Thursday, September 30, 2010

Make Your Own Cheese, Seriously!

This week I had to make ricotta gnocchi for Colin's birthday. OK I didn't HAVE to make it but it was his birthday and that's what he wanted to eat, so I was going to work to make it happen. I always let the kids choose what they want to eat on their birthdays. There was one problem though, I couldn't find ricotta cheese at any of the grocery stores. I lucked out and found parmesan cheese but no ricotta to be found.

When you live overseas for a while you get used to making things from scratch and making substitutions. I had heard somewhere, probably the Splendid Table, that ricotta cheese is easy to make so time to look for a recipe. Epicurious to the rescue! A quick search turned up a recipe with great reviews and even better I could get everything I needed to make it locally: milk, cream, and lemons. I already had salt. To see the recipe click here.

It was pretty easy. Mix the cream, milk, and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add the lemon juice and reduce heat to a simmer. In about 2 minutes the milk should suddenly turn into a disgusting mess of white floating chunks in yellowish liquid. It sort of looks like something my kid threw up up. Don't panic the white stuff is the cheese curds and yellowish stuff is the whey. Curds and whey!

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

We have plenty of spiders around here and now curds and whey. We are all set for a visit from Little Miss Muffet. I don't think I would like a big bowl of curds and whey though. Ick! Instead I lined a colander with a clean kitchen towel strained out the cheese. I let it set for about 30 minutes so most of the whey dripped away. What was left was some of the best ricotta I have ever tasted. I can't wait to try this in something that showcases the cheese like shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach. Maybe next week... if I can find shells. Probably not.

A few notes:

1. Don't use UHT milk, for you state side folks that is long shelf life milk that doesn't need refrigeration. UHT stands for Ultra High Temperature processing. I have no idea why but it won't work. I found out that you CAN make it from powdered milk. YAY! It probably won't taste as good as fresh milk but if you are in Nouakchott or Ouagadougou, craving lasagna, and have by some miracle managed to get hold of a chunk of mozzarella, you are probably won't care.

2. If you can't find cream just use 3 cups of whole or 2% milk, it will still work, it just won't be as rich and creamy.

3. Save the whey if you are a bread maker. One of the commenters recommended using it to make bread. The whey is supposed to be high in protein so it makes your bread extra nutritious. I tried it and it came out beautifully. (I really DON'T like the local bread so I make my own several twice a week. I wasn't trying to show off, honestly) You can freeze the whey if you don't have time to deal with it the day you are making the cheese.

4. has a recipe for cheesecake using ricotta rather than cream cheese. I will be trying that soon. I haven't seen any cream cheese here yet and cheese cake sounds really really good. I have a birthday coming up. Maybe I will ask Dave make that for my birthday cake.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Birthday Scare

Today is Colin's ninth birthday. Things were going smoothly. In hindsight maybe a little too smoothly. Colin had requested ricotta gnocchi in light tomato sauce, fresh bread, and of course Birthday Cake. By two I had finished the cake. WHEW! I also made fresh ricotta cheese for the gnocchi and was ready to make the sauce. Yes I said I made cheese. I can't find ricotta anywhere around here so I made it. I will post the instructions later, probably Thursday.

David took off early today so he could pick Colin up from school when it let out at 1:30 for a special outing. They went to Old Town Mall to get some gelato and pick out his birthday present. No party this year. We alternate family only celebrations with big all out parties. Next year it's party time. This year Dave and Colin enjoyed themselves a lot even though the gelato place turned out to be closed.

We had visited Old Town Mall over the weekend and picked out a book about identifying Malawi spiders because Colin keeps finding things like this in the yard.

He always wants to know what kind of spider it is. Ummm....I dunno...Horrifyingly huge? The kind I don't want to touch me? The kind I don't want to find in the house, EVER? I know it isn't a jumping spider or a black widow and that is pretty much the end of my spider identification skills. So we thought it would be a good choice. Colin surprised us by passing by the spider book and picking out a book about attraction wildlife to your southern African Garden and little carved wooden turtle. He spent most of the rest of the afternoon planning what we need to do to attract more wildlife. I tend to think we have enough critters running around the yard but if Colin gets his way the gardeners are going to be pretty busy for a while. When he finished outlining his plans for the yard he decided to collect some flowers for his flower press.

Just as I was pulling the gnocchi out of the oven Dakota told me David needed me in the living room, NOW. I Sighed, left the gnocchi in the oven for a few more minutes and went to the living room where I found this.

