maandag 11 november 2019

7 quick takes...


  1. Good morning! It’s 6:23 as I start typing this but it doesn’t feel early. Hartmut has just left for work, the girls are outside playing with the ducks and the sun is already high and hot. We never set an alarm but every morning we wake up with the sun. Our room faces sunrise and because we don’t have curtains we get a fantastic lightshow.  It is the most restful way to start the day.
  2. It must have been the calmest weekend we have had in a long time. Hartmut and I were both not feeling great and in order to not get a full on flu, we took it very easy. We took lots of naps, made simple but nutritious meals and just did not do much. I think it worked, we are both feeling a little better and have enough energy for the new week.
  3. Sophie was pretty keen to get out and play with the ducks because she wasn’t allowed to do so the whole weekend. Sophie and Doris are getting a little overconfident with the ducks and seem to forget that they are real animals, which can feel pain as well. On Friday, Sophie put one of the ducklings on top of the duck house, apparently because she wanted to see if the duck could fly. I am pretty sure they can’t since their wings are not much more than fluff covered little protrusions at the moment. Anyway, the duck started to panic and jumped through an open window next to the roof. Unfortunately, that window led to a store room that isn’t ours but the landlord’s and he won’t be here anytime soon because he lives in Lilongwe. Leaving the duck in there was no option. That’s how it happened that I googled things like ‘How to open a lock with a paperclip’. The internet had beautiful solutions but they did not work. (or I am not clever enough, that’s an option too.) In the end we had to get a saw and Hartmut cut open the lock to free the duck who seemed unharmed from his big fall and pretty happy to be reunited with his friends. And sorry landlord, we bought a new padlock; you’ll get the key when you get here.
  4. We have started a history theme at school and we are loving all the stories. It’s a big theme and I realise that we could be studying history for the rest of our lives without ever feeling like we have learned it all, so we are just scratching the surface. At the moment we are doing a bit of an overview of the different time periods (Stone age, Greek and Roman empire, medieval times etc.) but the girls requested that we mainly focus on princesses, castles and knight. I always find a lot of ideas and materials and pinterest which is great but also takes a lot of time. A few weeks ago I bought a subscription for twinkl, a British website with resources for (home)teachers. It’s amazing and I am loving the wide variety of things that I find on there. It has made it much easier to have resources that match the questions that the girls ask and it also helps me to stay focused when I prep because we all know the rabbit hole that pinterest can be. Today we are going to look at the knight’s armour and craft a knight ourselves. All with twinkl resources. So easy!
  5. The ducks can be relieved as our new animal friends, who will be considerably less fragile than them, will arrive this week. Then they won’t be the only ones who have to endure the girls love… Hartmut has been working hard to make a nice house for the piglets and if all goes well, they will arrive on the boat on Wednesday. We are excited!
  6. I was looking at our calendar and realised that Christmas season is approaching soon! I am pretty sure that I would be more aware of that in other parts of the world, as shops are probably getting decorated, Christmas trees are appearing in public spaces and people are counting down to the holidays. Well, all that doesn’t happen here. One of the things that I noticed last year was how remarkably unremarkable Christmas day was in a Malawian village. No big build up, hardly any special food and no decorations. We won’t decorate our house either but that’s not because we don’t feel like doing it but because we will be traveling to Namibia for the Christmas season.  5 weeks and a bit to go before the girls and I get on a plane. Hartmut will follow a few days later. We would have loved to go to the Netherlands too but because it has been so long since we were there, we don’t want to do that long and expensive journey for just two weeks (Hartmut won’t be able to get more leave) so that has to wait till the end of his project. Then we hope to come for a long-ish period to have more time to reconnect with everything and everybody. Something to look forward to in the next year.
  7. Tomorrow we plan to go to Lilongwe and stay there for a night. It’s about time. The cupboards are pretty empty.  Lilongwe isn’t that big but traffic is terrible as town planning did not really happen. As a result, I always plan too many stops and shops that I want to go to to buy food and supplies. Unfortunately there is not a nice one-stop-has-it-all mall or supermarket and we have to go to different places to get our things. Oh well, it’s a change of scenery and there are nice restaurants so we will enjoy it anyway. Have a great week!


i won a voucher for a dutch toy shop and this diy castle is one of the things I picked. It came perfectly in time for our history theme.

