Day 8 – Friday

Day 8 – Friday

We left Blantyre on time and got a good start to the journey. We had discussed taking a different route back in order to go by Lake Malawi but decided against it as we were unsure of how long it would take and also were still not confident about the car. We were about two hours into the trip when the car started to act up again slowing to a stop. We continued after it started up however it continued to get progressively worse until we were stopping every five minutes as we got closer to Lilongwe. We called Avis and they were getting another car ready but we weren’t even sure if we would be able to make it to the Hotel to change it. We stopped and started for another half hour through Lilongwe and eventually made coasting into the entrance of the hotel. Avis were apologetic about it and had another car, a newer version ready for us shortly after we got there so we did not lose too much time and continued on to Nhkamenya.

We arrived back at the Parish at about 2pm and were welcomed with lunch and smiling faces. We relaxed a little and then went to help with the preparations for the Big Sunday Mass to follow the Ordination that was to take place the next day. We assisted in the painting of the bases of all the trees surrounding where the Mass would be held and lacking any real paint brushes we used a fibrous branch of a tree that had been shredded into a brush like end – I have to say it was even better than some new brushes I have bought at home. I painted and Rick took the pictures.

Following this we took Father Angelo back down to the town and bought him a few cases of Green Beer to replace some of the ones we had tasted for him. We had to hold many tastings as it was difficult to gauge the true flavor on just one or two sips – Father Angelo was happy to receive them.

We returned for dinner and ate together at the Parish house where another guest had joined on his way to Mzuzu for the Ordination. I was resting after dinner and we were chatting, when Father Mkandawire, the Pastor formally thanked us sincerely for our visit and what our Club had done already for the Parish and the community here. He expressed extreme gratitude for all of the kindness that had been shown to their community as a result of the growing relationship that had begun with Father Alphie and had now solidified itself with this new relationship with Father Angelo. The members of the community were overjoyed at the visit by the two of the Americans (Irish) and it was hard to explain just how much it meant to them to have a “Mzungu” (white man) visit out that far in the villages – just to shake our hands was a treat and a rare occasion. I expressed our thanks for their generous hospitality and appreciation for having moved them around in order to accommodate each of us with a room while we stayed there. It had been a great visit with some very productive meetings and enlightening tours of the various communities within the parish – I had a lot to share when I returned home.

Following our conversation Father Angelo asked me to join him for a meeting with the Youth (young teenagers). I said sure – It was about 8.45pm and we walked over to the hall where there were about 30 young girls and boys and they were holding a meeting to discuss issues and various topics. Father Angelo is head of the youth organization for the Parish which includes over 5,000 youths. There are a number of different youth clubs throughout the parish which are made up of a committee and have an elected President that runs their meetings. The youth meet at each club on a bi monthly basis and the President meets with Father Angelo at the headquarters in Mzuzu on a Bi monthly basis also.

Father Angelo always seems to have something going on that connects with them – he introduced me and spoke a little to the group in their language and then they all laughed – he had made a comment on my shorts as it was quite cool and nobody was wearing shorts – just the” Irishman from America of course”.

Father put me on the spot a little and asked me to say a few words of introduction and reasons for our visit and then I answered a few questions from the group that were all on issues that they were experiencing – Getting married rather than finishing school, looking for jobs, learning a trade. I found it difficult to give them good answers as all of the political and economic reasons for their futures were so much in evidence but what do you say! I commended them on their respect for education, each other and their community and encouraged them to make sure and vote when they become old enough to do so. We talked a little about the internet and the changes it is bringing to other countries around the world – cell phones are only getting started here so there is a bit of a ways to go. It was an interesting meeting and just another glimpse of what Father Angelo had scheduled for me to witness while I was here. We said our goodbyes so they could continue with their meeting and I thanked the President of the Club for allowing me to join them.

We retired after this to bed at 10pm – 5am start the next morning to travel to Mzuzu for the Ordination

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Day 9 – Saturday

Day 9 – Saturday

We rose at 5am and packed the car for the last time, had a cup of tea (Barry’s that I had brought with me) and a slice of “Thank You” cake that had been overlooked at dinner the evening before.