Mom take a deep breath I am blogging instead of sobbing on the phone with you so everything is fine. If you don't see the problem look at the eyes. Yes I know the picture is a little blurry, sorry about that. One of his pupils was complete dilated and unresponsive. Unless you have been to the eye doctor quite recently a blown pupil is usually very bad news. It is a symptom of stroke, serious brain injury, or hemorrhaging in brain. Malawi is NOT the place you want to be if you are having a serious medical problem. Trust me on this. Thank goodness we are with the embassy and the embassy has it's own medical unit. We called the med unit and told the person on call what was happening. Within in minutes we were on our way to med to meet the PA praying the whole way.

No he didn't get bit by the spider or a black mamba. He didn't even get stung by a bee on a pretty flower. Keep reading.

Colin was examined, eyes looked at, vision checked, reflexes tested, he was even assessed for signs of bilateral weakness and questioned about head injuries. Nothing. Other than the dilated pupil he seemed fine. We could not figure out why this was happening. Finally I remembered when he was picking flowers earlier he had picked a bloom from the angels trumpet in the backyard. I made him put it down and wash his hands. There are two species commonly called angels trumpet. Both are gorgeous and both are also very very poisonous. I asked the PA if he thought that could be it. He hit the computer looking for information.

God bless Wikipedia: Contact with the eyes can cause pupil diliation (mydriasis) or unequal pupil size (anisocoria). BINGO!

The PA called poison control in the states to verify the information. Colin couldn't remember touching his eyes or getting anything into his eyes but apparently he did, and his pupil was dilated as a result. Finally the mystery was solved. The only medical treatment was a full to the elbow scrub down to remove any remaining traces of toxin. Colin didn't get bit by a snake or hit his head. He just picked a pretty flower that happened to be very bad news. The pretty flower with the bees in the picture above. How is he going to brag about that on the playground? "Oh Yeah? That's not dangerous! I picked a flower!"

I could breathe again. The weight on my chest was lifted. Eventually we were on our way home to his special dinner and birthday cake. Even after the wait, the excitiment, the unexpected trip to Med, Colin seemed pretty happy about his cake. All's well that ends well.

Public Service Announcement!

Datura and Brugmansia also known as Angel's Trumpet are gorgeous flowers. Big and showy they are real show stoppers. They even smell good. The are also dangerous as all get out. We are lucky that gardening is one of my hobbies and I knew Colin had handled a poisonous plant or we would probably still be at med monitoring Colin for signs of a brain bleed just becuase he got a tiny drop of plant sap in his eye. We are also lucky he didn't ingest any since he is a habitual nail chewer. If you have one of these plants in your garden, especially if you have pets or children you may want to consider having it removed or at least be aware of the danger. Wear gloves! Don't touch your eyes! If you see these plants in a public space do stop and admire them but don't touch and don't let your children touch.



Monday, September 27, 2010

A Daring New Adventure

Ok, Sorry folks this post isn't about the famous (or is that infamous? Kidding!) Kolbi. This is about a new, somewhat frightening adventure that out family is undertaking this year. We are homeschooling for the first time ever. There's your connection to Kolbi the High Goddess of Homeschooling. At the moment I am only homeschooling Alonzo who is 10. In fact today is our first ever day of homeschooling. Alonzo is busy at the dining room table working on his assignments, I am trying not to hover.

So why are we homeschooling you ask? Good question! At this point I will show great restraint and try to explain without resorting to four letter words, partly because the school here IS working for some people and partly because I do still have two children enrolled in the school and you never know who may be reading this. All the same I need to share this because 1) I may explode if I can't share with someone and poor Dave is really tired of me venting all over him so you get to listen (read?) to me vent. Lucky You! and 2) Someone reading this may be considering coming to Malawi and end up facing the same situation. Being informed of what is really going on at post is always helpful when deciding on where to bid.

Way back in February we submitted our applications to Bishop Mackenzie School* here in Malawi. We applied for 4th grade for Alonzo which only makes sense because he was in 3rd grade at the time. You finish third grade then move onto fourth grade in the normal course of studies.

