Saturday, 23 May 2015

Day 7 – Messing around on the building site (14-May-2015)

Today is a national holiday in Malawi. It is Kamuzu day – celebrating the birth or death (not sure which) of Hastings “Kamuzu” Banda, who was president for 30 years.

Everybody was in high spirits, the J&J folk because everyone was healthy again, the crew because they were on double pay for working on a holiday, Fred the foreman because we were on schedule and all the local kids because they were not at school!

It looks in many of these photos that no work was happening. It was – but there was also a lot of messing around!


George was in particular high spirits, bursting out in song from time to time.

You can see in this photo that work had started on the inner walls to the house today, which made the brick handling even more complex. Although it looks as though Françoise and I were just chatting above, we'd actually formed a human chain to move bricks from the outside of the house up onto the scaffolding on the inside.


I was lifting from floor to window sill; Françoise from window sill to scaffold. Here I am moving bricks. The pile had got satisfyingly small by this point!

Meanwhile, “No Mistake” was demonstrating his “special” way of standing. No work was happening at this point in time...

...Or indeed here.

… Or here! Peter wanted “a go” on the scaffolding. I believe John is giving him an affectionate hug, rather than a rugby tackle – but it is difficult to say!

The local kids were also off school today, so there were more of them hanging around watching than usual. They are very well behaved though. As this is a building site with lots of quite dangerous stuff lying around, we drew a line around the site in the dust that they must not cross. For the most part it worked.

In this photo you can see that the young girl is carrying her little brother on her back to look after him.

Chucu and his little mate were playing in the shade. They were pushing this plank of wood around, making “bruuummmm” noises. This is, I think, meant to be the pick up truck. If you look carefully, you'll see an old bottle top on the front. I think this is meant to be the steering wheel.


Here it is later being loaded with maize. We think he was being Neville!

This is a wider picture of the women resting in the shade. The lady standing up is trying on one of the tops I brought for them all. (I didn't realise this when I took the photo!) I guess they are doing swaps until they are happy with the clothes they have. Like the other J&J folk, Michael and I brought about three times as much stuff as we needed with the intention of giving most of it away.

This is Anna, my favourite of the village ladies. Me and her inevitably ended up laughing about the size of either my or her boobs! I took this photo because I liked how she looked with her fancy sun shade

At morning break today, Peter broke out the Toblerone.


Here is Michael wolfing down his piece of chocolate. By contrast, the builders all carefully wrapped their pieces in little fragments of the tin foil, and took it home with them!

Life was good today. Here is George (no hat today!) relaxing in a blue gum tree, smoking a fag at the end of morning break.

Whilst Fred chivvied the rest of the guys back to work, Michael, Françoise and I went with Ward and Charlie on a quest to find maize.

I mentioned yesterday that the floods had seriously depleted the local harvest of maize (which is the staple that provides the Malawian population with the stomach filler, nsima). Over dinner last night, the J&J group came up with what we hope is a cunning plan to help at least the builders. We decided to buy them a bag of maize each as a leaving gift. This works out at about 8000 Kwatcha each (7000 Kwa per 50kg sack) which is about $16 USD.

Now to source it.... Charlie (from Neville's boat) claimed to know a man who could help. Here the guys are filling the sacks at the “man's” home. We only managed to get five sacks here, so we were off on a bit of an adventure. Apparently, normally at this time of year, maize is easy to buy along the main road – everyone selling off their excess harvest. This year we needed to visit three different locations to get all we needed.

Just next to the home of the grain seller were a small group of UN emergency tents – housing people whose houses were destroyed in the floods. I didn't take a photo (not sure I felt comfortable at the time – but now wish I had to be able to share the story of these poor folk). I think one of my colleagues may have done. If so, I will edit.

In happier news the third location was right next to a stall selling ladies skirts – so Françoise also made a couple of purchases.

Here's Michael looking into a maize store from a ladder held together by strips of tyre.

And here's Charlie loading his bike onto an already full pick-up truck! This is how to travel authentically in Malawi!

I told you that the scaffolding was held together using bits of old tyre – well at this stall they were selling the other type of fastener that is made from old tyres – the black stuff hanging is called “tubie” and is quite elastic. It's used like we would use bungee cords. It is used for pretty much everything.

Dinner tonight was an amazing barbecue, courtesy of Frank.

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