Doris loves helping Hartmut as he builds a house for the pigs.

Our beach turns into a market when the fishermen come back with their catch. 

I love this little sail-canoes.

Pig sty taking shape.
This girl and her imagination... here she is on a boat on her way to Paris, cooking a meal from leaves and bark. 

dinsdag 5 november 2019

7 quick takes...

Better together.


  1. Yesterday was Monday, I know. But I pretended that it wasn’t because Hartmut had come home the day before and he didn’t go to work (he worked, just not in his office). I just really wanted to do as little as possible to enjoy the fact that we were together again. He was gone for ten days and it was fine. It really was. We eat, we slept, we played, we learned and we had fun. But we are better together. Maybe it’s good to be reminded about that every now and then. It helps us not to take each other for granted but to really value and appreciate the role each of us play in the clockwork of our family.
  2. A cake was baked, a welcome-home poster was made. The best dresses came out (whatever the best dress is depends on mood and time of the day) and a big party was planned. Of course a party was planned. Sophie is head of parties in our house and she will not let any opportunity for a party go by uncelebrated. I mean, she plans a welcome home party if Hartmut is gone for the day, so it was only fair that the end of a ten-day absence got celebrated with a big party. Now I want to leave too, not because I so desperately want to get away from the girls, but just because I want to come back.
  3. If it wasn’t Hartmut’s arrival, it would have been the content of his suitcase that we would have celebrated. At least, I did. Odd tasting Chinese sweets, a book about the forbidden city, a Chinese newspaper and ingredients for in my kitchen. Shaoxing wine, peanut oil, oyster sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms and a big cast iron wok. I have been practicing lots of Chinese recipes lately but struggled to get most ingredients so this will really give the cooking a boost and I am so excited! Sophie loved the newspaper. We did a China project and learned some characters. She scanned all the articles with a strong determination to find characters that she could read. Such fun!
  4. I wasn’t lonely while Hartmut was gone. For three days we had a Dutch family stay with us. They are going up North to the lodge that we used to manage to check out if they want to do for a season what we did too. It was really nice to be able to talk Dutch but also to share all the exciting stories about life on the lodge.
  5. There is not much to soak up but we do it anyway. Every little droplet that falls on our skin gets savoured, like every little droplet that falls on the dry soil gets taken in. I always say that we don’t get rain from the end of rain season in May until rain season starts again in December but that’s not entirely true. In October and November, nature sends a little teaser to get the world excited about what’s going to come. They call it the ‘mango rains’ and those rains are usually some short showers, not enough to make much of a difference to a place that is yearning for water, but enough to get us all excited. October had some dramatic rain clouds but stayed dry but this morning, as the girls and I were eating breakfast outside , we felt the first splashes of water on our skin. You cannot imagine the smiles on the girls’ faces. Rain is so exciting and we cannot wait to see the world around us change from a dusty desert into a green oasis.
  6. Ten years ago I moved to South Africa and rugby, the national sport, made me giggle. Let’s be fair, a group of grown men bumping each other over just to get an odd-shaped ball over a line seemed a little pointless to me. Fast forward ten years ago and you would see me cry because South Africa won the rugby world cup. In those ten years I learned the rules of the game and I learned to appreciate it. But not so much that the game in itself would make me cry. I cried because this win stood for some much more than just ‘winning a cup’. I cried because I know that a broken and divided country like South Africa needs something that unites, and that’s exactly what rugby does.   I cried even more because I hope it gives a new generation new role models. For too long, most people of colour in South Africa were gardeners, house helps and cashiers. Although they are all heroes in itself, seeing a black man lift that massive gold cup because he is the leader of the winning team etches an image that speaks louder than words. It tells a story about ability and race that South African kids (and adults) so desperately need.
  7. I need to stop. Sophie is raiding the treats-cupboard again as she is looking for more gifts to wrap for Doris and I need to stop her before she takes everything and we have nothing to eat until the 3th of December. Doris is also asking when we are going to start school so I think now is a good time. We closed our short China Project and started a new project on ‘now and then’ with a big focus on knights and castles and princesses. Today we will design our own coat of arms and learn about the different parts of a castle. . I am looking forward and so are the girls. Have a great week!

