April 26, 2005
For the past three days the entire Blantyre Synod complex and surrounding area have been without power. We think that a transformer was hit by lightening, but the power company told me that thieves stole the oil from the transformer. Whatever the cause, the fact is that no transformer means no power. When a transformer had its oil drained out a bit further down the Chileka Road, towards the airport, it took 33 days for them to get their power back.
In the meantime, our freezer has defrosted itself. I took out the meat while it was still frozen and transferred it to another missionary’s house. (They do not live on the Synod compound.) The girls did not complain one bit when I put out bread, apples and a chocolate bar for breakfast the first morning. (Brooke liked the chocolate before school idea.) Margaret let me borrow her charcoal stove to heat up some leftover beef stew for dinner. I am planning one pot meals for company that arrives from the US tomorrow. I also had seen bags of ice being used by the vendors who sell soft drinks on the streets, so I went to the Coke plant and bought some to keep a few things in the fridge cool.
The girls have been troopers about taking cold showers and wearing clothes that have not been ironed. Dan is a bit grouchy because it is hard for him to accomplish much at work with no computers, phones, printers, faxes, etc.
Even our cell phones are dying because we can’t recharge them.
However, there is something to be said for being “in the dark.” The first night the power was off, we sat around the dining room table and, by candlelight, played games. The four of us laughed and teased each other mercilessly. Last night while the girls were doing homework by lantern light, Dan and I sat and talked for an hour and half. At home we would never just sit. We would never spend that much time just conversing about life in general. It was delightful and something I hope that we will make time for when we return to America.
In America, when the transformer on our street blows, it takes the power company about two hours to have it repaired and working again. Here, they have no parts or extras in stock. It is that way with so many things in Malawi. The dirt roads need to be graded; paved roads need to have their potholes patched. Villages lack clean, safe, nearby water. Schools need more teachers, books, paper and rooms. Patients need better medical care and drugs. The government must be purged of corruption, and on and on it goes….
It is often discouraging, when you look at the poverty, the failed crops, and the desperation on people’s faces. There is so much that needs to be done, that you wonder if all the efforts of all the NGOs, well-wishers, missionaries, governments and aid organizations can even begin to make a dent. You feel very powerless. I heard one recent visitor to Malawi say, “There are so many problems, where do you even start?”
But there are things that help. AIDs education seems to be taking hold. The Government has promised to build new schools and train more teachers. A beautiful new hospital was recently built in Thyolo. The CCAP is caring for over 200 orphans in Ndirande alone. Small steps are being taken, inch by painstaking inch, progress is being made. Each of us has the power to make some of these incremental changes to improve the world around us, wherever we are. Despite the loss of electricity, none of us is powerless.