The Armed Forces recently serving in Afghanistan, always returned home after their tour of duty via Cyprus, where they spent a few days of ‘decompression’. The theory being that after an intense and pressured environment it is helpful to have a some time of peace and calm together before returning to the ordinary and everyday. Miss McFadden has been coming to Malawi for many years and the wisdom she brings – won of long experience – led her to arrange a stop over at Mayoka Village on lake Malawi. So our last full day in Malawi finds us at a very beautiful lakeside lodge perched on the steep sides of the lake, commanding stunning views. This is the moment all of us – especially our hugely talented and generous young people – a moment to catch our breath, reflect on all we have experienced and begin to process how we will take our learnings home and how they will change us.
How to summarise such an intense and concentrated two weeks is a tall order. It has undoubtedly been life-changing, even for those of us who have long experience of living in challenging situations in different parts of the world. Personally, I think the work “gratitude” is the one that springs most readily to mind. I’m grateful for those who have organised and supported the partnership of St. Benedict’s and St. Patrick’s. I’m grateful for the invitation to go and for those who helped me plan, cancel and re-plan my being here for the visit, around the sudden death and funeral of my dear friend and brother Robert. Grateful for the spontaneous joy and love that the Students of St. Patrick’s have given us without reservation. Grateful for their obvious reverence and devotion to their faith and their hunger for education, knowledge and the opportunities that this will give them in their lives. Grateful for the learning of sharing the joys and pains of those in the local parish, the Hospital, the Maternity Unit, the sick children’s wards, the local Primary School, the Orphanage for the children with physical and mental disability and the local village, the list gives a clue to the breadth and depth of what we saw and did; all this in an environment so very different to our normal day to day lives.
Gratitude is not, however, merely for those noble and lofty undertakings! At the moment I am grateful for a shower which, though not hot, is certainly not Rumphi cold – and therefore for the first time in 12 days tolerable for more than a few moments. Grateful for food which is not only wholesome but also a little more familiar. The relish with which the boys fell on burgers like men possessed, the quesadillas and banana pancakes which were similarly devoured – though more decorously – by the girls, ice for the coke and crisps – pleasures unimaginable for such long time in the teenage mind! The icing on the cake, to mix my metaphors, was a curry night (a true taste of Scotland!) which the young people were polite enough to tell us was not as good as our own efforts last Friday.
I celebrate the 34th Anniversary of Ordination today. Every one of those 34 years has been a joy and a blessing. This year was special for many reasons, as every year seems to be. This one is special because I have the privilege, as one of my tasks, to be the Chaplain to St. Benedict’s. It is rare in my life to spend an intense and concentrated period of time with such enthusiastic and generous young people, such fine leaders and such joy. I am blessed indeed and have much to be grateful for. And so to bed!
Deo Gratias! Fr. Michael
Sunday. Time to celebrate our final Mass with the boys and Father Sam in St Patrick’s, say our goodbyes and head to the lake.
Unusually, we started our day having breakfast before Mass. Sunday Mass is at 8 o’clock, which feels positively late in comparison to our mid-week early rises.
Team St Benny were pretty flat; the ensuing departure on our minds. We headed to the chapel.
We had a beautiful last mass. Father Michael’s homily was particularly thought-provoking and as he added some final words at the end of Mass about him being incredibly proud of our students, it all got a bit emotional…cue the first tears from Mrs Kerr.
Our spirits were lifted as always by the fantastic singing from the choir, and all the boys. It really is a bit special when everyone is in full voice. Team Benny were really going for it with the dancing – Father Michael has some mean moves!! Who knew?!?!
Mama Bernadetta said her last words to the boys and Father Sam, thanking them for everything they have shared with us this trip. She asked them to pray for our partnership, that it continues to grow in strength, and encouraged the boys to continue to work hard in all they do.
Time for goodbyes. Knowing this was the last time we would all stand outside after Mass hit home and final present swapping, hugs and hand-shakes began.
For our first time visitors to St Patrick’s this is the moment they realise how close they have all become and how strong the bonds of friendships really are.
The staff popped back to the girls’ house and made final preparations for us leaving, giving the students and boys some time together.
All arrangements taken care of, it was time to load up the minibus and get going. More hugs and tears and goodbyes. I am terrible at goodbyes. The boys have really become all of ours’ family. Watching young people from very different places in the world love each other so deeply is quite a beautiful thing!
I think that’s what my take away will be from this, my third trip to the warm heart of Africa…! I learned more about what true, honest, pure love is. Thank you St Patrick’s!
And now,to the lake…..
On our last official day in St Patrick’s the girls woke up 2 minutes before Mass began which resulted in a hectic rush around the house before a quick exit. We arrived to Mass only a minute late after our few minutes of panic which was unnecessary as Father Michael was running on Malawi time. After Mass everyone was tired and honestly quite grumpy – so when we went into the house to find that Mr Gondwe had made us French toast and chips for breakfast everyone’s mood was instantly lifted!
After breakfast everyone spent an hour or so packing their cases for Sunday, this was quite an upsetting process, as it made the rooms bare again, just as it was at the beginning of the week. After our room had been packed up Adam and Daniel helped us pack some gift bags for St Magdalena’s which consisted of 2 pencils, 4 balloons, 3 lollipops and a rubber which the boys had to unwrap 30 of them individually.
After the gift bags were made Aoife, Jen, Riona and I went to see the St Patrick’s boys, for about 2 hours before lunch. While we were with the boys, Jen and Aoife played some basketball with them while Riona and I talked to a few of the boys.
At 12 o’clock the group and the boys that came to Scotland started our walk to Chef’s Pride. We walked and talked to the boys who all found it extremely funny that Steven got scared by two cows walking down the street. When we got to Chef’s Pride everyone ordered their lunch which came at in reasonable time except for Riona, Amy, two of the boys and I which meant Father Sam had to take us home in the minibus. While father Sam was in the shop the 5 of us got into the minibus and we were quickly followed by a young boy who tried to get us to give him money. At this point in the day – about 3pm – it was very warm in the bus so we opened the windows to let some air in, within no time the boy ran around to the open window which we then closed and the other side was opened he then ran around to the other side. This happened over and over until he started to cry and pretend to faint, this was probably one of the most bizarre and saddest things that happened to me on our trip.