We left the Parish at 6am and headed North up the M1 toward Mzuzu. We arrived at 8am and as promised got a full tank of gas at the station in front of the Bishop’s house – it is handy to know some people when there is no gas in the country, men of the cloth have a bit of influence here.

We took a tour of Father Angelo’s office in Mzuzu which served as the meeting place for the Youth Club Presidents and was established and funded by the church to provide a resource center for them. It had a computer that worked off XP and Word2003 and a photocopier that did not work. Father talked about the need to incentivize the youth to use the center office more often and learn from it – It needed books and a computer for Internet access.
We continued on to the main church where the Ordination was to be held – it was busy there with over a thousand people attending. Wonderful colors of blue, white and red with the name of the hosting Parish of St Augustine’s being displayed everywhere on banners and on the clothing of the dancers and the choir. Singing was already underway. We were introduced to the Bishop and then found our seats to witness the ordination of three Priests including Deacon Edmund from the Parish. We took a lot of pictures and video.

To stay on our schedule we left shortly after the main event and hit the road again at 11.15am. We drove to Nhkamenya first to drop off Father Angelo and say our final goodbyes and then we continued on the journey back to the hotel at Lilongwe. The road was good and the car behaved well. We arrived at just after 3.30pm and settled up Avis, checked in and got ready for our meeting with Stallard Mpata who as the past District Governor for the District that included Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique. It was a good meeting where we discovered that Stallard had spent time in the US studying at the University of Tallahassee and making bi annual trips to the United States – We encouraged him to visit our Club at a future time. We discussed what we had been doing, the future plans – reconfirmed some of the contacts at all of the different clubs of Malawi. We talked about the future of the country and the difficulties that it was experiencing with its current leadership as well as the recent K8million that the UK had pulled back in aid due to its dissatisfaction over the government’s policies on the economy. We thanked Stallard for taking the time to meet with us and finished our evening with a burger at the restaurant retiring at 10pm. Tomorrow we head to the airport for our flight home – We are ready – it has been a long ten days and we look forward to seeing our family and friends when we get back

When I get back I will have a lot of pictures and video to be uploaded to the blog so keep an eye out for updates in the near future when I have larger megabyte upload capabilities

Thank you for following our trip and please tell as many people as you can about our golf tournament in aid of Malawi that will be held on Sept 12th 2011 – check the website at www.galwaybaymd.com

Signing off – Anthony

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Day 7 – Thursday

Day 7 – Thursday

Rick had originally canceled this morning’s meeting with Martin and the Meteorological department and did not think he would be able to make the Rotary Lunch that was set for 12 noon but he pulled it out of the hat and arrived just before the Rotary meeting started.

We got to present our power point to the club and show them what we had been up to at the Holy Cross Parish in Nkhamenya and we were very well received – in fact one of the members and childhood friend of Martins actually grew up in one of the villages nearby – he is a Doctor now. There were a lot of guests at this meeting nearly outnumbering members and even included a visitor from Ireland who was there on a Fair Trade Project with KPMG. Rick was able to pay compliment to Martin who had come as a guest and we both paid tribute to the welcome we had received from everyone up and down Malawi. We received good comments during the meeting and following its conclusion were able to speak with the Project coordinator and the President of the club and exchange email contacts.

One of the Rotarians commented on how great it was to see a Malawian (Martin) be complimented on doing a good job from within the country rather than someone from outside having to do it for them – made a great point.
Rick then left to go for his meeting with the Meteorological Department with Martin and I stayed to have a chat with the Sergeant at Arms who ran a paint business, originally from Holland but had lived in North Carolina for a bit returning to Malawi for most of the last 45 years

It was a great discussion on the politics of the country, the population, education, demographics and what the potentials for the country were. There are a lot of common themes in Malawi with other countries it is just so poor that it seems to create a vicious circle that can keep going around in circles – did you know that 60% of the population of Malawi was under the age of 16? We met a few others that had some influence – the CEO of one of the local banks, the owner of one of the country’s largest food producing companies and the CEO of the BP operation in Blantyre – (kept his number handy for the gas problem)

I took a walk later in the afternoon and visited the flea market where you could buy clothing, shoes, phones, chargers, bags and food all laid out in make shift stalls, there were throngs of people and it took me a little bit to get comfortable and move through the crowd – would have made a great Market House with all the activity but I guess it just wouldn’t be the same as our famous Market House in Annapolis!!!!!

