2 Saturdays ago (6th April), we finally got to make the kids omelette for Breakfast Club!
Unsurprisingly, there was another power cut when we got up. But my ever-resourceful neighbours fired up their “mbaula” and did all the hard work in preparing the meal. So I just chopped up some vegetables and did the frying!
Thanks to another VSO volunteer who donated to the Breakfast Club, the kids also had milk to go with their omelette and fresh bread. A very simple meal by our (Western, First World) standards, but a very good and nutritious one here. 15 eggs (with green pepper, onions, tomatoes and garlic), 2 loafs of bread and half a can of milk powder later, everyone – including us – were suitably satisfied!
The weather was really nice that day. At around 9 am, it wasn’t too hot and there was not a cloud in the sky. So rain was unlikely. We decided to go ahead with something we had talked about earlier in the week (when it rained quite frequently): A field trip to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre!
We asked 2 of their parents to join us – Blessings and Harold, who are mine and my neighbour’s night guards respectively. Remembering our child protection training from VSO (and a bit of common sense of course)! So we got ready. The kids put on their best outfits and off we went at around 9:30 am.
We walked for 5 minutes to the main road. Waited for several minibuses to come and go. Many of which didn’t have enough space for all of us (9 kids and 4 adults). When an almost empty minibus came by, we thought this is it. But despite Harold’s best negotiation efforts, the conductor insisted on charging the full fare of 150 Malawian Kwachas for all of us, including the kids who normally double up and only take up 1 seat! We said no way and carried on waiting patiently. While the kids started playing on the rather nice lawn in front of the Sunbird Capital hotel. Eventually, a rather old minibus, which frankly has seen much better days, turned up. The conductor agreed to take us all for 700 MWK. Result!
We got to the Wildlife Centre at around 10:15 am. Thanks to Kate and Michelle who are managers there, entrance was nice and easy because we had pre-arranged the visit. The group discount they kindly offered also really helped to keep our costs low. There were 16 of us in total after we were joined by my housemate who drove there with another 2 VSO volunteers.
The next guided tour was scheduled at 11:00 am. So the kids (and adults) made full use of the playground!
The tour was really good and took around 45 minutes. I got told off for taking food out to give to the kids, which in hindsight, wasn’t a particular clever thing to do in a wildlife sanctuary with a lot of monkeys! We got to see and learn about most of the animals, in Chichewa and English. The crocodiles (“ng’ona”) were pretty cool because they were right up close to the fence. We saw the leopard from a distance. But we didn’t get to see any hyenas (“fisi”) or Bella, the lioness (“mkango”), who is the poster girl of the Wildlife Centre.
After the guided tour, the kids went straight back to the playground. Which to be honest, I think they enjoyed more than the animals. Especially the younger kids, which is to be expected.
We left the Wildlife Centre at around 12:30 pm. When we got to the main road just outside the front gate, we were soon greeted with a familiar sight… the same minibus that took us here! Brilliant… no haggling required and there was enough room for all of us again.
For a variety of reasons, things have been slightly hectic and stressful for me in the last couple of weeks. So this was a really nice day out and light relief for me to help put things into perspective.
My project with the Ministry of Health is gathering momentum. So all of us on the team are getting busier and busier, which is great. I actually worked after we got home at around 4:30 pm today (Tuesday) to install iHRIS Manage on my own laptop. This meant that I couldn’t put on another cinema (“kanema”) showing, which is now almost a daily occurrence.
One of the youngest and quietest kids, Danny, had bravely come up to me as soon as I got home and asked me for “kanema”. But I had to explain to him in my broken Chichewa that I had to work: “Pepani. Lero, palibe kanema. Ndi ku ntchito.” Meaning: “Sorry. Today, there is no cinema. I am working.”
Despite this, more kids started gathering around our carport and not very subtly shouting “kanema, kanema”. A few minutes later, Margaret, the housemaid for my Malawian neighbour next door and mother to Danny and some of the other kids, came out and told them all off and then chased them away.