Monday, October 31, 2022


 Antananarivo, Madagascar.  October 7-17, 2022

The fourth largest island in the WORLD or the 8th Continent, if you prefer, Madagascar was all new to us.  I wish I had quickly taken a French course, or could have picked up some Malagasy somewhere, because we have rarely been anywhere where we found so few other English speakers.  Thankfully, we have played Charades off and on during our lives, and we managed to eventually communicate on those occasions when we strayed from our translator, Tina.  

The trip to Madagascar should be a 2 hour flight to Johannesburg, then a 3 hour flight to Antananarivo (I must confess to a burst of pride that I have learned to spell that word!)  However, it's not that simple at the moment. 

We heard that someone in South Africa stole a lot of gold from Madagascar, about two years ago.  They flew to South Africa in a private plane.  South Africa apprehended the thief but is keeping the gold "for evidence".  Hence, Madagascar is understandably angry about this, so they stopped all flights to and from South Africa.  Therefore, we had to fly from Jo'burg, all the way up to Ethiopia, at terrible hours like 11 pm-4:30 AM, have a layover in Addis Ababa, which is admittedly interesting and has a Pizza Hut in the airport!  But still...  And then back down to Madagascar, arriving feeling tired from overnighting on the plane.  

Tina was our hostess, scheduler, translator, accommodation and food planner, and transportation planner, besides her normal life jobs.  Just call her Wonder Woman for short, though she dresses better than Wonder Woman.  She had her sister Nancy pick us up from the airport and bring us to the first meeting, a meeting of BBM Madagascar (Back to the Bible Mission, Madagascar) where Paul preached, and I tried not to doze.  Then we had pictures with everyone and went to see where we were sleeping. 

Tina had arranged for an apartment for us all on a steep  hillside overlooking the city.  We LOVED the views!  The sunsets were spectacular, the moonrises seemed so close, and we could look down on many of the houses and yards and learn about the locals from a safe distance.  When it was time to get to know them, Tim's socks flying off the balcony provided the occasion for me to strike out into the neighbor and meet the neighbors and get 6 different people to help find those socks.  

We also met neighbors while buying tomatoes and eggs from the local kiosks.  I "bonjoured" more than I have ever "bonjoured" in my life.  

Sunday Paul preached in a small, friendly church.  No one quite knew what to expect and were surprised at this new thing of drawing while preaching and seemed to like it!   I was pleased I didn't doze as I was seated on the platform.  

On Monday we went to Tina's family's school.  That was so good!  Paul preached to the whole school on the high, flat rooftop, with Tina translating, and then we had to wait awhile so they gave us a Wifi connection, and we could finally let people know we had arrived safely.  One of my fun things was to go around to a bunch of the classrooms and get my picture taken with the classes.  

Tim and Tina went prospecting after lunch and scheduled a school for that very afternoon and four for the next day!  Tina was tired so her sister Mano translated for that one.  I'm so glad we got to meet Mano (pronounced Man-oo).  I instantly liked her.  She had to go into the hospital on Wednesday for surgery and it is very serious.  We're still waiting to hear results.

Tuesday we had four schools, and we walked to them from Tina's Mom's house.  That's unusual!  One of them was HUGE and the school's sound system was ineffective so it was chaos at the back, with a little core of people listening well at the front.  

Tina was on a mission to make sure we sampled a lot of the fruit of Madagascar and many of the dishes.  I should have written down the names as I have forgotten many, but I do remember it was all good!

Wednesday Tina gave us the day off.  Paul needed to rest and was glad, so Tim and I decided to try walking to the zoo.  Tina's kids, Gloria and Fano came with us, as well as their nanny Ando.  That's where most of my pictures were taken as it was a pretty outdoor day, and we had time to take pictures.

Enthusiastic welcome from kids at a school we visited!  Unfortunately, we didn't get to speak officially at this one, but we tried with individuals.   
I think the "banky" on the Ariary money is so cute  😊

These are some of the neighbors I met while hunting for Tim's socks which fell off our balcony.  
People came up to us to ask if they could take a picture with us.  Sure!  Why not?  
We didn't get to see the famous Avenue of the Baobabs, but we did see a picture, so this is a picture of a picture.  
                                                       The temps were perfect!  
                                The rice fields were fascinating.  I'd like to stick my toes into one.  
                                          Rice is the main staple food in Madagascar.  

                                   Paul looking angelic in the pulpit in the Church of the Martyrs.  