I could see the parking lot where all of the small little Toyota Hi Ace Vans assembled getting ready to bring the people back to their respective villages after working in the town for the day. There were about 50 of them all ready to go.
We still had not heard from Avis and were unsure of what we were going to do the next morning.

I met back up with Rick at the hotel at about 4.30pm and we waited for Martin and his family to come and meet with us as he wanted to introduce them to us. He arrived shortly before 5 with his wife, two sons and daughter who were all in college or finishing school. We had a good conversation and he presented us both with a gift each of a wooden sculpture, there was a lion for Rick and an elephant for me, they were great.

We shared a beer together and then they departed, in the meantime the Avis guy returned with the car and a full tank – we were ready to go the next day. One thing for sure I was glad we went with Avis and not some of the other cheaper choices that we could have made.

We had some dinner and then headed to bed early for a 6am start

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Day 5 & 6 – Tuesday & Wednesday

Day 5 – Wednesday

We left for Lilongwe at 8.10am after breakfast with the Father’s. The road was good and we arrived at Lilongwe just after 11am, however having stopped at a gas station just before getting to the hotel we discovered, having driven by a number of them, that there was a shortage of gas everywhere. This would be a problem for us to continue or journey tomorrow. We checked in with the Avis guy at the hotel and he said he would try and take care of it. The gas situation is a result of the countries lack of dollars to buy gas, the economy is not very positive at the moment here and there is displeasure with how the present President is treating the issues.

We got ourselves ready for the Rotary Lunch meeting and made our way to the room where it was being held. We met with a few members as they arrived and conversed about where we were from and why we were here in Malawi. The meeting itself had a tight schedule, even though they did not have a presenter, they had a lot of business to attend to and guests were asked to leave about three quarters of the way through the meeting hour. Initially disappointed we waited outside until their meeting broke and were able to make arrangements to meet for a drink with the Sargant at Arms who had been a previous President of the club and the Projects Director later that evening. Prior to the trip I had arranged to meet with the Past District Governor, Stallard Mpata, unfortunately he had a death in the family and was unable to attend the meeting. We met with one other member after the meeting broke who was an American, his name is Christopher Nyce and he was in Malawi as the Economic and Commercial Officer for the US government. Christopher had been a Rotary Member for just over 10 months and was enjoying being involved with Rotary and wanted to get more involved with some area (we think good timing). It was also good for my colleague Rick and the business of his non – profit, IEDRO.

We met later in the hotel with Sophie and Hatch and we were able to show them our presentation and the recent pictures that we had taken in Nhkamenya. We had a great 2 hour conversation about ourselves, themselves, Rotary and the potential partnerships that could be established between our clubs while working toward Future Vision 2013 in Malawi. Lilongwe has a lot of International matching grants and have tapped their limit of 5 at this time with more backed up in the line behind them, however we also discussed other ways of potentially being able to avail of local district grants by funding part of a project with “community contribution” The conversation was good and established a good basis and introduction for us with this club. In addition to this great meeting I got a call later from Stallard Mpata and we have arranged to meet on Saturday evening in Lilongwe prior to our departure on Sunday.

Following that I had a few green beers while Rick stayed on the red wine – we then retired for the evening not knowing whether we would have gas or not the next morning to continue our journey.