When Father Sam returned to the bus we went to St Magdalena’s for the farewell party where we sang songs and did the cha-cha slide. At the end of the party we started giving presents only to realise that we had forgotten to bring the gift bags that we had spent hours making up that morning which meant Adam had to run back to the house to get them.
After St Magdalena’s we went back to the house to get the presents for St Patrick’s which we took to the church for the assembly that afternoon. It was really very nice as they gave us each a present with our names on them. The assembly soon turned very emotional as they began to talk about us leaving which caused a few of us to cry. After the assembly we went up to Father Sam’s house for dinner which was beef, rice and chips, we stayed for an hour or so and talked to friends of Father Sam and left to go down to our farewell party with the boys.
At the disco we taught the boys how to do the cha-cha slide and ‘5,6,7,8’ – which they thoroughly enjoyed. During the part, Abbie and Riona and I ate quail which was an experience I don’t think I’ll have again even though it tasted like chicken. During the disco we danced and and talked to the boys until 11:45, then we went back to the house where we read the letters the boys had given us which made all of us very emotional.
P.S. Mum, when I come home, please don’t give me rice for a while!
As usual we started the day with an early morning mass at 6:30am, obviously the cockerel made sure we were awake very early. After mass we returned to the house to find out that Mr. Gondwe had prepared us French toast which we were all super excited about, we then joined the boys at the seminary for a few classes and also practised for the concert that was happening later in the evening. While practising for the concert we saved a bird that flew into the chapel which was quite an eventful experience. It was then time for lunch which we were all definitely ready for!
After lunch we had some free time, the majority of us used this opportunity to catch up on all the sleep we had missed as waking up at 5:45am every morning can be very tiring. When we were all rested we headed to St. Magdelena’s for 2:30pm where we participated in sporting activities with the children which included basketball, football, bubbles, swing-ball and many catching games. The best part of the whole experience was the happy look on all of the faces which made everyone’s day, we stayed at St. Magdelena’s for around an hour and then we returned to the house for some more free time. We used this time mainly to prepare party bags for all the boys at the seminary and sign some more postcards, all the girls also braided each other’s hair so we were all matching for the concert. We quickly ran over all of our performances to make sure we were all prepared and ready.
However the highlight of the day was definitely when we found out Miss McFadden, Mrs Kerr and Fr. Michael had prepared a chicken curry for us which was a lovely change from our usual dinner. Once we had all devoured the curry we had to rush to the concert very quickly as we were already 15 minutes late (on time in ‘Malawi Time’!). After a few technical issues with the sound, the concert began at around 8:15pm. We watched lots of performances from the boys at the seminary including dancing, singing, rapping and acting.
Everyone was very nervous as it was now our turn to take to the stage, we started off with a highland dance that was performed by Lara and Abbie, which all the boys really enjoyed. That was then followed by Riona performing a tap dance which they were all really impressed by, Daniel then took the stage and performed ‘Women Like Me’ by Little Mix which they went absolutely mental for – as all the boys in the seminary are quite obsessed with Daniel. Myself, Jen and Kerry performed an Irish dance to ‘Cry of the Celts’ which went very well as no one fell on their face which was quite unusual for us. It was then time for our final group dance to ‘5, 6, 7, 8’ by Steps, this dance was very well rehearsed and went really well. It started off with Lara on the stage dancing by herself, then one by one we all joined her on stage and performed the dance, we then grabbed the boys and teachers from the audience and brought them on stage which they all absolutely loved.
After the concert we spent a little while with the boys, I taught a few of the boys how to Irish dance as they were very curious and intrigued. After saying goodbye to everyone we all headed back to the house and all the girls sat up for a while, we chatted and talked about how great a day it was, how well the concert went and how sad we are all going to be on Sunday when we leave the seminary, it was then time for bed after a very exhausting day.
Thursday 27th June – Day 8
As usual the cockerel woke us up before our alarm which was set to go off at 5:30am. We got ready to the choir of dogs which were howling outside, then headed to 6:30 mass. After mass we got back to the girls’ house to the surprise of Mr Gondwe making us French toast for breakfast. We could not have been more excited. After breakfast everyone split into the different classes (form 1,2 and 3). Amy, Kerry and I were in form 1 with Miss Kerr for an English lesson on adjectives, where we created an acrostic poem of our names using only adjectives. It was then time for break and we all went back to the house to get organised to go to the primary school. When break was over, we all practiced for the concert then went back to form 1 for Miss Kerr’s lesson on music, where we were learning a song. Once it was time for their break, we all met back up to walk to the primary school for sports day.
As we turned the corner onto the path to the primary school hundreds of small children came running towards us and continued running as we walked to the head teacher’s office. After we got our sports stations set up (my station was rounders) groups of 10 children went to each station. We all found it amazing that the children took their shoes off in order to run faster, even when jumping on rocks – which certainly would not normally happen in Scotland! When it was time to say goodbye, we presented the school with the sports equipment which was met with a loud cheer. We then were quite literally mobbed by the hundreds of primary children when attempting to leave as they were so desperate to spend more time with us.
Once we were finally able to reach the house, we all sat down for lunch which -to no surprise- was chicken and rice. After lunch we gathered out quiet activities for St Magdalena’s and headed out. We were greeted with a lovely song then after saying our hellos, sat down on the floor. Kerry and I played tiddlywinks and then snakes and ladders with a group of 3 children. After kindly announcing to the 3 children that everyone was a winner, we were all thanked and said goodbye to by the children singing a beautiful song.
After briefly visiting home we hopped in the minibus and went to the village. As we were arriving, the ladies of the village enthusiastically danced us in and we all sat down while Father Michael, Miss McFadden and the Village Chief said a few words. We were then hit with the harsh realities of living in a rural village in a developing country like Malawi. The Chief gave us a little tour of the more well-off houses where we saw the children’s bedroom, sleeping 4, with not one bed between them. This was difficult to see however, the village people are some of the happiest people I have ever met and were very generous by presenting us with a very large bag of what they call ground nuts in Malawi but back home we call monkey nuts. We gave the village bags of grain and some toys for the many village children as well as giving the Chief a little bottle of whisky. After saying goodbye – and Miss McFadden having a wee dance with the ladies of the village – we jumped back in the minibus and drove back to the seminary, with the children sprinting behind.