We arrived at post four days before school started to be informed that Alonzo would be placed in his "age appropriate grade". This is a bit tricky since we had him retained in 2nd grade. What they were really proposing was that he skip a grade and enter into FIFTH grade instead of fourth. They then proceed to tell us they were a bit concerned he may have some learning difficulties because he didn't do very well on the placement tests. Umm...DUH! Maybe because he should have been tested for fourth grade not fifth?!?! We protested he should be in fourth not fifth. At which point we were informed that there was no room in fourth, even though we put our applications in early, even though he is an embassy kid and the school is supposed to have a working relationship with the embassy, there was no room. Period.

We spent our first weekend in Malawi going over our schooling options. Please understand there are really no sports teams outside of school, no extra curricular activities except those associated with school, no parks, no cub scouts, no American club, really very few options to meet other kids outside school. This was a concern for us. It is important to us that our kids have a chance to play and interact with other kids. Other parents told us he could probably handle it as the school wasn't academically challenging. Now that would have been something helpful to put in the post reports.

Alonzo was adamantly opposed to the idea of homeschooling at that time, he wanted to go to school and make new friends. So Monday morning with heavy hearts we loaded him up on the school bus and sent him off to fifth grade. We visited one of the other schools in town that same morning. The ABC School campus was bright and welcoming, the staff friendly and professional, but there was a waiting list. Sigh! We decided to adopt a wait and see attitude.

Towards the end of the second week the school we were called in for a conference. We were told Alonzo wasn't meeting the standards for fifth grade and NOW they wanted to move him to fourth grade. After he made friends. After he was already looking forward to the upcoming overnight field trip. After he had already begun to settle into the new schedule. After he spent the whole summer hoping and praying he would do so well on his placement tests that he would be able to skip fourth grade and go straight to fifth grade. After his dream apparently came true, THAT'S when they wanted to move him down a grade??? Relax, we didn't let them do that to him. We did agree to allow him to continue in fifth grade with help from a support teacher. It wasn't enough. Last week we had a very tough meeting with the teacher where we were told that our child had some very serious learning problems and needed all kinds of testing and intervention strategies and lots preliminary diagnoses were thrown around. We decided enough was enough we would be homeschooling.

I taught school long enough to be able to tell the difference between a child that has a serious learning disability and a child that just needs to be held accountable. He doesn't have gross motor delays or pervasive developmental delay for goodness sake! He was riding a bike without training wheels before he started kinder. He runs, plays tennis, swims, shoots a bow and arrow, jumps rope, climbs trees, plays soccer, talks nonstop, he even plays piano with both hands, thank you very much.

What he needs is consistent handwriting instruction and lots and lots of practice writing until he can write legibly and quickly so he can finish assignments in a reasonable amount of time. He doesn't need someone to feel sorry for him and take dictation instead of forcing him to do his own work. Poor handwriting is not a major learning disability nor a cause to recommend occupational and physical therapy.

He reads every thing he can get his hands and comprehends what he reads very well. His bed is always heaped with books he sneaks in to read under covers after bedtime. No he doesn't read aloud smoothly but that is a matter of practice. He routinely reads books on the fifth and sixth grade accelerated reader lists without difficulty.

He does need to work on writing compositions. I will happily agree he is below grade level there. We will be writing lots of stories, letters, and essays in the coming months. Grandma and Aunt Teri get ready for you mailboxes to be full of letters from Alonzo. He also needs to be forced to sit and work until it is done. If he knows I am willing to let him sit there all blessed day until he is finished what ever is assigned then pretty soon he is going to pick up the pace so that he can go do something a bit more fun. I know this from homework battles. He used to sit and cry and whine trying to get out of homework. My attitude is he could just sit there until it is done. I don't care how long it takes. For a while it was taking hours to do homework. Sometimes he would even have to go to bed late. Lately homework is finished within thirty minutes or so. The homework hasn't gotten easier he has just figured out I am really going to make him do it so he might as well get it done.

He is on grade level for math, the fourth grade level that is. No, he doesn't get division, maybe because he has never had instruction in division. Now there's a thought. I will be ordering a ready made homeschooling curriculum that will help make sure that my instruction is on grade level and that I don't overlook something important, like maybe fractions. UGH! I hate fractions but it must be taught.

In case anyone cares I think I will use Calvert as the principal curriculum and supplement with Sonlight because of it's literature. This seems like a good starting point for an initial foray into homeschooling. Sort of a scaffold for me to lean on while we are figuring this whole thing out. I taught school ages ago. I think it might have even been in a different lifetime. It's different to teach my own child who will not be going home at 3:00. I am as nervous today as I was all those years ago facing a classroom full of 20+ students. Anyone out there who has hints or helpful advice feel free to share. I will be entirely grateful!