Day 6 – Wednesday

We rose at 7am and met for a great breakfast of sausages, rashers, baked beans, toast and marmalade, – yum they even made a great cup of tea. After breakfast we went to the Avis office to see what we would be doing for the day. Luckily our Avis rep was able to get petrol, unfortunately he had to come from the Black Market so it cost a little more (about $90 to fill ¾ of a tank in a Toyota Corrolla – I know, maybe we got ripped off but what can you do – need the gas). Either way it was worth it as neither of us had to wait in line or scour the town looking for petrol. We paid the man and left the hotel for Blantyre at 9.24am. We had estimated the trip to take us about 4 hours.

Along the way we had a few issues with the car where it would just cut out while passing or speeding up on a few occasions forcing us to pull off to the side and just roll to a stop. After stopping it would start up again and allow us to continue. This only happened once during the first half of the trip but became more frequent as we got into the second half of the trip. Fortunately it got us to Blantyre and we arrived at the hotel by 2.30pm. First order of business was to hand the car back to Avis and ask them to get us a new car or fix it and at the same time locate some petrol, as there were shortages in Blantyre also. The Avis representatives were very helpful so we hope to be ready to go when we leave early on Friday morning.

Upon arrival we met with Ricks IEDRO representative here in Blantrye, Martin. After we checked in they met for business and I joined them later for conversation at about 6.30pm. It was interesting to learn about some of the work that is going on all around Africa in rescuing the weather data and how the meteorological departments of each country are contributing to the effort. It was clear how valuable the volunteer time that Martin had been spending on the work was to IEDRO and the progression that had been made because of his contributions. The gift for Rick was a box of old micro fish slide with old data that Martin had found at a local auction having been discarded. The gift for Martin was a brand new American video camera.

Two friends of Martin’s, one of which was a member of the Rotary Club of Blantyre, joined us for a half hour where we had some conversation of what we were doing here in Africa in addition to Rick’s work.

Rick did not feel too good after the meeting and even passed up on dinner to retire – he had a few early morning meetings scheduled that he wanted to be ready for in the morning and then we would meet up for the Rotary Lunch meeting at 12 noon.

We had an early night – no green beer for me

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Day 2 – 4

Day 2 – Saturday
Got up early, had a good breakfast at the hotel and left to pick up the rental car – made our way north on the M1 to meet with father Angelo at Kasunga about 100km from Lilongwe– He was waiting there for us and we then followed him a further 60km to the village of Nhkamenya. We met the Pastor of the parish, Father Robert Mkandawire and Father Robert Banda who was another priest there. We were offered lunch and made to feel very welcome. They had prepared rooms for us at the main house where the priests lived Lunch was chicken legs accompanied by okra, a traditional dish made from cornmeal and some fresh cut fruit. They prepared a special cake to welcome us. Father Angelo took us for a tour of the grounds and indicated to the local hospital surrounding primary schools and the main church which was built in 1950. The Church and home for the priests is the center location for over 100 outreach communities ranging in distance from 5 to 60km away.
Tomorrow we head out early to visit one the outreaches where Father Angelo will say Mass.

Day 3 – Sunday
We rose early today, had breakfast at 7.30am and left for the outreach of Jaketera, the parish takes care of over 100 outreaches that individually look after 7 – 12 villages. The day was an experience neither Rich nor I will ever forget. Traveling with Father Angelo we went off the highway and out toward what they call the bush, Father was descriptive about the surroundings we passed and navigated the bumps like an expert rally driver. We arrived at the outreach and were greeted with such genuine appreciation for our visit it was indescribable – they had prepared a room for us to rest and have a refreshment. We were introduced with a tour of the outreach by the Head Master while Father Angelo prepared for Mass. The tour was enlightening for us to see how much they valued the education of their children even knowing there was not much to offer them following it and how seriously they prepared and worked at it so far out in this remote area. We examined the class rooms, looked at how the buildings were built and toured the complete area finishing up at the church/school room to go in for Mass. I am Catholic and my travel partner Rick is Episcopalian. I felt very amazed at the cordial and respectful way with which the Mass was attended. There was a choir of 30 singers that sung in perfect harmony it would amaze any one of you reading this. The conductor and the performers seemed like they had been practicing for Broadway, it was fantastic and an experience I will never forget – nor Rick I think.
During the Mass we were introduced and welcomed warmly to the community – language did not seem to be a barrier and the longer we stayed there the more it began to feel that we were part of the group speaking together on a level basis. We shared some time after mass taking pictures and looking at photographs of where we came from and our families and just having a great time. We surveyed the grounds more and listen to what the needs of the community were. The community of 11 villages comes together here at Jeketera to meet for Mass and for the prosperity and education of the outreach as a whole. We listened, learned, and we took notes – it was marvelous.
We returned to the parish along the bumpy dirty road to a prearranged meeting with the youth club where we shared some of the footballs that we had brought. – the gracious reception it received again was unbelievable with each group so delighted to have a new football and some American sport tops to wear. We enjoyed sharing the moment and finished the evening with dinner and a few green beers with Father Angelo, Father Banda and Father Mkandawire and talked about our experiences that day.

