben op je fantasie en vindingrijkheid ben jij gefrustreerd over de dingen die niet helemaal zijn zoals je in gedachten had. Niemand is zo streng voor jou als dat kleine stemmetje in je hoofd dat jou zegt dat het niet goed genoeg is. Door je perfectionisme zit je jezelf vaak in de weg en ik ben bang dat dat een levenslange worsteling voor je gaat worden. Niet helemaal onbekend voor mij trouwens. We lijken op elkaar, jij en ik.  Soms, als onze temperamentvolle karakters weer eens botsen, is het een bron van frustratie.
Maar veel vaker is het een feest van herkenning. Je vader zegt dat jij de ruwe, ongefilterde versie van mij bent en ik denk dat hij daar wel een beetje gelijk aan heeft. Je reageert op dingen zoals ik doe en ik begrijp je als geen ander.

We vinden het heerlijk om samen dingen te doen; boekjes lezen, koken, dansen op je lievelingsliedjes en dan meezingen zo hard als we kunnen. Je hele leven is een grote musical. Vaak barst je, zonder ogenschijnlijke reden, uit in een zelfbedacht lied over de situatie; compleet met langgerekte eindnoten, uitgestrekte armen en theatrale gezichtsuitsrukkingen. Iedereen is uniek maar jij bent volgens mij een beetje extra uniek. Je bent een zeldzaam exemplaar dat niet gemakkelijk in een hokje te stoppen is. Je fantasie kent geen grenzen, je enthousiasme trouwens ook niet.
De enige die je gedachtenkronkels bijna altijd kan volgen is Doris en daar heb je erg veel geluk mee want ze is vaak je enige speelkameraadje. Niet dat je veel behoefte hebt aan anderen want je speelt heel graag alleen. Ik maakte me daar een beetje zorgen over en vroeg me af of je, als je op een plek zou zijn waar je wel met andere kinderen zou kunnen spelen, wel vriendjes zou kunnen maken maar toen we vorige week bij Carolien en haar familie in Tanzania waren zag ik dat ik me daar niet echt zorgen over hoef te maken want binnen de kortste keren speelde je heerlijk met Carolien.

Vandaag eten we een halve taart omdat we je halve verjaardag vieren. En vieren dat kun je! Voor een halve verjaardag krijg je, behalve een taart en een brief, helemaal niets maar jij weet er een heel evenement van te maken. Vanmorgen was je als eerste wakker, je feestjurk (eigenlijk die van Doris maar jullie schelen niet zo veel en je hebt naar een reden gezocht om hem aan te mogen vanaf de dag dat Doris hem kreeg.) hing al klaar en je trok hem gelijk aan. Een feestje hoef ik niet voor je te organiseren want dat kan je zelf wel. 'Omdat we een bananencake gemaakt hebben dacht ik dat het leuk was om een bananenfeestje te doen. Eerst gaan we bananencake eten, daarna gaan we een banaan knutselen en daarna gaan we met mijn oplaasbanaan bananenspelletjes doen in het water. En alles moet geel zijn.' Je straalt terwijl je je goede ideeën met mij deelt. Ik ken niemand die zo intens gelukkig kan worden van kleine dingen, niemand die zo veel liefde voor het leven heeft als jij.