*Bishop MacKenzie is the school which most embassy kids attend. There are in fact two other schools here. ABC is a christian based school. There are a few embassy kids attending there and the parents seem happy. Please note is run by missionaries so the Christian atmosphere will not work for everyone. The Acacia School is a British system school that just opened this year. There are a few embassy kids there mostly at the preschool level. At present I think it only goes through third grade but they will be adding grades each year as the students move up. Since this is it's maiden year only time will tell if this will be a viable option in the future.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At the Pond

From our living room we can see the amazing water feature that came with this house. It is seriously one of the best things about this house. It has two waterfalls and surrounded by ferns and tropical plants. It is the perfect spot to sit and have a cup of coffee on Sunday morning. The only thing that could make it better would be some pretty fish. Right now all it has is small silver minnows and thousands of tadpoles. Lake Malawi is famous for it's cichlids, in fact many of the pretty little fish in your local pet store come from right here in Malawi. I am looking forward to adding some colorful cichlids to the pond in the future, then it will be just about perfect.

This morning the frogs were making an awful racket, a bit unusual, they are usually pretty quiet in the morning. We glanced out the window and suddenly we were watching a real live wildlife show in our own backyard. In the trees around the pond were several pied crow and a hammerkop. David was excited to see the hammertopf and grabbed the camera. I am so glad he did. By the time he got the screen open so he could take a clear picture one of the crows had grabbed a frog and flown to a grassy area to eat his breakfast. Minutes later the hammerkop caught his own breakfast. Mmmm...yummmy....froglegs for breakfast.

The frog looks like he has a chance to escape but he is doomed. Minutes later it was in the crow's stomach.

The hammerkop never gave the frog a chance, he just tilted his head back and swallowed it whole.

I guess I will hold off on those pretty fish after all. I don't want to pay good money just to feed the wildlife. They seem to be doing fine on their own. I now understand why there are thousands of tadpoles if these guys are out there munching on frogs. I am little less worried there will be a plague of frogs in our yard if all these tadpoles manage to survive. Perhaps one morning soon I will see a kingfisher catching a early morning snack.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I have said it before but it bears repeating, BOYS ARE GROSS! So why do I have four of them? UGH! Don't get me wrong I really truly love each and every one of my boys but I really truly don't understand why they do the things they do.

The little boys follow the gardeners around all afternoon when they get home from school hoping he will turn up some sort of creepy animal for them to carry around the remainder of the afternoon. Here are just a few of the critter they have found thanks to Lyson.

Power's Rain Frog (He's kinda cute in a weird sort of way.)


Giant Grubs (GAG!)

This is what I have to live with every day. This doesn't count the endless parade of assorted lizards and bugs the boys catch on a daily basis. Really if I was any sort of animal in this yard I would climb over the nearest wall and take my chances on the street. Better that than being caught by a grubby little boy.

Today something happened that upped the grossness level to a whole new high. We were at a welcome party for a new a family here in Lilongwe when one of the kids found a big beetle. Not the biggest beetle I have ever seen but still a big bug, about as big around as quarter, not including the legs. One of the men at the party dared Cody to eat it. Dakota being a teenage boy, which is to say he seems to have few functioning brain cells, promptly asked "How much will you pay me?" By now you can tell where this is going. eventually a price was reached and he ate the bug.

Why would anyone not starving to death voluntarily eat a bug? How did he know the bug wasn't poisonous? I don't know the last time I was that grossed out. Then to top it off he and David had to discuss how it tasted during dinner. I had to leave the table rather abruptly after he said it wasn't the taste that was the worst it was the crunching. He said that right as I bit into a nice crunchy somosa. Crunch Crunch! Uggh! Why do boys (big and little) do these things?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Weekly Round-Up

Welcome back to the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup. If this is your first time visiting the roundup let me explain how this works. Each week a FS blogger somewhere volunteers to compile a list of interesting posts by FS bloggers. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list of every post published by any foreign service blogger anywhere. Instead it is a list of posts that the roundup compiler found interesting for one reason or another and wants to share. That blogger then publishes the list on Friday. To sign up simply visit A Daring Adventure and pick a date to host. Slow internet is no excuse! Internet doesn't get much slower than Malawi. Dial up is faster than this.