Tomorrow we start at 6am

Day 4 – Monday
I woke early to the sounds of “cock a doodle doo” they have a lot chickens here at the Parish and they like to start early even before the sun starts to come up. After the cold shower (water is heated by solar and it has been cloudy and cool since we arrived) I attended Mass at 6.30am at the main Church – Rick had not slept too well so stayed in bed. It was a small mass with a group of about 25. After Mass I met with the Sisters that ran the Secondary boarding school for girls and arranged to meet them after breakfast again for a tour of the school.
Father Angelo, Rick and I toured the Secondary School – it was very impressive and well organized. The leaving certificate exams were being conducted in the main hall so we looked around the other parts of the school. It turned out that Sister Mary Kaunda, the Head Teacher at the Secondary School had spent four years in Ireland studying Education at Maynooth College – we had a good chat and spoke about Father Alphie, Father Ben and her time in Ireland.
We left the Secondary School and went to the Primary School maybe about 1 km away from the parish where we were greeted by singing students and some very appreciative school teachers and committee members. We took a tour of the school and then paid a long anticipated visit to the Bore Hole Well that had been built in September last year funded by the 2009 golf tournament and our club. What a difference this well has made to them all. It is hard to understand when you are back home in the States but when you can see for your own eyes where they used to have to go to for water and the short distance they now have to go, the impact is much clearer and very satisfying to have been part of its creation. Following the tour we were introduced to all of the committee members and teachers and then entertained by singing from the children and two dramatizations from the drama group about how the water hole had affected not only the children and teachers but also the parent’s attitude about now sending their children to school with a fresh clean water source. It was fantastic and very humbling.
We were served refreshments at the Head Teachers house as is customary for visitors and were beginning to get very full. We had a busy schedule planned by Father so we thanked them every much and then departed for Kavilintchere J P School about three miles south of the parish. Again we were greeted by singing and dancing and a very organized and respectful address by the Teachers, parents and committee members. We were given a tour and saw how many bricks the community had already made by themselves and how far they had come in preparing and finally getting this new school, only open one year now. Before a school can officially open it must meet certain standards and be approved by the Education Board – now remember these standards would not be consistent with those in the States but I guaranteed you they are so much better than we all may have imagined or been aware of. The children were so well behaved it was just a pleasure for us both. They described their difficulties in what they were trying to achieve, they had succeeded in getting open and had 180 students enrolled. One of their major problems at this point was now the lack of a clean safe water supply. Water is the source of life as they described it but it is not only that for these communities it is what glues them together it is the clean water source as we had seen at the Nhkamenya primary school that brings the kids here to the school, keeps them there so they do not have to track 2 or 3 km away to get a drink during the day, it promotes the washing of hands after they use the well constructed bathrooms and it gets the teachers to class on time. As well as all this it gives parents from other villages comfort in the fact that their kids have these facilities available to them while they are at school and it encourages them to send them there. There is a great emphasis on education here in this very poor country and there structure is well formed and respected. Again we were entertained by the women of the community and a special dance and song, in addition one local man that attempted a few Michael Jackson dance numbers that entertained everyone; there was a lot of laughter and positive energy.
We were treated to more food and refreshments and felt it rude to decline so just got fuller for the day. We thanked them for their hospitality and moved back toward the parish and made our way through town and then North on the main road for about 20 miles and then onto a dirt road for about 5 miles. We arrived at the community of Emoneni, which was just along the border of Zambia in fact if we had gotten out of the car on the left side on the road we could have jumped right across the border. The community was the recipient of the Maize Mill that we financed through the proceeds of the 2010 tournament. We were received again very thankfully by the community leaders, members and children. This particular community of which Father Angelo had grown up in and where his parents still lived, had taken on the additional burden of being an adoptive community caring for approximately 26 orphans within their own households.
The Maize Mill was in operation and we were given a demonstration of how it worked and how the Maize was turned into flour. It was great to see the people lining up to put their collected Maize through the Mill and receive it as flour out the other end – This is the stable diet for most people and as Maize keeps well it is stock piled and can be milled when needed.
We met with Father Angelo’s parents and nieces and nephews and again were thanked for what we had done for them with the Maize Mill. It was getting dark and we said our goodbye’s and headed back to the parish – Father Angelo drove. On the way we stopped at what I would call Father’s old local pub at the Trading Center (which I imagined he probably walked the 4km or more when he was younger) and shared a green beer with a few of the local people that were there.
Tomorrow we head to Lilongwe in the morning for a 12noon meeting with the Rotary Club of Lilongwe