The Christians in Madagascar were persecuted for 26 years in the early 1800's.  Rasalama was the first lady to be killed, so her name is in the church's name.  It is called the Church of the Martyrs having been built in their memory.  It's still having services.
           Paul found these Citreon taxis intriguing.  I found them squishy.  This looks similar to a 1948 version, but maybe a later remake.  The windows fold open, and the roof also can open.  

                                                                 On the road again!

                                                 Tina, multi-tasking as usual.  
                                 Tina and her friends were responsible for some delicious meals.  

                                           FIVE different schools...the last one with teachers.  
                                   Tim, Paul and I on the rooftop of the building we stayed in.  

                         Sunset through the city smoke as seen from the roof of our apartment.  

    My best picture of lemurs is a picture of a picture of lemurs, taken at the airport as we were leaving.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Such a Silky Anniversary

For years, I've seen advertisements for this African Silk farm.  Many years ago, silk worms were a "thing" in Cape Town, at least in the Homeschool community, and we took our turn with raising them, but we never knew what to do with the cocoons we produced.  Or the worms produced.  So we were all curious about this place and process.  We got a guide named Busi and learned a LOT.    

We knew silk worms eat Mulberry Trees.  That was silkworming 101.  But we moved up a level to learn that there are 3 different kinds of mulberry trees.  Their texture changes as they mature, and baby silk worms can only handle the right texture.  Too much milk in the greenery, and they'll get the big D.  Leaves can also be too hard for them.  Suddenly I started wondering how we had any cocoons!  We fed with whatever mulberry leaves we could find!   

Grey eggs mean ready to hatch.  Brown means they died.  You wanna know how they get the eggs in circles like that?  Count down 7 pictures to see the answer.  

Those babies grow fast!  They feed them with fresh leaves every 2 or 4 hours all day.  The wire underneath helps with cleaning out the waste without losing worms.  

They have 3 kinds of silk worms, Thai,  African, and a cross between the two.  The cross produces faster than either of the non crossed ones.  The African makes a brownish silk. 

Busy little guys have their own jungle gym.  
Busi showing us a white one.  The fine silk comes from the white one, produced by the Thai worms. 

Yellow is the African one, light greenish is the hybrid, and white is the Thai worm.  I think.  They call the hybrid the Zebra worm as it is black and white.  

So the guy on the right is Thai, the guy in the middle is mixed, and we had no locals to look at.  They are fuzzier.  

That black cap is what they put over the female moth when she begins laying eggs, so all the eggs will be together on the paper in a tidy circle. That brown thing that looks like a bead is a pupa, which they take from inside the cocoon.
They put boiling water into the red bowl, and then dip the cocoons in there.  After it sits for a minute or two, Busi fiddled with it with a stick to find the end of the thread/web.  From one cocoon they expect to get 1 and one third kilometers of thread/web!!!

And then comes the beautiful, tempting gift shop!  What fun!  
One of the uses for the silk is some duvets. It sounds like the silk is very good at regulating temperature, so here Tim and Busi were stretching out some silk to show how to begin a single size duvet.  

I've skipped a lot, but I'm working in the car, getting car sick.  Please ask any questions and I'll pump Tim's better memory to answer them  :-)  

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Still in Malawi


We are still in

Malawi!  We had Jeep troubles, and as a Jeep is an American car, we had to order the parts all the way from South Africa.  Our emotions did a rollercoaster ride.  Yeah!  The parts are in Llilongwe earlier than expected!  (Llilongwe is less than an hour away by plane, 5 hrs in a car.)  

Then the realization, they are not going to release the parts from Customs until we pay some Malawian kwachas to them, by some means that we don't understand.  It took us about 3 days...first to find out the price (just over $88.00) and then to figure out how to pay.  On Saturday morning, Passmore, the Customs guy actually called me on WhatsApp  (Cool!  Person attention!  Surely this was progress?!?! ) and told me how to pay.  

I borrowed a car from our beloved hosts the McGraths and buzzed off to an Airtel shop to go through the steps.  I waited in three different lines and got a multitude of help, and finally the thing was paid.  Surely this meant it would come soon!  But not Saturday.  Not Sunday.  Definitely Monday.  No.  Tuesday!!!  A mere 6 days after it had arrived in the country. 

I went on Tuesday, the 16th, to pick it up at DHL.  It wasn't there yet, so I waited.  The nice thing about the wait was the DAPP store less than a block away.  I went to explore and they were having a sale, all clothes in the store were 1000 MK or less!  That's basically a dollar or less.  My kind of shopping!  I got a new outfit!!!  Very fun after wearing a small variety of clothing since Cape Town on the 4th of July.  