Every time I look at one of these roundups I always think, "How do they keep track of all those blogs?" The last time I did the roundup I was in Germany land of good beer and reliable high speed internet. My strategy for finding blog posts was to go to Life After Jerusalem and click down Digger's exhaustive list of FS blogs on her sidebar one by one. It was a very effective strategy but it did rely on a decent internet speed to get through all of those blogs in a reasonable amount of time. That strategy isn't working very well for me this time. It would take weeks just to load all those pages. Hannah at The Slow Move East is apparently smarter than me. She recommends google reader to help keep track of all those state blogs out there. I think I will be spending some time this weekend figuring out how to use google reader.

This round up welcomes some new FS bloggers from the 156th A-100 class, as well as the 115th specialist class. There is nothing quite like the first day. Already they have attended a meet and greet hosted by the 154th class, survived in-processing, received their first bid list, and still some have managed to get out and try some new culinary experiences. By the time you are reading this on Friday they will have survived their first week at FSI.

This round up also sees the return of some bloggers who have been absent for a long time. Diplotrotter is back and shares the day her life changed forever. What an awful experience, you have my deepest sympathies. We are glad that you are back among the blogging and look forward to more blog posts in the future.

Where in the World is Doug is now in Germany where he is overheating his laptop making up for lost time after a tour in Zambia, land of the world's slowest internet. He is apparently trying to put up 2 years worth of posts in just two weeks time, so I encourage you to scroll down though the last couple of weeks and look at all the wonderful experiences they had in Zambia. However I can't pass up the chance to point out some very handsome cyberbones kids he ran across on his visit to Frankfurt for some training last spring. Forgive me for a little self promotion.

A distinct pleasure of serving overseas is discovering new cuisines and trying new food. Beef isn't really a new food but Megan, The Half-Breed Outlaw, is finding that beef in Buenos Ares is a totally new experience. Wow those ribs look fabulous.

Mobile Home is discovering new fruits after she arranged for a personal farmer weekly produce delivery. I wonder if I could arrange something like that here in Malawi? Hmm....

Dilpomat and Cat have discovered that menus in Mexico may look English friendly at first glance but it is all a ruse. Make sure to click on the picture and try and read the menu. Tricky!

Emily at Our Life is training her young son Thomas to work for his food. Too funny! I could see Grayson doing this too, however my other kids would rather go hungry.

Two Crabs made a trip to Cyprus where they did absolutely nothing. Sounds wonderful and the scenery is gorgeous. Where do I sign up?

Sarah of Novakistan is spending some time in Minnesota and brings us this humorous list of observations. I particularly like the socks and sandals, always in style. Will there be a humorous list of life in Manila when she returns? I really hope so!

Lindsay Mae is also taking a break from Manila and reconnecting with grandparents, cousins, and friends. Sounds like a wonderful time.

All of us with kids in school have to deal with bullies sometimes, but what happens when mom becomes the bully? Ooops! Really folks it was an accident, she didn't mean to tell the teacher she was LAME. Hopefully by the time I'll Take Mine To Go returns from Jamaica she will be able to help her son deal with bullies and she will be ready to deal with the teacher.

Kolbi has embarked on a daring new adventure, public school! Her oldest is now a sophomore. It's the first time he has ever attended school. This licensed pilot and eagle scout has always been home-schooled. Something tells me he is going to do just fine. Oh and Kolbi since you have an opening in your homeschool would you mind terribly if I shipped a boy or two your way? You are obviously doing something right!

Digger is still at FSI and has some ideas on how to stay awake when the class gets boring. Hint: a pencil in the eye is painful but effective. She also has some ideas to help with language learning as well. Now if she could just solve the overcrowding issues in her area studies class all would be right with the world.

World Wide Available is relieved to have passed the Russian language test but is finding that she will miss FSI. Kitty Non Grata has also passed her language test, although in Khmer not Russian and is ready to start actually training for her job.

Over at SchutzHappens the story of the chair is becoming never ending. By the way, this link is to part 33. If you want the beginning of the story you will have to scroll back a month or two and do some reading. Will the chair saga ever end??

Do you have a recommendation for a smart phone? Stephanie of Where in the World Am I is looking for ideas, so am I for that matter. Are you using a blackberry, an iphone, a droid, or an ancient cell phone from Indonesia that just won't die no matter how many times you drop it? Oh wait that last one is me. Seriously, let Stephanie (and me) know what phones working for you where ever you are. Please.

