Creative Feats (Feast?)

21 January 2018

[Above photo: As evening descends over the Misuku Hills]

We are a dinner party tomorrow (Monday) night. For 11. Linda has to teach until 5PM and will be observed from 4:30-5 by the CEO of Seed Global Health (Dr. Vanessa Kerry), our country Medical Director (Dr. Bridget Malewezi), and a major donor who is looking at the GHSP program in Malawi. And it is the inaugural day for her fundamental math/English cum jewelry-making class in our back yard. She has hired two artists to teach our female guard and 19 other ladies of no formal education and little earning capacity. It will be 2.5 hours, 2x/week for 2 months. It has the potential to be a life-changing experience for each of the women and I am so proud of her for pulling it together.

We cruised all over the immense Limbe market yesterday, seeking colored nylon yarn for bracelets. What a scene that place is! We headed down a muddy path between many, many tiny stalls, loud music and shouting everywhere, colorful chitenje cloth on display, and there was a drunken man having a loud, angry argument with a man who sells, among other things, empty glass bottles. The stall keeper kept his cool but didn’t give an inch as the other man would pick up one bottle after another and smash it into those on display, breaking all. I expected some bloodshed but somehow they avoided that and kept their honor intact, sort of. Much larger and rougher than the Blantyre market.We finally found the yarn and emerged from the market feeling exhausted and all our senses (except touch) assaulted.

Linda volunteered to do the meal. She likes to do that sort of thing. But we discovered that in the crowd were two recovered alcoholics, a vegan, a vegetarian, and someone who eats no gluten, dairy, or pine nuts. Pine nuts we can get past, as we can’t get them here anyway. So she has spent two days assembling ingredients with amazing cheer and creativity: gnocchi made from potatoes and millet flour, cashew butter instead of sweet cream butter, garlic-mushroom cream sauce for the gnocchi using coconut cream, and so forth. I’m only sous chef and grill chef, marinating and grilling the fillet du boeuf and the pork ribs, peeling 5 heads of garlic (and Malawi garlic has the tiniest, if very pungent, cloves), etc.

Anyway, all dishes except the salad, including dessert, are prepared, Linda assures me. But I thought that is why God invented time—so everything didn’t happen simultaneously. We’ll have a great feast and let the Donor know what good work we are doing.

On another note, when I arrived at the College of Medicine a year and a half ago, of the 23 ceiling and sconce lamps to light the ground floor hallway in our building (Microbiology. Hm, is mental illness infectious?) 7 were lit.  Last June before I left for holiday in the US, 5 were lit. Last week, one was lit. Also, both toilets in the men’s bathroom are fried. The communal urinal works but what can go wrong with a urinal?  Not a good sign, I think.  Crisis response, rather than regular and periodic maintenance, appears to be the norm here.  It isn’t surprising that there are water shortages when many sinks and toilets in government facilities run constantly.

We are looking forward to Robert Burns Night this Friday, toasting the haggis and Scottish dancing. Never a dull moment. I always look forward to The Roast. Dry, biting Scot humor.

Two psychiatrists (one from Edinburgh) just came to help teach for 4 weeks and brought us supplies I ordered through Amazon UK—a tire gauge, a map of southern Africa, and a tour guide of Namibia so we can more easily fantasize about dunes and deserts and hikes and sunsets there next winter (July-August).  And keep our tires properly inflated.

I wonder if I am feeling so uninspired writing this because I am feeling so content? As we did our dance of work around each other today, I realized how much I was enjoying sharing domesticity with Linda. It feels more and more natural.


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