Learning Chinese characters.


baking fortune cookies had to be part of the China project too.

My kind of souvenirs.




maandag 28 oktober 2019

7 quick takes...

Sophie and Doris with the beach clean up team.
  1. Good morning! Can I first say that it is hot? Then that’s out of the way and I don’t need to talk about it anymore.. because it really is hot and it will be this hot till the rains come, probably early December. Every day we spend time on the beach to cool down because even the cold water from the tap isn’t actually cold anymore. Doris has a good trick for it though… We were walking and she was complaining that it was too hot. I could see that. Her cheeks were red and sweat was dripping down her face. Suddenly she started running as fast as she could and returned with a big smile. ‘I have a solution! If you run fast enough, you feel a bit of wind and it cools you down a little…’ Great Doris, I am glad it works for you. I am not convinced.
  2. Hartmut is in China this week to visit factories and check if the parts that they made for the solar farm are indeed what they were supposed to make before they ship it all to Malawi. It’s a busy but also a very interesting trip. Because of it the girls and I are doing  a China theme this week. Today we looked up China in our map book, learned how big it is and why, because of it, it has so many different landscapes and climates.  We learned some greetings and tomorrow we will write our own names in Mandarin (thanks to my friend Caro!).  We will learn about the Chinese celebrations (which I don’t know anything about yet) and make Chinese food. Did you know I really like homeschooling ;-)
  3. The weekend was good, much better and more social than I thought it would be. Hartmut already left on Friday and when he is not around, it can get a little lonely for me here. I was somewhat dreading the weekend  but it turned out that I did not need to. On Saturday the neighbours invited us for drinks and dinner, which was amazing and on Sunday, our friend Cara whom we got to know last year as she stayed as a volunteer at the lodge, came to visit. The girls (and I) love her and it was great fun to have her and her parents around for the afternoon.
  4. 37 sleeps until it’s Doris’ birthday. But it may as well be tomorrow if you ask Sophie. Since last week she has been busy with paper, ribbon and tape and when I go to her room I am not allowed to look behind the curtain because there she has hidden a big box with presents that she has made for Doris. She has raided (with permission) the sweets ,- and cookie cupboard and wrapped sweets, she has made drawings, bracelets, princesses and cake out of paper and she has lovingly wrapped up old toys. Sometimes she cannot help herself in her excitement and she takes out a present to give to Doris now, because 37 days is a very long time. Doris herself isn’t all that concerned about her birthday yet but our little miss party-planner makes up for her lack of excitement.
  5. Talking about parties; Sophie’s plastic party last week was a huge success. About twenty kids from the neighbourhood came. There would have been many more but we told them that they could only come if they were invited. If we hadn’t done that, we would have had 100 kids at least, and making popcorn, and staying away from chaos with all of them is a bit hard. The kids came all dressed in their best clothes and listened very patiently to Sophie’s speech about plastic pollution ( I wish I had filmed that) and a story about trash in Lake Malawi. Then we cleaned up the beach and made a fish-shape out of some of the trash and we ended with popcorn. Sophie was very chuffed that she made some new friends and is already planning the next party about deforestation. The day before the party we had already helped with the clean-up of another part of the beach as the local school had organised a big clean up. It was great to be part of that too. I wish that I could say that the village looks a lot cleaner now but I am afraid that it is a never ending battle against the plastic…
  6. ‘Hurray, we have electricity! Oh wait, it’s gone again. Aaaand, it’s back!” That’s been the power-situation the past week. I know I have been complaining about it a lot but this past week was an all-time low. Malawi doesn’t have enough electricity for the entire country as it is, but last week the petrol drivers were striking and as a result, there was a huge petrol shortage in the country. It was hard to buy petrol at the pumps and no power could be generated. Most days we had about 4 hours of electricity and that was that. It seems to be better now, although there is no electricity as I am writing this and the puddle of water under my fridge is slowly growing.
  7. Time to go. We all need to cool down before we melt away and by now the beach isn’t so hot anymore that our feet will burn while we try to get to the water. Have a great week!

The girl who doesn't get hot when she runs.