Then back to DHL to pick up the package.  I was thrilled to get it, but it weighed so little!  Could this be our precious car parts?  

Next I had to get it, and the Jeep, to the GM Dealer in Blantyre, Malawi.  I had been there once, but didn't think I could find it again.  I did a Google search and followed the directions.  WRONG.  No GM there.  Then a man from GM sent me a pin.  WRONG, but scenic.  That pin took me all around Blantyre, up a mountain, through a market (those are nightmares to drive through)  down a dirt road, and soon, right near where we were staying.  Finally I pulled over.  The man had sent 2 pins.  I tried the second one.  10 minutes later I was in their door and demanding, "Was that some kind of a joke?!?"  

The amazing thing was that the Jeep did not overheat in all that meandering!  We had high hopes it would be ready the next day.  Today is that next day. Wednesday. It's not ready.  Now they're saying Maybe Monday!  Ugh!  We cannot make it to our next planned place if we don't leave by tomorrow.  

In the meantime, last week Paul scheduled many schools and 2 churches to speak in, so I have pictures from a couple of those.  We found a man who has rented us a succession of cars to use over the days.  I think I've driven four different ones.  Some are so small they're hard for Paul to drive.  

Our Sunday church was outside, under a bamboo frame with leaves and bags tied over it.  They are planning to build and have fired the bricks for the build.  They had a building dedication while we were there.  We all had to throw a rock into a hole, and they were anointed with oil like the pillar Jacob anointed in Genesis28:18-22 in the Bible.  It was so beautiful out there...too bad to move indoors.  

The Church which is hoping to build.

The bricks are all ready, behind Paul, and we gathered around to anoint rocks with oil.  We each got to put one in.  I kinda dropped mine. People kinda snickered.  Good to have a bit of humor in these things.  

I grabbed a quick snap from my awkward seat...facing the audience straight on.  I moved when Paul spoke so I could see, and not be stared straight at.  

Getting to that church scared me a bit.  We had a small car, low to the ground, and we had to ford this little stream with bricks in it.  This is where I gave up and let Paul drive the rest of the way, and I got out and walked with Timothy to try to save the underside of the car.  Lotsa rocks!  It is more used by motorcycles and people than by cars. 

As I waited in the car, I nearly always made friends.  I didn't take pictures when there were a LOT of kids, but I did get a few when there were a few kids.  Sometimes they liked to say Hi and How are you?  Sometimes they just stare.  I tried out my few words of Chichewa...guaranteed for a laugh.    

This is the school Paul was in that time.  I did leave the car for a bit to get some pictures.  

Boom Pvt. School.  The bigger kids were in the back.  

Before the kids came to the car window.  

Smudgey view to the front.  

A glimpse of some kids at the school with 8000 kids.  Very, very crowded!  and very, very Friendly!!!


Friday, July 29, 2022

Cape Town to Blantyre, Malawi

Sweet, earnest little faces listening to Timothy.  

At this school, Paul was only scheduled to speak to the big kids, but he sneaked in two short messages to the little guys while he waited for the big ones.  

I don't know what this flowering plant is, but it looks like a set of miniature watermelons.  

I think this is the smallest church we went to, meeting in a classroom.  

 Apparently I've got nothing to say about life in Cape Town, because I've posted nothing since our last trip.  Or maybe it's just that I've been using my Instagram account a lot more than this blog.  I think it's that, because Cape Town life is definitely interesting. 

This trip deserves to be immortalized on the blog though.  It's supposed to be LONG!  (2 1/2 months!) and already we've been having adventures.

Four or five countries are to be visited.  The first country and the last country are South Africa. I wouldn't count it if we were just driving through, but we have meetings scheduled on the way back, long before we get home, so it counts. Next is Botswana, then Zambia, and for sure Malawi.  Mozambique is the one we're wondering about.  It depends on the visas.  

Paul and I left Cape Town and buzzed right through to Kimberly the first day.  One memorable thing was that we prayed we'd find a place to stay that night without a long search.  The Lord granted us that request in that it was one of the fastest we've ever found a place.  We just pulled off the road, saw a place around the corner, went and asked the price, and settled in, just as the sun was setting!  We were able to take a little walk to Pick N Pay for a few groceries we needed, and do a few other jobs before we just went to bed early.  (That has become a theme for this trip:  Just get to bed early! 😁)

Another thing I hope I remember about this trip is our audio books.  It was coming down to the wire, time was running out, and I hadn't rustled up much to read in the car.  When you're going to be putting in 12 hrs. of driving in a day, audio books are such a wonderful help to pass the time.  