Je bent een gevoelig meisje. Gemakkelijk blij te maken maar ook snel verdrietig of gekwetst. Je weet graag wat je te wachten staat en tekent op drukke dagen altijd een 'landkaart' met de plannen zodat je koppie het allemaal kan bijbenen. Je wilt alles weten en vindt het lastig als wij zeggen dat je nog niet alles hoeft te weten want je bent toch al groot? Kleine slimmerd; je bent ook groot. Heel groot! Je laat me elke dag weer versteld staan van hoe groot en wijs je al bent. Maar blijf ook nog maar even klein en onschuldig. De echte wereld is niet zo mooi als de wereld in jouw hoofd en mijn hart breekt als ik denk aan de dag dat jij daarachter gaat komen. Als de wereld je pijn gaat doen, je teleur gaat stellen en je keihard gaat laten vallen. Als ik daar aan denk zou ik je het liefste voor altijd in onze jungle-bubbel blijven waar je de hele dag pirouettes danst in je tutu en liedjes zingt tot je stem schor is. Maar ik weet dat dat niet kan, dat dat niet goed is. Ik weet dat jij gemaakt bent voor iets groters en dat het onze taak is om je te helpen om weerbaar te worden zonder dat je daarbij je puurheid en eigenheid verliest zodat jij daarmee de wereld een beetje mooier kan maken.

Gisteren stond je voor de spiegel. Je draaide je hoofd een beetje naar links en dan weer naar rechts. Je lachte naar jezelf, trok je vlechten recht en keek jezelf aan: 'Ik ben mooi mam' zei je. Je bent een prachtkind en ik ben trots op je!  Ik bid dat je die zelfverzekerdheid nooit gaat verliezen maar dat je je zekerheid en doel steeds meer leert vinden in de God die jou gemaakt heeft.

Liefs Mamma

woensdag 5 december 2018

3 years with Doris...

Mijn liefste Doortje,

Je zit tegenover mij en het plan was dat je pepernoten zou bakken maar jouw deel van het deeg verdwijnt in rap tempo in je mond in plaats van dat het in nette balletjes op de bakplaat komt. Als ik er wat van zeg vertel je me met een ondeugende grijns waarom de pepernoot die je net in je mond stopte toch niet gebakken had kunnen worden. "Deze was te klein dus die zou toch verbranden dus ik heb hem maar opgegeten, en die andere had een gekke vorm dus die wilde ik ook niet bakken." En dat is typisch jij. Je hebt altijd je woordje klaar en weet me altijd aan het lachen te maken, zelfs als ik eigenlijk boos zou moeten worden.

Wat hou ik veel van je. Van je stralende lach als je een grapje vertelt, je heldere blauwe ogen, je witblonde haren die steeds langer worden en eindelijk, eindelijk, gekamt en gevlochten mogen worden. Ik hou van je vastberadenheid, je doorzettingsvermogenb je flexibiliteit en je armpjes om me heen want je geeft de beste knuffels. Ik hou van je koppigheid hoewel die me soms ook tot wanhoop drijft.

Jij maakt je eigen plan en niemand kan jou vertellen wat je moet doen als het niet in je plan past. Als we kaartjes sturen krijgen de mensen van Sophie hele epistels maar als ik jou vraag wat ik op moet schrijven heb je niet veel te vertellen en als we een voicenote maken blijf je meestal stil. Hoe anders is het als je niet op commando hoeft te praten; dan staat dat mondje van jou nooit stil en heb je over alles wat te zeggen. Als we naar onze internet berg lopen zit je altijd bij mij in de rugdrager en dat is reuze gezellig. Je vraagt over de dingen die we onderweg zien met een eindeloze nieuwsgierigheid en alles wordt door jou van commentaar voorzien. Het laatste, steilste stuk klim je altijd zelf. Het is handen en voeten werk, vooral als je zo groot (of klein) bent als jij maar dat is geen probleem. Zelfverzekerd zoeken je handen weer naar een nieuwe richel om je aan op te trekken en je blote voetjes hebben maar een heel klein randje nodig om op te staan en evenwicht te vinden. Wat je niet kan uitstaan is dat Sophie altijd net een beetje sneller is, dat ze altijd net voor jou bovenop de berg aankomt want je wilt niet voor je zus onderdoen.

