Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chapter 5

22.6 Beautiful morning, chips for breakfast! Water lapping on beach; superb setting looking across to the mountainous shore of Tanzania in the distance. Persuaded Jumbo to walk the three miles to his home. I think that he is getting tired. Great walking along village paths, fabulous big butterflies, baobab tree, rollers on telegraph poles, eagles over the water. Loads of kids, as usual, who still seem to be excited by a white man actually walking.. Headed out of Chilumba and came across a group of ladies on the road-side making cassava pyramids to dry on the roadside. The cassava is ground, made into a stiff porridge and then shaped and dried. It keeps for a month like this and can be sold. The cassava is interplanted with the maize and after the maize has been harvested the cassava goes on growing. Taught a group of children to count to 6. Big wide-eyed smiles, white teeth, just beautiful and innocent. Called in at a chicken farm as Jumbo is investigating chicken farming for the dry season. Very poor folk despite good egg business. They are buying their food from Lilongwe inspite of growing maize locally and having local maize mills. A component of the feed is soya bean which I am sure will grown around Chilumba. Jumbo is quite conservative but he has taken professional advice and has greatly improved his maize yield but there seems to be much more that could be grown in this marvellous fertile place.
We walked off the road along field paths towards Jumbo’s farm. We passed a bullock cart full of smiling people and ladies carrying sticks on their heads. The rough weedy fields support large numbers of flowers and spectacular butterflies. Jumbo pointed out his land and a new field he has just bought. Arrived at the farm, large tin-roofed bungalow with dark central living room and large flat screen TV and satellite programmes. Jumbo gradually introduced me to his extended family and proudly showed me his 50kg/90kg maize sacks, overflowing into his mother’s bedroom. Lots of smiles around the open cooking area which occupies one corner of a large beaten earth area with goats, long-drop toilet, chickens and even a white cat. Must be a bit of mud-bath in wet season. Orange trees just ripening. I think that with water you could grown just about anything here but I didn’t see a small kitchen garden with tomatoes or aubergines but there were some sweet potatoes. They don’t seem to grow salad. Fabulous views over to the lake and distant Rift escarpment.
Wondering if I would eat with the family but was solemnly served a meal in the living room with rice, spaghetti, potatoes and chicken. I wanted to try the maize mash but perhaps this isn’t seen as good enough for visitors.
Seems to be less English up north. I was told that the north is spiritually more superstitious. Jumbo told me that there are witchdoctors in the villages. The RC church seems to be very strong with education and health-care but I wonder what spiritual battles go unnoticed. Definitely felt that in spite of the beauty of the place it was hard to pray and read the Bible, perhaps the dictum that Christianity in Africa is a mile long and an inch thick is just as true about Malawi as the rest of Africa.
Makes me realise the need for a group like SOMA. I used to think that I could have nothing to offer the Africans from our rich western perspective, sitting with Jumbo each morning with 1 Peter I realise the need and the rewards of opening up the Bible together. He has lapped up the Bible teaching.
We walked together up to the RC church and school with Jumbo’s 17 year old son Michael. He does not feel that his school is helping him progress, he just does mornings with a poorly qualified teacher. His ambition is to be an eye surgeon, he has seen the great change that his grand-father’s eye operation has made. To send Michael to a secondary school would cost £60 per term, money Jumbo does not have as he is looking after the whole family. There are lots of young Malawians like Michael with great personal values but no way forward. I saw in a Malawian newspaper that the national budget is 1/80th of UKs. Enough said.

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