Posts Tagged ‘Malawi’

Malawi: Day Two

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

20120422-DSC_3323Our first full day in Malawi began with the English service at St. James CCAP at 8am. (The Chichewa service is at 6am!) The Malawian culture, we discovered, is EXTREMELY welcoming of visitors – to the point that it makes most westerners uncomfortable. Imagine if every Sunday all visitors were called up to the front of the church an expected to introduce themselves to the congregation! There was, of course, lots of singing… four different choirs sang a few pieces each! Our co-leader (and my good friend) Rev. Ted Creen (shown above) had the honour of preaching the sermon.

In the afternoon, we went for a hike on Mt. Michiru on the outskirts of Blantyre. It was a good way to shake off the stiffness of two days of air travel. The scenery was beautiful, of course, but we noted that it was also quite similar to Canada. Many of the photos could have easily been taken at home. It was a strange realization.

20120422-DSC_3425Also in this set are the first of many “through the window” shots where I have tried to capture the diversity of Malawian life as we drove around Blantyre. Most of this day’s shots are “semi-urban” around the outskirts of Blantyre… in following days, you’ll see more of urban Blantyre followed by rural southern Malawi.

Malawi: Day One

Friday, May 11th, 2012

20120421-DSC_2986Around noon on a Saturday, we finally landed at Chileka International Airport where we were met by Rev. Mike and Debbie Burns. Mike and Debbie are Canadians appointed jointly by the PCC and the Blantyre Synod to serve as part of our long-standing partnership. Mike is associate minister at St. James CCAP in Blantyre while Debbie serves as Technical Assistant at the Blantyre Synod Health & Development Commission. Mike and Debbie would be our hosts, interpreters, tour guides and friends for the next two weeks.

After quickly dropping our bags at Annie’s Lodge, the hotel we would call home for the next five nights, it was off to our first official event – a meeting with the General Secretary of the Blantyre Synod, Rev. Alex Maulana. Following the meeting, we were taken on a tour of the historic Blantyre Mission by Rev. Chitsulo, a former General Secretary. We were shown the Blantyre Synod offices, St. Michael and All Angels church, and the primary and secondary schools that are located on the Mission.

Malawi: Getting there

Friday, May 11th, 2012

I’ve just uploaded another set of photos from our trip to Malawi. I realize that these are out of order, but my priorities here are not necessarily chronological. The voyage to Malawi is a long one – we left Toronto on a Thursday evening and arrived in Blantyre at noon on Saturday. The trip included two overnight flights and an 11-hour layover at Heathrow in London. Luckily, the trip itself was uneventful in all the best ways and a rather enjoyable experience for the group as we got to know each other.

20120419-DSC_2777Our group of eleven Presbyterians included four from Winnipeg, two from St. Catharines, three from the Georgian Bay area of Ontario and the two of us from Cambridge. Only a few of us had met before this trip so the journey itself was a good opportunity for the group to bond a little before we were immersed in the culture shock of Malawian society.

These photos are probably more interesting to those who were with us than those who weren’t, but I share them here regardless. (more…)

Malawi: Blantyre Secondary School

Thursday, May 10th, 2012


One of the highlights of my trip to Malawi, besides all the official stuff we did, was the opportunity to visit the school where my grandfather, Robert Dale, taught biology from 1965-67. He was sent to Blantyre Secondary School (BSS) as part of an aid program funded by the Canadian government through the External Affairs department. The rest of the family, including my mother at 13 years old, went with him and they all lived on the BSS compound.

As I arrived in Malawi, I wasn’t sure I would get to see the school at all. We had a very full itinerary and the school was just far enough away from where we were staying that squeezing in a visit would be difficult. Even if we got to the gate, I never expected to be allowed inside.

As it happened, the Monday after we arrived was a holiday due to the state funeral being held for the late President Bingu wa Mathurika. This unexpected holiday broke open just enough of a hole in our schedule for me, my wife and our new friend Conrad (from the group) to walk the 1.5 kilometres to BSS.

Star Trails in Malawi

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The stars here in Malawi are beyond amazing – especially if you get out of the city. While here in Mulanje I attempted to shoot some star trails. I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, but I think they’re pretty cool.

Malawi Trip Update

Friday, January 6th, 2012

A quick update about our upcoming trip to Malawi:

  • I’m now officially a “co-leader” of the study tour – which means that the dozen or so people we are taking will be my responsibility should anything go awry while we are travelling. All of the pre-arrangements are thankfully someone else’s responsibility! The coolest thing about this is that the other “co-leader” is my very good friend (and mentor of sorts) Rev. Ted Creen, recently retired from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Owen Sound.  I’ve known Ted for nearly thirty years and I am so excited to be sharing this experience with him.
  • As I mentioned in the last blog post, the purpose of the trip is learning. This is not a mission trip in the traditional sense. Malawi may be a little short on fuel these days, but they’re hardly short of available labour. Flying halfway around the world to erect a building that could instead be built by Malawians (thus providing income) doesn’t make much sense.  Instead, the purpose of the trip is learn – in an intensive way – about the work that the PCC does in Malawi. We will be hosted by our mission staff there and will visit the many projects that Canadian Presbyterians support directly including orphanages, shelters, etc. The trip will also include a weekend “home visit” with a Malawian family.
  • There are three Canadian Presbyterian families currently serving in Malawi. You can learn more about them and their work (and about life in Malawi) on their blogs:

Stay tuned for more updates leading up to the trip.



The Warm Heart of Africa

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

The relatively tiny country of Malawi – often called “The Warm Heart of Africa” – has always been a part of my family’s story.

In 1965, just a year after Malawi gained its independence from Great Britain, my grandfather accepted a  school administration position at Blantyre Secondary School in Malawi’s largest city. His appointment was part of a program of Canada’s Department of External Affairs – the first such program to assist the fledgling country.   At the same time, my grandmother accepted a teaching position at St. Andrew’s Secondary School – now known as St. Andrew’s International High School.

So, at thirteen years old, my mother and her younger sister and brother found themselves in the heart of the dark continent.

The stories have been told many times over the years – with sometimes varying details: the time an elephant snacked on the thatch roof, the time a gecko fell in the pudding, the time my aunt – peering through her camera’s viewfinder – shouted “just another second!” as a disgruntled rhino charged their Land Rover. Thankfully, the driver ignored her. [these are my memories of these stories – I make no claims of accuracy]

In exactly six months, my wife Arminta and I will set off on our own Malawian adventure!

The Presbyterian Church in Canada (where I happen to work) does a considerable amount of work in Malawi. In addition to funding several projects through PWS&D, we have anywhere from five to ten staff in the country working with our partner, the Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP).

We will be travelling with several other Presbyterians from across Canada on a two-week “study tour” of Malawi in and around Blantyre.

We are beyond excited about this trip. While both of have traveled overseas before, neither of us have been to Africa – and we haven’t really traveled at all since our honeymoon a decade ago – and that was just to Maine, so it doesn’t really count.

I’ll likely blog more about this as the time gets nearer, but now that it is all confirmed, I wanted to make the “official” announcement.

I posted an update here: