The Real Life; Blood, Sweat and Homeschooling!

‘Definitely a couple of daisies to the left. A rose bush maybe in the centre and a blue butterfly bush to the right, to balance the colours. A Hibiscus too – where will I put that?’

While enjoying a pleasant afternoon in my beautiful Malawi garden, planning yet another flower bed, and dreaming of Sunbirds drinking the nectar of flowers and of buds blooming and bursting with colour, I come to a sudden stop…

Malawi home              IMG_1674-2

Fuck. Just breathe. Don’t look down.

Moments later my lungs bellow out an almighty roar followed by a flurry of words, cursing the damn thorn that had just pierced my foot.  It wasn’t any thorn, it was a 5 cm fever tree thorn. And all I could see of it was a minute part of the blunt ‘end’ peaking its rear out of the flesh of my foot.  It had gone deep. I yelled for my husband to wake from his sleepy Saturday slumber and to bring the tweezers! Fast.  I lifted my foot up, allowing husband to examine the damage. He removed the thorn slowly and steadily, with a pair of tweezers sharper than the thorn itself! The beast of a thorn came out. Blood began to fountain from my foot like it had been stabbed a thousand times.  And then it stopped, very suddenly. And he said. ‘You know my dear, it’s all that spinach you have consumed.  Your Vitamin K levels are brilliant!’

Vegetable garden

Our gardener

Our wonderful gardener who has literally grown a farm of vegetables outside our back door!

It’s nearly a year since we arrived here in Malawi; our vehicle loaded to the hilt with kids, dogs, guinea pigs and a tortoise. And life couldn’t be more different!

It occurred to me in a flash ….oops sorry, power went out again….in the darkness of my lounge while scrolling through Facebook updates, that we mostly show-off all the really good stuff!  We Photoshop the picture, removing the colossal pimple positioned on the tip our nose and portray a rather ‘perfect’ looking image! I thought of our life here in Malawi, as it is now, of the real life!

When you imagine life on a sugar estate in Malawi, one might think of expats lounging around like lizards, plunging into a cool pool in the midsummer heat while sipping on a beverage and snacking on something light prepared by the club! Aaaahhh the good life, you might think! Plus, I’m just as guilty as anyone for posting albums with titles such as ‘Another frikken awesome weekend on the lake,’ or updating my Facebook status with things like, “Just hooked my 11th fish of the hour,” followed by a photograph that looks like I’ve stolen it from the National Geographic archives, but with the inclusion of a ‘selfie.’ Oh no, I dare not share with you the REAL LIFE in Malawi, the gritty details of the day!

I had a particularly gritty day yesterday. One word: Homeschooling. IMG_9557

For those of you who regularly read my blog, you may have noticed I have been posting less since moving to Malawi. My absence is accompanied with a pang of guilt and a longing to return to the days of endless photo shooting and mulling over blog ideas, quotes and simply a ‘slower’ pace of life!’ But one thing has changed – my kids have reached the schooling age! Unfortunately the closest good school is an hour and a half away, up a pass with hair-raising bends and cliffs that have been painted with little white crosses for all the accidents that have occurred over the years! For us to live here and to keep our family ‘living together’ at this very young age, I have no choice but to home-school!

Since I started homeschooling, I have a new found respect for teachers. Keep calm 2Not only have I needed to learn how to teach and keep my kids captivated while teaching them subjects such as Maths and English– of which I used to graffiti my own school books with things such as ‘Maths sux, School is a Bitch and FREEDOM!’  I am now in the hot seat of education. I used to be a chef. I thought that was challenging – but no. Teaching my kids has got to my biggest challenge to date.  There are many good days – but then there are the disaster days – like yesterday. When after attempting to teach a new maths concept for the 3rd day running,  and you believe you’ve finally cracked it – they look at you with glazed eyes and say something which suggests they have no cooking clue what you are talking about! It’s enough to kill you, I swear! That was my queue, TIME OUT for the teacher – or more to the point, time to head up the hill for a day of Blantyre-style pampering! I needed a Facebook perfect day – but Malawi style!

Go to the salon

I set off with just enough fuel to get to the fuel station hoping with every bone in my body that ‘today’ the fuel station would actually have fuel to sell! I was greeted by the pump attendant with a big, toothy smile and was told, ‘Madam, today is your lucky day!’ With a full tank, I set off up the hill, the wind blowing in my hair and the song ‘Sail’ by Awolnation at full volume! I passed the 2 police stops – free to go this time, the vendors selling baby pigeon kebabs and the school kids IMG_5156all shouting Muzungu at the top of their lungs. I passed the pig on a bicycle, almost  squashed a family of chickens and managed to avoid a head on collision with 2 trucks overtaking each other around a corner. I passed the abattoir and saw the fresh cow heads being carried down the road to be cooked, dodged the bicycle that swerved onto the road and spotted a lovely wooden table for sale that would be perfect for my kitchen!


I get the distinct feeling that I’m being followed!

I arrived at the hairdresser – a little nervous after my disastrous hairdressing experience in Mozambique 4 years ago,The Pamper Day in Beira…that went wrong! But true to the Nchalo Pump Attendants word, today would be my lucky day! I exited the little salon with big smiles! I got a perfectly layered cut and thankfully no mullet with 3 definitive layers, as previously experienced.

I then went onto to do some book shopping at the Bee Books stores (The final outpost for books)  I browsed the bookstore IMG_5242for a good hour, noting the range of books that were close to a century old to more recent titles such as ‘The world according to Clarkson!’  You just never know what you might find in there! The same goes for the popular second hand Dapp clothing stores! Now… all you high end fashion snobs,hold your horses and breathe steadily while I tell you that you’re likely to find some fabulous outfits in the Dapp Stores! That Armani suit that hung in your cupboard for 6 years waiting for you to drop a dress size, but never did (!), now lies in a pile of mixed up clothes on a dusty floor in Malawi! All it needs is a good wash and voila – you’re dressed like a young Sofia Loren!

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Second hand clothes

The Bend-Down Boutique

And finally – my ultimate treat – an afternoon of uninterrupted blogging in a 5 star hotel! Yep, absolute bliss I tell you! IMG_5256Sipping on countless cappuccinos in the quiet corner of the lounge, picking up on business banter and observing a world far from mine, of people dressed in suits, heals and very shiny shoes!

I looked at the time, realizing my day was almost up and that I needed to squeeze in a quick grocery shop before descending the hill, back to the dusty and hot Shire valley! And viola – a flower vendor appears, sporting a good salesman’s smile, blood shot eyes and a reggae hat! I didn’t buy the flowers, but I bought a photograph instead!