I prayed that I'd find something.  the Jeep only has a CD player, as it's a 2006, and CD's are not just everywhere around.  On Friday morning, I had to go get it registered as July is the month to renew.  That was amazing. I was in and out in 8 minutes!!!  I was so excited about the efficiency I was texting local friends to exalt about that!  Other years I have spent hours, and made multiple trips to accomplish the same thing.  I couldn't believe I was still in Africa!  

I had the whole morning blocked off for that, so suddenly I had free hours!  I headed for Midas and get them to change those little lifts that hold the glass half of the rear door up...we were tired of getting hit in the head by that thing.  And we're all so glad it stays up now.  (Going to do the same to the hood when we get home!  It's now falling too.)

Midas is only a block away from my FAVORITE second hand  bookstore, so when they were quick at Midas too, I stopped in to see if the Lord would favor me with audio books.  It seemed it had to be an answer to prayer because I always check for audio books and it has been months (years, maybe?) since I found one to buy.  That day, I went to 2 second hand bookstores and found SEVEN!!!  I felt (and feel!) blessed!  They are on all different topics, even one on math or finances, but, so far, they have done the job of making the miles go by faster. 

Day two we crossed into Botswana with a bit of irritation at the border crossing.  They make you have a PCR test, plus a second "rapid test" at the border, and you get to pay for the treat.  And we had to start wearing masks again.  South Africa was recently liberated of masks, so this felt like a step back into the dark ages.  On the other hand, border crossings are the excitement in the journey, and a nice break from the car where we can pass out tracts while we get our kinks out.  

Other than that, Botswana was a treat.  We found a place to sleep in Gabarone and stayed put for the whole week, from the 4th-9th.  We went prospecting for schools on the 5th, and got 6 schools, though Paul had to speak about 15 times because some of them divided into smaller groups because of Covid. 

On Saturday we headed straight north through Northern Botswana, finally crossing into Zambia around 8pm, just wanting to get to bed.  We didn't see as many animals as usual, I suppose because of the time of day, but we did see one elephant shortly before the border.  We found a place to stay quite late, but were pleased.  We had been there before.

Sunday we made a leisurely start, thinking we only had about 3 hours of driving.  Imagine our shock when we discovered it was more like 8 hours to go!  We were going to visit some new friends, the Myburgh family.  We met them the last time we were in Lusaka, Zambia, and they invited us to visit their  home on the Zambezi River.  

That visit was memorable!  Garden of Eden comes to mind when I think of what they have done with that wilderness area.  We could hear hippos splashing and grunting in the river from our cottage they gave us to sleep in.  We saw herds of elephants across the river on the Zimbabwe side.  I kept scanning for crocs, but was OK with never seeing any.  

The Myburghs are delightful, and we especially love their 2 little girls and baby.  Their girls wrote me more than 70 notes/pictures during the week we first met them in Lusaka.  We left there after 2 nights, refreshed and ready to head into Lusaka, which really was only a 3 hour drive away.  

In Lusaka we stayed at the Brethren missionary guest house.  I love missionary guest houses.  You meet the neatest people!  And they have all had good libraries where I can find my favorite genre of books:  missionary stories!  And they tend to have NICE washing machines!!!  This one did.  

We had a day to regroup, and then the week began with FOUR churches on Sunday!  We'd drive in, listen to a song or two, and then Paul was on.  He'd speak and draw about 15 minutes or 20, and then we went on to another one.  None of these were big, mainstream churches, but "AIC" churches which means African Initiated Churches, of various sizes.  

At one church, a pastor greeted me (teasingly, I assume) by saying, "You are a professional driver."  Wouldn't you know, that's the church where I drove into a foundation trench and got the Jeep stuck and had to be pushed out by 5 guys.  So professional.  😆

Pastor Joseph Phiri was our guide, planner, and translator for the time in Lusaka, and he kept us hopping!  I think we averaged 5 schools a day, which is remarkable as most schools were having exams of some sorts.  The smallest one was about 50 people, and the largest had 3000, though I think we may have "only" seen 2000 of them.  

On Wednesday of that week, Tim flew in from the States!  Yippee!  He'd been gone a month.  We were at schools when his flight came so we sent a taxi after him.  We gave him the whole day off to recuperate (so generous), then Thursday he had to begin taking meetings.  Paul was really tired, and beginning to have symptoms that were scaring me.  