We then sat down and finished signing our 250 postcards to give to the people we have met along the road in our trip to the warm heart of Africa. By the time we had finished, it was time for evening prayers at the church. We returned to find Father Michael had made bruschetta as a starter to our dinner (prepared by Mr Gondwe). We all found this very exciting as it was different from chicken and rice! After scoffing our bruschetta, we moved on to what Mr Gondwe had prepared for us, which was a little different to previous nights (but still rice and meat). I think we would all agree that this was the best dinner of the trip so far.
Then – as usual – we all walked over to the school to spend time with the boys for a few hours before bed. The form 4s were studying for their exams so most of the time was spent with the form 1s, 2s, 3s and the boys who came to Scotland but had already graduated. Just after the final bells had rung, we all headed back to the house for a chat before bed with the sound of the dogs howling into the night.
With love from Malawi,
The 26th of June was a really exciting and unique day for all of us. We woke up at 5:45 am to go to morning Mass, which was at 6:30 am, and after that we had breakfast (by the way, I am getting used to waking up at this time, in fact I am always the first one to get up in my room!). I should be called Father Daniel with all the masses that I am attending. At breakfast we had egg and chips, and as usual I ate a lot and got made fun of by my roommates Adam and Steven (I love them even if they do that). We were to go to Mzuzu, first we went to Bishop’s house, where some of us ate and were able to access the Wi-Fi after a week of abstinence, which made me happy because I was able to text my mum and some of my friends.
Then we went to St. John’s hospital taking two big cases with medical equipment, loads of gifts and clothes for the new born babies (and also those who were about to be born). I had never done such a thing before so I was really happy to do that because it really is true than it’s “Better to give than to receive” (The Motto of St. Patrick’s). The women almost looked diffident, but you could definitely tell that they were all very grateful. Having done that, we headed to the house of the parents of Father Sam for our lunch (you will probably need to read that three times before you understand), and there we got welcomed in a really warm way. Father Sam’s mum was surrounded by a maternal aura and she just made me smile even before she spoke to me. Father Sam’s dad instead, looked just like his son: a serious face that might be scary at first, but a huge warm heart. The food was absolutely amazing, we had rice with chicken and gravy, some vegetables and chips. We stayed there for around 40 minutes and then we had to depart to a coffee shop in Mzuzu called Coffee Den. There we were also able to buy a voucher to have Wi-Fi for some time, which gave me the opportunity to call my mum and hear her voice after a week and that made me very happy! Before that though, we walked through loads of outdoor markets where you could buy food, clothes, bracelets and other things. Many of us bought bracelets for our friends in St. Patrick’s. Furthermore some of us took lots of pictures while holding chickens, which I didn’t do, but I found it very hilarious. I’m sure you all will get to see the photos when we get home.
After that we went to an AIDS orphanage, but unfortunately we didn’t meet the kids as we had so little time. Therefore we greeted the owner of the orphanage, Rodrick and his wife Martha with their granddaughter Michelle who apparently had a big appetite as she told Lara that she loves netball and eating! After that we finally headed towards St. Patrick’s, had our dinner as fast as we could and then went to talk to the boys in the school who we hadn’t seen for too long that day and we definitely all missed them. At 9:20 pm we had to go home, but we spent 10 minutes hugging and saying bye to all the boys. I will surely miss this place when I go back to Scotland.
Monire mose from the team here in Malawi.
Today was the ‘day in the life of a St Patrick’s student’. We had to do everything that the boys did for the day. We crawled out of bed at 6:00am and slowly put on our uniforms and left for 6:30am mass. After mass each of us were paired with one of the boys to host us for the day. I was with Bernard from form 2. We went straight to the dining hall for breakfast- we had porridge. It was quite sweet and then Timuwonge came and added sugar to my bowl. Period 1 was cancelled so Bernard and I took our time and then went to sit in Form 2 with my classmates for the day. We chatted and took pictures. Then at 7:50am it was time to work. Biology was my first lesson of the day, we learned about micro-organisms. The boys were very excited to learn and were very interested in biology. It was time for period 3 and break followed shortly after.
I followed the boys outside and we all stood outside of the dining hall. Dennis, Form 3, brought me tea. It was very sweet. We then headed up to the tuck shop where Abbie and I decided to buy all of the snacks and give them to the boys. It was only 4000 Kwacha (£4) for the whole bucket. We started to walk down and the bell was rung by one of the boys. It was time for class, we had physics with Mr James. Period 5 then started and we had agriculture. Then we had another break. After chatting more during break it was time for the last two periods before lunch.
The lunch bell rang which meant it was time for nsima. We all made our way to the dining hall and I sat next to Abbie. We said grace and then tucked into our second meal of the day. The boys all laughed as they watched us pick up the nsima and eat it, bit by bit. Joshua laughed and told me to take a bigger bit. We finished and we still had an hour left of lunch break so we sat and chatted to the boys. We then went for classes. It was time for chores and then sports straight after. We watched the boys play basketball. Soon I was swarmed by children which obviously meant that pictures were a must. After many pictures were takes and songs were sung it was time to study but the boys told us to go back home. It was now 5:30pm and the teachers were hosting dinner and realised that the gifts hadn’t been sorted so Abbie and I sat and sorted everything out. We counted out the whiskies for the priests and the male teachers and then a bag of toiletries for the one female teacher. We also got out boxes of tablet and shortbread for after dinner. Abbie and I missed evening prayer because we were sorting out the gifts but once we had finished sorting it was time for nsima. We finished dinner and then it was time to study. I ended up in Form 3 with most of the group. Studying turned to dancing, singing and selfies…oops. Before we knew it, it was 9:15pm – time to go home. Time flies when you’re having fun!
We walked home and stayed up and chatted for a very short while as we were very tired after our long day. We eventually got into bed – snuggled up in our sleeping bag liners and Kenya Airways blankets. Tucked under our mosquito nets and set our alarm for 6am. It was finally time to go to sleep and I can honestly say I have never been so excited to sleep.
Sending love to all of our families back home, we miss you.
