Never A Dull Moment


Things have been somewhat quiet since Mom and Steve left Lilongwe, but life in Malawi is never dull. Last week, several of us attempted to go to Kumbali Lodge for our typical Sunday brunch but were turned away due to the arrival of Madonna! She’s back in Malawi to adopt a four year old girl, Chifundo “Mercy” James.

(Making Headlines)

The press coverage has been mixed. She’s receiving growing criticism from the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), which has described her move as ‘kidnapping’; and she has been accused of using her high profile and wealth as a means to shirk the legal process. Malawian law requires an 18 – 24 month assessment period before an adoption.


Granted, in casual conversations I’ve had with Malawians, most people are quite supportive of her decision to adopt. They realize that Chifundo will have a better life with Madonna; and despite the fact that relatives are reluctant to give her up for adoption, they, too, realize that they don’t have the financial means to support this child.


I’m sure as part of the Madonna and “Mercy” aftermath, the laws and procedures around international adoption will change.


And I must say I’ve experienced numerous ‘African Moments’ this week, starting with the phone company! As of April 1st, Malawi has introduced a new 10-digit phone number as opposed to the 8-digits it’s currently using.


Now under the best of circumstances, ZAIN and TNM offer sub-par services. And without any prior notice, all of the phone numbers throughout the entire country changed overnight– which makes it a real pain in the ass for communicating. My phone number now contains a ridiculous amount of ‘9’s: 0-9999-60386.


And in other household news, I’ve recently discovered why my guards incessantly beg me for food each and every day, which is incredibly exhausting! Each month, I provide funds for a 50LB bag of Nsima (the maize-like meal that is the staple in Malawi) for my staff to share.

Onyx, Thompson and Maliwe
(Onyx, Thompson and Maliwe – my permanent guards)

So I asked my gardener this morning, “where is the bag of Nsima”? He sheepishly informed me that they have been dividing the money amongst themselves and NOT buying food. It’s so typically African. They would rather have 500 Kwacha in pocket (the equivalence of $2) then have food for the month!


So now I’m going to have to purchase the food myself and dole out equal amounts to each person (because Hendrix complained that the guards were eating sometimes twice a day – hence eating more than their share).


Now I don’t want to sound as if I’m complaining but having a house full of staff definitely has its down side. I live alone yet basically provide for five other families, each one with their own trials and tribulations. I feel fortunate to be in a situation where I can provide steady income for these people, but my life is complicated enough – I certainly don’t need the additional drama!

(Gwyneth and Milo)

In other news this week, my friend Gwyneth and I went on a little photo shoot as part of our photography club. It’s truly marvelous to just hop in your car and literally drive down the street to small farms and villages, pull over on the side of the road, and begin to snap away. Malawians are so kind and friendly!


Work is going well…we’re exploring innovative ways to introduce unique patient identifiers as well as finalizing our roll-out plan for electronic data systems for managing patients on antiretroviral therapy.


And I’m starting to get extremely excited about going home! I have two mini-reunions/events planned thus far:

• May 6th – Kansas City – Happy Hour at Vinino in Power and Light District
• May 11th – Elvis Perkins at The Parish in Austin, TX

But first I’m off to Cape Town to run the Two Oceans Half Marathon. Meanwhile, having pneumonia for two months kind of put a wrench in my training plans – so I will most likely walk the majority of this race.

scott and amy
(It was GREAT spending time with Scott while he was in town)

Sending much love to all!


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