We have been travelling back and forth to Kamanzi almost every day since we arrived in Malawi. Our primary driver has been Weston whose 'real' job is as Accountant for Nkoma Relief and Development. He deserves special recognition for the significant extra work he has put in which also includes acting as our translator for most of the functions and correcting and enhancing the little Chichewa we have picked up. This means he has been driving at least 3 hours every day and sometimes twice that amount of time if there is an unexpected trip as when Jane had a bout of Malaria. She tried to continue working after some medication and came out to the village(s) for a workshop but could not continue so Weston had another 3 hour drive to take Jane back to Llongwe to the hospital then return to take us home. Below is a picture of Weston in his office in Nkoma. Like many Canadians, he lives in Llongwe and commutes to Nkoma to work which is about 1 hour away. Nkoma is a more mountainous area with trees that give the area a feel like Banff. A large part of our purpose was relationships and it has been a tremendous joy to meet the support staff like Weston who are so dedicated and caring. Thanks Weston.
Everyone is happy that we have come, but we definitely have an impact. We are treated like royalty and a large part of that is having a number of meals with the villagers which means a lot of cooking by the ladies in preparation. We have not been able to stick to schedules very well (which is not always our fault) so often we have kept the people waiting sometimes for a half day or more but the villagers are so very patient and kind.
Finally, I had the opportunity to ride in the back of the pickup that we have spent most of the time travelling in. It is not because we were getting tired of the close and constant interaction and contact between the 4 members of New Hope, although I am questioning why I got relegated to the back. I am thankful for the opportunity, fellow team members, to meditate on the magnificent African landscape and reflect on the meditations Heather has has been leading on the need for Solitude to achieve personal growth. Often we pick up some villagers on the way so the back is packed with people. The women seem to manage to get the best position which is just behind the cab so gradually I get squeezed to the very back where I was hanging on for life as we bounced over the rutted roads. One of the men lost his sandal as the truck took an unexpected bounce and one of the village children retrieved it and ran down the truck to return it. We also bounced one of the ladies right off the back but we generally are moving so slow because of road conditions that no one was hurt. Thankfully I was in the cab the one time we saw a Mamba (snake) on the road as we were travelling after dark.