Tiwonanenge sono sono (See you soon) Love Lara xxx
We started off our fifth day in Malawi with morning Mass at 6:30 in the chapel, after Mass we then had breakfast which was French toast, toast and fruit. After breakfast we then went onto our last “First Day” which was in St Patrick’s. Myself, Steven and Daniel were in a group together, we first went into a Form 3 class which was Physics where the boys were learning about Reflection of images – sadly none of us knew a lot about physics! After the first class we then went to a Form 1 class where the boys were learning about history, they were learning about the Eastern African European slave trade. Luckily because I have done National 5 and Higher history I knew a little about what the boys were learning. They were discussing about which countries were involved in being enslaved and also which continents were enslaving the Africans – which was all 7 continents. After our lesson of history we then went for our tea break, so we had 15 minutes to get some tea and a scone from the tuckshop, my first experience of trying a Malawian scone was quite enjoyable, it just tasted like a normal roll like we would get back at home. When our tea break was finished we then had a lesson of Chemistry with the Form 2 class, they were studying about what was inside of a battery and how they power electronic items, which was quite interesting! When we had finished our lessons for the day we headed off for our lunch back at the Girls house where we had our usual big bowls of rice, vegetables and some surprisingly tasty meat (I wasn’t expecting the meals to be anywhere as good as they are!).
When we had finished our lunch and Daniel had gone back for his third or fourth helping we then left to go to the primary school, it only took a few minutes to walk there as it just behind St Patrick’s, when we got to the school we met the Headmaster and he explained how the school curriculum works in Malawi and how the classes are separated. In the school they have a ratio of 1 teacher to 60 pupils but in many cases the teacher has a lot more than 60 in one classroom. After we had finished talking to the Headmaster he took us a tour round the school to see the classrooms and to meet the children, when we were in the classes and saw the size of them it was hard to think that more than 60 young children would be able to fit into this small room. Also, in the schools many of the classes don’t have desks – so all of the children need to sit on the floor, the floor is just concrete and it is very dusty. We went into a few classes to be introduced to the children, Miss McFadden spoke to the class briefly and then introduced everyone individually. It was quite funny to hear the children trying to pronounce some of our names. Finished at the primary school we then headed to St Magdalena’s which is the disabled boarding school, that was only a short walk away from the primary school. When we got there the children were very welcoming and even rushed to get everyone something to sit on. Being at Magdalena’s was very hard and I think I speak for all of us when I say it was very emotional too, even though the children have disabilities it doesn’t affect the way they go about their daily lives. The children then introduced themselves one by one and then they sang us a song, the girls then sang a song back to the children and they seemed to enjoy that.
Once we left St Magdalena’s we then headed back to St Patrick’s for some free time. Most of us decided to write our inventories to see what was inside our gift cases (which took a while). We also all had to sign 250 postcards so that each boy in St Patrick’s would get one and so we could give them to some of the staff here too. After we had finished that it was time for evening prayer, which was only about 10 minutes and then we headed for our dinner. Again, being served rice, coleslaw and some more chicken stew which was delicious. After dinner everyone headed to see the boys where we spent the rest of our night talking and laughing with everyone in one of the classes. After a long, tiring but enjoyable day we all headed for a early night for the busy day we had coming up next.
Our first Sunday in Malawi began with the first Mass of the day at 8am at St. Patrick’s. We then devoured our breakfast as quickly as we could, only to go to our SECOND Mass of the day at St. Denis’s Parish Church. As we all crammed into the minibus, Lara found a wee surprise in the box next to her… a little live chicken! I am even giggling writing this, as the whole bus was in hysterics. We arrived at the church, the Mass was celebrated outside in the Tumbuka language and the whole thing was just spectacular. Just as in St. Patrick’s, the singing, music and dancing was so, so good. The offertory and procession was out of this world, that it turns out, was what the chicken was for! The parishioners brought masses of food and drink to offer to the priests and the choir was singing and it was genuinely amazing. I’m sure we would all admit that the two and half hour Mass in the sun made us a tad heavy-eyed – however it’s the experience that counts! Also, no one fainted… so that was a bonus. After Mass, Father Austin (the parish priest) gave us a really nice lunch (with some absolutely delish scones) and Father Michael blessed some rosary beads for tiny children which was literally the cutest thing ever and then we set off on our safari trip. After a lovely drive on the bumpy roads of Malawi, we arrived at the Vwayza Marsh Wildlife Reserve where we were joined by a guard with a gun. The water was so clear and beautiful and the mountains in the background were unreal. We didn’t even mind that we were actually dying with heat in the minibus because windows had to be closed so as to prevent fatal tsetse flies getting in. During our safari, we managed to see many hippos, monkeys, a stork, baboon, kudu and some impala. We also managed to see Lara get her hair caught in my fan which once again, had the whole bus in hysterics. When we arrived home at the seminary, Steven found himself borrowing a priest’s bike which he took for a spin. Having some free time, us girls tidied out our cases, cleaned out our room (I really hope my Mum sees this) and then had dinner. Mr Gondwe was feeling edgy and made us some eggs to go with our chips for dinner! Fr. Michael’s case was finally delivered 105 hours after we had arrived – torch, shower gel, mosquito repellent and fresh socks! Around 7 o’clock, we headed over to the seminary to spend the night just chatting to the boys. All of us agree that our favourite part of our day is when we go to the seminary at night, just getting to know all the boys and spending time with them. The boys even taught us to play the bongos, however they were all in hysterics at our awful singing to “I the Lord of Sea and Sky”. We taught the boys some Scottish and Irish dancing which they absolutely loved. So then after a long day, the girls came back to the house and we all just chilled out and braided each other’s hair like a wee hair salon. We successfully made it through a tiring day!
