Back to the Future

We had our first visitors in June. Fran, Jon’s mom, and Kris, Jon’s sister, spent time with us in Mzuzu and traveling a few of the country’s tourist attractions (i.e. Lake Malawi, safari in Liwonde National Park, etc). One of my favorite things is sharing our life with the people I love, so I was excited to have them see and experience everything from shopping at the markets, to visiting schools, to IT stuff with Jon at the University.

Over the two weeks, they heard many of our stories about the adventures of living and traveling in Malawi. What surprised me was that time and again, Fran wasn’t surprised. She was continually commenting that life in the States 30 or 40 years ago was much like the life we are living here in Malawi in 2006.


Update: Backyard Landfill

Update: Backyard Landfill

Home Brew Tempera Paint

Last weekend, I turned our kitchen into a chemistry lab. The Quest...to successfully make long lasting paint using only my hands and natural resources. The Result…fabulous egg tempera paint!

Egg Tempera ExperimentI was inspired by a number of factors including Victoria Finlay’s book Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Malawian artists’ need of access to affordable paint, and personal curiosity. Over the past few months I have been researching pigments and paint making techniques. Egg tempera paint is one of the oldest paints known to man, even older than oil painting. Some date egg tempera paint back to the first centuries AD, but it was most widely used in the Middle Ages with the Byzantine painters. The Greek Orthodox Church has maintained the tradition, and up to the present still uses egg tempera for icon paintings. In the secular world of art this tradition has seen a revival over the past 10 years. So much so, that there is a great online forum where you can read and participate in discussions about issues relating to egg tempera paint and painting

Backyard Landfills

I would challenge my friends and family back in the states to try this one out…
Instead of putting your trash out on the street for pick-up next week, dig a small hole in your backyard and start dumping your waste there. It will be amazing to see how quickly your consumption habits change and how environmentally conscious you become.

As you can guess, this is the system for garbage disposal in Malawi. Any trash we make, literally, make a landfill of our backyard. In this light, composting is an absolute must. Any organic waste gets dumped onto the compost pile, which will then be used as fertilizer in the garden where we will grow many of our own veggies and herbs. Soda and beer bottles are all recycled, so much so that, cans aren’t stocked much at the stores and you get a refund on new beverage purchases when you return used bottles. What a brilliant system! Other recycling services do not exist, so we end up making all sorts of consumer decisions to minimize the size of the landfill in our backyard.