Ik kan niet schrijven over jou zonder Sophie te benoemen. Jullie zijn fysiek misschien niet verbonden maar zonder haar voel je je niet compleet. Hoe diep die band zit merkte ik toen je vorige week in het ziekenhuis lag en je het voor het eerst twee nachten zonder Sophie moest zien te overleven. Elke minuut die je wakker was vroeg je wanneer Sophie eindelijk zou komen, als we de telefoon net hadden weggelegd na een video gesprek met haar vroeg je of we haar weer konden bellen. Toen de de verpleegster patat kwam brengen wilde je het eigenlijk niet eten want je dacht dat het lekkerder zou smaken als je het zou kunnen delen met Sophie. Zelfs je verjaardagscadeautjes pakten jullie samen uit want, zo zei je, 'we gaan er toch samen mee spelen dus de cadeautjes zijn sowieso ook voor Sophie.'
Het is niet dat jullie nooit ruzie maken, absoluut niet, maar die ruzies, intens als ze zijn, worden altijd snel weer bijgelegd.
Wat Sophie vindt, vind jij ook. Als Sophie haar mening heeft uitgesproken hoeven we naar die van jou niet meer te vragen want jullie zijn twee handen op een buik. ( Jullie zijn het er alleen niet over eens wat de mooiste kleur is. Jij bent er van overtuigd dat er geen mooiere kleur is dan rood terwijl Sophie het liefste de hele wereld paars zou kleuren.) Uren spelen jullie samen in je eigen fantasiewereld waarin jullie elkaar haarfijn aanvoelen en je samen laten meesleuren door de sterke stroom van jullie verbeelding.

Maar ook zonder Sophie kan je je goed vermaken. Liggend op je buik met een potlood in je hand teken je steeds realistisch wordende scènes, met je diertjes verzin je hele theaterstukken en boeken kun je woord voor woord navertellen met je knuffelhond als publiek. Je bent een heerlijk kind en je kalme maar vastberaden aanwezigheid maakt ons leven mooier. Je knuffels ook. Niemand kan zo goed knuffelen als jij maar helaas voor mij is het vooral je vader die daar van mag profiteren. Hij is je grote held en van het moment dat je 's morgens je ogen open doet totdat je weer gaat slapen loop je als een hondje achter hem aan. Zijn schoot is je veilige plekje en je slaapt het rustigst als je weet dat hij in de buurt is.

Mijn liefste Doortje; ik kan je wel opeten zo lief vind ik je. Ik kan me niet voorstellen dat je al drie bent; de tijd met jou is, cliché maar waar, voorbij gevlogen. Soms wil ik de tijd wel even terugdraaien, om nog even weer te genieten van kleine baby Doris, om de herinneringen aan die eerste stapjes, dat lieve gebrabbel en dat kleine lijfje weer even te herleven. Andere dagen zou ik de tijd willen stil zetten zodat we je langer kunnen beleven zoals je nu bent in die heerlijke zoektocht naar zelfstandigheid terwijl je tegelijkertijd nog zo afhankelijk bent. Maar meestal ben ik tevreden met hoe de klok tikt. Hoewel elke leeftijd leuk was wordt het alleen maar leuker met jou. Het is een voorrecht om samen met jou te mogen ontdekken wie je bent, waar je van houdt en wat je goed kan. Je bent een pareltje en ik ben God dankbaar dat hij ons heeft uitgekozen om jouw ouders te mogen zijn!

Liefs Mamma

maandag 19 november 2018

7 embarrassing takes...

7 embarrassing takes

 This blog is for you in case you think I am only brave, creative and adventurous because, well, you probably guessed it already, I am not. I am a clumsy, messy, temperamental, chaotic perfectionist who often feels like she just stumbles through life. Here are some examples.

