4th of July

Fourth of July, 2007


This will be a short work-week as we’re celebrating America’s independence today, and Malawi’s independence on Friday. To commemorate the occasion, the Ambassador had us all over for lunch and cocktails…hobnobbing with delegates from all over the world.
Tobacco Auctions in Malawi

I, of course, celebrated the fourth of July in my own manner…and decided to check out the tobacco auctions here in Lilongwe. Tobacco is Malawi’s most important cash crop, comprising over 75% of the country’s export earnings – close to $165 Million. For such a small country, Malawi accounts for a large percentage of the world’s annual tobacco output. In fact, most major-brand cigarettes use Malawian tobacco in its blend.

The tobacco auction itself was spectacular! Three types of tobacco are sold in over 10,000 bales from the auction floor each morning, as buyers, sellers and auctioneers meticulously walk down every aisle. I was surprised to see just how orderly the whole process was. In my mind, I had envisioned a frenzy of activity – yet it was nothing like that. From what I gather, the tobacco farmers are receiving a fair price (relatively speaking) for their crop. Granted, last year there were too many farmers – thus forcing the price down (and as a result, many farmers stopped growing tobacco). The government is looking for a replacement crop – but to no avail (failed attempts include cotton and paprika).


On another note, I have a new roommate, Kate! She’s from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is staying with me for the next five weeks as she conducts research for her thesis (sponsored by UNICEF). It’s wonderful having her in the house….plus, her work is fascinating. She’s investigating the impact of inadequate water and sanitation facilities on adolescent girls, especially during their menstruation cycle. At school, girls are faced with poor facilities – inadequate water for washing, lack of soap, no privacy and non-functioning or insufficient toilets. This reduces school attendance. Considering the fact that women menstruate one week out of every month, it is imperative that this issue be brought to the forefront. I look forward to hearing her results.


Kate, Jamila (USAID) and I went back to Senga Bay last weekend. I splurged and bought some more art (wood carvings). And we’re planning a trip for this next long weekend – destination to be determined.

Andy and I ran into a major roadblock regarding his passport. Venezuela changed its name from ‘The Republic of Venezuela’ to the ‘Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’! Not a major change, but enough to warrant legally changing all of their government documents. Andy (who has a Venezuelan passport) drove to Houston to renew his passport (since NO ONE at the consulate ever answered the phone) where he was told they simply don’t have any blank passports! And…the only way they’d consider renewing his passport is if he physically went to Venezuela for a ‘family emergency’ and renewed it there!

The outlook is looking pretty grim….and we’re having a difficult time coming up with solutions. Plus, we’re not sure how much of the situation is legitimate (having NO blank passports available) or how much is political – especially with the underlying tensions between US and Venezuela. All I know is that it sucks! I was expecting him here the first week of August….and now it could take many more months! So frustrating!

Oh well…what can you do?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July.

Much love,

1 comment to 4th of July

  • Cousin Betsy from Toronto

    My Dear Cousin Amy
    I am so impressed to hear about your life. I was going to say “your accomplishments”, and realized that would be an understatement.

    You might remember me. When you were a little girl, I visited your family one summer. We went to Six Flags, rode the Zambesi Zinger, and you, alas, were too short to go on a ride. You started to cry, and with the innocence of a child cried out, “That’s not fair. I drink milk”! I remember David and Sami. All three of you were brilliant, curious and full of life. Seeing how your mother interacted with the three of you deeply influenced my parenting style with my own precious children. They too are very smart…and they have a soul….so I guess it runs in the family.
    When I visited you way back when, it was strange for me to hear you talk about your Nana Lily, because your Nana Lily is my Aunt Lil. Although I live in Canada, and don’t touch base with your mother and Uncle Steve very often, I feel very close to both of them because when I was a little girl, they were my “big cousins”. To me, they sounded funny (due to their American accent). Your Uncle Steve had a tremendous sense of humour and your mother? Beyond having deep and dark eyes of mystery, she was a flurry of energy.

    Your committment to the humanity of our planet inspires me. Be well. Love, Cousin Betsy (Brody).

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