Our second full day in Malawi started with a rude awakening for many of us as the cockerel crowed at a bright and early 3am, and the hounds failed to give in with their growling and barking through all hours of the night. However, as the alarms went off at 7:30am we were excited and intrigued for our day ahead, as it was the Form 4’s Graduation. We began with a joyful Mass full of celebration and reflection of the boys time here in St Patrick’s, remembering all they had been taught and all they must bring to the world. It also gave us time to reflect on our journey and remind us that this incredible opportunity we have been given is something we must cherish and share when we arrive back in Scotland. After Mass we took part in a hectic photoshoot and then proceeded to watch the annual basketball match between the Form 4’s and the rest of the school. Daniel took one for the team and joined in, only to go on and score a fantastic basket for his team. As the basketball game was brought to an end we went to join the boys and their families for lunch in the dining hall. We were all sat at different tables or a maximum of 2 at each table, allowing us to talk to many boys we hadn’t spoken to yet and even get to know some of their family members. Lunch was wrapped up promptly as the boys were keen to get onto their favourite part of the day. We were escorted to the hall and the boys from Form 4 made an entrance as one of their favourite songs was played and they danced into the hall and up to their seats. Seeing Patrick (who stayed with me in Scotland) lead the procession was something I will never forget. His smile from ear to ear and his amazing dance moves made me feel emotional as I realised my wee brother was graduating school. I was excited for the bright future I know he has ahead of him, as he is incredibly intelligent, infectiously smiley and has a heart of gold, but I am also sad to be seeing him go and he has been here both years I have visited St Patricks and I know that not only me but the whole school community will miss him greatly. The boys then all performed different activities from modern dancing and singing to poetry and traditional Malawian dances, every single one was outstanding and the talents the boys of the seminary have were made clear. They are not only some of the smartest student in the country but have talents far beyond their school books. The activities were then followed by a game of football, in which it was Adam’s time to shine and the boys were definitely not disappointed in his performance. Endless praise on his pace and skill kept a smile on his face for the rest of day. As the sunshine was drawing to a close and the beautiful orange sunset filled the skies, we headed for food and prepared to attend the much anticipated disco. We finished up our dinner, had our showers and got changed into our choice of clothes, which for us was leggings or joggies as after a packed day we were feeling the need for a little comfort. We arrived at the disco and were feeling slightly intimidated as the boys of the seminary and many children of the village filled the floor with amazing dances. We were shy to begin but as the night went on every single on of us were up learning dance moves off the boys and having a brilliant time. Although, the highlight of the night for us and for many of the boys that were there was definitely the appearance of Miss McFadden, Miss Kerr, Fr Michael and even Fr Sam. They jumped straight into the middle of the circles to dance and had us bent over with laughter. Good effort from the team. Graduation Day was definitely one we will remember from our trip, our first full day in with the boys. A day full of laughter and love and also an opportunity to deepen our understanding for the Malawian culture. As the night ended and we headed back to the house, we sat and chatted until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. It was time for bed and graduation day was sadly ending.
After our long tiring journey yesterday we were privileged with a late breakfast at nine. Our first breakfast in Malawi consisted of French toast and Mzuzu coffee which woke us all up. At 11am we received a tour of St. Patricks from Father Sam and saw a pig sty filled with pigs that will be our dinners for the upcoming days! We also saw the range of vegetables that St. Patricks now grow in their grounds. After our tour it was time to explore our surroundings some more, as we had arrived in the pitch black, so we walked in to our local town Rumphi. Alfred, Timuwonge, Stuart and Japhet who had come to Scotland accompanied us on the walk and it was nice for people to catch up with them. The walk although short felt long due to the sweltering heat. A group of schoolchildren surrounded us shaking our hands they walked with us most of the way wanting us to take lots of photos. As it was Jen’s 16th Birthday we went out for a celebratory lunch to Chef’s Pride nearly everyone getting chicken and rice and Fanta. Across the street we seen a skinned goat dangling which was appetizing. We planned to buy something in town for Jen but walking into the supermarket we quickly realised that wouldn’t happen as in total there was around two shelves with things on it. The most we could have got her was a bag of nails! On our way back from Rumphi we witnessed a bird being run over twice before someone picked it up and snapped its neck. The boys told us this was a regular occurrence. Still exhausted from our journey some of us decided to go back to the house and sleep till evening prayer which we thought was half six. Others went to watch the boys at St. Patricks play volleyball. We woke up around six to give us time to get ready for evening prayer before we came to the realisation that it had started at six. Everyone was in a mad rush to get ready and the girls walked in when it only had ten minutes left the boys didn’t make it at all. After evening prayer it was time for dinner which was celebrated with four of the boys from St. Patricks. We had rice, pork and chips which even after our big lunch we managed. At the end of dinner we all sang Happy Birthday to Jen and gave her a luxurious Malawian Chocolate cake which was greatly enjoyed. After the cake, much to Jen’s surprise, she received a phone call from her mum which made most of us (mainly the girls) tear up. She also was presented with a gift from home which started the crying again. After our dinner it was time for us to go sit with the boys at St. Patrick’s. It was nice for me to finally meet them and for the rest to be reunited and meet new people. They were all intrigued to learn about life in Scotland. Afterwards we retreated to bed, exhausted but happy, having finished our first full day in Malawi.
Malawi Blog Day One – Steven Carruthers
We all met at Glasgow airport at 14:15 and chatted about how nervous we all were as we waited for Miss McFadden and Mr. Taylor to meet up with as the Airport. We chatted together for about 45 minutes and when the check-in opened we queued to have all our baggage weighed – unfortunately they decided since the flight was full to weigh our hand luggage too – Adam (who is my friend!) had a bag that ws too heavy – but he put some stuff in my bag. We all went thorough security no bother at all – unlike last time when, as I didn’t realise about the restrictions on fluids, I had an expensive bottle of aftershave confiscated and disposed of – a lesson learned. The flight was slightly delayed and left a 17:15. We arrived at Amsterdam an hour an ten minutes later but could not disembark because of a thunderstorm – we then had a 15 minute run to get the next flight which was to depart only an hour later. We made it! Then we boarded our flight to Nairobi – nine hours and we all struggled to sleep as the plane was so hot – but we chatted quietly together. We arrived in Nairobi at 06:15 local time – I was exhausted! We met Fr. Michael there who had flown up from Cape Town after celebrating the funeral of his brother the day before. We chatted at the gate until our departure at 07:20 – I was so tired I just wanted to lie on a chair and sleep but we had to get on the next plane for a flight of 2 hours and 20 minutes from Nairobi to Lilongwe.