1. I am crazy chaotic and although I don't lose as much stuff anymore now that we live here (I barely have anything and our one-room-house only has limited places where you can misplace things) but I still manage to misplace and spend way too much of my time looking for things that should be easy to find.
 2. I always admire moms who remember every detail about their children. Don't ask me when the girls got their first teeth, when they started walking or what their first words were. I have written it down (a big reason to blog) but my brain does not find the information important enough to store it eventhough it's not that long ago. Last week I even opened up Doris passport to dubbel check when her birthday is because I was not 100% sure.
 3. This one I am very self concious about but I think that I am not alone in this eventhough we don't talk about it much so I will write it so that you know that you're not alone. After giving birth twice (and especially one very long delivery of a posterior baby) my pelvic floor isn't anymore what it used to be. A couple of weeks ago I joined Sophie and some girls in their rope skipping game  but I quickly stopped because, well, I could not keep my underpants dry. So awkward! I have started to do more kegel exercises (and I hate them) but I am nervous that it's something that will never again be as it was before children.
 4. I am much better at starting things than at finishing them. This translates for example in enthousiasm for growing my own veg and fruit doesnt match up with the care I give them and its usually Hartmut who will take over or else they die.
 5. I am terrible at remembering names and faces and that is sometimes really awkward. I can have an entire conversation with people and inly afterwards realise that they were not whom I thought they were... Awkward!
 6.   This one is for the dutchies. Ik weet dat er veel goede Nederlandse artiesten zijn die prachtige muziek maken maar op de een of andere manier heb ik per ongeluk alleen de heel erg foute liedjes van de jongens uit Volendam meegenomen en zonder spotify en YouTube is dat dus helaas pindakaas het Nederlandse muzikale erfgoed dat mijn dochters meekrijgen. Je kan er in elk geval wel lekker uit volle borst mee meezingen en stiekem is die gemakkelijke rijmelarij best leuk.
 7. We don't have a couch and only a very uncomfortable fold up camping chair in our house so I spend a lot of time sitting and half lying on our bed. So much that the girls have started to call me a bedmonster who loves being in bed.

