March 8, 2005
As of March 4, 2005, each of the Merrys has celebrated a birthday here in Blantyre. Heather’s was the first, the day after we arrived in Malawi. She had had a party in Pennsylvania before we left, so we simply celebrated by going out to the Hong Kong restaurant.
On September 11, 2004, Brooke turned 14. At lunchtime she opened presents. Our Canadian friends, the Sherbinos, had us over for dinner that night, but I brought dessert – a chocolate birthday cake.
On October 10, 2004, it was my turn. Dan arranged for us to go to the Zomba CCAP Cottage for the weekend. We had a spectacular time relaxing and star gazing and enjoying the cool crisp mountain air. My sister Debbie had mounted a “card campaign.” It was a huge success. I received birthday cards from all over the world. There were many more than the hoped for 50, and they are still tacked up on my bedroom door, reminding me of the special day.
March 4, 2005, was Dan’s turn. Dan hates surprise parties, so of course they had one for him at the Synod office. I baked a double-decker banana caramel cake, and every crumb was gone. Malawians love sweets!
Then he spent five long hours in the afternoon at a Women’s World Day of Prayer Celebration of Worship (see journal entry). When he finally got home, his mood improved 100% as he opened the dozens of cards, some of them from people in Pittsburgh Presbytery that he doesn’t even know! Then he opened his presents. He got a new stole, a book about Malawi and a poster of Malawi. To really celebrate the big 5-0, we were taken out to dinner at the nicest restaurant in Blantyre by the Rev. Kay Day, who is co-chair of Pittsburgh Presbytery’s Partnership Ministry Team, and is visiting Malawi right now. It was the most enjoyable evening we have spent out in a long time. The food was fantastic and the fellowship great. It was a truly memorable day.
It is really strange to celebrate a birthday in Malawi. The Malawians do not celebrate birthdays. They don’t do the presents and party thing, even for children. If you ask a Malawian how old they are, they won’t say, “50 years old,” they will say, “I was born in 1955.” It is very hard to understand this for an American.
The average life expectancy here is now 37 years old. AIDS and hard living brings the curve way down. We are pretty old by Malawian standards, and people here who are our age here are grandparents caring for grandchildren, because their children have died. It is really sad.
As a result, we are grateful for every day on this earth that God gives us.