Malawian Rice Vendor

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Seems hard to believe that we have been here at Butterfly for more than 7 weeks, time has literally flown by. We have fallen into a great groove! The philosophy at Butterfly is to contribute to this beautiful community of Nkhata Bay in ANY way possible. There is such a dearth of everything here. This is why when volunteers show up, be it for a few days or in our case a few months, they have the flexibility to help this diminutive village. Butterfly is obviously well known in Nkhata Bay and it's environs. They are involved in several diverse projects, everything from helping to staff the local kindergarten to planting sustainable gardens throughout the locality. There are so many things that we all take for granted back home that people here do not even have a clue exist. People lack basic skills of all types here. The one skill they do possess is the skill to survive no matter what it takes. Most if not all have an enormous desire to better themselves, to try and improve their necessitous plight. Butterfly is trying it's best to help in that area. For example, Josie has started a radio group. They are gathering, writing and producing a local news show in the local language. The news is read over the airwaves for all of Northern Malawi, the idea being that the group will learn how to hone their writing, reading, producing skills etc... With the possibility to make money in the numerous fields within radio. That is just ONE of the endless avenues yet to be opened here. Ourselves, we have found plenty of ways to keep busy. Starting with Monday which happens to be one of our favorite days. Mondays are the days that the special needs kids come to Butterfly for school. The group is absolutely amazing and each child is a true character. We have had so much fun spending all day Monday with these great children. We both have an overwhelming, new found respect for people who devote their careers and lives to this noble profession. We have a friend back home, Amy, who has been teaching special ed for a number of years now. I honestly don't know how she does this day in and day out, it takes a truly special person to dedicate their lives to such an overwhelming need.

Since George, our faithful interpreter, hasn't been well enough since his earlier episode (see earlier story), the two of us have taken it upon ourselves to gather the kids for the school day. This entails going up to the village and fetching them, then bringing them down to the meeting point along the far beach front where the boat is able to pick up the entire group and take them over to Butterfly Space. The village we have to go to is literally a 5 mile walk ALL up hill from Butterfly. We have made the walk a couple of times but lately have been a little lazy and have taken a ride in the back of one of the many pickups that ply this road which cuts about half the distance from our journey. We know we are responsible for walking the kids down the hill to the beach so we can all catch the small boat over and it allows us the opportunity to sleep in just a “little bit”! We head up to the house of one of the older boys in the group whose name is Liwell (pronounced Lye-well). His mother is an incredibly sweet and generous woman who greets us warmly upon each visit. Her English is excellent so we are not in need of an interpreter which makes dealing with Liwell a bit easier. We generally show up at Liwell's house right around 8am but usually Liwell is nowhere to be found. He knows that Mondays are school days but that doesn't seem to matter to Liwell. Liwell is usually out on a little “walk about”. It seems this is an usual practice for him and his mother has no control, part of this stems from the fact that Liwell is well over six feet tall and quite strong. Before attending school Liwell's mother, Martha, insists that he take a shower. She will not let him go without one. But for poor Liwell, getting him to the shower is an ordeal itself so generally we have to wait, and wait... She graciously serves us tea and biscuits while we all sit eagerly waiting for Liwell's return. Eventually he returns and we can hear him from inside the house as he is quite vociferous. Once he is securely in the house then the real fun begins. Among the many of Liwell's afflictions is ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. Once he does meander inside, Martha is constantly trying to coax her beloved son to go outside and take a shower (actually a bucket bath in a little bamboo cubicle outside the house). Liwell wants to do anything BUT get himself clean. He runs around the small 4 room house distracting himself in as many ways as he can possibly find. Meanwhile, Martha keeps telling him that we are there to take him to school and he needs to get in the shower so that he can be clean. This charade goes round and round for quite awhile. Around 9am, two of the other children, David and Rachelle, show up. They somehow instinctively know that Liwell won't be ready. Just the same they sit down in the modest living room and watch patiently as Martha tries to steer Liwell towards his shower. Eventually she does succeed, he actually showers, brushes his teeth and slowly, methodically, gets dressed. This happens all the while as he is talking to whom ever will listen to “lord knows what”. Finally, we are able to get him sorted, we collect the other two kids, say our goodbyes to Martha and march down the dusty track towards the main road. It is about a 10 minute walk to the main road and as we pass each and every house, not only are we greeted but so is Liwell as he seems to be a celebrity in his own right. People will shout Liwell's name and occasionally will return their greeting but usually not as he is in his own special world. On the way to the main road, we pick up one more girl, Chrissy. She is also quite the character. She is the type of person who CONSTANTLY needs attention. She is prone to grabbing things away from people and immediately crying when she can't get her way. This girl knows no boundaries. She too is extremely difficult to keep motivated as we slowly walk towards town. Along the way, she is constantly trying to beg for money from anyone she can. If she does succeed in securing a few kwacha she is off in another direction buying a small bag of peanuts or mandazi (Malawian doughnut). The two of us try to place ourselves both at the front and back of this small pack. In front is Liwell's domain since he takes long, gliding strides. In the back is where Chrissy seems to want to be as she stops EVERYWHERE trying to beg. Erika usually will take Liwell. It is quite an amusing sight watching the two of them going hand in hand, Liwell swinging his hands as Erika tries to keep her shoulder in tact. In the meantime, Jeff is trying to corral Chrissy keeping her from darting across the road where the sporadic cars zoom by at warp speed. Luckily for us both David and Rachelle walk down without any problems, both probably laughing inwardly as they watch us trying to keep the other two in line. It is about a 45 minute walk down the main road to the beach sight. Luckily the other kids, 5 or 6 are waiting as they are able to make it down on their own. The exception being Mauna, he has cerebral palsy and is unable to use his legs from the knee downwards. Luckily, his brother faithfully carries him on his back down to the meeting point. He has to walk down a series of sharp, winding turns from their small village high above the lake. Once we are all gathered, we are able to load onto the miniscule vessel for the short journey across the bay to the adjoining shore. The day with the kids goes by extremely fast as Alice's varied lesson plans always include several games, songs, a cooking lesson of some sort and many different hand/eye coordination activities. Lunch is always served usually around 12:30pm. This is probably the only decent rounded meal these kids will enjoy during the week. Before we realize it is time to go. We carefully herd the group back onto the boat for the return journey to the meeting point on the faraway beach. We give the four kids that we escorted in the morning some kwacha to pay for their return journey back up to the village. We find a motola (Pickup) where the four of them are able to squeeze in then we give the driver explicit instructions to take them to the junction where they can easily walk back to their little village. Since most of the drivers and touts recognize us by now, they understand that the kids need help and they are always very willing to oblige. Once we say our goodbyes and make sure that the four are safely on their way back home, we ourselves start our long walk home through the streets of Nkhata Bay. Since Monday marks the arrival of the weekly Ilaha Ferry, it also coincides with market day. The main street is packed with hundreds of vendors trying to traffic their wares. It is a protracted walk towards Butterfly as we tend to absorb the electric atmosphere and of course we end up buying a few, varied sundries ourselves. By the time we do make it back, both of us are exhausted trying to keep up with these special kids. Usually, we both collapse on the bed in silence reflecting on the amazing day past.

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