Jayne and Sam in Malawi!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Happy New Year from Malawi. It’s hard to believe it is 2010. The rainy season has definitely started here now and this is wonderful news – so many people in Malawi rely on the land for their food and their lives. The rain is something else though; I thought I knew all about rain, having lived on the West coast of Scotland for nine years. However, Malawi rain is quite different – particularly in the way in which it arrives. When it rains, it tends to be torrential and we have been having the most amazing downpours; these have been accompanied by very dramatic thunder and lightening. If you are inside, this is fabulous. However, if you happen to be out and about, it is clearly not so good. In fact a number of people have been killed by lightening over the last week and it is a bit scary. The other thing to say about the rainy season is that it has taken away a lot of the dust. This would be absolutely fantastic if it weren’t for the fact that the dust has been replaced by mud – LOTS of mud! Drainage here is quite poor, so the water tends to accumulate. I am therefore still struggling to stay clean! Sam has his raincoat on now when he goes out for a walk and the Malawians think this is absolutely hilarious – a dog with a coat on! I had a very good idea what the reaction was going to be before I took him out in it for the first time and I must admit that I thought twice about putting it on him. But it gives him protection and so for this reason I think it’s important that he wears it. It causes a lot of laughter when we are out and about though.

One very positive aspect of the rainy season is the drop in temperature; I am so, so thankful for this. The heat over the last few months has been torturous at times and I have struggled with dehydration and headaches. The current situation is much more manageable and I’m told that the temperature will continue to drop over the coming few months. Wonderful! There was actually one day last week when I got caught in the rain; I was absolutely drenched by the time I got home and to my astonishment, I realised that I was actually cold. I haven’t experienced this sensation for months and it was fantastic. I hurried inside and put on a lovely fleecy dress and a big pair of thick socks. Then I snuggled up with a good book – it was just fabulous.

Talking about the weather (do we Brits ever talk about anything else?) Christmas day was wonderfully wet and dreary. I was worried that it would be a hot and sunny day; very un-Christmas in other words. However, fortunately the sun stayed away and we had a lovely grey day! I’m aware that this probably sounds very strange, but it actually made a real difference. There was something wonderfully comforting and familiar about the weather that day and in many ways, it helped relieve the homesickness that I sometimes feel here. Being in a country like Malawi is so different from the UK – in every single way; the cultural differences are just so huge. More than anything else, it is these differences that lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Initially, I thought that it might just be me who feels this way about being in Malawi, but I have made friends with some other Brits who are here working and it is reassuring to know that they also experience these feelings at times. Things are getting much better though. I have previously described being in Malawi as a rollercoaster ride - full of enormous (and emotional) ups and downs - full of great highs and lows. I have been here about six months now and I am glad to report that things are calming down; more and more I am adjusting to this new life -more and more, I am building relationships and more and more, the local people are beginning to accept me as a member of the Kasungu community. I am not just an asungu (white person) tourist! Being here has reminded me of just how important the sense of ‘belonging’ actually is to one’s emotional wellbeing. I first became aware of this issue when I moved to Scotland from London in 2000. Being in a place where you feel ‘different’ is a big challenge. However, these feelings eventually vanished and I know that the same will happen here – it might take a little longer, but I know that I have turned an important corner.

This talk of ‘belonging’ brings me to the subject of Chichewa – the national language of Malawi. I am trying to learn this, but oh boy I am finding it hard. I have no natural ability when it comes to the learning of foreign languages and so this is proving to be very difficult. However, I am slowly progressing; I try to learn three new things/words a day. Learning Chichewa is so important; being able to speak it makes a big difference to how people respond to you here and even the most feeble attempts (my attempts in other words!) are really appreciated.

Changing the subject swiftly, the President of Joy to the World Ministries (Fletcher Matandika) is in Malawi at the moment and this is a great blessing to all of us here. Fletcher lives in Canada and our normal means of communication is by email; having the opportunity to sit down to discuss things face to face makes such a difference – it’s fair to say that there is a lot to discuss! At the moment, The Lighthouse is not a financially viable business and although our Christian library is working wonderfully well, our computers are not bringing in enough money to cover our monthly overheads. This is mainly due to the fact that there are simply not enough people in Kasungu who know how to use a computer; a fact that has taken us all by surprise. Our goal for 2010 is to bring The Lighthouse to the position where it can stand on its own two feet financially.

So these are my two challenges for 2010. A personal challenge – to learn Chichewa and a professional challenge – to get The Lighthouse making enough money to cover its bills. Easy-peesey lemon squeezey!

Sam and I wish you all well with your own challenges this year; we thank you for all your support, prayers and good wishes. Have a fantastic, happy and healthy 2010. God Bless.