Just in case you don't have a FB account Kitty Non Grata has posted what history might be like if FB had been around way back when. This has been making the rounds on the FB. Totally hilarious!

V for VonHinken has submitted their bids for their second post and are entering the dreaded waiting period. This is the part of bidding that I hate the most, the waiting while someone else decides your future. Here's hoping you get your number one choice!

Unaccompanied tours are one the more challenging experiences the FS has to offer and yet modern technology has changed all the rules. This week the Dinoa family experienced some auto problems UGH! But it wasn't all bad news, her husband was able to attend his brother's wedding via skype. Gotta love that modern technology. Sadly The Perlman Update has a problem that can't be solved by technology. Her 3 bedroom 2 bath adorable cottage turned out to be a two bedroom 1 bath adorable cottage. Yikes! It's is going to be cozy living there with three kids for the next year.

On a more serious note sometimes a FSO had to help out a family who experienced tragedy while overseas. This is part of the job. The Slow Move East had to deal with this for the first time last weekend when she was the duty officer. She found it to be a heart wrenching experience but was glad she could be there to help out.

Some might consider having a child with asperger's syndrome as a difficulty but Spectrummy Mummy makes it clear her child is a blessing. If you haven't discovered Specrtrummy Mummy yet, she blogs about being the parent of a special needs child, and also about the fun that goes with being in the FS with a special needs child. Seriously if you thought bidding was a pain, try throwing a class 2 med clearance child in the mix. It quickly goes from being a pain in the behind to absolutely nightmarish!

Well that's the round up for this week I know I have left out many many blogs that deserved to be in here. Blame it on poor internet service and a lack of google reader know how. My search technique was hit and miss this time, if I missed you I apologize. If you are interested in showing me how it is done just stop by A Daring Adventure and sign up to host the roundup next week.

Wordless Wednesday - Boys!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hey People!

Remember back in May when we all thought the tigers ate a certain beloved blogger and creator of the weekly round-up? There was all sorts of angst going around the FS blog-o-sphere about what happened and who would take up the reins and keep the round-up going. We all like the sense of community that the round-up has created, but apparently we do not so much like actually like putting in a little time on the computer to do our part to keep it going.

For three weeks now there has been no round-up and there were a few gaps over the summer. I am not willing to let go of the bloggy community that I found since the round-up started last spring. I enjoy getting a peek into all of your adventures and I need the reassurance that other people are going through this insanity that is life in the foreign service. To that end I will get the ball rolling again and do the weekly round-up this week. It will probably not be as insanely long as the last time I hosted the round up because the internet here in Malawi is a little slow, as in I can't check my e-mail during the business day because it times out, as in I click a blog link go get a cup of tea and come back 5 minutes later and if I am lucky maybe the page has loaded. Now that is slow, but I will do the best I can.

If you want the round-up to continue make sure to stop by A Daring Adventure and sign-up to host the weekly round up. Let's not let this die. Be sure to check back here Friday for the the latest edition of the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup. If you have read or written a post that you think should be included please do let me know, I can use all the help I can get. Thanks!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Twlight Zone

This is the way it feels here in Malawi. It feels as though we are living back in time when all the pictures were in black and white.
This is what it looks like in reality. I love our yard.
Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lilongwe Wildlife Center

David had the day off (Yay for Labor Day!) and the kids were in school so Dave, Dakota, and I decided to check out the Lilongwe Wildlife Center. It's a rescue and rehabilitation center for injured or orphaned animals. Check out some of the animals we saw today.

There were yellow baboons, they look brown to me, but hey what do I know?

The vervet monkeys were kinda cute, as long as they didn't get too close. Don't worry Mom most of the animals were in enclosures.

This is a blue monkey, he looks black to me. Maybe I am color blind or something, I thought the yellow baboons were brown.

Can you see anything in the picture? Look close, somewhere in this picture there is a 5 meter long python in this picture. That is a heck of a big snake. I stood just a few feet from his hiding spot and even with the guide trying to point him out it took me several minutes to spot him. I think I will be staying on the paths where I can see what I am stepping on. Eeek!

This is a bush pig. It was the only animal other than birds not in an enclosure. There were two of thes guys, this one is the female, the male was cooler looking but refused to come out of the underbrush so we could get a decent picture of his bumpy face. This girl however decided to follow us down the path for a while. It was a little unnerving to hear her walking along behind us, she is bigger than she looks in this picture.

