It's A Family Affair

(Amy, Mayday, Scott & Steve)

Mom and Steve finally returned to the states after several glorious weeks in Malawi. Unlike last year, in which we traveled all over the country, this trip was more low-key, allowing them to experience Africa via a day-in-the-life.

(Mom and Steve birding)

We developed a wonderful routine, with mom and Steve birding around the house in the mornings (apparently, I could open a bed and breakfast for birders – they saw more species of birds in my yard (I have several acres) than at most forest lodges they visited), meeting for lunch in the afternoons (unfortunately, I had to work during the days), and venturing off to HASH, dinner parties, and other typical social events in the evenings.

(Kate’s birthday gathering)

We even hosted a wine and cheese party (two commodities extremely difficult to get in Malawi), and were graced with the presence of the Ambassador and his wife. One thing I love about Lilongwe, regardless of one’s title or position, everyone genuinely enjoys each other’s compamy. As such, I was grateful that my mom and Steve were able to spend quality time with my friends, an incredibly diverse group of people from all over the world, each one involved in an interesting, rewarding (albeit questionable at times) career.

(Amy and Alisha)

And on the weekends, we created our own adventures.


Kate and Carl kindly let us stay at the A-Frame on Lake Malawi. We took our time getting to Senga Bay, pulling over on the side of the road to bird in marshes and swamplands along the way.

(Mayday on the beach)

Mom was once again a hit on the beach, chatting up fishermen, women and local boys.

(Mayday and the local boys)

And we even explored new territory! For years, I’ve seen a sign on the side of the road for Kuti Community Wildlife Park but have never actually been. So, we put my Nissan into 4-wheel drive and navigated the horrible terrain to the entrance of the park (it’s been rather wet lately, turning dirt roads into slippery ravines).

(Taken on the road to Kuti)

We wound through diverse woodland savanna, open grassy plains and gorgeous wetland environments. Aside from giraffes, zebras, and a few deer-like ungulates, the park wasn’t too abundant in wildlife, yet still a wonderful discovery.

(Giraffes in the park)

On another note, Maia’s kindergarten class is learning about East Africa; and as it turned out, Mom and Steve would be in Atlanta in time for their classroom presentations. Sami asked if there was something that mom could bring back for the kids that typifies Malawi – immediately, I thought how fabulous it would be to have personalized keychains made for each student. Sami enthusiastically forwarded the names of every single child in Maia’s class!

(Mayday befriending a young fisherman in the marshes)

The highlight of our weekend was visiting the wood carvers. I can’t begin to decribe their elation when we placed our order for 35 keychains! Yet the real beauty of the story is how the children in Atlanta responded when they received them. The following is an excerpt from Maia’s School Newsletter:

(Key Chains for Maia’s Kindergarten class)

• Maia Filler’s grandparents just returned from visiting Malawi. They brought an engraved piece of ebony for each student, along with photographs of the carvers and children who made the pieces. We learned to say Zikoma (thank you) in Chichewa, and we posed for a picture to send back to the community to show them how much we loved their work.


• We wrote thank you letters to our African friends. We learned that they need more pencils, and so the class decided to enclose their own pencils they used for writing the letters. One student wrote, “Good luck with your pencil grip and writing on the lines.” Someone else decided to send a copy of his giraffe paper to show that we are learning about Africa. Another friend sent his bookmark he had just received from the library.


Sami has already received this stack of thank you letters, pencils and other items from Maia’s class. The teachers also commented that the letters contain a lot of questions for the children of Malawi. I look forward to reading and to distributing the letters in Lilongwe. Perhaps this can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Maia’s school and one of the schools here!


Ironically, while my parents were visiting Sami, Maia and Ben in Atlanta, Scott is in Malawi for work (the President’s Malaria Initiative). Fortunately, Scott arrived the day before my parents departed, so we had one day where all of us were together. For the record, I absolutely love having family here. Scott and I have dined almost nightly – and it simply makes me happy to see his smiling face in the office.


Finally, I’m going home for a few weeks in April/May! Please keep in mind the following dates – and hopefully, we can begin to plan some mini-reunions in Kansas City, St. Louis and Austin.

April 26 – 29: Austin
April 30 – May 4: St. Louis
May 5 – 8: Kansas City
May 9 – 15: Austin

I’m in the process of renewing my contract for one more year. As much as I love Malawi, life in Africa is simply exhausting. I’m looking forward to spending my time in the states recharging my batteries and reconnecting with friends and family!


Sending much love,


(Kate, Marisol, Christine, Youssif and Amy)

2 comments to It's A Family Affair

  • Amy,

    Just when I think you’ve posted my favorite entry you top yourself! What a great entry about the kids and the keychains. Beautiful story! Thanks again for sharing your life and adventures with us.


  • Mimi Karpin

    Amy, thank you for sharing so many experiences and photos. It’s wonderful to get a feel for your life in Malawi. What an amazing adventure you’re on! It was nice seeing you tonight. -Mimi

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