Arriving at Lilongwe we had to pay our $75 and queue for around an hour to get of visa to allow us into Malawi… eventually we were all admitted and went to pick up our bags. All our bags arrived except Fr. Michael’s – who had the shorter and easier journey – good old Kenya Airways! Fr. Sam met us with the Scottish and Malawi flag and the minibus which we loaded up with our luggage and the bags of gifts for the boys at St. Patrick’s. Then off on our long drive. We stopped after two and half hours at an Inn for some lunch – Chicken and Rice (and chips too!) we stopped for 40 minutes. Then back in the minibus for 5 hours for the journey to the Bishop’s Residence in Mzuzu where Bishop John Ryan met us and gave us tea and toast with bananas. We stayed there for half an hour – and we presented him with a new laptop computer for him and the Diocese – he was delighted. He waved us off and we drove off into the African night. A two hour drive took us up into the mountains to Rumphi where St. Patrick’s is hidden in a little valley of trees and scrub.
Getting all the baggage off we headed inside to a long room which we use as our communal dinning room and we had supper – it was great to sit down in peace and calm after the bumpy ride we had ‘enjoyed’.
Getting all the bags to the rooms then we said good night and finally crashed out after a shower and some unpacking at 11:30 – 21 hours after setting off. We were going to bed exhausted but still excited about all the new experiences we would have and the new people we would meet – especially the young students here who will learn lots from us – but I think we may well learn more from them. Their warm and friendly welcome to people from very far away tells me how welcome we are, how excited they are to see us.
Monire mose! (Greetings to all)
Well the bags are packed and the excitement is at peak level as we prepare to set off today from Glasgow. We have a very quick stopover in Amsterdam followed by an overnight flight to Nairobi where we will meet up with Fr Michael, who celebrated his brother’s funeral in Cape Town yesterday. Then on to Lilongwe where Fr Sam will be waiting to take us by minibus to St. Patrick’s.
Good luck to the whole team: Lara, Adam, Daniel, Steven, Abbie, Kerry,Riona, Aoife, Jennifer, Amy, Gillian and Fr Michael. I look forward to sharing a fantastic experience with you all in the warm heart of Africa!
A week and a day into our trip and it was time to leave St Patrick’s and head to the lake for some R,&R….
First stop, Mzuzu. En route to the little piece of paradise that is Lake Malawi, we stopped off to change some money, grab a coffee at The Den and a quick WiFi fix. Bernadetta always seems to know ‘a man who can’, and so we were off to meet Stanley….into the back shop of Mzuzu’s very own B&Q (the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ store) and our pounds are happily exchanged for chomene Kwacha!! Sorted!! A pit stop for coffee, WiFi and deals done with some of Bernadette’s biggest fans (the street sellers) and we were set to continue our drive to Nkhata Bay.
The scenery is simply breath taking on our hour long drive through the mountains and villages. Deep valleys, lined with lush greenery and dusty road-side paths merge seamlessly and are just Malawi. Children skip along the side of the road hand in hand on their way home from school, some with shoes, most without and some rockin’ the one-shoe look…I guess one is better than none.
We arrive at the lake in time for a late lunch which the girls have been so looking forward to – they serve ‘normal food’ here! Small tapas bowls for the staff and chips, burgers and quesadillas a plenty for the young team and everyone is happy.
We all decide that today is a “chill” kinda day and we spend some time settling into our rooms and catching some sun, lakeside.
I love Myoka Village – our resort. It’s a mix of super-laid-back Malawian hospitality, unbelievable scenic beauty coupled with a hint of the Caribbean….they like their reggae vibe here! We enjoy people watching at dinner. The back packers provide some interesting chat…
Dinner, cocktails and bed is the order of the day for the St Benny’s crew.
Friday 9am breakfast seems totally indulgent after our week of 5.55am alarm calls. Myoka pancake stacks, poached eggs and coffee are all met with great delight.
We decide to walk into town, and 2 mins in we realise we have Harry the dog as our chaperone…(it wasn’t actually Harry, but that’s another story!)
Bernadette warns everyone to be really careful on the treacherous path and promptly decides to illustrate this by executing an Olympic level tumble perfectly. Ouch.
All good and we carry on to the stalls. The boys love to see who their Bernadetta will bring each year to visit, each one delighted to show us their shop and Malawian souvenirs. Thorough browsing complete and we continue down the hill and into the town centre. It’s a bustling Malawian place. Market stall holders sell fish, tomatoes, grain and oil. There’s so much to see. Women carry babies on their back and all kinds of everything on their heads. Sofie, Lara and Abbie attract attention from the little ones and soon have a gang of children walking with them, holding hands. No words needed.
All shopped out, we decide to stop off at Papaya, the bar with the terrace. Cold drinks and more people watching.
Back to Mayoka and it’s time for siestas or sun-worshipping. The girls and I hang out on the swing seat, catch some rays and watch the sunset over Lake Malawi. Bliss.
Saturday morning consists of another yummy breakfast before heading down town and finalising our purchases from the boys at the stalls. Bernadette hands over the annual present of some paints to help them with their canvas painting; paving the way for a decent barter session. Rule 1. Never accept the first price! The girls are fairly impressive and keep the boys on their toes…you can take the girl out of Linwood…
We walk on into the town centre in search of WiFi but the power is down and there’s none to be found so a wee ‘chill’ time at Papaya suffices. If Carlsberg did Saturdays…
The staff have massages booked on the beach at the Butterfly Lodge (next door to Mayoka) so we head back up the hill. Anne and I head over and there is one table ready and waiting. Anne looks a bit worried as they carry an old wooden table over for her!!! No need- a couple of cushions later and we are good to go. The massage service supports local women’s business and was a real treat.
We all spend the rest of the afternoon topping up our tans….well some of us do, Sofie continues to will her skin to change colour!
Saturday night was all about the resident live musician…the legend that is Mike Mountain. Bernadette has his album on repeat in her car and talked up the performance considerably…he did not disappoint His set was moved forward and cut short due to World Cup mania, but nevertheless, like a true pro he carried on regardless!!!
I will leave you with some of his infamous lines….feel free to choose your own melody for now!
“How big is the lake?….the lake is so big. How big is the lake? So big, so big! How big is the lake?…the lake is so big. How big is Malawi lake??!!”
