My Day with a Malawian Family

02/06/14

Today I visited with a family in what is called cultural immersion training. I, along with my translator, Steve, went to visit a young mother named Lenia. She and her husband have three children—two daughters and one little boy. With Steve's help, we asked questions back and forth. That visit was nice, but it was only part of the adventure. 

 
                                                                Lenia and her youngest son, Jimmy.
 
Lenia and her youngest son, Jimmy
                            Lenia and Jimmy, after I told her my camera liked to take photos of people smiling. 
 
After the visit, Steve gave me a shopping list along with some kwacha (the local currency) to make the required purchases for dinner for Lenia and her family. The shopping list was in the local language which I have, so far, been largely unsuccessful pronouncing in a manner understood by my local listeners. 
 
The biggest catch with the shopping list was that there were no amounts shown. When I would finally get in communication with some merchant who sold what I was looking for, Steve would tell me to simply buy whatever amount I thought would work. After some discussion back and forth, I began to think that meal preparation was something of an unknown in Steve's experience. A little later, I did come to find out he knew how to kill chickens, even though he did not do it himself.
 
So, the shopping finally complete, with all the ingredients on the list purchased, we had some money left over. With the remaining kwacha, we picked up a little more firewood and some soap as gifts for the family.
 
I should have said that I thought the shopping was complete. A chicken, locally known as mkhuku, was the only thing we had not picked up at the market. Steve told me we did not need to get that at the market. Our van pulled aside at the edge of a farm and a person approached with a squawking rooster bound by the feet and held upside down. The person passed the complaining rooster to me through the open window of the van. I held the rooster by the feet and laid it gently on the seat next to me.
 
With all our meal components in hand, we returned to Lenia's home and regaled her with our cornucopia. I had been led to understand that I was supposed to prepare dinner for this family. I protested at the time that this would hardly be fair to the poor family. It turned out that God was smiling on Lenia and her family and I was only required to lend a hand.
 
I did get handed the chicken, again, and asked if I would like to slaughter it. Steve gave me some instructions that were shown to be accurate later on, but I was spared the agony of torturing a feathered friend to death by a young volunteer from the gathering audience. (Did I mention that my presence was a sort of magnet, drawing the village children from near and far to turn aside and see this wonder?) 
 
We took the deceased rooster to Lenia and she poured hot water over it to ease the plucking required to further prepare the guest of honor. I did do that. Probably in six times the amount of time it would have taken the youngest female member of the audience to do the job, and that was with Steve's help. Steve told me that it was the guys' duty to slaughter the bird, but the gals' duty to pluck it.
 
Lenia, in the meantime, had gotten the vegetables and seasoning all in order and was working away at that when the plucked chicken returned. She proceeded to do everything necessary to move the chicken along the meal preparation assembly line—chopping, dividing, etc. That included cutting the feet off, which Steve and I had peeled the outer layer of skin from, and wrapping them in the squeezed-out small intestines. The head, plucked by Steve (I confess it had not occurred to me) went in the pot, too. 
 
Lenia sort of fried the chicken in a bit of oil that we had bought before adding the vegetables and what-all to the mix. It was smelling very tasty when Steve and I left. I think we were supposed to sample it, but the delay in some of the food preparations prevented that. I trust it was a wonderful meal. There was corn meal to be prepared yet, but by the time her husband returned from his construction job, I am sure all was in order and they enjoyed the meal I had helped them with. 
 
Lenia and Jimmy, her cousin Ida, and daughter Alaina
                                                 Lenia and Jimmy, her cousin Ida, and daughter Alaina.
 
The family with me, acting the fool. Steve did the honors on the shutter.
                                  The family with me, acting the fool. Steve did the honors on the shutter.
 
Though I was there for hours, Jimmy never seemed to warm up to me
                                      Though I was there for hours, Jimmy never seemed to warm up to me.
 
When his mom left him for a bit, this was how he liked spending time with me
                              When his mom left him for a bit, this was how he liked spending time with me.
 
Lenia and a comforted Jimmy. This is her kitchen, a small brick shed
                    Lenia and a comforted Jimmy. This is her kitchen, a small brick shed detached from the house.
 
Lenia is a wonderful mother, but without her children's sponsors, she could not afford to send them to school or feed them three meals a day. Child sponsorship is one of the best ways to help a mother like Lenia provide for her family. Will you sponsor a child today?