Every day!
My trash collectors



Sophie's Speech

The kids and the trash-fish

The girls are scared that the ducks don't drink enough water so they always force-feed them.

maandag 21 oktober 2019

7 quick takes...



The girls in the village school. It's where we have started to go to church.
  1. Good morning!  Hartmut left early for site, Sophie and Doris are playing a game that I don’t understand (what’s new), I don’t have to cook because we are going out for supper with Hartmut’s colleagues and lunch is sorted with yesterday’s left overs (pizza and salad!).  So it means that it’s a perfect moment to write my quick takes.
  2. She stares in the distance; seemingly unable to move. We have tried to give her food but she cannot eat. How do we even expect her to, now that her best friends have disappeared? The nights are the worst. Maybe sleep would give some comfort but she cannot sleep. She refuses to go to her room but stays outside, on the lookout for something that might never happen….yup, I just wrote that. About a duck. I wrote last week that we swapped big ducks for ducklings and that the remaining big mama duck seemed to be a bit sad. I would have never expected that ducks have such big feelings but she would hardly eat, she wouldn’t walk around and every night she would just stand on the roof of her house. We started to be scared that she would die of a broken heart so we decided to buy one of our other ducks back. We probably paid the highest price anyone had ever paid for a duck in our village because the people saw how badly we wanted it back (I am sure the village had a good laugh about those silly mzungus) but as soon as mama duck saw her friend they did a type of mating dance and started to move around again. She is finally acting like a normal duck again and we all learned a little more about animals. This week we added some more animals to our farm as one of the stewards on the Ilala had promised us some pigeons. He would only give them if we had a suitable house for them so after getting that together we sent him a picture and on Friday two pairs of pigeons arrived on the ferry.
  3. Sophie has been an enthusiastic environmental activist. For two weeks in a row she has been baking and selling muffins and although she sold out, she didn’t make that much money for wwf. Fortunately we shared the story in the Netherlands and with that she raised almost 250 euros for the sea turtles. How cool! It doesn’t seem like she is running out of energy soon because now she is planning a ‘plastic party’. Next Friday she wants to invite the kids from the neighbourhood and together we will read a book about the importance of keeping the lake clean (it’s ‘Chimmy the Chambo’, a really nice locally written book). She has planned that after  that we will pick up trash and make a fish-mosaic from the trash we find (a fish because they will live better lives if we don’t litter the lake) and then we will eat popcorn (first she wanted lollypops but that gives too much plastic waste). I love this girl!
  4. At school we are still talking about space. If it was up to me, we would have moved on to the next theme. I have learned everything that I want to know about space in the past weeks. But my astronauts in the making say they haven’t. They still have many questions, many more things they want to know. So space theme it will be, for the next lightyear or so.
  5. From the end of this week it will be just the girls and me for over a week. Hartmut is going to China for work and I cannot deny that I am a tiny bit jealous. I have always been fascinated by the country and would love to experience it for myself. Oh well, his trip is not going to be a touristy one as it is jam packed with factory acceptance tests (where they check if the factory made what they wanted them to make before shipping it all to Malawi). Here we will make the most of it which probably means daily baking sessions, lots of play dough and crafts, lots of book readings and sharing a bed at night with the three of us because we don’t like sleeping alone. And we will send Hartmut a shopping list because learning Chinese cooking is one of the goals I set for myself but it’s hard to get the ingredients here.
  6. Baking these days feels like gambling. Not because I am not sure whether my recipe will work out but because the electricity situation is very unstable. I have had perfectly risen bread that I could not bake because without power the oven would not work. I have had a cake that was a lot paler than I would have liked it to be because the electricity stopped mid-baking.  I left it in and just hoped that the residual heat would do the trick. It did. Sort of. Malawi has a terrible power shortage and there used to be a load-shedding schedule but right now they seem to be more and more unpredictable. The only thing we can predict is that it’s usually out for at least six hours once it’s gone.. great!
  7. Time to leave this laptop and talk about space ships. From the looks of it, it will be a rather normal week without any spectacular plans. That might change though, things always change here which is probably why I like living here. Before we start school I have to take care of our animals. Now that there are nine of them, it’s a job I actually need to make time for. But I don’t mind. There is something nice and peaceful about tending to their needs. Have a great week!
We made 'planets' from wool.