zondag 4 november 2018

7 quick takes

1. It's been ages since I wrote a proper 7 quick takes and I am really sorry for that. (Mainly sorry for ourselves as it means that many memories will go undocumented and therefore probably move to the back of our minds where they will drown in a sea of things that should have been remembered but did not survive the cut.) Anyway, I have good reasons. The main one being that October was very very busy, we are starting to believe that our marketing strategies are working and the lodge has been a busy beehive of activity (at least compared to what it was when we came.).  But fortunately I have been taking notes of events that should never be doomed to the sea of the forgotten and now that it's a relatively quiet Saturday morning, the girls are playing and Hartmut is reading, I have time to add some meat to dry notes to make them tastier and easier digestible (don't worry, I don't make up that meat, it's all true 😜).
2.  I got distracted. It's Saturday afternoon now, the lake is still and calm and the girls, who are splashing in it, the opposite of that. Their giggles and happy screams make me very happy as they were grumpy little muppets just a few minutes ago. They just woke up from a nap on this sweltering Saturday afternoon and the best thing we could do after waking up sweaty and hot was to jump back in the lake, eventhough we had been playing in it all morning already. While the girls are swiming I look for delicious ripe mangoes. We are in the middle of mango season and we definitely get the recommended amount of vitamin c each day as all we snack on these days is mangoes. The earth is littered with mangoes and as I am looking more fall down. However,we cannot eat all of them. Most have been plucked by the monkeys who take one or two bites out of them before throwing them down. It feels a bit wasteful and the result is the constant smell of rotting mangoes but training the monkeys to change their habits seems difficult so we will just live with it and eat whatever they did not eat.
3. We don't use laundry lines but the strong sun bakes the dark rocks on the lake shore all day long; creating a perfect space for drying laundry quick and crisp. Every now and then a strong wind blows light items such as napkins and underwear into the surrounding shrubs or rocks but hardly anything goes missing until one day one of the staff members realised that her knickers had disappeared. She looked everywhere but coupd not find them and realised that they were probably gone. A few days later she looked up in one of the trees where a pair of hamerkopfs was building a nest. For weeks they had been flying with sticks, bits of fluf and anything they could get their hands (er beak) on. A familiar piece of fabric was sticking out of their gigantic nest (they were building onto an old previously used nest). We all had a good laugh but she was determined to get her underwear back so she got a long stick and climbed the tree until she could reach it and  removed it from the nest with a quick sqing of the stick. I hope that my underwear stays untouched as my tree-climbing-pole-flicking skills are not as advanced.
4. The days here might be slow but they are never boring and often things happen that we could have never predicted or made up. Like the day we went to stay with mr Bombwe, one of our staff members who lives in a village high up in the mountain. His family had kindly cleared a room for us so that we could sleep but before we entered they warned us that there was something in the room that did not want to be moved. I was curious to see what that was but could hardly believe my eyes when I saw what they were talking about. In the corner of the small room was a hen sitting on her eggs. She did not move, even when we came closer and that's how we got to spend the night with a hen, just a meter away from our heads.
5. We stayed with mr Bombwe because we were invited to a wedding in his village. We did not know the couple very well but I find it hard to believe that most of the other 3000 guests who were present were all close friends and family and we were very curious. The wedding was nothing like I expected but very entertaining nonetheless. The only comparison with any of the weddings that I had been to was the white dress of the bride but otherwise it was all different. The entire party was basically a big fundraiser to fund the party and all that happened was people comitting to give money in many different money games and money dances. Some where about counting steps where each step was worth a certain amount, others about dancing around the happy couple and literally showering them with notes of 50 and 100 kwatcha and even gifts in envelopes (like ours) were publicly opened and the amount were read out, together with the name of the giver. It seemed to be much more about showing of the generosity of the guests (the more generous, the more celebration) than the guests and people who gave most got a ticket to eat at the table where meat was served where others who gave less got a slip for table 2 where you got fed but not with meat and cooldrinks. The most entertaining part was the master of ceremony who tirelessly spurred people on to give more money. I have never seen anyone dance, act, sing amf motivate the way he did. After the wedding I learned that he would receive a percentage of the proceeds and I understood his fanatism a little better. The whole event took place on a big sport field where most people were sitting in the hot sun. We were settling for a place like that too but as soon as the mc discovered us in the crowd he stopped the gift-giving and ushered us to a place under the canopy next to the bridal party. It also did not really seem to matter how much money we gave because we got a place at the meat table anyway and when the bridal party got served drinks we got them too while everybody else had to buy them themselves.  We left when the sun started to set but from we were staying we could still hear the money giving going on for hours. The days after that 'wedding' was a favourite game; Doris would sit down with a veil on her head while Sophie danced around chanting the amounts that she would give to the bride. I wonder if they will be dissapointed if the next wedding that we go to (a Ugandan wedding in December) is going to be very different.
6. Besides getting immersed in the local culture, one of the most interesting things of living here is the kind of guests that comes here. It's almost as if we travel but instead of going to see the world, the world comes to us. We have lately shared supper with a Malawian crocodile hunter, a Swedish farmer, a French actress and an Australian doctor and many many more interesting people. However, we are getting a rather skew picture of what the adult population of the world looks like as most of our guestsb no matter where they are from, are highly educated, open minded left thinkers who rather invest their time and money in travel and experiences than in material things. They are mostly people who love discussing the state of the world and have informed opinions about it. It will be weird when we go back to the 'real world' where the population is much more diverse.
7. The wind is picking up, the sun is starting to set and it's time to start cooking. The kitchen is a bit empty as our supplies are only coming in on the boat again tomorrow but I am excited about our food anyway. We will be eating "mujadara stuffed cabbage with minted tomato sauce'.  It's a recipe from my Smitten Kitchen cookbook and I am yet to find a recipe from her that will disappoint me. Yesterday the food was great too. We made a big fire on the rocks, prepared soup in a South African potjie and roasted stick bread in the fire while listening to the waves and watching the lights if the fishermen in the distance. Aren't we lucky?!