The guide spotted this hammerkopf at the river overlook. It's a cool looking bird. I wish it had been closer, this was taken at full zoom. We were able to get a good look at it through Dave's binoculars as it was fishing. Love those binocs.

Dakota is hoping to start volunteering at the wildlife center starting later this week. He is really excited to spend the next few months working there. What a great opportunity! I can't wait to take the younger kids there, they will love it!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I have been driving in Malawi now for about three weeks. I have had more close calls with people than I have with other vehicles. People walk up and down the street on both sides and there isn’t much of a shoulder. I think when rainy season hits it will be much worse. In the America I never worried too much about pedestrians because they have their own walkway. As this is the case, the warnings on alcohol bottles in the states are geared more toward the drivers. You know “Don’t drink and drive”. Here in Africa they are geared more toward the pedestrian. I love the warning on this bottle of wine from South Africa. And after driving here it makes perfect sense.

Click on the picture and read the label.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Have you ever noticed that when you read a novel, especially a historical romance set in 1700 or the 1800's, it always takes place in a rich persons house and there are servants all over the place? There cooks and chambermaids, footmen and doormen. There is a servant for every want or need. It all sounds like such a good idea. If only life were a novel.

Well apparently I was reading those novels when I was hiring staff prior to our arrival here. In a facebook conversation awhile back I said that it is a good idea to consider hiring staff prior to arriving at post, especially if you are heading to a third world or developing country where having help is the norm rather than the exception. I still think it is a good idea. When we arrived in Jakarta, at the very end of transfer season, it took a long time to find a maid. Most of the ones who had experience with Americans and spoke some English had long since been snapped up. So yes it is a good idea to consider hiring household help before arrival.

On the other hand it is probably a good idea not to get too carried away hiring people before you get to post. I got carried away. Big time. Drat those historical romances with all those footmen and handmaids. Now I have to deal with it. Someone, or a couple of someones, will have to go. There are too many people in this house and in the yard all the freaking time and it is driving me nuts. Plus they are costing us money, quite a bit of money actually. So how many people did I hire? Four. Yes, I am nuts, thanks for asking. At the moment I am really thinking that EF'M is on to something with his refusal to hire help.

So how do I fix this? This is one of the poorest countries in Africa. The level of poverty here is shocking. I am thinking if I was given a choice of being a trash picker in Jakarta or living in a village here, I am going with the trash picker's compound, hands down. Yes, it is that bad. So how can I fire someone for my mistakes? They haven't done anything wrong, there are just too many of them. Two of these people live-in so if I fire them I am not only costing them money but a safe place to live. The other two are gardeners. While my yard may look like a tropical paradise, I assure you the other side of those brick walls is a whole other story, a story of red dust, stunted hacked off trees and not much green, so what does a gardener do besides work for an expat with a big yard? This is truly a case of be careful what you wish for, you might get it, and then what?

So has anyone out there had to deal with this situation? Please tell me I am not the only crazy one. What would you do?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happiness –

Can happiness truly be found anywhere? I am sure there are some places that happiness can not be found, such as the death of a loved one. But in most situations I like to believe that happiness can be found.

When my older brother was taking a psychology class as part of his nursing degree, one of the topics was happiness.

“Do you know what happiness is?” He asked me.

I thought about it a moment and told him what I though happiness was.

“To you perhaps, but your happiness it not necessarily someone else’s happiness. Take for instance the homeless person that lives under the bridge. His happiness will be completely different than yours”, he told me.

Wow! I never really thought about it like that before. I am the kind of person that likes to see happiness. I like to see people smiling and laughing. In my previous opinion before our conversation, if you were not smiling and laughing, I just assumed you were not happy. Kind of like my mom. Don’t get me wrong she smiled and laughed but she complained all the time. It was interesting to hear her complaints and it wasn’t until my brother and I had that conversation that I realized that “complaining” was a key component to my moms’ happiness. If there was nothing for her to complain about she was not happy. It made me see things totally different for the first time.

I deal with many people every day, from all walks of life and ranging from all ages. Some I have relationships with and others are just passing strangers that I might have a small interaction with. Never a moment goes by that I don’t think about what makes one happy. I often think there must be something wrong with me, because it is rare that I get sad or get let down by a situation. I would love to be able and say what makes me happy because I truly don’t know. It is so much easier to say what make me sad.

What make me sad?

When I see someone I love, unhappy or sad and there is nothing I can do help.

I would love to know what makes you happy or if you are a person like me…what makes you sad?