You make a big ball that you dunk in hot water. Then you roll it between your hands until it's a tight small ball (don't take this as a tutorial though, this is the simplified explanation.)
Our universe!



Someone is loving our new ducklings.



maandag 14 oktober 2019

7 quick takes...

Doris and her duck


The muffin stall for  cleaner seas.


  1. Good Morning from a windy and hot Senga bay. I did my run, we had our breakfast, checked that the girls dressed themselves (more or less) and now I am ready to write a blog. The girls are playing. They are making a movie, they say, and disturbing them before the movie has a happy ending would be a crime so it’s better to not interrupt them. Hartmut is in Lilongwe, he may be there just for the day but he might stay the night, depending on how things go. ‘How things go’ is something you never know in Malawi so we play it by ear and will see it when we see it. ‘Tiwonege’ is something we often say. It is Tumbuka for ‘We will see’ and has proven to be a very useful phrase in Malawi.
  2. ‘I think the people just don’t know that plastic is bad. So I will make a sign to say why it is bad and once everybody had read it I will move it to the next place and I will keep on doing it until everybody knows it and then nobody will throw plastic in nature.’ That’s Sophie’s idea on how to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in nature, and she is right, education can be a great tool! WWF uses education as one of their tools to prevent more plastic to end up in nature and right now they are raising funds to be able to do that. Sophie has joined the fundraising and becoming quite the activist. Last Friday she baked  muffins to sell and made a protest sign to place on the beach and she sold out in minutes! So she has promised the people she will be back this week with more muffins. I like it. It reminds me about when I was little. I was part of the wwf-ranger club and whenever they would ask the ‘rangers’ to fund raise I would go to all the neighbours to ask for money for the rhino’s, the orangutan and the turtles. There is something about that apple and the tree that is painfully true with Sophie and me. Watch the movie at the end of this blog to see Sophie at work. 
  3. Facts are not as true as they are often presented to be. Not too long ago people though the earth was flat and flies generated out of garbage. Now we laugh at that. One big part of our homeschooling journey is learning that our knowledge of things isn’t static but constantly evolving. Opinions can change, insights can change and sometimes even facts can change! We are still in the space theme and we learned that Jupiter has more moons that any other planet. How cool was it to read this article (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/10/discovery-20-new-moons-gives-saturn-solar-system-record/) with the girls and discuss what it means. So now Saturn has more moons. Have they always been there? What does that mean for all the books that say that Jupiter has more moons? And how do we know that scientist won’t discover more moons at another planet in the future? How does news like this affect the way we look at facts? I am grateful that coaching the girls gives me an opportunity to learn and sharpen my brain too.
  4. We are like new parents of a baby who is learning to walk. Cheering them on, feeling pride as their flapping wings are almost succeeding in another clumsy attempt to lift the heavy bodies of the ground. Our ducks are learning to fly and it is great to watch.
  5. Another duck-take because now we have only one big duck left. Yesterday we swapped two of our big ducks with a neighbour for three ducklings (I wrote about the reason for this last week). They are fluffy and cute but also look like they could do with some tlc as they are very dirty and very thin. A few weeks in the loving care of Sophie and Doris will do them good. It has been interesting to watch the one big duck that is still here. I didn’t expect her to have very deep feelings but since her friends has left she has behaved completely different. She will only eat if we pick her up and feed her and she refused to sleep in her house but stood on the roof, looking out for her friends. She isn’t too impressed with the three little ducks and picks them when they come too close. I hope it will change soon because otherwise the swap was a bad idea.
  6. Friday wasn’t just about baking and selling muffins; it was also about an interview with the class of Robert, my brother in law. They are doing a project around transport and travel and had to interview somebody who did a lot of travel so they video called us and suddenly the girls and I were on the big screen in a Dutch classroom. It was great and the kids had many interesting questions. The idea was that I would answer them but it did not take long for Sophie to take over and talk so much that I had to stop her. So, if anyone wants insights into our life, call Sophie and you will hear anything you want ;-)
  7. It’s time to get going. The girls are doing ‘Dutch’ on the squla app, I have some work things to do and I promised the girls that we would look into constellations today. Have a great week!




This kingfisher flew against our window and needed some love before it flew away again.