Tim took more than half the load for Thursday and Friday.  Paul got dizzy and almost fell during one meeting, and then was even more willing to let Tim preach.  Thankfully, he could rest all day Saturday and was raring to go again Sunday.  

Monday we left Lusaka and drove about 6 hours to the first pastors' conference in Sinda, which is on the way to Malawi.  Sinda was a first.  In the morning session, Paul preached to the pastors, while Tim and I were sent out to 3 schools, all arranged within the last 24 hours, or maybe within the last 24 minutes in some cases.  Rather impromptu.  At the second one, we were told we could only have the little guys as the big ones were in exams, but the big ones came anyway.  I'm not sure how they escaped, or maybe had a break.  Whatever, we were glad to see them.  

Paul loved his pastors group.  They seemed to delight in his drawings and the object lessons he taught them.  Some of his object lessons don't use objects, they use people and anyone could do them.  The pastors entered in enthusiastically.  

We had a 2 hour drive from Sinda to the border, so we spent the first few minutes telling each other about our meetings.  We were all enthused.  We ate lunch in the car, Tim making the sandwiches, I drove, and Paul managed the audio books.  

The border crossing was not that happy.  It took about three hours.  We got lectured three times by the visa people for not doing our visas before we came (they have changed policy since we were here last.) The boss called me a liar when I said I hadn't seen that requirement.  In truth, I had just checked Covid requirements, so we had our fresh PCR tests in hand and thought we were good to go.  I was close to tears, angry tears, not sad.  Lines were long and some people had neglected to learn how to wait properly in a line, when they were in kindergarten.  It was a frustrating interruption to our journey, but finally we were allowed inside Malawi after paying carbon tax, immigration fees, toll fee, TIP, and insurance and maybe some other stuff.  

We had hoped to get to Lilongwe, but we were too tired.  We took the first decent place we saw to sleep, and pulled in.  When the electricity went off at 7:30 pm, we took that as guidance and went to sleep, no complaints from us.  

The next day, we thought we'd be in Blantyre, Malawi, by about 2:30 in the afternoon, or maybe 3:00.  Not so!  We got involved in a protest in a town on a mountain pass and had to pull over to wait it out while they burned things and blocked the road and threw stones and bricks.  The army was shooting into the air, at least as far as we saw.

During the waiting time, Paul went into action passing out tracts.  No one else seemed too fussed to be waiting, but after over an hour, we tried going a back way through dirt roads. It worked, but took us an hour and a half, and after that the Jeep kept overheating.  We had to put many gallons of water into it to nurse it along the last hour to Blantyre, and finally arrived around 6:30 pm, with a fresh new dent in the Jeep from where we had a rock or brick thrown at us.  

Sweet relief!  We were tired from the drive, the excitement of the rock throwing incident, and the hard driving.  We are so thankful to have made it this far, and thankful to the McGrath family for letting us stay in their cottage behind their house.  Again, we had a day to regroup, get our phones working again in a new country, buy food (!), and wash clothes.  

Today, Friday, is the first pastor's conference, and 7 more are scheduled after this.  We're loving the people we meet.  

This man was taking a picture of us and church leaders, so I snapped a picture of him and his wondering little buddies.  

Paul and Tim were with this group in March or April too.  They are at least partially orphans.  

This small Christian school was a thankfully tranquil group at the end of a long day when we were tired.  

About 120 very well behaved children...

and perhaps the secret is here.  

This group had the sun in their eyes, but they listened pretty well and many prayed at the end.  
What an opportunity!  Loving my guy's go-get-'em attitude!  

I attracted my own crowd while waiting in the Jeep before a service in the school with 3000.  The kids were ultra friendly.  

The Headmaster's Office

Maybe 1000 students here.  I couldn't back up to get everyone into the picture.  

This school was so friendly.  It was Tim's first one back, and he loved that they gave us fizzy drinks at the end.  

King's Sparkle School had an indoor assembly!  They were super friendly and invited us to come again whenever we can.  

Notice the winter hats and  Paul's got a jacket on.  It's winter here now, and it gets colder than you might think in the tropics.  

Please pray for us!  We're loving this opportunity, but we feel our frailty of body and moods and our car too.  We know we need the Holy Spirit to use us, and we are thankful for how He has guided.  
It doesn't look like we'll be able to get into Mozambique without some kind of miracle, yet Pastor Matthias has a pastor's conference scheduled there, so we ask for prayer.  

Any questions?  We've been in Africa now for 20 years, and I'm forgetting what is worth sharing with others as I get so used to some of it.