Paweme, and much love from us all in Malawi xxxx
Day 7 and Day 8: Tiddly-wink Championship and then we went on a road trip!
Wednesday 27th June
Each night I set my alarm for 6am knowing that it won’t be needed. Our first alarm call might be anytime between 4:30 and 5am – the cockerel beginning its day. If we missed that bell (a tin ring hanging on the tree) sounds to waken the boys – their first job of the day is to sweep the school grounds and classrooms. The second bell (and I am still in bed) is at 6am and the boys have breakfast. We make our way to mass – meeting the social studies teacher on his way to class! Fr Sam celebrates mass – the boys sing well and now I am fully awake.
Mr Gondwe has breakfast ready for us – I am hoping for rice porridge, Lara for French toast and Sofie for chips. After breakfast the girls returned to bed for what turned out to be a five hour power nap! The much needed recovery after following a St Patrick’s student for one day! Bernadette, Gillian and I went to class to teach Maths, Chemistry and English. My chalkboard work certainly needs improving! The girls surfaced for lunch – barely conversant but slowly coming to life.
After lunch we made our way to St Magdalena’s – the children were waiting just inside the gate to greet us – full voice and massive smiles. We settled down – the children organized themselves into three groups – setting up for an afternoon of colouring in and tiddlywinks!
Howls of laughter when a tiddlywink got lost up Thomas’ trousers – encouragement from Efa to ensure that her best buddy Marina scored points. We left the children colouring in, with their new pencils and books, promising to come back in a few days.
The day finished off with evening prayer – walking to church as the sun set on one side and the full moon rose. Stunningly beautiful.
Thursday 28th June
Our road trip began with a visit to the Coffee Den – which should be renamed Internet Heaven! We had our coffee and cake fix before going to visit with Bernadette’s old buddies. Stan the money man (found after navigating our way through some lively back streets) welcomed us into the backroom with a subtle nod – rates agreed and money changed hands. Fr Sam drove us to Lake Malawi through absolutely stunning mountain scenery –every turn in the road presented a breath-taking view. The girls of course slept…
We arrived at Mayoka lodge at Nkhata Bay. Couldn’t stop smiling – beautiful. Navigating the steps with varifocals a bit of challenge – skinned knees once only but oh so worth it. Lovely tranquil setting looking over Lake Malawi (in the the words of local musician ….. so big, so big. Lake Malawi is a calendar 365miles long, 52 miles wide…). Fab food, great company and an opportunity to recharge our batteries and do a bit of shopping. The next few days promise to be bliss!
Paweme from Lake Malawi!
Day 5 of the Malawi 2018 adventure…
Today we started the day at 6am, to get ready for mass. After mass we came back to the house for breakfast, where we were given the choice of rice pudding or chips and of course Aggie, Rara and Sofi chose chips! We finished up and headed to our first classes of Malawi, all three of us headed to Form 1 English with my mum, we played a game of hangman to which the boys struggled to understand but we got there after a while! After classes, much to the disappointment of the boys, we headed back to our house for lunch. After Sofies’ amazing grace to end lunch we got ready to make our first visit to St Magdalena’s School, just along the road from St Patrick’s. We arrived to the heartwarming sound of the children singing their welcome song. We got to know their names and introduced ourselves. It was just a flying visit as we were heading to Mzuzu for our first Wi-Fi connection and hot beverage. Me and the girls ordered hot chocolate, a cupcake, some white chocolate KitKat and of course the password for the Wi-Fi, which came to a grand total of around 3 pounds each…lucky us!! After our endless snaps and messages we headed back onto the minibus for a trip to Shoprite. Sofie, Lara and I walked the aisles looking for appetizing snacks and we had a good laugh with Sofie jumping on a kid’s motorbike and looking at Shoprite’s finest selection of footwear! We budgeted well, buying 3 bags of crisps, 2 bars of chocolate and 5 individual bars of other chocolate – as well as Sofie’s gorgeous new flip flops. Finally we headed to the Bishop’s house to visit Fr. Chunda. Much to our surprise there was further Wi-fi connection available to use! Fr Chunda was so happy that we had popped by. After we had laughs and took many pictures we headed back home for dinner. As we were late home we just stayed in for chats and headed to bed fairly early as we were wakening at 5:15am…
Day 6 in the Malawi Villa…
Today I experienced one of the most brain squeezing days of my life, “A day in the life of…’. Awakening at 5:15am, half asleep with my eyes burning I pulled myself out of bed and got ready for the long day ahead of me. We were picked up by Philip, Timothy and John at 6:15am, later than the expected 6am pick up, which was extremely exciting as we were sure we had missed breakfast. They walked us to help with the ‘outdoor work’ aka – sweeping the floor. Following our sweeping session we made our way to morning mass. After mass we were ready to head to classes but to our surprise we were told breakfast was still to be eaten 🙁 . So we headed to the dining hall. We sat down to a plate of porridge. If you could even call it that. Luckily we had the help of Austin who very selflessly gave us a split of his peanut butter he had saved up for himself. This made the porridge somewhat more edible than if we didn’t have it. I attempted to keep my lump of peanut butter on my spoon so that I would only take a tiny amount of porridge and a good bit of peanut butter to cover the taste, however, Phillip clocked my plan and swiftly mixed my peanut butter through the porridge. I could see Austin sitting at his table laughing at me as I attempted to stomach a spoonful of the runny…substance. I tried my best to eat what I could but it got to the point where enough was enough and I was “full”. Much to the disappointment of Philip I was unable to finish and we left to get ready for classes. Classes began at 7:10am, shocking I know, we began with nothing as the teachers of St Patrick’s have gone on a self-advised strike because they think that Bernadetta, Dr Anne and Gillian are teaching every day for 9 periods, seems realistic I know…! So period 2 and “Dr Anne” took us for chemistry, where I was swarmed with boys asking for the answers, as I knew what cycloalkane was, glad something in Nat5 chemistry stuck with me. Following Dr Anne we were joined by “Bernadetta” who took us for maths, in which I tried to keep my eyes open but it wasn’t lasting much longer. 3 periods in and feeling like I had been awake for two days, it was time for break…break! We headed to the tuck shop and we bought out the full supply of snacks. We gave them out to the boys, which they loved! We headed back for a further four classes and then headed for lunch which was Nsima (seema). And beans. We sat in a further 2 classes, to which no teachers showed because of exams, so we were much more relaxed. Exhausted and desperate for bed we went to sports, which Sofie and I chose basketball. The boys quickly found out I played tennis so wasn’t long until I was dragged on to play each and every one who chose tennis as their sport for the day. This was before I had even made it to basketball, so sweating and barely able to keep my eyes open I called it a day on the tennis court and headed to the basketball court. You’ll be glad to know my team managed to beat Sofie’s. Result! We headed back home and got ready for evening prayers. Following evening prayers we went for dinner. Again…our favourite…Nsima!! Now was time for further study but we tried to avoid studying by singing the boys some songs and getting them to teach us some dances, which is always easy with the keen boys. Absolutely shattered and in need of a week-long nap we headed home and jumped straight into bed. Goodnight from us girls x