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We have arrived safely!

Rick and I departed from Dulles International on time without any hitches except for forgetting my sunglasses. The flight was full but comfortable operated by Ethiopian Airlines. After 13hours non-stop we touched down at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia at 8.25am local time (7 hours ahead of local time at home so to us it was 1.25am . Transferred to another aircraft and took off again for Lilongwe and a 3 hour 20 minute flight.
Made it to the hotel and all set to travel tomorrow morning to meet Father Angelo in Kasunga – we will stay with Father Angelo and visit the community with him for the next few days an then return to Lilongwe on Monday – will catch up then

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Getting Ready for the Trip

Hi,

We are in the final stages of preparing for our trip to Malawi. We will be visiting with Father Angelo to see first hand how the work has progressed there and look into what we can plan to achieve there over the next five years. I will be traveling with my good freind and fellow Rotarian Rick Crouthamel. We will leave from Dulles Airport on July 7th.

Watch this blog for updaes and hopefuly some pictures – I am trying to figure out flickr before I go so that we can post easily. Oh Sept 12th is the date for our annual Golf Tournament the funds of which will go directly to help us do our work in Malawi – visit www.galwaybayannapolis.com for all the information

Wish us luck,

Anthony

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Maize Mill Update

Last week our South Anne Arundel Rotary Club dispersed $8,000 from the funds raised at the 2010 Golf Tournament so that Father Angelo could purchase the Maize Mill Equipment. The Mill House is now complete and ready for the install. As with the previous water well project Training for the operation of the Maize Mill has been included and Father Angelo has established a committee to help in the operation, maintenance and working of the Mill once it is ready to go. I have attached some photographs that Father Angelo has sent to me showing the setting of the Mill itself. The Equipment has to set in place for a full week prior to operation.

My plans for travel are coming along and I hope to confirm them within the next few weeks. I will be traveling to the Village in the month of July. Looking forward to meeting Father Angelo and the community in person and to planning what we can do for the community over the next few years.

Will keep everyone posted

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Maize Mill Project

I have just received some new emails from Father Angelo updating us on the progress. The Mill House is really looking like a structure now with the roof section due to be completed this week. We have begun to work on the planning for the equipment required to operate the mill and this will be the next phase. Father Angelo is getting the specifications together. Check out the most recent photos in the gallery

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Maize Mill Progress

I have received a few emails from Father Angelo telling us how well the Maize Mill project is coming along. The community have made all of the bricks themselves on site and are doing most of the labor work.

Maize Mill Progress 1

Maize Mill Progress 1

Most of the materials if not made on site have now been purchased. I have attached some recent photos that Father Angelo has sent to me for you all to see. Look forward to updating with more soon

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