Today we got up at 6:45am for a cold shower and to enjoy having no electricity. We got dressed and left to go to 8am mass with Father Sam and the boys at St Patrick’s. We returned to have breakfast – French toast again so we were happy! We then left to go to Timbuka mass at St Denis’ Parish, from 10am-12.30pm. Despite not understanding any of the mass, the singing made us smile. We then had lunch at St Denis’ with the parish priest, Fr Austin. We had rice – again… It was time to leave so we said our goodbyes and drove to the shop, Peoples, to get some snacks and ‘Raid’ to kill the endless amount of spiders in our house. We then walked to the Chef’s Parade to have drinks before walking home. The heat was unreal – we arrived home sweating and so tired. We had a free afternoon so decided to go for a nap – 3pm -5.40pm – it was the best sleep. We woke and had to rush to get ready for the Benediction Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Electricity was still non-existent, so we had candles in the church and torches in the house. It was time for dinner and then Abbie and I went to see the boys and we played games (Simon says; brain teasers; Macro Polo and Yes and No- which I won!). Sofie stayed home as she was tired. Were walked home by Alfred, Austin and Patrick at 9pm and we sat up chatting to the teachers and then went to bed as we were shattered- even after our nap.
Hope you are all well – we miss you all so much.
Love to our families,
Hello everyone, on Thursday 21st we left Glasgow on our first flight of the long journey to Malawi. We arrived in London very excited to have our last McDonalds before we were faced with rice and chicken for three weeks. However, after multiple laps of Heathrow airport we soon discovered that there was in fact no fast food restaurants to be seen. We then boarded the long 8 hour flight to Ethiopia. By the time we landed it was Friday morning and everyone was so tired. The final flight would take us to Lilongwe in Malawi and we landed at 2pm where we were greeted by Father Sam. We boarded the minibus and travelled a further 8 hours from the airport to St Patrick’s Seminary in Rumphi. It was 10.30pm by the time we settled in Father Sam’s house and after Dr Phelps helped to get rid of many spiders we all went to bed. It was very exciting to be reunited with all the boys from St Patrick’s that we met last year and also all the boys who visited Scotland in February. Saturday was the Graduation day for Form 4. We celebrated mass with the boys, watched them play football and had a meal with them. They also hosted a concert where they sang songs and showed us some dancing and Form 4 were given graduation certificates. After this we had some time to rest and then went to evening prayers at 6pm. We ended the night by attending a disco and the boys tried to teach us some dancing. However, as much as we tried we never really got the hang of it.
Apologies for the late posting. Bishop John sent it as an iMessage and it didn’t come through until I arrived home. B
With the St. Benedict’s crew at the departure lounge of Lilongwe airport, it falls to me to post our last blog one hour before we say goodbye to Malawi, so well named as ‘the warm heart of Africa’.
Having just minutes ago said our farewells to Bernadette, who remains two weeks to develop the partnership, and Fr. Sam, seminary rector, who looked after us hour by hour since our arrival ten days ago, I think I will start with them.
Fr Sam quietly attended to our every need – and there were many, from driving us the length and breadth of the county to changing our money at the bank, and joyfully became part of our St. Benedict’s family. He showed himself a fine example of a humble priest who sought nothing more than to serve us to the best of his ability. The Malawi project, I have no doubt, is from the Holy Spirit but it has been given to Bernadette as a clear vision and driving passion. It seems every Malawian already knows our ‘Bernadetta’ , from bishops to stall traders. We’ve been having a good chat and I feel this Malawi partnership has only just begun and from the three schools where Bernadette has developed vibrant partnerships I hope we can add parish twinning and maybe even a Paisley Mzuzu partnership.
That leaves the St. Benedict’s team 2017: Anna, Ewan, Jordan, Katie, Kenny, Lara, Louise, Neil, Sofie and Stephen, along with the other fine team leaders, Mrs. Kerr and Mr. Sinclair, with whom I’ve laughed and cried with and made good friends. The students have worked their socks off, thrown themselves into seminary life, made friends with the boys and taken in the whirlwind of projects the partnership has sponsored, throwing in a visit to Mary’s Meals too. If they will never forget Malawi I will never forget them. They have been a joy to share two weeks with and have delighted and encouraged me no end. They are the joy of today and the hope of tomorrow.
Our final two days holiday at the lake allowed us to bring to a close the wealth of experiences we have met and to forge our friendships in the most heavenly of settings in lakeside chalets.
…we’re now in the plane! Before take off a last thanks to all of you, whose generosity has made this visit possible and who kept up with us through our blog. In some ways most of you, whether family of our students or benefactors of the project, have been more generous in heart than we who came. My best wish for you is that you get the chance to come to Malawi and experience for yourself the joy, the life and the Good News we have seen everywhere, even in the most unexpected of places like the orphanages.
We return home changed and with a mission to change hearts back home too. See you soon.
Well that’s the group en route home. Lots of tears at the airport and mixed emotions. It has been a pleasure and a blessing sharing the last 2 weeks with them all. After 15 years of visiting Malawi the one thing that still really moves me is seeing young people fall in love with country as much as I did. They will return home today as better people due to the experiences we shared and energised to continue the great work of the partnership. St. Benedict’s is lucky to have them. As for me, I now face the daunting task of interviewing and selecting the boys to visit Scotland next year.